Colloquium is held each Friday at 4:00 pm, in 1007 Oldfather Hall (aka the philosophy seminar room).  Undergraduates are welcome!  Contact Aaron Elliott:  ape444[at]

Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2014

September 26, 2014:

Jason Lemmon will be presenting "A Defense of Joyce’s Moral Fictionalism." The paper is attached here for those who are able to read it in advance.  The attached paper is part of a larger project on moral fictionalism that Jason was working on this summer. The focus in this (attached) paper is quite narrow and negative (he defends a view against two objections – and even his defense is more textual interpretation than philosophy), so perhaps on Friday he can say a bit more about how an overall fictionalist project might go in morality and what might motivate it.

September 12, 2014:

Adam Thompson will be presenting "Blame as Recognition."  Here is the abstract:

Recently, ideas from philosophical work on moral motivation have been brought to bear on what the nature of the psychological phenomenon of holding an agent morally responsible is.  As is typical, the discussion focuses on blame.  The most prominent proposal in this respect is the view that episodes of blame centrally involve a certain belief-desire pair.  Versions differ, but generally the belief-desire pair includes (i) a belief that an individual, S, acted in a blameworthy manner and (ii) a desire that S not have acted in that way.  The idea is that this pair constitutes blame and motivates the behavioral and attitudinal dispositions characteristic of blame—e.g. a disposition to resent or rebuke the one believed to have acted in blameworthy manner.  Underwriting this view is the popular Humean idea that cognitive attitudes cannot motivate absent aid from independent desire.  So, I call the view, Humean Blame.  In this paper, I motivate an anti-Humean alternative.    According to the anti-Humean account on offer, the cognitive judgment that an agent manifested ill will needs no help from independent desire to generate blame-characteristic dispositions.  Hence, on my account, recognition is enough.

September 5, 2014:

Christopher Gibilisco will be presenting "Metaphysical Explanation and Explanatory Value."  Here is the abstract:

Philosophers often cite explanatory virtues as reason to prefer one theory of properties over another. In my dissertation, I evaluate whether explanatory value is a good basis for theory choice in ontology and, in particular, the debate over the nature of properties. In this presentation, I will focus on a small part of that larger argument, and the presentation will be largely exploratory rather than a defense of a narrow thesis. We will discuss the following topics: the pragmatics, history, and varieties of metaphysical explanation; explanatory virtues; why explanatory virtues give us prima facie reason to accept a theory on *pragmatic* grounds; and why these pragmatic reasons cannot settle the properties debate. I then will briefly explain and motivate a Carnapian ontology of properties.

Graduate Student Colloquia Spring 2014

April 18, 2014:

Katerina Psaroudaki will be presenting some ideas from her paper “Philosophical Skepticism as an Empirical Hypothesis.” Here is the abstract:

The aim of the presentation is to show that Cartesian skepticism could be empirically tested and disconfirmed. I will proceed as follows: First, I will present and critically evaluate (in light of the objections raised by Nozick, Dretske and Moore) the standard closure-based reconstruction of the skeptical argument. Second, I will explain how the skeptic could reconstruct the argument in order to meet these objections. Finally, I will develop some ideas from theory confirmation to refute the later reconstruction of the argument.

March 21, 2014:

Allison Fritz will be presenting her paper "A Dispositional Theory of Beauty is Thomas Reid's Aesthetics." Here is the abstract:

[NOTE: I need help with dispositions! Calling all metaphysicians!)

Thomas Reid's aesthetics are one in which the emotions play a starring role.  Yet, despite the focus on emotions in his analysis of the aesthetic response, Reid claims that the aesthetic response is not subjective and that aesthetic properties exist in objects.  Those who have focused on Reid's aesthetics have all noted an apparent major inconsistency between this "objectivity thesis" and Reid's contention that minds are the only things that have "original" beauty or grandeur.  Besides this inconsistency, there is confusion over exactly how Reid meant to classify aesthetic properties.  He seems to treat them as if they are both primary and secondary properties. Theodore Gracyk forcefully argues that if aesthetic properties are both primary and secondary qualities, then his account leads to further inconsistency. I will offer a competing ontological analysis of Reid's aesthetic qualities that does not implicate Reid in inconsistency.  In doing so, I will argue that aesthetic qualities are secondary qualities best thought of as dispositions—in particular, dispositions to produce emotions in viewers.  I will depart from a previous dispositional account of secondary qualities offered by Jennifer McKitrick and claim that—at least as far as aesthetic qualities are concerned— the disposition and its causal basis are best thought of as distinct.

March 7, 2014:

Gabriel Bruguier will be presenting his paper "Subjectivism ain't no joke: some responses to David Enoch." Here is the abstract:

In a recent paper, "Why I am an Objectivist about Ethics (And why you are too)", David Enoch makes a case for why we should prefer moral objectivism over both moral subjectivists and relativists (though I only focus on subjectivism here).  But we may not realize why we should have this preference, so Enoch presents three tests (The Spinach Joke test, the disagreement test, and the counterfactual test) to show that our pre-theoretical intuitions line up with this meta-ethical commitment.  Wow!  But I wasn't convinced by Enoch's tests.  One of my main contentions is that he supplies subjectivist considerations that are really flimsy (e.g., likening the view to fashion and jokes).  So one thing I do in the paper is discuss a more robust subjectivism, supplied by Harry Frankfurt.  Next, I take examples and considerations from Frankfurt's view and revisit Enoch's tests.  When a more robust subjectivism is subjected to the tests, it is not so clear that we are forced to Enoch's conclusion that we are all objectivists after all.

February 28, 2014:

Aaron Elliott will be presenting his paper "Revisiting Mary (suggestions for a better title welcome)." Here is the abstract:

Michael Tye, in Consciousness Revisited, proposes a representationalist account of phenomenal content.  His version involves three main elements.  First, the phenomenal character of an experience is "the complex of [physical] properties represented by the experience," not a property of the experience itself, not particular brain states.  Second, he supports a disjunctivist theory of content, spefically "singular when filled;" the structure of mental and linguistic representations are the same between properly referring tokens and tokens with failed reference, the difference being a "gap" in the place of the referent.  Third, he believes that there is an aquaintance type of knowledge that is not reducible to and does not entail any propositional knowledge.  Tye believes that these three elements (perhaps only the first and third, the second being included for other reasons) allow a solution to the Mary Problem.  However, the possibility of "gappy" perception, that is, hallucinations, allows Mary to become acquainted with everything we should think is required for knowing "what it's like to see red" without being in contact with any complex of physical properties in the world (because it's a hallucination).  Thus, Tye's proposed solution is insufficient to solve the Mary Problem.

February 21, 2014:

Andy Spaid will be presenting his paper "Against Enoch's Indispensability Argument for Robust Normative Realism." Here is the abstract:

David Enoch has recently given an argument from indispensability for the existence of robust realist normative truths.  As the argument goes, such truths are indispensable to the success of the (indispensable) project of deliberation.  I argue that, depending on how we understand the success conditions of the "deliberative project," either robust realist normative truths are dispensable, or the deliberative project is itself dispensable.  In either case, the indispensability argument fails.

February 14, 2014:  

Adam Thompson will be presenting his paper "Is Fiction-Making a Gricean Illocutionary Type?" Here is the abstract:

Though Manuel Garcia-Carpintero argues that we should answer the title question affirmative, I argue that he provides us with no good reason to do so.  I show that David Lewis and Gregory Currie have the resources to respond Garcia-Carpintero's critiques.  Moreover, I demonstrate that even if these resources fail to save Lewis and Currie, their theories are not best fixed by understanding fiction-making as a Gricean illocutionary type of speech act. 

February 7, 2014:
 Landon Hedrick will be presenting a paper this Friday. Here is the abstract:

It's plausible to think that your justification for believing certain propositions is influenced by the way things seem to you.  Lately, a number of epistemologists have focused their attention on this alleged connection between seemings and epistemic justification.  In order to assess these views, it would be helpful to get a better understanding of the nature of seemings.  Are they just beliefs?  Are they dispositions or inclinations to believe?  Are they a sui generis propositional attitude?  The main debate in the literature seems to be between those who endorse the view that seemings are dispositions to believe and those who endorse the view that they're sui generis.  In this paper I explore the possibility that seemings are dispositions to believe.

January 31, 2014:  
Zachary Garrett will be presenting his paper "An Explanation of Complete Colocation of Indiscernibles." Here is the abstract:

The Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles (PII) claims that objects that share all of the same properties are identical. If this claim is denied, then it appears that the denier must accept the possibility of objects completely overlapping in space. Michael Della Rocca argues that this possibility is absurd and that it is therefore preferable to accept PII. He claims that the problem with colocated objects lies in the inexplicability of the distinctness of the objects. If there were an iron sphere sitting on my desk, then I could never know how many iron spheres were actually there, since there could be any number of colocated indiscernible spheres. I argue that a clear understanding of the different ways that objects can be colocated removes the counter-intuitiveness of colocation, and thereby supports the denial of PII. Colocation can be divided into two categories, qualitatively significant and qualitatively insignificant colocation. In the case of qualitatively significant colocation, the distinctness of the colocated objects would not be inexplicable, and in the case of insignificant colocation, it would be pointless or even nonsensical to talk about distinct colocated objects.

January 24, 2014:  
Ben Henke will be presenting his paper "Williamson on Knowledge by Imagination." Ben has asked me to invite all interested faculty to attend.  Here is the abstract:

In “Knowing by Imagining”, Timothy Willliamson argues against the ‘traditional’ view of the imagination, which holds that it plays a merely ‘discoveratory’ rather than justificatory role in our reasoning. On this view, the imagination is not a knowledge-conferring faculty; its sole function is to ‘discover’ possible scenarios. The plausibility of those scenarios is then evaluated by other cognitive faculties. On Williamson’s view, by contrast, the imagination can, under certain conditions, play the knowledge-conferring role. The imagination ‘pre-selects’ possibilities, preferring those scenarios that are most likely to be actualized. Thus, certain kinds of imaginative acts are epistemically ‘safe’ from error. He then argues that this conclusion reinforces his earlier conclusion; because the imagination employs the very same cognitive processes employed in other areas, philosophical exceptionalism is false.

I take up each point in turn. First, I argue that Williamson’s rejection of the traditional view is premature: either the conclusion of Williamson’s argument is underdetermined by his evidence or his dispute with the traditionalist is merely terminological. Second, I take up his claim that his view of the imagination dissolves the distinction between the methodology employed in philosophy and those used in other areas. Drawing on a point by Albert Casullo, I argue that because Willliamson takes a broad approach to the imagination (to be discussed below), his analysis leaves room for distinctive applications of the imagination across disciplines.

January 17, 2014:
 Shane George will present his paper "Hard Cases:  Indeterminacy and Incommensurability."  Here is the abstract:

Hard cases of comparison are instances where we find it difficult or impossible to make comparative judgements. Traditionally, three solutions have been offered to explain this phenomenon. Epistemicists argue that a precise comparative relation exists, but we lack epistemic access to which one applies in hard cases. Incomensurablists argue that standard comparatives fail in hard cases and no comparison relation exists. And Semantic Indeterminists argue that comparative predicates are vague, and hard cases fall in the gappy boundaries of these vague predicates. In this presentation I will be extending a series of arguments for Incomensuarbility as the solution to hard cases, with a particular focus on why Semantic Indeterminacy alone, fails to capture these instances. I will endorse a hybrid view in which hard cases are Incommensurable but with vague boundary conditions.

Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2013

December 13, 2013:  Chris Richards will be presenting his paper "Powers and Counterfactuals." Here is the abstract:

Worries with the possible worlds account of modality require an account of modality that doesn't refer to such entities. Jonathan Jacobs (2010) argues that we can provide an explanation of modality without possible worlds by adopting a dispositional monism where all properties are powers, by providing a semantics for counterfactuals in terms of powers, and following Williamson (2004, 2007), a reduction of modal facts to counterfactuals. I present a series of counterexamples to Jacobs' semantics, arguing that the presence of these counterexamples undermines the case for Jacobs' theory.

December 6, 2013:  Adam Thompson will be presenting his paper "Frankfurt-Cases, Gettier, and the Dilemma defense." Here is the abstract:

The view that one is morally responsible for φ-ing only if she could have done otherwise (PAP) is often challenged by appeal to Frankfurt-Type Cases (FTCs). Such cases, which involve a counterfactual intervener, Black, and an acting agent, Jones, purport to show that if causal determinism undermines oneʼs moral responsibility it is not because it takes away access to relevant alternatives. Here, neither the viability of PAP nor the success of FTCs is my concern. Rather, I employ insights from Edmund Gettierʼs influential paper against the traditional analysis of knowledge to undermine a popular dilemma used to defend PAP against FTCs according to which the cases either fail or beg the question.  This popular Dilemma Defense relies on the assumption that Black must know what Jones will do. Everyone, whether pro-PAP or not, accepts that assumption. I offer a strong case against it.

November 22, 2013:  Gabe Bruguier will be presenting his recent research in the philosophy of math. Here is the abstract:

My talk is a small part of a larger project.  The larger project is to discuss connections between David Hume's standard of equality, as it appears in Hume's own philosophy of mathematics, and Hume's principle, as it appears in Frege's logicism, and later neo-logicism.  (To be fair, it wasn't called Hume's principle by Frege, rather, George Boolos called it that in the 1990's, but its a handy moniker, so....)  Anyway, here's the relevant text from the Treatise that Frege cites:

We are possest of a precise standard, by which we can judge of the equality and proportion of numbers; and according as they correspond or not to that standard, we determine their relations, without any possibility of error. When two numbers are so combin’d, as that the one has always an unite answering to every unite of the other, we pronounce them equal (T, 1.3.1)

So, I'm not going to talk much about how this relates to Frege.  That is for later.  Rather, I'll discuss how this text, in conjunction with others, presents Hume as coming close to a Kantian position on mathematics.  Just how this works out will be the subject of my talk.

