All colloquia are free and open to the public
All colloquia are Fridays 3:30 - 5:00 in J.R. Howard Hall 202, unless otherwise advertised
September 7: Student-Faculty Summer Research Presentation: Sarah Ann Lownstein, Meredith Margaret Nelson, J.M. Fritzman"Kaśmir to Prussia, Round Trip: A Comparison of Monistic Śaivism and Hegel"
We elucidate 9th-12th centuries monistic Kaśmiri Śaivism through
comparisons to contemporary science. We show that Kaśmiri Śaivism can
be transposed into Fichte’s philosophy and so set on a trajectory
towards Hegel. While Kaśmiri Śaivism reaches Prussia, the resources
to articulate Hegel’s Absolute are in Kaśmir.
For a draft of the paper, see colloquium resources.
September 21: Student-Faculty Summer Research Presentation: Aaron Flaster, Joel Martinez
"Alienation and Eudaimonism"
Many philosophers have objected to modern moral theories on the grounds that such theories conceive of morality in a way that brings with it alienation --from one's personal commitments, from other people, from one's sentiments or, paradoxically, from morality itself. The vast majority of philosophers have thought that eudaimonistic moral theories easily avoid this objection. We think eudaimonists cannot so easily avoid this problem. In this paper, we explain why alienation is a problem that should be taken seriously by moral philosophers. We explain how and why eudaimonist theories confront the problem of alienation. In the end, we think eudaimonists have the resources for a strong response to the problem of alienation. In the final section of the paper we explain why consequentialists, and perhaps even deontologists, can benefit from the eudaimonist response to the problem of alienation.
October 19th: Ron Mallon, Washington University in St. Loius
"Cultural Minds: Using Rules to Buttress Reasoning"
In the last decade, much work in moral psychology has contrasted "automatic" responses resulting from phylogenetically ancient, automatic, emotional, reflexive parts of the human mind with "reasoned" responses that emerge from the phylogenetically more recent parts of the human mind associated with conscious thought and reasoning. Perhaps surprisingly, much of this work has emphasized the extent to which our moral lives (and our behavior more generally) are driven by processes of the first part. In this paper I critically respond to this trend suggesting that claims of dominance are not persuasive. I consider especially what I call the "argument from finite resources" for why automatic processes must dominate reasoned ones, and I offer a series of arguments for why the human capacity for rule-following can buttress reasoning processes against the depletion of finite resources. The picture of moral life that results is both more rational, but also more socially and culturally embedded, than the recent emphasis on automatic processes would suggest.
October 25th (Thursday): Ian Evans, University of Arizona
Part I: Book Warming, Ian Evans and Nicholas Smith, Knowledge.
Lewis & Clark Bookstore, 1pm, Thursday
J.R. Howard 115, 3:30pm, Thursday
Is it possible to believe something, while simultaneously -- and in full consciousness -- believing that this belief is unsupported by your evidence? I say "yes": I believe this about many of my own beliefs and I bet you do, too. But several philosophers have argued that this is precluded by the very nature of belief. The arguments -- there are several -- have been influential, but have received little scrutiny in print. In this paper, I take a hard look and find that none of the arguments holds water. Even if you agree with me that _these_ arguments fail, you might still find it puzzling how someone could believe that her own belief is irrational. The second part of my paper tries to help by making such a doxastic situation intelligible from the first-person perspective. What we can call "revealed irrationality" is possible and not as puzzling as it might seem.
October 26th: Ori Simchen, University of British Columbia
"Interpreting the Barcan Formula"
The Barcan formula (BF) is a schema of quantified modal logic that can be paraphrased as the schematic conditional that if it is possible that there be F then something or other is possibly F (e.g. if it is possible that there be a talking donkey, then something or other is possibly a talking donkey). It is validated by the most straightforward systems of quantified modal logic. It is also widely considered to pose a threat to a commonsensical modal metaphysical view (‘actualism’) according to which there are no non-actual things. I will show how BF can be cleared of such a charge by construing it as a bridge principle connecting possibility de dicto – or what is generally possible – and possibility de re – what is specifically possible for particular things – while retaining a Russellian robust sense of reality in modal matters.
November 2: Brian Copenhaver, UCLA
Part I: Book Warming, Brian P. Copenhaver and Rebecca Copenhaver, From Kant to Croce: Modern Philosophy in Italy 1800 - 1950.
Lewis & Clark Bookstore, 1pm, Friday
J.R. Howard 202, 3:30pm, Friday
Symphorien Champier's Introduction to Logic and Grammar, a nominalist attack on realism published shortly before 1498, is a very rare book: only two copies are known, one of them newly discovered. Champier chooses a philosophical theory of grammar, called modism, as one of his targets: why? And he takes most of his ammunition straight from Ockham's Summa of Logic: again, why? Ockham had died in 1347, but Champier means to write an up-to-date guide for undergraduate philosophy students at the close of the fifteenth century.
November 9: Zoltán Gendler Szabó, Yale University CANCELLED
CANCELLED due to the hurricane.
