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Conflict of Interest and the Onus of Disclosure

Posted 02/21/2017
Submitted by Brian Skelly
Category: Campus Announcements

Join us at this week’s Philosophy Club meeting Thursday, February 23 from 12:15 to 1:45 in 421 Auerbach Hall for discussion of the presented topic: Conflict of Interest and the Onus of Disclosure: An Essential Virtue of Discourse Going Neglected in Our Times. (Originally Scheduled for 2/9/17, but snowed out.)

Here is an excerpt from the paper to be presented by Brian Skelly (see attached for complete paper):

Conflict of interest is a well-known source of corruption or other kinds of dysfunction in organizational life. For this reason, preventive mechanisms are commonly installed in constitutions, business plans, professional codes of ethics, etc. to avert the kind of harm it can do. To be sure, we need to do more in this regard, since new conflicts of interest are always arising, and old ones are sometimes so deeply imbedded that people begin to take them for granted and let them slip past their notice. But at least it is a problem that is being formally addressed on an ongoing basis.

This is less true of conflicts of interest afflicting speakers in the public forum. Here, it happens quite often that speakers keep their other interests private as they advocate for matters in ways that may well be subservient to ulterior motives, thus impugning the integrity of their discourse.

It is not that we should expect all who advocate a particular cause in the public forum not to have other commitments; but we ourselves should consider it our obligation to disclose to our audience any background commitments that one might reasonably suspect may limit our ability or willingness to argue in the disinterested manner that distinguishes what Plato called dialectic argument, or cooperative, truth-oriented dialog, from what he called rhetoric, or competitive, winning-oriented argument. Only the former can be considered productive, in the sense that it brings all its earnest participants closer to the truth in the long term. The latter, on the other hand, is only good for manipulating audiences in the short-term.

The University of Hartford Philosophy Club meets every Thursday during Fall and Spring Semesters - with the exception of the first Thursday of each semester - from 12:15 to 1:45 in 421 Auerbach Hall on the campus of the University of Hartford. The Club has an informal, jovial atmosphere. It is a place where students, professors, and people from the community at large meet as peers Sometimes presentations are given, followed by discussion. Other times, topics are hashed out by the whole group.

Presenters may be students, professors, or people from the community. Anyone can offer to present a topic. The mode of presentation may be as formal or informal as the presenter chooses. Bring friends. Suggest topics and activities. Take over the club! It belongs to you! Food and drink are served. Come and go as you wish.

For more information, contact Brian Skelly at or 413-642-0334.


Conflict of Interest Essay
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