October 25, 2013:  Christopher Gibilisco will be presenting on the use of Inference to the Best Explanation in metaphysics. Here is the abstract:

Many philosophers appeal to explanatory virtues as evidence for ontological theories, especially those theories whose posits exceed the reach of empirical inquiry. These debates cannot be settled by empirical inquiry, because the competing theories all save the phenomena; such ontological debates are concerned with questions so far beneath the surface of our experience that no empirical evidence could speak for or against them (For example, what empirical evidence could settle whether property-instances of a single property are numerically identical or merely qualitatively identical? Whether material objects endure, perdure, or fail to persist altogether?) Thus, one way philosophers attempt to settle these debates is by comparing each competing theory's explanatory virtues, and arguing that we should accept the theory that is, on balance, the best explanation. In this presentation, I will provide a characterization of Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE), and then I shall argue that attempts to justify such uses of IBE in ontology fail. Namely, I shall argue that we have little reason to believe that explanatory virtue and truth converge, and that appeals to the reliability of IBE in other contexts (everyday life and scientific contexts) are in vain.

October 18, 2013:  Joey Dante will be presenting his paper "Multiple Knowledge-Bearers?" Here is the abstract:

Belief-states possess certain features in virtue of which knowledge-states can be instantiated. In this paper I want to examine these features and ask whether or not other mental states besides belief possess such features. If it is the case that mental states distinct from belief possess these key features then these mental states may be able to be instantiated as knowledge-states as well. Also, if this is so, then knowledge can exist without beliefs. If knowledge can exist without beliefs then the belief condition of knowledge (that knowledge requires belief) can be rejected. In this paper I will mount a rejection to the belief condition that follows the above line of reasoning.

October 11, 2013:  Adam Thompson will be presenting his paper "Depth and Resentment." Here is the abstract:

On quality of will theories of moral responsibility an individual is morally responsible for phi-ing just in case phi-ing manifests her quality of will.  Susan Wolf objects that quality of will views cannot ground the reactive entitlement necessary for appropriately making deep appraisals of agents.  The upshot, according to Wolf, is that quality of will accounts of moral responsibility are inadequate.  I argue that Wolf is mistaken.  Once we see that (a) the view that an appraisal is about the agent’s quality of will is compatible with (b) the view that one’s quality of will is a function of her agential activity.  Toward showing this I offer a novel account of the depth of appraisals.

September 27, 2013:  Ben Henke will be presenting some of his recent research on laws of nature.  Ben has asked that all interested faculty attend, although he stresses that the presentation material is very much a work in progress. Here is a brief summary:

A law of nature is some special kind of generalization. It's the kind of thing we mean when we say that it is a law that electrons repel one another. A world is nomologically possible just in case it is a way the world could have been in virtue of the laws that actually hold. It is common to say that it is nomologically possible that there be a particularly heavy element (say element 600), but not nomologically possible that there be wizards. Finally, a law is nomologically contingent just in case it holds contingently in nomological space. To take the example just provided, it seems that there is a law describing how element 600 would behave if it existed. It is also likely that element 600 is nomologically possible, but doesn't actually exist, since  such heavy elements are unlikely to occur. Thus, the law governing element 600's behavior is nomologically contingent, since it holds in only those worlds that the element itself does.

The current literature on laws offers packages of views about laws, nomological possibility, and nomological contingency.  My goals in the presentation are: (1) to get a lay of the land of how different accounts handle nomological contingency and (2) to argue that my (current) preferred view of laws, on which laws are grounded in dispositional essences and are thus metaphysically necessary, is a better (prettier?) way of handling nomological contingencies than the other views currently on offer.

As a reminder, colloquium is held on Friday at 4 p.m., in 1007 Oldfather Hall (aka the philosophy seminar room). Hope to see everyone there.  Undergrads welcome!

September 20, 2013:
 Kevin Patton will be presenting his paper "Kripke and Fiction." Here is the abstract:

In Kripke’s recently published Reference and Existence, he attempts to expand Naming and Necessity's theory of reference to fiction.  The expansion of rigid designation to fictional objects, however, undermines many of the original motivations for Kripke's theory of reference.  I will argue that Kripke's expanded theory of reference is salvageable only if we adopt certain descriptivist accounts of reference and meaning.

September 13, 2013:  
Tim Louglin will be presenting "Defeaters and higher-order evidence."  Here is the abstract:

Defeaters & Higher-Order Evidence

We sometimes lose justification for believing one proposition by gaining evidence for another, say the negation of the former.  It would be desirable to find a single, fundamental mechanism that explains this phenomenon.  One challenge facing any such proposed mechanism is the apparent heterogeneity of the propositions that can apparently fill the role of the latter proposition in this phenomenon.  David Christensen (2010), Andrew Rotondo (2013), and others have argued that  higher-order evidence, evidence for one's own incompetence with respect to drawing licensed conclusions using a given method or from a given pool of evidence, is relevantly different from traditional defeaters for justification.  I argue that the mechanism I have suggested elsewhere to explain the above phenomenon can handle all distinguishing features of higher-order evidence.

Christensen, David. (2010). "Higher-Order Evidence." Philosophy & Phenomenological Research 81: 185-215.
Rotondo, Andrew. (2013). "Undermining, circularity, and disagreement." Synthese 190: 563-584.

September 6, 2013:  Aaron Elliott will be presenting his paper, "Can moral principles explain supervenience?"  The following is an abstract of Aaron's paper:

The distribution of moral properties supervenes on the distribution of natural properties, and this provides a puzzle for non-naturalism.  Supervenience needs to be accounted for, but what could explain it if moral properties are not natural properties?  David Enoch appeals to moral principles to explain supervenience.  But Enoch's explanation is incomplete; it is impossible to evaluate his solution without an account of what moral principles and moral properties are, and what relation holds between them.  This paper attempts to develop Enoch’s explanation by providing such an account.  I do this by exploring analogous issues for realism about laws of nature in philosophy of science.  Appealing to Stephen Mumford’s Central Dilemma for realism about laws, I argue that for moral principles to explain supervenience, moral properties must be ontologically dependent on the principles.  I suggest that moral properties are relations between moral principles and natural properties.  There is a further problem for pluralism, analogous to the Cartwright Problem for laws of nature: when principles can potentially conflict, there is a tension between facticity and explanation.  This requires figuring out a form for the content of moral principles that does not generate such a tension.  I argue that principles referring to reasons, as opposed to normative imperatives, will avoid this problem.  I conclude by acknowledging some unresolved issues.

Graduate Student Coloquia Fall 2012

November 9, 2012:  Andrew Jaeger will present his paper "Are Essential Properties Necessary Properties?"  The following is an abstract of the paper:

Suppose Descartes dies at the age of 54.  According to four-dimensionalism, Descartes is a sum, call it D*, of certain temporal parts, say D1-D54.  Van Inwagen (and Snyder) have argued that trouble looms for the 4-Dist, in that Descartes could have died at age 44.  If this is possible, then it is possible for Descartes to be the sum, call it D–, of temporal parts D1-D44.  But, D– is a proper part of D*.  How is it possible for a proper part to be identical to the whole it is a proper part of?  Many 4-Dist go with counter-part theory, and are able to hold that it is not necessary that Descartes be the sum D*, since there is a counter-part of him that is D–, the sum D1-D44.  So, there is a way around the modal objection but it requires counter-parts.  Granting the success of this reply, some interesting consequences follow.  

I will argue that this view is committed to holding that some essential properties of objects are not necessary properties of those objects.  I argue this by first explaining what essential properties are and how they relate to de re necessary properties.  Then I argue that the four-dimensionalist is committed to there being certain properties that are essential to sums.  If the four-dimensionalist holds fast to its reply to the modal objection (i.e, counter-parts), then they are committed to holding that certain properties, although essential to objects, are not de re necessary properties for those objects.  If we think all essential properties are de re necessary, then we have reason to reject some aspect (i.e., uniqueness, temporal parts, counter-part theory, etc.) of the forgoing four-dimensionalist picture of material objects.  If we don’t think that all essential properties are de re necessary, then that is an interesting conclusion. 

October 19, 2012: Ben Henke will present his paper on Kantianism and Reasons.  The following is an abstract of the paper:

Non-Kantians have argued that Kantianism fails because it cannot provide an adequate theory of reasons. Such arguments take two forms: First, some argue that the CI is empty, that it cannot explain because it cannot say anything non-trivial about actions. Second, it is argued that the CI cannot explain because it cannot feature in the motivational story of an action. Reason can't motivate so neither can the CI.

On the other hand, it is a common feature of Kantian negative work to say the same thing in return: there are structural problems, they say, with Non-Kantian accounts of reasons. In Korsgaard's language, such accounts fail because they cannot explain how reasons "get a grip" on agents, how they feature in the explanation of actions (when they do). The solution, she thinks, is to recognize reasons as constitutive of agency itself. I call this the Constitutive Reasons Thesis or CRT (mostly because, just as CRT's are outdated monitors, I believe the Constitutive Reasons Thesis is an outdated theory of reasons. That's a joke. I'll probably have a new name for it by the time we meet).

CRT is meant to be a structural solution to the reasons problem; reasons get a grip on agents because they are an intrinsic feature of the operation of agency.  My argument against CRT will proceed by showing that whatever problems are thought to exist "outside the agent" on non-Kantian theories will reemerge "within the agent" on CRT. Thus, Kantian theories of constituance (or at least Korsgaard's) get us precisely nowhere.

The upshots: 1) Negative work against Kantian theories are incomplete. The motivational problem and the emptiness problem in fact generate a dilemma for Kantians; just as Kantians solve the one, they are gripped by the other. 2) Seemingly any solution to the problem generated by CRT are also solutions to the problems for other theories; so Kantians cannot claim any advantage if a solution is found. 3) "Constitutive Norms" are, at least prima facie, hogwash. 

September 28, 2012: Adam Thompson will present his paper "Quality of Will and Negligent Injury." The following is an abstract of the paper:

Common wisdom has it that a negligent individual who injures another is morally responsible and blameworthy for doing so. Nevertheless, many hold that negligent injurers fail to meet certain mental conditions required for being morally responsible, and, hence, for being blameworthy. For instance, consider the family of views generally referred to as quality of will theories on which one is morally responsible for Φ just in case Φ expresses who she is as a practical agent, and, roughly, she is blameworthy just in case Φ manifests ill will. The complaint is that such views cannot account for negligent injury due either to the fact that such injury does not express oneʼs practical agency or does not manifest ill will. I argue, on the contrary, that a quality of will view can capture the moral responsibility and blameworthiness of negligent injurers, while not entailing that they are blameworthy.

September 7, 2012: Christopher Gibilisco will present his paper. The following is an abstract of the paper:

The scientific status of the social sciences is often challenged on the basis of alleged differences between the social sciences and the natural sciences. One supposed difference is that the natural sciences posit laws while the social sciences do not. This leads to an argument from laws against the scientific status of social sciences, call it (LA):

(L1) The natural sciences are paradigmatic cases of scientific disciplines.
(L2) The natural sciences are paradigmatic in virtue of their positing laws.
(L3) Therefore, any discipline that does not posit laws is not a scientific discipline.
(L4) Social sciences do not posit laws.
(LC) Therefore, the social sciences are not scientific disciplines.

The success of (LA) depends in part upon what counts as a law, and what counts as a law is determined by the conditions for lawhood. However, (LA)’s success requires the conditions for lawhood meet two criteria. First, the conditions for lawhood must be weak enough to allow for the generalizations made by the natural sciences to count as laws. Second, the conditions for lawhood must be strong enough to prevent generalizations made by the social sciences from counting as laws. If the first criterion is not met (L1) and (L2) will be false. If the second criterion is not met, (L4) will be false. In this paper, I will argue that no plausible conditions for lawhood meet both criteria. Therefore, I conclude that (LA) fails.


Graduate Student Colloquia Spring 2012

April 27, 2012: Allison Fritz will present her paper "An Interpretation of the Philebus and its Application to the Socrates' Account of the Method as Applied to Music ".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

In this paper, I will develop a promising interpretation of Plato's Heavenly Method as found in the Philebus.  The interpretation will draw on and amend Harry Ide's metaphysical interpretation, as found in his 2002 article "Complex Property Structure in Plato's Philebus."   

While I agree with Ide's interpretation as far as he claims that Socrates is concerned with complex property structures, I disagree with Ide's further contention that Socrates is concerned with the relationship between the single definition of that property and constitutive explanations of how particular instances are instances of that property.  Particularly, I think that the 'indefinite' of which Socrates speaks is the ways in which complex properties can manifest (granted, these are most naturally explained via the use of constitutive  explanations,  but such explanation are not his main focus).   I will then apply this modified interpretation to the dialogue to make clearer a passage from the dialogue that is traditionally seen as awkward.  I will show that the interpretation can illuminate Socrates discussion of music sound at 17b11-18b3.  

Specifically, I will show that his discussion of music is a complete account of his method rather than the awkward partial account it is traditionally assumed to be.

April 9, 2012:  Andrew Jaeger will present his paper:  "Macro-Substances: Nonexistent or Simple?".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

In this paper, I examine an argument by Trenton Merricks (2003) which purports to show that there are no composite objects - objects that have other objects as proper parts.  Merricks takes this argument to support eliminativism about macroscopic objects (objects like cars and baseballs, cats and dogs).  I disagree.  It simply supports to thesis that there are no composite objects.  I argue that (granting the soundness of Merricks' argument) if there are macroscopic objects (and I think there are), they cannot have other objects as proper parts - i.e., they must be simple objects.  So, in light of Merricks' argument, macroscopic objects will have to either (a) be nonexistent or (b) be simple.  I then argue what we would have to say in order to make (b) plausible and conclude that taking (b) over (a) is not crazy - especially in light of (b)'s explanatory power.