November 30: Desmond Hogan, Princeton University
"Schopenhauer’s Transcendental Aesthetic"
Schopenhauer famously holds that the proofs of Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetic “have such a complete power of conviction that its propositions [belong] among the incontestable truths.” This judgment places Schopenhauer outside of a broad historical consensus according to which the Transcendental Aesthetic’s central argument for the ideality of space and time is invalid. Schopenhauer offers no explicit account of this argument, and the classical commentaries are unmoved by his general appraisal. In reconsidering this appraisal, I first examine a valid argument for transcendental idealism from premises Schopenhauer endorses. While the argument in question invokes a metaphysical premise Kant rejects, Schopenhauer correctly attributes a weakened analogue to him. A parallel argument from this weaker premise remains valid, and I suggest that the basic materials for the valid argument are contained in the Aesthetic. These findings make sense of Schopenhauer’s positive appraisal; they also call for reconsideration of a dogma of contemporary Kant scholarship.
December 7: Zoltán Gendler Szabó, Yale University
Philosophical orthodoxy holds that ‘true’ is a monadic predicate. I think this view is only halfway correct: there is indeed a monadic truth-predicate in English and other natural languages but this is not the fundamental truth-predicate we use. What can be true simpliciter are particular mental states (beliefs, hopes, wishes, etc.) a thinker might be in or particular speech acts (assertions, denials, suppositions, etc.) a speaker might perform. These mental states and speech-acts are truth-apt because they have propositional contents. But propositions are not true simpliciter – they are true ofsituations. Thus, the fundamental notion of truth is relational. My argument for this claim is simple. Monadic truth-predicates are ill-suited for the purposes of semantics. Those who think semantic explanations are any good must provide adequate paraphrases for the various relational notions we employ in formulating those explanations. For most non-monadictruth-predicates employed by semanticists adequate paraphrases in terms of monadic propositional truth can be given. But when it comes to ‘sentence S is true at context c and situation s’ we can only provide a paraphrase in terms of dyadic propositional truth. Since our best semantics arguably needs this particular truth-predicate we have good reason to think that propositional truth is dyadic.
January 25: William Rottschaefer, Lewis & Clark College
Urging that she meet her own methodological standards, Doris and Plakias have challenged the scientifically minded moral realist to address the long-standing problem of moral disagreement. I use a gene-culture co-evolutionary account of one of their showcase problem cases, the difference between honor and non-honor cultures, to argue not only that significant moral disagreement -- and the moral relativism it seems to imply -- pose no awkwardness for moral realism, but also that a properly scientifically based naturalistic moral realism explains it, indeed, provides tools for justifying it. In doing so, I show how to be a relativistic moral realist.
February 8: Richard Boyd, Cornell University
"Semantic Externalism: Ignoring Twin-Earth and Doing Naturalistic Philosophy"
I argue for a novel reading of Kant's critical enterprise and of Kant's Copernican Revolution, but especially of the First Critique. In the process, I explain why Kant devotes the second half of the First Critique to what he calls the Transcendental Doctrine of Method. I interpret the First Critique as a critical defense of what Kant calls the world, cosmic or cosmopolitan conception of philosophy against the pretensions of academic philosophy."Kant's Cosmic Conception of Philosophy and the Methodology of Critique"
March 15: Jeffrey Jones, Lewis & Clark College
"The 'Quality' of Employment Law Rights"
Employment law scholars are unanimous in their disappointment with U. S. employment law and the protections provided to employees. A few conservative and libertarian thinkers seek to further deregulate employment laws -- that group will always be there. The majority of employment law scholars are searching for ways to provide employees with greater legal protection; protections they believe are required to approximate what might be called legal justice or fairness in work relationships. What is missing from the latter group's scholarship is any clear moral or theoretical basis for mandating greater protection of employees. The law as it is certainly does not help. The U. S. has made clear it rejects the notion that employment rights are also human or even constitutional rights. Worse still, within the common law, employment protections regularly give way to other common law interests such as contracts and property. What is needed is an account of the interests at stake in employment and a showing that such interests are somehow fundamental rights that deserve greater priority in the American legal landscape. This work in progress looks at several ways to raise the value or moral quality of employment rights.
April 5: Nicholas Silins, Cornell University
In the first half of the talk, I examine:
I critically examine support for Blindspot one might draw from psychology literature on “inattentional blindness”. I also discuss whether some artistic practice presupposes that Blindspot is false.
In the second half of the talk, I examine:
Surface applies to experiences as well as works of art and other entities. I review how one might support Surface, and then reject Surface in light of psychology literature on "change blindness".
April 11: Richard Boyd, Lewis and Clark College and Cornell University
According to mainstream ‘evolutionary psychology’ evolutionary theory makes an important methodological contribution to human social psychology. Plausible evolutionary scenarios regarding early human social behavior are said to provide a methodologically independent source of insights, identifying some psychological theories as those ‘predicted’ or otherwise especially supported by evolutionary theory. In practice the theories so identified are reductionist or nativist theories which minimize the role of social structures and of learning in explaining human social behaviors.
In fact, there is significant methodological independence between evolutionary scenarios and psychological theories but that independence guarantees that such scenarios do not favor reductionist or nativist theories over theories that emphasize the role of learning and of social structures (or vice versa). So, in practice, appeals to evolutionary theory function as a sort of methodological anesthesia, directing psychologists’ attention away from scientifically important alternatives to reductionist or nativist theories.
April 19: Scott Hendricks, Clark University CANCELLEDCANCELLED
April 26: W. Christopher Boyd, University of California, Irvine