Up-coming Events

Keep checking back for detailed information on our up-coming events for Semester 1, 2014. You can see a list of our scheduled speakers on the Semester Calendar (To be updated soon!)

Chris Hooley: Time's Ordering and Time's Arrow

posted 6 Feb 2015, 06:39 by phil soc

The legendary, wine-loving, philosopher-physicist Chris Hooley will be speaking on Monday, 9 February in the Arts Lecture Theatre. Come along at 19:30 for cheese and wine, the talk will begin a bit before 20:00. As always, we will head to Drouthy Neebor's after the talk for discussion and socialising.


In this talk, I shall briefly reflect on the role of time in philosophy and in physics, discuss time as an ordering relation versus time as a directed quantity, and offer some modern perspectives on the so-called ‘arrow of time problem’.

I shall begin with the Refutation of Idealism from the B edition of Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason”, in which time plays a central role, and will explore whether this refutation relies on time’s having a direction or (more weakly) simply providing an ordering. Referring to the work of Eddington, I will then address the same question with regard to the second law of thermodynamics, which is often claimed to entail the existence of an ‘arrow of time’. Finally, I will ask whether anything we have learned from quantum mechanics should change our view on questions of reversibility and the equivalence of the two directions of time.

My tentative conclusion will be that the arrow of time is an emergent notion rendered necessary only by the phenomenon of conscious experience, and that without that extra input it does not obviously follow from any physical considerations. I will present my arguments for this conclusion, as well as my worries about it.

No prior knowledge of thermodynamics or Kantian philosophy will be presumed; all are welcome!

Ephraim Glick: Semantics for Cross-contextual Utterances

posted 1 Feb 2015, 02:06 by phil soc

Monday, 2 February. Wine and cheese from 19:30 in the Arts Lecture Theatre, with the talk beginning a bit before 20:00. We will head to Drouthy Neebor's on South Street after the talk.

An utterance sometimes takes long enough to produce that it extends across semantically relevant contextual changes. Those can include changes in the features of context that determine the interpretation of indexicals. The standard semantic approach to context-sensitivity does not accommodate this fact in a natural way. In this paper I sketch an alternative approach that is more appealing. I then illustrate its utility by showing how it provides a straightforward solution to the problem of recurring demonstratives.

Jessica Brown: So, what knowledge do we have?

posted 2 Nov 2014, 01:42 by phil soc

Monday, 3 November in the Arts Lecture Theatre. Wine and cheese from 19:30, with the talk beginning a bit before 20:00. We hope to see you there!

My talk will explore a tension in our thinking about knowledge. On the one hand, it seems we take knowledge to exclude the possibility of error. For example, a sceptic might say that since one’s evidence doesn’t exclude the possibility that one is a handless brain in a vat (BIV), one doesn’t know that one has hands. However, if one takes knowledge to be so demanding, it seems hard to avoid the sceptical conclusion that we have very little knowledge at all. By contrast, in our everyday lives, we frequently credit ourselves and others as having knowledge. So, we must either suppose that knowledge does not require excluding all possibility of error, or somehow credit ourselves with evidence that does exclude such possibilities. My talk explores various possible responses to this tension including recent debates about the nature and extent of our evidence, and whether knowledge really does require evidence which excludes the possibility of error.

Tomasz Mroz: Lewis Campbell's Studies of Plato and their Influence on Polish Philosophy

posted 16 Oct 2014, 05:17 by phil soc   [ updated 18 Oct 2014, 14:08 ]

Polish visiting philosopher Tomasz Mroz will speak from 20:00 on Monday, 20 October in the Arts Lecture Theatre. Come along from 19:30 for wine and cheese.

Lewis Campbell (1830-1908) was a recognized Scottish classical scholar and historian of philosophy, whose most fruitful y...ears of study on Plato’s dialogues were spent at University of St Andrews (1863-1894). His contribution to the debate on the stylistic features of Plato’s late dialogues is considered to be his most significant achievement. Campbell's works influenced subsequent studies on the dialogues' chronological order, which were developed intensely by Polish scholar, Wincenty Lutosławski (1863-1954). In my paper I am going to present the outline of the problem of chronology, methods and results of the two scholars, and subsequent criticism of their works.

Derek Ball: How to Do Sematics

posted 7 Oct 2014, 10:50 by phil soc

Monday, 13 October, Week 5. In the Arts Lecture Theatre, with wine and cheese from 19:30, and the talk beginning between 19:45 and 20:00. We will head to Drouthy Neebor's for a drink afterwards.