March 30, 2012:  Andrew Spaid will present his paper "Conciliationism and Rational Peer Disagreement".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

I defend a conciliationist view on disagreement designed to avoid the objection that such views have serious skeptical implications.  

Conciliationist views require that, when you discover that an epistemic peer disagrees with you about what to believe based on some shared body of evidence, you should become agnostic about who is right.  The skeptical worry is that the existence of widespread disagreement between apparent peers on political, philosophical, and religious matters seems to require that we must give up many of our cherished beliefs about those matters.  My solution involves taking a closer look at what happens in actual cases of peer disagreement, where we see that, by conciliationist standards, we get to rationally disagree more often than conciliationists and their opponents might have thought possible.

February 24, 2012:  Tim Loughlin will present his paper "Against Apparent Self-Defeat".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

If, as I've argued, a belief must be justified in order to defeat a belief's justification, i.e. in order to be a defeater, then self-defeat is impossible.  However, there are apparent cases of self-defeat, e.g. the doctor on the phone telling you that your hearing is wildly unreliable.  How are such cases to be explained?  I argue that in these cases the best candidate defeater is the experiential base for the belief, e.g. seeming to hear the doctor say that your hearing is wildly unreliable.

February 17, 2012:  Aaron Elliot will present his paper "Reasons Without Persons".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

In On What Matters, Derek Parfit argues for a non-naturalistic cognitivist ethical theory.  Unfortunately, in a book with so many battles to fight as On What Matters, some issues do not get all the attention that they might otherwise warrant.  In this paper, I will attempt to gather up some of the loose ends.  Specifically, I will show that Parfit is committed to three claims—moral truths are necessary truths; reasons are what ground moral truths; and for X to be a reason, someone must be able to act on X—whose conjunction entails moral nihilism, and explore possible solutions.  I will argue that the best way for him to relieve this tension requires him to abandon his argument for a "non-ontologically-committing" sense of the concept "exists."

February 10, 2012:  Kazuhiro Watanabe will present his paper "Self-ownership and Control rights to Body and Ability".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

As G. A. Cohen clearly showed, we have undeniably strong intuitions that seem to support the principle of self-ownership. However, our moral intuition, even strong in its force, does not tell us what kinds of rights we exactly have on the basis of self-ownership. In this talk, I am going to pinpoint what our intuitive aversion against Cohen's eye lottery case would primarily support: it's control rights to one's own ability, rather than to one's own body (parts). I will then turn to examine some possible strategies for justifying control rights to our ability and body. In so doing I try to make it clear in what sense those control rights cannot be fully justified. My claim includes that the principle of self-ownership should be limited in the sense that we cannot rightly dispose of one's own life: the principle of self-ownership cannot be an excuse for committing suicide.

February 3, 2012:  Adam R Thompson will present his paper "Optimism and Resentment".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

We seem to find ourselves reacting to the behavior of those around us with affection, gratitude, love, resentment, indignation, sadness and other sentiments.  P.F. Strawson famously (or notoriously) to note of this situation.  He surmised that it would be, as a practical matter, inconceivable to completely jettison these sorts of reactive attitudes and feelings.  Strawson employed this thesis, which I'll call the 'practical inconceivability thesis' (PIT), against the pessimist who holds that the truth of determinism would render the attitudes and practices associated with moral responsibility incoherent and unjustified.  Here I set the debate over this sort of pessimism to the side, and focus on strengthening Strawsonian support for PIT by attending to a debate over another kind of pessimism.  Tamler Sommers has deftly argued that Strawson's argument in favor of PIT depends on a mistaken assumption about our viewing others as nothing more than natural objects.  Strawson's mistake, Sommers presses, is to assume that we cannot take up this so-called 'objective stance' while continuing to participate in deeply personal relationships.  Against Sommers' objective-stance optimism (OS-Optimism), Seth Shabo defends Strawson's OS-Pessimism.  Shabo intends his defense to strengthen Strawson's argument for PIT.  In this paper, I defend Sommers against Shabo in route to an alternative path to PIT.  I argue that the Strawsonian can and should accept OS-Optimism and the view that the extent to which a relationship is personal in part determines the range of participant reactive attitudes to which one is susceptible.  I conclude by employing this latter claim in a new argument for PIT.

January 27, 2012:  Christopher Gibilisco will present his paper "Reid and Newton on Hypotheses".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

Thomas Reid consistently decried the use of hypotheses in both moral and natural philosophy. Reid often claims that he is following in the methodological footsteps of Newton, including Newton's methodology concerning hypotheses. However, Shannon Dea, Steffen Ducheyne, Larry Laudan, and others portray Reid as a radicalizer of Newton's methodology, starting an intellectual movement that took "Newton's casual remarks on scientific method" (Laudan 1981, 86, emphasis added) and made them the strict standard by which theories were to be judged; a standard too strict to be plausible. In particular, it is often claimed that Reid radicalized Newton's methodology concerning hypotheses. In this paper I shall reject the interpretation of Reid as a radicalizer of Newton given that there is sufficient textual evidence to support a more charitable interpretation of Reid, which places Reid's position on hypotheses much closer to Newton's than Dea's interpretation can allow.

January 20, 2012:  Shane George will present his paper "Why we don't have to flush Significant Form and Expression Theory".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

Up until the early part of the 20th century, Clive Bell's notion of significant form and the expression theory were the dominant contenders for a theory of art.  The introduction of the avant garde presented both theories with substabtial explanatory difficulties, such that neither was considered  an adequate comprehesive theory of art. I will argue that both theories, in fact, suffer no additional explanatory difficulties due to the avant garde movement. And that any apparent difficulties were the result of a misinterpretation of the import and medium of said movement.

January 13, 2012:  Chris Richards will present his paper "The Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles and its Truthmaker".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

What is the truthmaker for the Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles? While it is widely believed to be false, few have offered diagnoses of the error. In this paper, I will attempt to pinpoint what the truthmaker for the Principle is. The goal is partially methodological and partially metaphysical. If we can pinpoint just what the truthmaker would be for the Principle, we can likely determine its truth without having to gather a battery of counterexamples and refutations of said counterexamples. The metaphysical aspect is a defense of several positive claims about the Principle. It is, I argue, necessary, non-empirical, and non-conceptual. I also examine how, using two theories of the truthmakers of necessary truths on offer, what sorts of truthmakers could exist for the Principle.


Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2011

December 9, 2011:  Steven Swartzer will present his paper "Appetitive Besires and the Fuss About Fit". The following is an abstract of the paper:

Some motivational cognitivists believe that cognitive motivational states (typically moral beliefs) must be besires. According to the common interpretation, these besires are unitary propositional attitudes with both belief-like and desire-like "directions of fit". This view, Besire Cognitivism, has been challenged as ad hoc, extravagant, in conflict with folk psychology, and possibly incoherent. In this paper, I provide a response to these standard objections to besires - one motivated independently of the standard cognitivist intuitions about the motivational efficacy of moral judgments. I float the hypothesis about the nature of so-called appetitive desires, a paradigmatic class of motivational attitudes, and argue that this hypothesis is committed to the existence of besires. However, I argue, this hypothesis is immune to the standard objections to besires. The upshot is that there is nothing bizarre about besires, per se. If Besire Cognitivism is objectionable, it is not so for positing besires.

December 2, 2011:  Landon Hedrick will present his paper "Assessing Craig's Cumulative Case for Theism".  The following is an abstract of the paper:

In this paper I am to clarify (to a certain extent) the nature of the debate about the existence of God, with a particular interest in assessing the arguments defended by William Lane Craig in print and in his debates.  It's not my goal to offer a detailed evaluation of each of the individual arguments and sub-arguments.  Rather, I'm aiming to focus more on the big picture by evaluating how Craig's arguments would fare given different ways of construing the debate.  I show that (what I take to be) Craig's preferred way of construing the debate comes with a significant cost--namely, it puts quite a bit of pressure on some of his weaker arguments, which (seemingly) cannot carry the load Craig wants them to.

November 11, 2011: Luke Elwonger will present his paper "Extended to Far". The following is an abstract of the paper:

In *Relying on Others* Goldberg argues that the standard commitments of process reliabilism commit it to what he calls "the extendness hypothesis". The extendness hypothesis holds that, in case of testimony, attributions of justification (and not merely knowledge) depend on the reliability of the cognitive processes in the original source and not just those in the consumer of testimony. Goldberg thinks this commits process reliabilism to a limited, but powerful form of social epistemology about justification.

I will argue that the analogy to inferential beliefs he uses in the argument proves too much and that he ignores important distinctions between different normative roles that a concept like justification could play. In particular he ignores the difference between issues of personal responsibility and questions of trust and validation of sources. I finish by giving reason to think that final reliabilist social epistemology Goldberg endorses would ignore important individual obligations that emerge only from a more social outlook on the epistemic good.

November 4, 2011: Aaron Elliott will present his paper "Realist Contractualism". The following is an abstract of the paper:

In What We Owe to Each Other, T. M. Scanlon proposes and defends the idea that moral wrongness equates to being prohibited by principles that no one could reasonably reject. This position is frequently understood to be a constructivist moral theory, where moral objectivity is established through a constructive process. I suggest that such interpretations fundamentally misread Scanlon's project, and instead we should understand his work as a realist theory. The reason for this can be seen in the answer to a Euthyphro type dilemma: are principles rejectable because people reject them or can people reject principles only because there are reasons to do so? Since Scanlon is best read as an externalist about reasons, I suggest that if people can reject a principle, it is only because there are reasons to do so. The combination of Scanlon's contractualism with externalism about reasons amounts to moral realism. This reading also shows that various criticisms that have been aimed at Scanlon's theory (read as constructivist) do not apply.

October 28, 2011: Tim Loughlin will present his paper "An Argument for the Inadequacy of Grundmann's Externalist Account of Defeaters". The following is an abstract of the paper:

Thomas Grundmann has offered an account of defeaters for epistemic justification according to which the phenomenon of defeat can be explained by the truth of the following account of justification:

(TG) S is justified in believing that p at time t, if and only if

(1) S's belief is based on a reliable process, and

(2) there is no conditionally reliable process available to S which (i) a properly functioning cognitive system of the kind to which S belongs would have used and (ii) which would have resulted in S's not believing p at t, and

(3) the proper function mentioned in (2) can be explained with respect to getting at true beliefs.

I argue that this account of defeaters is inadequate for two reasons: first, it cannot explain the phenomenon of partial defeat and, second, it cannot explain the phenomenon of undercutting defeaters for basic beliefs.

October 14, 2011: Gabriel Bruguier will present his paper "Frege, the Access Problem, and Skepticism about Arithmetical Knowledge". The following is an abstract of the paper:

This paper is a work in progress that deals with a problem in the justification of mathematical knowledge. First, I sketch the access problem, which is, roughly, the burden placed on realist philosophers of mathematics to tell some plausible story about how we can have knowledge of abstract objects. Against this background, I then consider an objection raised by Al Casullo that Frege's (who was a realist of sorts) conception of arithmetical justification leads to skepticism about arithmetical knowledge. I then sketch a two-part response, based in part on recent work by Tyler Burge, that argues 1) that Frege's conception of justification is wider than Casullo claims; and 2) on a certain reading of Frege, access to arithmetical truth may be available to all rational thinkers. My main claim is that Frege has a response to the skeptical objection posed by Casullo.

October 7, 2011: Ryan Korczak will present his paper "Libertarianism and Paternalism: Why Can't We Be Friends?". The following is an abstract of the paper:

Steven P. Wall's paper "Self-Ownership and Paternalism" presents a challenge to libertarian rights of self-ownership by alleging that the libertarian's resistance to interference of a paternalistic nature is a weakness of the libertarian's position rather than a strength. Wall's main challenge is that in certain cases where a libertarian may want to interfere with someone, the libertarian's rights of self-ownership forbid interference. He then goes on to give typical libertarian responses to his challenge which he then attempts to show are inadequate to solve the problem. My paper is largely a response to Wall in which I will evaluate his challenge to the libertarian position and his arguments against libertarian responses as well as offering my own solutions to the problem Wall presents.

September 30, 2011: Seiichiro Yasuda will present his paper "An Epistemological Dualism and It's Implications". The following is an abstract of the paper:

In this paper, I will simply assume what I term 'epistemological dualism', which is a view about two ways in which we identify things, one for identifying universals and the other for identifying particulars, and about a fundamental epistemological gap between them. In this presentation, I will explain but not defend this view. I hope to discuss two implications of this epistemological dualism. The first is a direct implication: the rejections of (i) the identification of a particular by way of listing its distinguishing properties and of (ii) the identification of a universal by way of listing (or enumerating) its extension. (These follow from the epistemological dualism because the notion of monadic universal will be rendered as epistemologically mixed or "amphibious," and, so, incoherent, in some sense.) The second is only an indirect and potential implication, which I might not be able to present coherently but I want to give a shot: A possibility of viewing language as the diachronically dynamic medium for the social-normative regulation of our behaviors, rather than as the synchronically fixed or given medium of representation and communication.

September 23, 2011: Preston Werner will present his paper "The Conditionality of Robust Self-Ownership". The following is an abstract of the paper:

Left and right libertarians alike are attracted to the thesis of self-ownership because, as Eric Mack says, they "believe that it best captures our common perception of the moral inviolability of persons". The inviolability of self-ownership purports to make libertarianism more appealing than its (non-libertarian) egalitarian counterparts, since traditional egalitarian theories cannot straightforwardly explain why, e.g., forced organ donation is a serious wrong even when it generates more equitable outcomes or benefits the greater good. I argue that this appeal is unfounded; the thesis of self-ownership as usually construed allows for the possibility of justified and blameless violations of the self up to and including forced organ donation. This is especially true of versions of libertarianism which include Lockean Provisos. I conclude by considering a few possible responses the libertarian, assessing each one's plausibility.

