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Philosophy Colloquium - "On Keeping On and Quitting"

Woman hiking in the woods with a baby strapped to her back.
Friday, September 15, 2023
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Shanna Slank
Philosophy Colloquia

Join the Philosophy Department for our first Colloquium of the new academic year.

Shanna Slank, Research Fellow at the Duke University Kenan Institute for Ethics and Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, will present "On Keeping On and Quitting." Reception to follow.

To find out more about Shanna and her work, please visit her webisite or

Abstract: A lot of what we humans care most about doing is hard to do. We want to get the degree, the job, the promotion, the award. We want to stay married, raise children, build a community, cultivate a self, make art, pursue justice. Here are two puzzles about difficult action. On the one hand, once we embark on such undertakings, the going will inevitably get tough. We will face obstacles and setbacks, acquiring ever more evidence that points to our failure. How can it be rational to choose to keep going in light of this evidence? On the other hand, there are times when we really should throw in the towel-cases when we've chosen a difficult action, but now should choose to give up. How do we know when to quit? It may be especially difficult to rationally choose to if we've already, in response to the first puzzle, found a way to act against our evidence. In this talk, I'll show why some other philosophers' treatments of difficult action deal inadequately with the puzzles above. I will also sketch a view of my own, in which the value of what you are doing rather than the probability of success or failure determines whether you should persist.

Contact: Rachel Gilbert