A number of linguists and philosophers are engaged the project of trying to use the tools of formal logic (especially model theory) to give a theory of the meanings of expressions of natural languages like English. But is this possible? What can these logicians tools tell us about English, and how can they tell it? I’ll try to point at some answers by way of addressing some neo-Wittgensteinian objections to formal semantics.

Ben Sachs: Should Universities be Required to Set Aside Places for Impoverished Students?

posted 29 Sep 2014, 13:04 by phil soc

Week 4, Monday, 6 October. We meet at 19:30 in the Arts Lecture Theatre for wine and cheese, with the talk beginning between 19:45 and 20:00. After the talk, we will head to the pub.

In 2012 the U.K. government created a rule for English universities that wished to charge the maximum £9000/year in fees—a rule requiring them to set aside a certain number of places in each incoming class for students from state schools. The purpose of the rule was to increase the number of students from low-income families at universities. This paper will assess whether the government’s action in this case was just. It will focus to a great deal on the principles of meritocracy and equality of opportunity, as the latter has often been invoked in favor of the rule and the former in opposition to it. It will also bring the American perspective to bear on the issue. The United States Supreme Court has said many times that admissions quotas in state-funded universities run contrary to the principle of equal treatment under the law; I will examine whether this constitutes a good objection to such quotas.

Week 2 Pub Quiz at Drouthy's

posted 21 Sep 2014, 06:29 by phil soc

We will be meeting at 19:30 in Drouthy Neebor's on South Street, on Monday, 22 September. The quiz will start around 20:00. Regardless of your past philosophy experience, there will be something for everyone, so come along, have a pint, and try for some fabulous prizes!

John Haldane: Taking History Seriously

posted 13 Sep 2014, 14:17 by phil soc

Monday, 15 September; 19:30; Arts Lecture Theatre

Our first regular talk of the term! We meet at 19:30, and the talk will begin sometime between 19:45 and 20:00. Afterwards, we head to the pub with Professor John Haldane. As always, there will be wine and cheese.

How should we think of the relationship between philosophy and history? We might consider a spectrum of intellectual enquiries: 1) Philosophy, 2) History of Philosophy, 3) History of Ideas, 4) History; and on that account view the two as distinct and only externally and contingently related. That raises a question about history of philosophy and it might encourage the view advocated by some contemporary philosophers such as Gilber Harman who says that, on the analogy of science and the history of science, that 'the study of the history of philosophy tends not to be useful to students of philosophy.' He also holds that one reason for not attending, as a philosopher, to the history of philosophy is that 'for the most part the problems that historical writers were concerned with are different from the problems that current philosophers face. There are no perennial problems.' I will argue that this outlook is deeply mistaken and to some extent self-contradictory identifying three grades of historical involvement in philosophy. I will be using the example of ethics but the points are more general, relating also for example to metaphysics and philosophy of mind.

Alex Long: Inventing or elevating ethics? Sophists, Socrates, and Plato

posted 14 Nov 2013, 14:22 by phil soc

Our final event of the semester, by Alex Long from the Classics Department. Tuesday, 19 November in the Arts Lecture Theatre. Come at 19:30 for wine and cheese, the talk will begin around 20:00. Free for all members, £2 for non-members.

My talk will assume no more than a basic familiarity with ancient
philosophy. I shall consider how the historical sophists, Socrates and
Plato brought ethics to the centre of philosophy. I suggest that they
conceived of their task not as discovering a new area of inquiry but
as showing the high intellectual demands of an existing area of
inquiry. One surprising conclusion is the affinity between the
sophists on the one hand and Socrates and Plato on the other.

Tim Mulgan: Ethics for Possible Futures

posted 7 Nov 2013, 04:19 by phil soc

On Tuesday, 12 November, Tim Mulgan will be speaking in the Arts Lecture Theatre at 20:00. Come at 19:30 for wine and cheese. Free for all members.

I examine the impact on moral and political philosophy of four
credible futures: a broken future where our affluent way of life is no
longer available; a virtual future where human beings spend their
entire lives in Nozick’s experience machine; a digital future where
humans have been replaced by unconscious machines; and a theological
future where the existence of God has been proved. These futures are
designed to question several commonplace presuppositions of
contemporary philosophy. Imagining specific futures gives our
obligations to future people a new urgency. It also influences our
current ethical thinking in several surprising ways, altering the
balance between competing moral theories, and pushing morality in a
more objective direction.

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