September 16, 2011: Chris Richards will present his paper "Ramseyan Humility and Anti-Realism". The following is an abstract of the paper:

In "Models and Reality," Hilary Putnam gave an argument against realism that relied on the famous Lowenheim-Skolem theorems, which demonstrate that for any uncountable model of a language, there is a countable model of that language, and vice versa. Putnam held that given this result we cannot hold that there is a single true model that satisfies our language, and so we cannot assume (as the realist does) that there is one true description of reality, as many models will answer to that description. In response, David Lewis argued that we can, in fact, restrict the eligible models for a language in a way Putnam thought impossible by holding that there are privileged natural properties. But--or so I argue--this is in conflict with David Lewis' view in "Ramseyan Humility," and I highlight a tension in Lewis' thinking about these two matters.

September 9, 2011: Adam R Thompson will be presenting his paper, 'Frankfurt Cases, Gettier, and the Principle of Alternative Possibilities'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

Contrary to the popular Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP), many find it intuitive that one is morally responsible despite having no alternative possibilities—“Look”, it’s said in light of Frankfurt Cases, “even if the intervener were absent from the scene, Jones would have made that decision”. For instance, Michael Otsuka rejects PAP on that basis but accepts that one is morally blameworthy for doing an action A only if she could instead have behaved in a manner for which she would have been entirely blameless. Adopting a popular strategy for defending PAP, Otsuka holds that Frankfurt Cases beg the question against incompatibilists holding his new principle. In this paper, employing insights from Edmund Gettier’s influential paper against the traditional analysis of knowledge I offer a new case, defend my case against standard objections, and show that my case against Otuska’s principle highlights, instructively, that the popular strategy for defending PAP against Frankfurt Cases fails.

September 2, 2011: Christopher Gibilisco will be presenting his paper "David Lewis and Contingent Second-Order Predication". The following is an abstract of his paper:

David Lewis held that properties and relations are just sets of their instances across possible worlds, and that for every predicate, there is a set to provide the semantic value for the predicate. Andy Egan contends that Lewis's theory of properties leads to contradictory set membership in certain cases of contingent second-order properties--that is, in cases where a property F instantiates a property G at some possible worlds but not at others. Egan contends a property F having a property G at some worlds and not others would require F to be both a member and not a member of the set of all and only G-things. However, I will argue that Egan's objection relies on Lewis accepting genuine monadic relational properties, the existence of which Lewis explicitly rejects in his discussion of properties in On the Plurality of Worlds. Furthermore, I will show that Lewis's system has the machinery to account for contingent second-order predication without relational properties, via genuine relations between properties and individuals. I also examine a rival solution to Egan's objection recently offered by Joseph Melia and Duncan Watson, and provide three reasons as to why my solution is to be preferred to theirs.

Graduate Student Colloquia Spring 2011

April 22, 2011: Allison Fritz will be presenting her paper "Velleman, Deception, and the Reification of Harmful Gender Roles". The following is an abstract of her paper:

In How we Get Along, J. David Velleman presents his metaethical account of acting for reasons. Velleman claims that the constitutive aim of practical reasoning is intelligibility (?making sense?). Intelligibility depends upon our holistic perception of what makes sense given our own self-conception, our desires, and the situation we find ourselves in. According to Velleman, the inescapable aim of intelligibility of action explains morality in that such intelligibility creates a rational force on agents to be moral. Intelligibility favors morality in that intelligibility is best obtained through 1.) collaboration in socially shared scenarios, 2.) the adoption of shared principles of action in these scenarios (which entails avoidance of making exceptions for oneself), and 3.) honesty in collaborating, adopting and following principles in shared scenarios. Hence, intelligibility fosters universality, mutuality, and transparency. It is important to note, for the purposes of my critique, that much of our practical reasoning concerns reacting to and collaborating with others. It is this fact that generates two major objections to Velleman?s account. I will first challenge Velleman?s claim that improvisational collaboration is generally frustrated by deception. I will argue that even if Velleman?s claim that successful practical reasoning results in intelligibility is correct, we nevertheless sometimes have good reason (it is intelligible) to deceive. Secondly, I will show that the fact that intelligibility is highly dependent upon other agents (even if when they reason successfully) serves to validate and reinforce our current gender norms?a consequence that Velleman briefly concedes, but of which he does not fully realize the negative import.

April 15, 2011: Kazuhiro Watanabe will be presenting his paper "On Goodman's Reading of Hume---Hume's way out of the New Riddle of Induction---". The following is an abstract of his paper:

Numerous debates, objections, and attempts at solutions have been sparked by Nelson Goodman's "new riddle of induction," and the discussions continue without cease. Goodman's puzzle and the first step of his own prospects for the solution were attained by his assessment that Hume's attempt to answer the "old problem of induction" had been essentially on the right track. On Goodman's reading of Hume, however, Hume's response to the old problem was not adequate enough to be free from another query; the new riddle of induction.

My aim in this talk is to show that a "solution" to the new riddle can be found, contrary to Goodman's reading, in Hume's own texts, and that Hume's solution is similar to Goodman's in the sense that both of them find a clue to solving the puzzle in our language practices. If time permits, I shall point out that a commitment to the notion of higher-order generalizations, one of the important ingredients in Goodman's theory of projection, plays a considerable role also in Hume's account of inductive inferences.

April 8, 2011: Clare LaFrance will be presenting her paper "Selfownership and Women". The following is an abstract of the paper:

This paper examines egalitarian libertarianism put forth by Michael Otsuka. Otsuka makes an important distinction between world ownership and self-ownership. Otsuka argues that through this distinction there is room for a welfarist proviso. I will argue that there is an inherent tension between his formulation of self-ownership and his welfarist proviso. Otsuka's picture of self-ownership is blind to the way that humans reproduce. Self-ownership does not take into account the unique situation of women and children. When Otsuka's view is taken in light of the human situation he is unable to maintain both his view of self-ownership and the welfarist proviso. Otsuka acknowledges that his view may have limited applicability due to procedural difficulties in the world. The criticism I highlight is not merely a practical worry but rather that self-ownership excludes the situation of women. Given women are 51% of the population (not including cultures that alter the natural occurrence through abortion or infanticide) a theory of justice that does not apply to their existence loses its appeal.

April 1, 2011: Landon Hendrick will present his paper "Inconsistency in Craig's Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument." The following is an abstract of the paper:

In the past few decades, no philosopher has done more to defend the Kalam Cosmological Argument from detractors than William Lane Craig. The argument consists of two premises, but only one of those premises (i.e. that the universe began to exist) is in focus in the present paper. Craig defends that premise with two different philosophical arguments as well as empirical evidence from contemporary cosmology. I argue that there is a fundamental inconsistency between the two philosophical arguments, and that he should therefore stop relying on one of them. Furthermore, I argue that Craig's response to one of the worries I mention is inadequate--its inadequacy seemingly arising from an equivocation on his part.

March 18, 2011: Luke Elwonger will present his paper 'Physical Constants and Essentialist Arguments for Necessitarianism'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

One argument for the necessitarian position is via an essentialist theory of the transworld identity of properties. In this paper I defend such a theory of the identity of properties and its necessitarian consequences from one major criticism. I center the discussion on a single critic, E.J. Lowe. In his book, The Four Category Ontology, he offers a criticism of the essentialist argument for necessitarianism via an analogy with other forms of transworld identity and common intuitions about the contingency of the physical constants. I undermine the usefulness of Lowe's analogy by examining the purposes of attributions of properties. I also show that the essentialist's position can allow it to accommodate the intuitions of contingency in a way that fits best with the purpose behind property attributions.

March 18, 2011: Adam R Thompson will present his paper 'A Defense Against Quidditism'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

Some think that the identity of all fundamental natural properties is fixed by a dispositional essence—i.e., roughly, for all fundamental natural properties F, F is F in virtue of the fact that F is essentially disposed to ø. Others hold that the identity of fundamental natural properties is fixed by something other than a dispositional essence. Call the former view dispositional monism (DM). Call the latter view categorical monism (CM). Proponents of (DM) charge (CM) theorists with a commitment to a view on which fundamental natural properties are individuated by mysterious quiddities. I offer a defense on behalf of (CM) theorists by identifying a non-mysterious binary relation that can play the identity fixing role and to which (CM) theorists are antecedently committed.

March 11, 2011: Masaya Honda will present his paper 'Plato's Value Theories in the Symposium'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

Plato is, arguably, considered to be a robust moral non-naturalist (who holds, roughly, moral philosophy is fundamentally autonomous from the natural sciences). Nevertheless, through his early and early middle dialogues, he tests and develops a couple of naturalists' moral theories. Among these, the most consistent and developped theory is found in the Symposium.

In my presentation, I shall discuss how Plato (under the name of Diotima, who is Socrates' teacher about eros) defends some naturalists' theories and evaluate the strength of his arguments. The discussion would be revolved around three types of philosophical theories: (1) the theory of motivation; (2) the theory of moral value; (3) the theory of identity.

In the Symposium, as I interpret, Diotima holds the following theses:

(1)'In terms of the theory of motivation:

For every living thing, there exists a fundamental motivation (eros) such that (1) it provides the final end(eudemonia) to all other motivations and (2) it originates in some non-rational faculty.

(2)' In terms of the theory of moral value:

The good is the principle of growth that governs how each and every living organism is generally developed.

(3)' In terms of the theory of identity:

A at t1 is identical with B at t2 if and only if A produces or reproduces some properties in B such that B comes to have A's properties that play certain functional roles in the species to which A and B belong.

In the Symposium, in order to argue for (1)', Diotima uses (2)' and (3)'. Let us discuss how the theses relate to each other in her arguments and how she defends the theses.

March 4, 2011: Leo Iacono will be presenting his paper 'What is the concept of knowledge for?'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

In Knowledge and the State of Nature, Edward Craig sets out to answer a novel epistemological question: what is the purpose of the concept of knowledge? Craig concludes that the concept of knowledge is for flagging good sources of information. This conclusion has recently been endorsed by several noted epistemologists, who use it for various ends, most notably as a weapon against skepticism and in defense of epistemic contextualism. These epistemologists, however, offer little by way of argument for the claim that the concept of knowledge is for flagging good sources of information, generally either citing the claim's inherent plausibility, or referring the reader to Craig's arguments in KSN. It is worth asking, then, whether Craig's answer really is plausible, and, more generally, whether his method in KSN is at all likely to yield the right answer. In this paper I argue that Craig's method in KSN is not well suited to determining the purpose of the concept of knowledge, and that if the concept of knowledge does have a purpose, it is not to flag good sources of information, since this hypothesis is far too specific to explain the multifarious ways in which the concept of knowledge gets used in ordinary life. I then suggest a different method, and a different answer: that the purpose of the concept of knowledge, if such there is, is to flag individuals who are entitled to treat certain propositions as facts.

February 25, 2011: Preston Werner will be presenting his paper, 'Toward an Unproblematic Conditional Analysis of Dispositions'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

Disposition ascriptions have long been linked with subjunctive conditionals. The ways in which they?ve been connected are numerous. Many have thought disposition ascriptions are metaphysically and/or semantically reducible to subjunctive conditionals. Others believe the entailment goes in the other direction. Regardless of which direction one takes the entailment to go, the rough claim is that an object x has a disposition to F iff x would F given some stimulus s. The goal for proponents of an equivalency or reduction between disposition ascriptions and conditionals is to give this analysis in a detailed and formal way which avoids counterexamples. There are three kinds of counterexamples which have led many to reject the dispositional analysis project: finks, antidotes, and mimics. David Lewis provided a reformed account which handled finking cases. I give a general diagnosis of the antidote problem, which leads to an interesting revision of Lewis' account which can avoid the problem. I then gesture toward a potential solution to the problem of mimics.

February 18, 2011: Christopher McCammon will be presenting his paper, 'Republican Foundations for Liberal Restraint'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

Liberal political philosophers often claim that the exercise of political power must be justified to everyone on the business end of said power. Many of these same liberal political philosophers also claim that political power justified by appeal only to sectarian worldviews fails to meet this requirement. E.g. If the only reason I cast my vote to outlaw same-sex marriage is that I believe God ordained marriage as a union of one man and one woman, I do not have reason enough to cast that vote. But is this restraint on political reasons itself justified? What's wrong with coercion justified by appeal only to a particular sectarian worldview? In this paper I argue that the best answer to questions about why we should accept liberal restraints on political justification is assembled from republican materials: specifically, commitment to liberal standards of political justification is best justified by appeal to an obligation to refrain from exercising mastery or domination over our fellow citizens. Once we understand precisely what is wrong with mastery, we are ideally situated to see what is right with liberal restraint and what is wrong with the primary objections to it.

February 11, 2011: Justin Moss will present his paper "Permissiveness and the Agent-Centered Prerogative". The following is an abstract of the paper:

One general strategy of attempting to defuse the Demandingness Objection is to moderate the demands that a Consequentialist moral theory makes. There are several tactics one might make use of to achieve this end, but in this chapter I will focus on one; the agent-centered prerogative. The prerogative's most notable proponent is Samuel Scheffler, who has made it the centerpiece of the Hybrid Theory of Morality that he has proposed in his book, The Rejection of Consequentialism, and defended it against objections in later writings. The prerogative has also been adopted in modified form by Tim Mulgan, who has used it as a crucial ingredient in a novel and complex form of Consequentialism which, Mulgan believes, avoids the Demandingness Objection.

In what follows, I shall argue that these two prominent versions of the agentcentered prerogative are not acceptable ways of solving the Demandingness Objection. I argue that both versions of the prerogative are too permissive, in that they permit agents to cause harms in the pursuit of their own goals. In arguing this, I draw upon and develop an objection first raised by Shelly Kagan. I first discuss Scheffler's version of the prerogative and argue that, despite Scheffler's defense of it, it cannot serve as a suitable way of dissolving the Demandingness Objection. I then extend this critique to Mulgan's version of the prerogative and argue that the prerogative causes Mulgan's theory to generate a paradoxical result. His theory seems to recommend drastic action, but at the same time permits agents to defect from the course of drastic action far too easily. I conclude that a better version of the agent-centered prerogative is needed if it is to be of continued use to the Consequentialist looking to defuse the Demandingness Objection.

February 4, 2011: Cameron Nelson will be presenting his paper, 'Down Goes Kripke'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

In Naming and Necessity, Kripke puts forth the thesis that names are rigid designators. And while there have been attempts to dismantle Kripke's picture of names, no one has taken a direct approach by showing that there are some felicitous uses of names which are not rigid designators. In my presentation, I will present data that suggests that there are some felicitous uses of names that are not rigid designators. Time permitting, I will piece together my account of the direction a full account of naming phenomena should proceed.

January 21, 2011: David Chavez will be presenting his paper, 'The Epistemic Argument for Conceptualism'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

This paper examines an epistemologically driven argument for Conceptualism about perception. Conceptualism, as I'm construing it, is the view that perceptual states are conceptual in a way that is nontrivially akin to the conceptuality of belief (and other propositional attitudes). People who are into so-called nonconceptual perceptual content try in one way or another to deny this. I start with a rough disambiguation of the competing hypotheses; this helps us evaluate the efficacy of reasons and arguments stemming from both sides of the debate. I then look at previous versions of the Epistemic Argument, due to John McDowell and Bill Brewer, and identify key assumptions that make these arguments seem unacceptable. I then present an argument to the effect that, considerations about the nature of rationalizing relations, and of the capacity of perceptions to enter into such relations, supports the Conceptualist hypothesis.

January 14, 2011: Matthew Dee will be presenting his paper, 'The Nature of Intuitions'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

Much of the current debate over the nature of intuitions revolves around answers to the following two questions:

1) What kind of mental state is an intuition?

2) Does having the intuition that p require having any mental state with the content that necessarily p?

Since philosophers who give an affirmative answer to 2) have all argued that the mental state that we need to have with the content that necessarily p will be the same kind of mental state as the intuition that p, affirmative answers to 2) have historically been dependent upon answers to 1). There have been two kinds of answers to 1). According to the first kind, which is often called perceptualism, intuitions are intellectual seemings that, aside from being non-experiential, are on a par with our more ordinary perceptual seemings. According to the second kind, which is often called doxasticism, intuitions are just a subcategory of some already recognized category of belief states, such as beliefs or inclinations to believe. In this paper, I begin by arguing that recent arguments by Elijah Chudnoff (forthcoming) and Joshua Earlenbraugh and Bernard Molyneux (2009) fail to adjudicate between perceptualism and doxasticism. After this, I argue that there are some well-known phenomena concerning intuitions, seemings, and defeaters that provide at least some support for perceptualism. Finally, I argue that while my previous arguments give us at least some reason to prefer affirmative answers to 2) that fall in line with perceptualism, we have good reason to give a negative answer to question 2) no matter how we decide to answer question 1).

Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2010

December 10, 2010: Preston Werner will be presenting his paper, 'Gaps In Reasoning'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

A widely accepted thesis amongst philosophers of language is that the sole semantic function of a proper name is to refer to its bearer. It also seems true, prima facie, that empty names, such as Santa Claus, function in the most or all of the same ways that non-empty names do. Given these two theses, one conclusion some direct reference theorists have drawn is that empty names contribute nothing to a proposition expressed by an utterance, and thus statements containing empty names express "gappy" or incomplete propositions. I consider three such views, those of Braun, Adams, and Taylor, and argue that each view fails for similar reasons: They all either sanction too many or too few logical inferences as valid.

December 3, 2010: Patrick Arnold will present his paper, "Virtue without Character: The Psychology of Self-Control and the Quality of Human Character". The following is an abstract of his paper:

Talk of character, traits, personality, and virtue plays a prominent role in everyday discourse as well as in ethical theory. Situationists have long argued that research in social psychology on the influence of situational factors on moral behavior debunks the descriptive claims made in traditional virtue ethics concerning the nature and significance of character. Thus far in the situationist debate, in spite of the numerous case studies in social psychology on the influence of situational factors, comparatively little research has been done on the cognitive processes underlying character. In this paper, I argue that research on the cognitive basis of character can and should inform virtue ethics, much as experimental psychology has. I argue primarily by example, reviewing recent studies on the psychology of self-control and the phenomenon of ego-depletion. When we dig deeper beneath moral behavior, we find cognitive processes that do not find adequate description in virtue ethics, but are, like external moral behaviors, primarily influenced by morally irrelevant situational factors. I conclude that the psychology of self-control supports situationist critiques of the traditional descriptions of character offered in both virtue ethics and ordinary moral discourse.

November 19 , 2010: Christopher Richards will present his paper "Common Sense and Composition". The following is an abstract of the paper:

We have many ordinary folk beliefs about what objects there are, and many have attempted to defend theories of objects that seem to capture those beliefs. But Peter van Inwagen presented us with the Special Composition Question, asking 'when do some objects compose another object?', and, notoriously, answers that capture our folk beliefs are exceedingly difficult to find. If an answer to the Special Composition Question that conforms to folk belief cannot be found, then we should come to the following conclusion: either the Special Composition Question is a bad question, or our folk beliefs about objects will end up being indefensible. I'll criticize various answers to the Special Composition Question and argue that, if folk beliefs about objects are taken seriously, the question is most likely unanswerable.

November 12 , 2010: Adam R Thompson will present his paper 'Natural Capabilities and Equal-Opportunity Left-Libertarianism'. The following is an abstract of the paper:

Left-Libertarianism attempts to wed (a) the libertarian view that justice is grounded in a right to self-ownership, and (b) egalitarian requirements on the distribution of natural resources. Various versions of left-libertarianism are generated depending on which egalitarian requirement one holds to be the morally appropriate requirement. I focus on Michael Otsuka's (2003) equal-opportunity left-libertainism on which the distribution requirement focuses on distributing resource in a manner sensitive to equal-opportunity. Otsuka rejects Robert Nozick's libertarian distributive requirement, in part, on the ground that it allows folks to be worse off even if there being so was/is beyond their control. I argue that Otsuka's view is vulnerable to the same objection. Thus, by his own lights, Otsuka's equal-opportunity left-libertarianism should be rejected as well.

October 29, 2010: Shane George will present his paper on value pluralism and the inherent incommensurability of values. The following is an abstract of the paper:

Shelley Kagan argues in The Limits of Morality that “common sense” moralities turn out to be internally inconsistent, and as such adherents to these positions should either embrace the extremist (consequentialist) position or the minimalist (moral nihilist) position. His argument is based on the belief that most people believe we have a pro tanto reason to promote the good (PRG) in any given situation. He then argues that although constraints on our ethical behaviors may be feasibly supported by the PRG, options amongst our ethical behaviors are not. From this he concludes that since the “common sense” moralist already accepts the PRG they should embrace extremism. I will argue that these claims are fundamentally supported by one of the following two positions. Either they endorse value monism, the belief that there is one underlying value sought by individuals (most often well-being). Or, if value pluralism is endorsed, differing values are considered commensurable such that we can compare and contrast values in order to find the best solution on balance when sacrifices must be made. I will then argue that value pluralism is in fact true, but values are inherently incommensurable. As such, options in ethical behavior exist and “common sense” morality (at the very least) does not collapse into extremism.

October 15, 2010: Seiichiro Yasuda will be presenting his paper, 'Contingency of True Identity Between Names Based on a Theory of Rigid Designation'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

This is my term paper for Metaphysics. I will argue that Kripke's thesis of the necessity of true identity between names is false. Toward that end, I will argue that Kripke's rigid designator theory of names should be revised. The revised theory that I support is what I call 'qua-reference theory of rigid designation'. I present a case that I claim counts as a counterexample to the Kripke thesis according to the qua-reference theory. This theory is an attempt to respect Kripke's language-centered (or pragmatics-centered) remarks, that a possible world is something we stipulate and that a rigid designator belongs to "our language," while saving the basic framework of his possible-world metaphysics and the necessity/contingency distinction based on it.

October 8, 2010: Adam R Thompson will be presenting his paper "Moral Requirements, Moral Blame, and What 'Could' and 'Can' Could and Can Mean". The following is an abstract of his paper:

Some think that the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) on which one is morally blameworthy only if she could have done otherwise is undermined by certain counterexamples, typically called Frankfurt Cases. David Widerker and David Copp hold that PAP is can be derived from another very plausible principle--namely, the Principle of 'Ought' Implies 'Can' (POC) on which one is all in morally required to do an action only if s/he can do that action. Thus, they hold that one cannot consistently maintain that POC is true and that Frankfurt Cases are counterexamples to PAP. Contra Widerker and Copp, I argue that one can consistently maintain that POC is true and that Frankfurt Cases are counterexamples to PAP.

September 24, 2010: Andrew Jaeger will present his paper 'Believing and Commitment: A Reply to Turri's 'Refutation By Elimination'. The following is an abstract of the paper:

John Turri has recently argued (Analysis 2010) that, contrary to common consensus, it is not the case that all assertions of the form "P, but I don't believe it" are absurd (as Moore and others had claimed). Turri's argument is in the form of a counterexample, in which a subject makes an assertion of the form "P, but I don't believe it" and she is not taken to have asserted anything absurd. Turri claims that "one principal lesson of my [Turri's] discussion is that the correct response to Moore's Paradox must allow for this, and preferably help us understand why such exceptions exist." Presumably, any analysis that can't offer such an explanation will be inadequate. I will examine Turri's argument and argue that by accepting John Gibbons's analysis of Moore's paradox, we can account for the existence of such exceptions. I take this fact to be additional evidence in support of accepting Gibbons's analysis of Moore's paradox.

 September 10, 2010: Tim Loughlin will be presenting his paper "A Critique of Arguments for Unjustified Defeaters'. The following is an abstract of his paper:

According to the account of defeaters for epistemic justification that I propose, S's belief that r defeats the justification for S's belief that q iff the belief that r either supports not-q or supports not-p and S bases her belief that q (at least in part) on her belief that p. A significant objection to this account is as follows: only justified beliefs can provide support, but some defeaters are unjustified. So, my account of defeaters can't be right. In this paper, I explore the three primary arguments that have been offered for the key second premise of this argument:that beliefs can be defeaters without being justified (i)is a fundamental epistemic principle, (ii) follows from a more fundamental principle about evidence, or (iii) follows from a more fundamental principle about the proper function of cognitive systems. I argue that none of these arguments work and that no support for the key premise has been provided. Thus, the objection to my account is powerless.

  September 3, 2010: Steve Swartzer will be presenting his paper, "In Support of Flexible Dispositionalism about Desire". The following is an abstract of the paper:

In this essay I add a new twist to a relatively familiar account of desire according to which desire is best understood on the model of ordinary dispositions. Just as being fragile involves being disposed to break when impacted by a range of concussive forces and being soluble involves being disposed to go into solution when placed in a solvent, desiring something involves being disposed to undergo certain manifestations when suitable conditions arise. I develop the analogy between desires and commonplace dispositions in two new ways. First, I provide an account of the fact that desires vary in degree that is modeled on a similar story about ordinary dispositions. A second analogy is inspired by the first. Our workaday dispositional concepts are arguably context-sensitive. One route to this conclusion runs through the fact that dispositions are gradable in the way just mentioned. If so, we might expect desire attributions to be similarly context-sensitive. This hypothesis, I argue, is confirmed by the extreme flexibility of our ordinary desire talk. The model suggests a semantics for desire attributions that captures this flexibility in a uniform way.

Graduate Student Colloquia Spring 2010

April 9, 2010: Landon Hedrick will present his paper, "The Presumption of Positive Atheism,"

In this paper I consider the issue in the philosophy of religion regarding the burden of proof in debates about the existence of God. After reviewing the positions of some of the philosophers who have written on this topic, I take an in-depth look at what sort of case could be made in favor of putting the burden of proof on atheists (i.e. what sort of case could be made to justify a presumption of theism). After rejecting one such argument, I offer an epistemic argument in favor of putting the burden of proof on theists (i.e. an argument for a presumption of positive atheism) and I attempt to justify this argument. Lastly, I consider some possible objections to the conclusion that I have come to and I offer clarification and rebuttals as needed. I conclude that the only reasonable presumption is the presumption of positive atheism, which puts the burden of proof on theists.

April 2, 2010: Cullen Gatten will present his paper, "Option Luck, Brute Luck and State Responsibility"

Ronald Dworkin maintains that, to maintain a fair distribution of resources, the state ought to offer insurance that transforms the bad effects of brute luck into option luck. He argues that state offered insurance will maintain equality because it will lessen the amount of envy directed at persons who are fully capable to maximize the yield from one’s package of resources by persons who are handicapped and are thus incapable of maximizing one’s product from the very same package of resources.

This paper is an attempt to show that the compensation mechanism Dworkin proposes in his hypothetical case does an inadequate job maintaining equality. First, I will argue that there are some bad effects of brute luck that affect the options we recognize as the best options for an individual. This, I argue, potentially contributes to failures in recognizing whether one is in a position that would require one to purchase insurance. Second, I argue that the insurance compensation mechanism antecedently favors certain preferences over others. This consequence will lead to troubling situations in which an individual did everything the reasonably could have done to avoid foreseeable bad effects, yet the individual will ultimately fail to be deserving of compensation. Third, I argue that merely providing compensation for losses of resources due to bad effects of brute luck may not be enough for an adequate theory of equality. Other considerations might be more important to an individual’s sense of equality in any given society. I shall highlight some of these considerations and explain why they are important to a person.

March 23, 2010: No Colloquia, Department speaker, Tim Mauldin "New Foundations for Physical Geometry: How to Temporalize Space"

March 12, 2010: Allison Fritz will be presenting her paper, 
(And now for something completely different…)Scientific Cognitivism, Positive Aesthetics, and the Environment The abstract:

The scientific cognitive approach to environmental aesthetics developed by Allen Carlson requires that our appreciation of nature be informed by relevant scientific data about nature.  He holds that aesthetic appreciation of nature requires knowledge of natural history and science in the same way that appropriate aesthetic appreciation of art requires knowledge of art history and art criticism.  The idea is that scientific knowledge about nature can reveal the actual aesthetic qualities of natural objects and environments.  Carlson believes his own account of appropriate aesthetic appreciation results in consistently positive aesthetic judgments about nature.  This thesis is called ‘positive aesthetics’.  I will critique the notion of positive aesthetics touching on scientific cognitivism in so far as it is connected to and justifies positive aesthetics.  I will ask whether or not the qualities supposedly revealed by scientific cognitivism constitute a positive aesthetic experience as well as address the further concern as to whether or not we should always have a positive aesthetic experience of nature. 

March 5, 2010: Matt Dee will present his paper, "Intuitions and the Challenge of Experimental Philosophy".  Here's the abstract:

Recently, experimental philosophers have challenged the standard use of intuitions in philosophy by arguing that philosophers need to empirically study the intuitions of non-philosophers in order to justify the use of any given intuition as evidence.  Moreover, experimental philosophers have claimed that once this requirement is granted, the evidential role of intuitions in philosophy will need to significantly reduced. In this paper, I begin by arguing that recent attempts by Matthew Liao and Antti Kauppinen to respond to this challenge fail. After arguing for the failure of these responses, I argue that a satisfactory response can be found in the form of intuition elitism, the view that the intuitions of philosophers carry significantly more evidential weight than the intuitions of non-philosophers.  In an effort to support intuition elitism, I defend two available arguments for that view, the argument from proven epistemic authority and the argument from conceptual expertise. After defending the positive arguments for intuition elitism, I end by arguing that the available objections to this view are thoroughly unconvincing.

February 26, 2010: Clare LaFrance will be presenting her paper, "Science and Objectiity", this Friday.  Here's the abstract:

Science is generally thought to be divorced from political considerations. Studies about gender differences that show an inherent bias against women are many times considered bad science. One might also view the same studies as containing no bias and so much the worse for women (various races, class distinctions, and queers*). Helen Longino in her book Science as Social Knowledge argues that this is a false dichotomy. Longino argues that a theory is always underdetermined by evidence. The reasoning that bridges this gap arises from value-laden background assumptions. Science has an inherent political/value bias. If this is the case, what can be done to restore objectivity in science? I will outline Longino’s answer to this question and argue that her view does not adequately address the issue.
*queer-a term used to refer to anyone that falls outside a heteronormative framework yet does not legitimize the heteronormative framework itself

February 5, 2010: Preston Werner will give a talk on his paper, "Universal Grammar: Hypothesis or Methodology?", this Friday.  Below is the abstract:

Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar (UG) remains controversial 40 years after it was first put forth as an explanation of human language acquisition. Many linguistic universals have been proposed and rejected. Recently, Daniel Everett has argued that his field work on the language of the Piraha tribe has conclusively shown UG to be false. I argue that Everett has failed to refute UG, because UG fails to be an empirical hypothesis. Instead, I claim that UG is best seen, contra Chomsky, as a methodological framework. Certain empirical hypotheses only make sense within the framework, but the framework itself makes no empirical claims (except perhaps that human beings are capable of learning language). I conclude that methodological pluralism is the most reasonable approach to linguistic research,

January 22, 2010, Tim Loughlin will present his paper, "The Epistemic Contribution of Subject and Attributor Factors".  The abstract:

There is a widely acknowledged distinction in epistemology between subject factors, e.g. a putative knower being in fake barn country, and attributor factors, e.g. one attributing knowledge being in a seminar on skepticism. Keith DeRose (1992, 1996) has argued that the former factors affect the truth value of sentences like, “S knows that p” by affecting the strength of S's epistemic position with respect to p, whereas the latter factors affect the truth value of sentences like, “S knows that p” by affecting the content of the sentence. Anthony Brueckner (1994) has argued that both kinds of factors affect the truth value of sentences like those above by affecting the content of the sentences. I have four goals in the paper. First, I will determine what, if any, features of a factor determine whether it is a subject factor or an attributor factor. Second, I will critically evaluate the arguments of DeRose and Brueckner for their positions. Third, I will consider the plausibility of a third position:

INV Subject and attributor factors both affect the truth value of sentences like, "S knows that p" by affecting the strength of S's epistemic position with respect to p.

Finally, I will consider the plausibility of a fourth position:
DIS There is not meaningful difference between subject and attributor factors.

Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2009

November 6, 2009: David Chavez  "Smith's Argument for the Humean Theory of Motivation Assessed." Below is the abstract:

In this paper I examine one argument put forward by Michael Smith (1997) for the Humean Theory of motivation.  For this particular argument to work, Smith needs to help himself to intuitively clear cases of weakness of will in order to rule out the existence of besires (dual-direction of fit mental states).  I puzzle through some of Smith's commitments regarding the modal connection between desire and the disposition to act.  I attempt to show that these commitments make it the case that, by his own lights, Smith's argument from weakness of will against the existence of besires does not work.  That is, the same tools that Smith should use to establish a tight modal connection between desire and the disposition to act can be used to establish a similarly tight connection between normative judgment and the disposition to act.  In the overall dialectic between the Humean and the Anti-Humean, this result does not leave us at a standstill.  Rather, it reveals just what the Anti-Humean wants to show, namely that normative judgement can be sufficient for motivation.  Hence, desire is not necessary for motivation.  So HTM is false.

October 23, 2009: Cullen Gatten "How to Solve the Too Many Reasons Problem for Humean Accounts of Reasons for Action" Here's the abstract:

According to Humean accounts of reasons for action, one has a reason to perform an action if and only if it would satisfy or promote a desire she currently has.  However, a consequence of being committed to this account of reasons for action is that it generates reasons for an agent to do certain actions we intuitively take there to be no reasons to perform, thus generating too many reasons.  This is due in part to the fact that any action that would satisfy or promote any of our desires we have at least a wimpy reason to perform it.  There are two proposed ways of ways of handling this objection.  The first is to reduce the set of reason-giving desires to those that would survive some form of idealization.  A second is to bite the bullet and admit that there really are too many reasons, but show that when we claim that one has no reason to perform an action, we are largely mistaken in doing so based on the unreliability of our intuitions in which we assert that one has no reason to perform an action.  This proposal also requires an alternate explanation as to what we are conveying when we assert that one has no reason to act.  I argue that both proposals fail to properly handle the too many reasons problem. The first proposal fails because, upon closer examination, it fails to speak to the question of the too many reasons problem.  The second proposal fails to properly show that we are largely mistaken in making claims that there is no reason to perform an action.   I then provide a new solution.  This new proposal rules out certain reasons based on the implicit content of the agent's desires, which roughly revolves around the claim that the content of one's desires is thicker than we often think.  Support for this move comes from certain natural intuitions about content individuation, and an old, familiar conception of desires. 

October 16, 2009: Cameron Nelson will be presenting his paper, 'Experimenting with Fuzziness', here's the abstract:  

In their paper, 'Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions', Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich offer an enthnology of epistemic intuitions.  Their data, they claim, poses worries for epistemologists engaged in intuition driven romanticism.  While I don't disagree with their findings that cultural and socio-economic factors influence epistemic intuitions, I believe their experiment contains an artifact.  I argue that if the psycho-linguistic literature is correct then we have good empirically based reason to suspect that the categories and concepts vital to epistemology (such as knowledge and belief) exhibit fuzzy boundaries.  That knowledge and belief are fuzzy concepts, as I see it,  doesn't conflict with the Weinberg et al project.  Rather, it compounds their worries against the role of intuitions in standard analytic epistemology.  I conclude with my preliminary sketch of how to fix the Weinberg et al artifact. 

October 9, 2009: Patrick Arens will present his paper, 'Sensory Deformity, Teleology, and Content'.  Here's the abstract:

In his Anti-Externalism, Joseph Mendola argues that the teleological approach to content, and, in particular, its application to sensory content is mistaken. Mendola’s treatment of the teleological approach to content, or as Mendola calls it in his book ‘Etiological Teleosemantics’ (or ‘ET,’ for short), consists in arguing that no form of ET can adequately account for sensory deformity; ET is committed to the claim that sensory deformity will not change sensory content in spite of the fact that such deformities do intuitively change such content.
            My goal in this project is to show that one way of utilizing teleological facts can have the appropriate results; that is, one way of developing ET can allow sensory deformity to affect content in the way our intuitions indicate. I argue that Mendola’s mistake is a product of his not appreciating the ETers semantic options; they are not committed to the claim that proper states of functioning are the only viable content-fixing teleological facts. They can claim, as I urge, that the functions of the actual behaviors initiated by consumers can fix sensory content.

October 2, 2009: Bill Bauer will present his paper, "Four Theories of Pure Dispositions", you'll find the abstract.

Abstract: The Pure Dispositions Thesis maintains that some dispositional properties require no causal basis either in other dispositions or categorical properties. This thesis faces the Problem of Being: Without a causal basis, what ontologically grounds the continued existence of a pure disposition when it is not manifesting? This paper presents the Problem of Being, establishes criteria and assumptions for evaluating it, and examines four theories of the being of pure dispositions: (i) that pure dispositions are grounded globally in all properties; (ii) that pure dispositions are grounded in the world as a whole prior to the world's parts; (iii) that pure dispositions are grounded by their object-bearers; and (iv) that pure dispositions are self-grounded properties. The paper advances reasons against (i), (ii), and (iii), argues that (iv) is the most viable, and develops an explanation of how a pure disposition grounds itself via its own power.

September 25, 2009: Steven Swartzer will present his paper, "Humeanism and Amoralism" Here's the abstract:

According to the Humean Theory of Motivation (hereafter 'HTM'), agents cannot be motivated to act by beliefs alone, but must have a distinct desire. Amoralists are sometimes thought to pose a special problem for those who deny this theory: if moral beliefs are not necessarily connected to motivation, then something extra is needed to pick up the slack and a complete explanation of an agent's behavior must appeal to this extra element. For, since the presence of moral beliefs does not guarantee that she will be appropriately motivated, explanations citing only those beliefs would be too shallow. I contend that the possibility of amoralism offers no support for HTM. The direct argument from amoralism to HTM rests on questionable premises about desire. Moreover, the reasons for doubting these premises also give us reason to doubt that Humean explanations are any deeper than the supposedly objectionable anti-Humean alternatives.

September 11, 2009: Errol Lord and Adam Thompson will be presenting their paper, 'A Case for Intuition Reductionism: Part One.' Here's the abstract:

This paper is the first part of our defense of intuition reductionism. Intuition reductionism, as we understand it, has both a positive thesis and a negative thesis. The positive thesis holds that the epistemology of thought-experiment intuitions is subsumed under the epistemology of more ubiquitous faculties like the imagination. The negative thesis holds both that there is no special faculty of intuition and that there is no unique psychological state constituting ‘intuitions.’ In this paper, we defend the negative thesis. We do this arguing that anti-reductionists—those who both deny the negative thesis and think that thought-experiment intuitions have evidential value—cannot vindicate the evidential value of intuition. This is because their views fail to meet a key explanatory burden. In short, they attempt to explain the evidential value of intuitions by stipulating that there is some faculty—the faculty of intuition—that has evidential value. The problem is that stipulating that such a faculty exists does little by way of explaining how intuitions have evidential value. The stipulation just moves the explanatory burden. We show that the anti-reductionist’s strategy is a strategy that surfaces in several other debates in philosophy (we focus mostly on dualist and Kantian views in the free will debate). In nearly all of the other debates it is recognized that the stipulation is a dubious dialectical move. We argue that those in the debate about intuitions should see anti-reductionism in the same light. Thus, we conclude that if you think that intuitions have evidential value, then you should be a reductionist.


Past Colloquia:

Graduate Student Colloquia Spring 2009

I would like to welcome our new students and welcome back all of our returning students. As many of you already know, the Philosophy graduate students have a regularly scheduled colloquia series. The colloquia provide students the opportunity to present some of their current research and receive feedback from their peers. This is also a valuable opportunity for the audience to expand and develop their philosophical interests and sharpen their critical skills. Our meetings are held on Fridays from 4:00 to 5:45 in Oldfather 1007. I would like to officially extend an invitation to any philosophy majors and minors who are interested. Contact Steve Swartzer for more information.

May 1, 2009: "Criticizing Radical Simulation Theory" Teresa Bartoletti (the final of this spring)

Abstract: Robert Gordon presents a radical view of simulation theory in the simulation/ theory theory debate. That is, Gordon argues that theory can play no role in the process of simulating others' mental states. In the following paper, I discuss the implications this may have on the social sciences. I then present several cases in an effort to show that the simulations had by the reader cannot be accomplished without some presupposed theory. I then discuss the possible routes Gordon has upon evaluating my case. Though perhaps all-out concession to theory-theory is not the answer, at least in cases relevant to the ones discussed in this paper, simulation theory is incomplete as a model to account for our ability to ascribe mental states to other agents. At the very least, in these cases, and any relevant extensions that can be made, theoretical knowledge seems to be a fundamental component of the simulation.

April 24, 2009:  "The Being of Pure Powers" Bill Bauer

Abstract: The Pure Powers Thesis holds that it is possible that a dispositional property may have no causal basis. This paper defends the Pure Powers Thesis from a series of objections: the Powers Regress Argument (Psillos 2006), the Insufficient Causal Basis Argument (Psillos 2006), the Argument from the Identity Thesis (Mumford 1998, Heil 2003), and the Argument from Composition (Heil 2003) which takes issue with purported empirical examples of pure powers (i.e., dispositions of fundamental particles). After critiquing these objections, the key elements of the counter-arguments are used to sketch a positive account of the being of pure powers.

April 17, 2009:  "Counterfactuals and Context-Shifting" Andrew Jaeger

Abstract: Counterfactual conditionals enter into not only our ?everyday? speech, but also philosophical argumentation. It has often been argued that the transitive inference is not valid for counterfactual conditionals (e.g., A>B, B>C; therefore, A>C), despite its' intuitive validity in many cases. One worry that philosophers have with it is the many counter-examples that can be given showing that the premises might appear to be true (or assertable), while the consequent appears to come out clearly false (See Stalnaker, A Theory of Conditionals). E.J. Lowe has defended the view that transitivity is a valid inference for counterfactuals (see "Conditionals, Context, and Transitivity"), granted there are no context-shifts (i.e. shifts in similarity measures) between premises. It seems that many of the worries that arise for CF transitivity occur because of the fallacy of equivocation and not because of transitivity itself, and by fixing the context one might avoid such equivocation.

April 10, 2009:  "Mickinsey's Problem, Privileged Access, and the A Priori" David Chavez

Broadly speaking the McKinsey Problem is supposed to show that externalism about mental content is incompatible with the Cartesian notion that one has a priori privileged access one?s own thought. And because some version of first-person privileged access seems undeniable, the Problem is therefore generally viewed as a potential reductio on externalism. By now, it has looked like nearly all the plausible lines of resolving the puzzle have been identified and explored, albeit in varying degrees of depth. This paper contends, however, that there is one viable approach to resolving key features of the debate that has remained significantly unexplored. This approach will involve taking a careful look at the epistemic status of knowledge gleaned via introspection on occurrent thought. I argue for at least three results. First, on McKinsey's own construal of privileged access and the a priori, the McKinsey Problem does not go through. Moreover, on other prominent versions of the a priori, the Problem, again, does not go through. Finally, the only reasonable fallback position, according to which the a priori characterization of introspection on occurrent thought is replaced by a characterization of it in terms of "armchair knowledge," fails to produce the reductio on externalism that the advocate of the puzzle had hoped for.

April 3, 2009:  "Indeterminacy and the Four-Category Ontology" Justin Moss

Abstract: E.J. Lowe's four-category ontology aims to provide a complete metaphysical foundation for natural science by recognizing (1) two basic ontological distinctions (substantial/non-substantial and universal/particular) which cut across each other to produce four ontological categories, and (2) two basic formal ontological relations (instantiation and characterization) that are asymmetrical and relate the categories to one another. The apparent lack of parsimony in Lowe's ontology is overcome, he thinks, by arguing that his system provides a unified account of causation, dispositions, natural laws, and other relevant issues of interest. I will argue that, contrary to Lowe's claim, his system cannot provide such a unified account because his system provides no ontological foundation for dispositions that involve probabilities and/or indeterminacy. I will appeal to (perhaps) familiar cases from physics, such as the property of a radioactive element being such that it undergoes spontaneous decay. I analyze this sort of event in a few different ways and find that on each reading, the property of being such that the element undergoes spontaneous decay involves two possibilities, one of which causes problem for Lowe's view. Now, according to Lowe, every property-instance (i.e., a trope, or mode) instantiates an attribute or relation (i.e., a universal). I argue that individual spontaneous-decay events cannot satisfactorily instantiate a universal that involves probabilities. If that is correct, then it it is questionable whether universals that involve probabilities can have complete instantiations. If it is true that they cannot have instantiations, then Lowe, being an immanent realist about universals, may be stuck with the unpalatable consequence of having to deny the existence of such universals.

March 13, 2009:  "Kant's Comprehensive Liberalism" Christopher McCammon

Abstract: John Rawls believed that Immanuel Kant's political philosophy is an example of what Rawls called a "comprehensive" rather than a "freestanding" liberalism. Unfortunately,his published works do not contain very much explanation or argument for this claim. My goal here is to fill in some of this absent explanation and argument. Though I grant that certain elements of Kant's theory of political right can be interpreted as "freestanding" and thus independent of his systematic theoretical and practical philosophy, I will argue that Kant's account of the "general, united will" as a legislative ideal for republican constitutions does in fact depend on his doctrine of the rational will's autonomous self-legislation?perhaps the central tenet of his broader moral theory - and thus that Rawls' assessment of Kantian liberalism is essentially correct.

February 27, 2009:  "Knowledge of Modality" Albert Casullo

February 20, 2009:  "Subjectivism and the Conditions of Appropriate Blame" Cullen Gatten

Abstract: The commitments of subjective accounts of reasons for action give rise to a puzzle about the conditions of appropriate moral blame. More specifically, the commitments of subjectivism entails that there are some agents, either actual or possible, that have most reason to do nasty immoral actions. If there are some agents, either actual or possible, that have most reason to do nasty, immoral actions, and we maintain the common assumption that warranted moral blame implies that the agent didn't have most reason to do some action other than the one that they performed, then it seems that blaming agents that have most reason to do nasty, immoral actions is in bad form. Intuitively, it seems like blame or condemnation of an agent's action in these scenarios is in good order. If subjectivism cannot accommodate for conditions of appropriate moral blame in the cases where it's most appropriate, then it seems like this is a major point counting against the view; partly because other theories of practical reasons seem well-positioned to accommodate for conditions of appropriate blame. I will consider two solutions to the puzzle, and show why they both fail. I will then provide a quick sketch of another plausible solution to the puzzle.

February 11, 2009:  "Epistemic Entitlement and Undercutting Defeaters." Tim Loughlin

Abstract: Some epistemologists (Bergmann 2005, Burge 2003) have recently defended the thesis that at least some beliefs can be epistemically justified without our believing that the process used to arrive at those beliefs is truth conducive. These authors maintain further that if one has reason to believe that the processes employed are not truth conducive, i.e. if one has an undercutting defeater for one's relevant beliefs, then one's relevant beliefs are not justified. In this paper I argue that (i) although the existence of undercutting defeaters is plausible verging on undeniable, the mechanism by which such defeaters function is in need of explanation, and (ii) that these authors cannot avail themselves of any of the obvious mechanisms.

February 6, 2009:  "Being Committed: Subjective Reasons, Propositional Attitudes, and Coherence Requirements." Errol Lord

Abstract: For many participants in the literature on practical reason, means-end requirements are the only uncontroversial requirements of rationality. So, for example, it is supposed to be uncontroversial that if I intend to eat a sandwich and believe that a necessary means to eating the sandwich is paying the cashier, then I ought to intend to pay the cashier. The intuitions supporting this thought are very strong. Despite this, it seems like any general principle supporting the thought must be false. For I might intend to do bad things. For example, instead of wanting a sandwich, I might want to kill my mother. And I might believe that I will kill my mother only if I pay the assassin I've hired to do the job. But surely it's not the case that I ought to intend to pay the assassin! And so we have a problem. One traditional answer has been to make the 'ought' a wide-scope 'ought'--i.e. have it range over the whole conditional instead of just the consequent. The first part of the paper will argue that the wide-scope account is false. I then consider Mark Schroeder's narrow-scope view. Although it can solve many of the main problems with the wide-scope view, I argue in section 3 that it shares a problem with the wide-scope view--viz. The Normativity Problem. The problem has to do with whether the wide-scope or narrow-scope requirements are normative in any robust sense. I argue in section 3 that the wide-scope requirements aren't. Moreover, I argue that more needs to be said in order to show that the narrow-scope requirements are robustly normative. Finally, in section 4 I propose an addition to Schroeder's view that I argue solves The Normativity Problem.


Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2008

November 7, 2008:  "The Basing Relation and Tracking Defeaters." Luke Elwonger

The concept of an epistemic basis for beliefs plays a role in many accounts of justification. In particular many philosophers believe that a belief cannot be justified without some basis. Using this as a guide, I will attempt to develop a probabilistic tracking account of the basing relation which will be acceptable to externalists about knowledge and justification. This account will hopefully also explain and resolve certain conflicts surrounding internalist intuitions about justification such as clairvoyants and evil demon scenarios.

October 24, 2008:  "The Norm of Assertion: It Ain't Just About You" Matt Dee

In this paper I begin by surveying the various reasons for thinking that the currently available options for the norm of assertion (Truth, Knowledge, and Justification) are less than satisfactory. After this, I propose an account of my own and run it through what seems to be the standard test for determining whether or not a given account will be allowed to contend with the currently available options, namely lottery assertions and Moorean paradoxes.

October 10, 2008:  "A Defense of Simple Subjectivism about Reasons for Action." Tim Loughlin

Subjectivism about reasons for action is the thesis that facts about an agent's set of desires or pro-attitudes, are the truth-makers for propositions about that agent's reasons for action. The simple form of subjectivism maintains that the relevant facts are facts about the actual agent's entire set of desires. This account has been widely regarded as extensionally inadequate: it attributes reasons where there are none and fails to attribute reasons where there are some. In this paper I defend simple subjectivism from this objection by arguing first, that more nuanced forms of subjectivism (e.g. ideal advisor theory) achieve extensional adequacy only insofar as they assert that the agent has a reason to act iff the agent is disposed to be properly affected (e.g. pleased) by so acting; second, that an agent desires to act iff the agent is disposed to be properly affected by so acting; and third, that on this account of desire simple subjectivism is extensionally adequate.

October 3, 2008:  "Donkey Sentences: DRT vs. IF" Cliff Hill

When attempting to translate sentences such as,

(1) If Pedro owns a donkey then he beats it.
(2) Every farmer who owns a donkey beats it.

into first-order predicate logic, a problem arises. There appears to be no way to translate such sentences into first-order predicate logic and get the correct truth conditions. There have been two important attempts to solve this problem, Hans Kamp's Discourse Representation Theory (DRT) and Jaakko Hintikka's Independence-Friendly Logic (IF). DRT attempts to solve the problem by introducing "representation boxes" which they claim is more in line with our everyday discourse. IF attempts to solve the problem by recognizing a difference between "priority scope" and "binding scope". As of yet, there has been only one small attempt to compare these two possible solutions (Hintikka, "No Scope for Scope" section 10, (1997)). First, my project is to offer a comparison of these two solutions which goes further than Hintikka's section. Second, if this comparison is successful then, I hope, we will be in a better position to determine which one is the better solution.

September 26, 2008:  "A Defense of the Compatibility of Indeterminism with Presentism and Eternalism" Adam Thompson

Recently, Michael C. Rea (2006) argued that presentists face a dilemma. According to Rea, presentists must either accept bivalence and deny indeterminism, or deny bivalence. In this paper, pace Rea, I argue that presentists can accept both bivalence and indeterminism. Indeed, if I am correct, then eternalists can accept indeterminism as well. Thus, whatever eternalism and presentism commits adherents to, alone, neither entails the denial of indeterminist free will. It seems that the compatibility of indeterminism and eternalism simply adds to the already long list of reasons in favor of eternalism.

September 12, 2008:  "Criticism, Moral Criticism, and Reasons for Action" Cullen Gatten

Abstract: In this paper, I attempt to do three things. First, I provide an analysis of the general, common sense structure of criticism, and I identify the normative force behind all kinds of criticism. Second, I show that this analysis poses a puzzle for a certain theory of reasons for action that I call Ethical Anti-Rationalism, which maintains that moral reasons are not necessarily reasons for action for all agents. In particular, the puzzle focuses on Ethical Anti-Rationalism's success in capturing the common-sense notion of moral criticism and its underlying normative force. Finally, I gesture at a robust explanation of moral criticism, consistent with the commitments of Ethical Anti-Rationalism, but denies that moral criticism is distinctly different than other kinds of criticism. And, though this cuts against the common-sense notion of moral criticism, I provide some reason to think that the normative explanation behind the common-sense notion of moral criticism has trouble of a different kind. I take this trouble as good reason to explore an alternative analysis.

September 5, 2008:  "Two Puzzles about Ought" Errol Lord

Errol has provided a draft of the paper for those who would like to read it ahead of time.

Abstract: This paper investigates the puzzling three-envelope case. I argue that the traditional appeal to subjective and objective 'oughts' is unpromising. This is because two state of the art views of the subjective ought do a poor job explaining our judgments about the case. I then offer an alternative proposal that seems to do the work needed. But there is a second puzzling feature of the case that is only accentuated by my proposal. I argue that this puzzle is solved if we hold that 'ought' is assessor-sensitive.

August 29, 2008:  "Dispositions, Desires, and the Humean Theory of Motivation" Steven Swartzer

ABSTRACT: The Humean Theory of Motivation claims that to be motivated to perform some action, an agent must have some suitably related desire. If the Humean Theory is correct, there must be some explanation for why desires are necessary for motivation and motivated action. In other words, there must be something special about desires that allow them to uniquely lead to motivation. I contend that the standard dispositionalist account of desire fails to vindicate the Humean Theory. I argue that properly understood, dispositionalism leaves room for motivation (and motivated behavior) without desires, and is thus unable to supply an explanation for why the Humean Theory should be true.


Graduate Student Colloquia Spring 2008

January 25, 2008:  "A Defense of The Factoring Account of the Having Reasons Relation" Errol Lord

Abstract: It's natural to say that when I ought to ?, I have reasons to ?. That is, there are reasons for ?-ing, and moreover, I have some of them. Mark Schroeder calls this view The Factoring Account of the having reasons relation. He thinks The Factoring Account is false. In this paper, I defend The Factoring Account. Not only do I provide intuitive support for the view, but I also defend it against Schroeder's criticisms. Moreover, I show that it helps us understand the requirements of substantive rationality, or what we are rationally required to do when responding to reasons.

February 1, 2008:  "Knowledge as Evidence: Gettier Cases and The Closure of Justification" Matt Dee

In their article, "Is Evidence Knowledge?", Juan Comesaña and Holly Kantin argue that Timothy Williamson's claim that evidence is knowledge has two rather unacceptable consequences. More specifically, they claim that since Williamson's view is committed to E=K 1: The proposition that p justifies S in believing that q only if S knows that p, it will not only have the unfortunate result of being incompatible with the existence of Gettier cases, but it will also entail that an eminently plausible closure principle fails. Since it is obvious that Gettier cases exist and that the closure principle in question is true, Comesaña and Kantin take it that these two consequences are enough to show that evidence is not knowledge. In this paper I will argue that Comesaña and Kantin have failed to show that E=K 1 actually has these consequences.

February 15, 2008:  "Privileged Access and Indistinguishable Mental Contents" Tim Loughlin

ABSTRACT: John Gibbons (1996) has defended the compatibility of externalism about mental content and privileged access to one's own mental content against Paul Boghossian's (1989) memory argument. I maintain that, although Gibbons' defense is successful against the memory argument, it points the way to a modified argument that is untouched by his defense. In this paper I present the considerations that led up to the memory argument and Gibbons' response, develop my modified argument, consider possible objections to it, and explore its implications for the compatibility of externalism and privileged access.

February 22, 2008:  "Responsibly-safe belief" Robert Mallory

Abstract: The aim of this project is to develop a new account of safety, which can avoid problems that afflict both Sosa and Pritchard's accounts. Sosa proposes a further condition on safe belief, namely the 'reliable indication' condition. I argue that safety so-construed entails that most beliefs we acquire on the basis of inductive methods of reasoning cannot constitute knowledge. Pritchard's account, super-safety, provides a replacement for reliable indication. I provide a case to show that this condition is also too strong, i.e. it denies that we have knowledge we typically take ourselves to possess. The replacement condition I propose, namely 'responsibility' or (RC), does not face these problems. I explain that RC is derived from an intuitive epistemic principle, namely RP, and is needed to avoid crediting knowledge in cases like that of the Quasi-Clairvoyant. Moreover, responsibility-safety correctly predicts our intuition concerning the Oboe case, which Vogel adduces against Sosa. Lastly, I consider Murphy's claim that safety entails the denial of the closure principle for knowledge (or CK) and show that this is a mistake.

February 29, 2008:  "Boyd, Homeostatic Property Clusters, and Psychological Kinds" Patrick Arens

Abstract: In this paper I will argue against Richard Boyd's claim that his Homeostatic Property Cluster (HPC) account of kinds can be extended to both inter-species and cross-species psychological kinds. Specifically, I will argue that his HPC account, in the end, cannot differentiate one psychological kind from another for either inter-species or cross-species psychological kinds; the way Boyd incorporates functionalism into his view inadvertently blocks him from being able to properly individuate such kinds.

March 7, 2008:  "A Defense of Compatibilist Theories of Practical Reasons" Cullen Gatten

Compatibilist theories about practical reasons (CPR) maintain that there are two different kinds of reasons: there are reasons that explain an agent's action motivating reasons) and there are reasons that justify the action an agent carried out (normative reasons). There are two problems for CPR. First, advocates of CPR have not provided a plausible explanation of what these two kinds of reasons have to do with each other (Wiland 2001). Second, CPR violates the explanation constraint, a minimal criterion on a plausible theory of practical reason, because it allows reasons that cannot explain actions at all (Wiland, 2001, Dancy 1995, Dancy 2001). But, as I will argue, the second objection relies on an explanation constraint that restricts too much, and, in one sense, CPR can accommodate for this minimal criterion on practical reasons. Further, I will offer a rough sketch that might suitably explain the relationship between motivating and normative reasons, if developed.

March 14, 2008:  "Depression, Amoralism, and Humean Externalism" Steven Swartzer

ABSTRACT: A popular account of moral motivation is committed to Motivational Externalism and the Humean Theory of Motivation. I will argue that this position is unstable. The strongest independent reasons to accept Motivational Externalism can also be used to undermine Humeanism. I draw on and develop the classical case-based arguments for externalism, based on serious depression and amoralism. These cases undermine internalism by driving a wedge between moral judgments and motivation. I then argue that we can construct variants of these cases that similarly undermine the Humean theory by driving a wedge between the agent's desires and her motivation.

April 18, 2008:  "Bonjour and the Demands of Skepticism." Robert Mallory

Abstract: On Bonjour's favored account, explanatory considerations underwrite perceptual justification. Commonsense tells us that our perceptual experiences are due to the existence of an external world. Perceptual justification, then, depends on the fact that the commonsense hypothesis is superior to its skeptical competitors, and Bonjour requires that the believer grasp this fact, as it were. Thomas Kelly argues that Bonjour invites the charge of skepticism on the basis that he requires too much of the ordinary believer. Moreover, Kelly claims that it is unclear why we should take such a believer to be adequately justified even if the believer were to meet these requirements. I agree with Kelly that Bonjour invites the charge of skepticism, but I argue that he does so for a different reason, namely that Bonjour does not take seriously the demands of skepticism. It is my aim to show (1) how Bonjour might avoid Kelly's worries and (2) even if this can be done, Bonjour lacks the theoretical tools necessary to give a satisfactory response to a weaker skeptical thesis.


Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2007


Meets: Fridays 4pm - 5:45pm in Oldfather 1007, unless otherwise noted.

Contact Steve Swartzer for more information.

September 7, 2007:  "Can an Ideal Advisor Save Ecumenical Expressivism?" Bill Bauer

ABSTRACT: Ridge's Ecumenical Expressivism maintains that a speaker approves of all and only actions insofar as her ideal advisor so approves. For any given moral utterance, the speaker expresses such an attitude plus a belief that such an ideal advisor would approve of the action. Because of these features, Ridge thinks his view avoids the Frege-Geach problem. However, I will argue that this is not the case. First, I explain van Roojen's dilemma for sophisticated expressivist theories. Then I show why this dilemma applies to Ecumenical Expressivism as well. However, a possible modification to the ideal advisor component of Ridge's view may allow it to escape van Roojen?s dilemma. But provided that the modification works, it moves Ridge's view uncomfortably close to cognitivism, leaving it subject to a new dilemma.

September 14, 2007:  "Contradiction in Cohen's Contextualism". Tim Loughlin

ABSTRACT: Stewart Cohen defends a fairly convincing form of contextualism about knowledge that he claims is supported by his Airport case. In this paper I will argue that Cohen's form of contextualism and a few innocent assumptions straight-forwardly entail a contradiction in cases like the Airport case. I will also consider what implications this conclusion has for other forms of contextualism.

September 21, 2007:  "An Account of Non-Autonomous Levels" Patrick Arens

ABSTRACT: The goal of this project is to develop a view concerning the nature of the properties of the special sciences that mixes two independently plausible theoretical ideas. The first theoretical idea is that of realism about properties and higher-order properties; the second theoretical idea is the physical causal intuition that if physicalism is true, then the properties of physics are the only causally relevant properties. First, I will offer a prima facie plausible way of combining the above-mentioned theoretical ideas. Then, I will suggest some ways to defend the view against objections. The resultant view will take the properties of the special sciences to be irreducible, non-autonomous, and non-epiphenomenal.

September 28, 2007:  "Principled Particularism and the Rationality of Regret" Cullen Gatten

ABSTRACT: Jonathan Dancy argues that moral theories that reject the use of contributory reasons cannot handle the rationality of regret because, without contributory reasons, one cannot point to anything that could be the object of an agent?s regret. This argument is intended to not only motivate Dancy?s own view of contributory reasons, but to also motivate his own brand of Particularism. This paper provides a sketch of a counterfactual analysis of regret, which is compatible with moral theories that reject the use of contributory reasons.

October 5, 2007:  There will not be a Graduate Student Colloquium this Friday (10/05). Several students will be making the trip to Des Moines this weekend for the CSPA, and it would be unreasonable to force someone to present when so many will be absent.

October 19, 2007:  "Can I believe p and not p? : Epistemology, Psychology, and Contradictory Beliefs" Cliff Hill

ABSTRACT: There is a debate within Philosophy of Mind and Epistemology concerning the notion of Contradictory Beliefs. Several well respected philosophers going as far back as Aristotle to more recent examples of Donald Davidson and Ruth Barcan Marcus have rejected the notion that people can and do have contradictory beliefs. Such a rejection seems to fly in the face of common-sense, so often we seem to find ourselves around people who appear to have contradictory beliefs. What people like Marcus and Davidson appear to recognize is that any attempt to give a theoretical model of belief in an epistemic context (that also holds onto the Law of Non-contradiction) is already doomed to fail if we accept that people can and do have contradictory beliefs. The responses from those who wish to hold onto common-sense have been to either give up on a theoretical model of belief in an epistemic context (Roy Sorensen) or the LNC (Graham Priest). I propose another option: there appears to be two different notions of belief that have been conflated so as to produce this debate. The first notion defines belief in terms of assent, a believes that p iff a assents to p. The second notion defines belief in relation to knowledge; beliefs are the kinds of things that epistemic agents gain so they can eventually reach knowledge. Recognizing this distinction will allow us to hold onto our common-sense, that we can have a theoretical model of belief in an epistemic context, and the LNC.

October 26, 2007:  "On Maximal Rationality" Errol Lord

ABSTRACT: Despite the common divorce of one's rational status and the set of one's reasons, philosophers have been slow to analyze exactly what is required of an agent in order to be immune from rational criticism. In this paper, I argue for a theory that aims at telling us what it takes. First, though, I argue against a very popular view of what substantive rationality is. On this view, substantive rationality is not relevantly similar to procedural rationality. This common view holds that substantive rationality is merely the set of which reasons you have. Thus, if you do not act in accordance with substantive rationality, you aren't necessarily criticizable. I argue that we should think of substantive rationality as relevantly similar to procedural rationality. In the second half of the paper, I argue for my theory of maximal rationality and maximal irrationality, which aims at providing an analysis of the 'realm of criticizability.'

November 9, 2007:  ?Come Let Us Reason Together: Public Reason and the Ethics of Citizenship? Christopher McCammon

ABSTRACT: Should those who wield coercive power in democratic societies base their political choices only on suitably public reasons? John Rawls, with many of those influenced by his account of political legitimacy, answers this question in the affirmative. I think they are right to do so. But what reasons count as suitable? Rawls thought that suitably public reasons must be commonsensical: in other words, some consideration may count as a reason to enact a potentially coercive policy or law only if its reason-giving force is non-controversial. I believe this is a mistake. In pluralistic democracies at the beginning of the 21st Century, the state must either prohibit or permit many deeply controversial practices (e.g. same-sex marriage, et al.). But the reason-giving force of considerations brought to bear on such practices?e.g. the nature of marriage, the place of government in regulating marriage, the moral status of same-sex relationships, etc?are equally controversial. Therefore, if coercive power is legitimate only when motivated by public reasons, and public reasons must be non-controversial, the coercive power of law cannot be legitimately exercised either to permit or prohibit such practices. This looks like a reductio of liberal conceptions of political legitimacy. Here, I will argue for a formulation of public reason faithful to the requirements of the liberal conception of political legitimacy but which has the advantage of permitting controversial reasons to count as suitably public, thus widening the domain of considerations that can be brought to bear on questions of public policy.

November 16, 2007:   "Assertoric Obligations" David Chavez

ABSTRACT: The knowledge account of assertion (KAA) holds something like the following principle: you should assert that p only if you know that p. It's a consequence of this principle that, even when reasonably asked, you are both prohibited from and to be blamed for voicing your false, justified beliefs. I will argue that this is an unacceptable consequence. Moreover, norms are constructs in need of justification and some unjustified norms are to be rejected. (KAA), on a certain common reading of it, is unjustified and hence to be rejected. Part of the thought will be that (KAA) is in part an epistemic norm, which happens also to conflict with more fundamental epistemic requirements. If there are fundamental epistemic obligations and an alleged hoity toity norm conflicts with our most fundamental epistemic obligations, it should be rejected.

November 30, 2007:  "Solving the 'Species Problem'" Robert Mallory

ABSTRACT: How are we to specify the facts that determine species boundaries? A satisfactory solution to the ?species problem? depends on the answer to this question. Both Aristotle and Locke believed that species are classes, i.e. the properties shared by the members of the species determine the boundaries and define the criteria for class membership. On the other hand, Michael Ghiselin and David Hull argue that classes cannot evolve; hence species cannot be classes. Furthermore, Ghiselin and Hall argue that species are individuals. It is my aim to show that their objection is mistaken. Richard Boyd has suggested that natural kinds are Homeostatic Property Clusters (or HPCs). Although I borrow much from Boyd?s view, I argue that Boyd?s construction cannot defeat the objection. The HPC view I propose is consistent with the two ways in which biologists invoke the ?evolve? idiom; hence my view allows for evolution. Lastly, I will discuss a puzzle for the species-as-individuals view and conclude that no solution can save it.


ABSTRACT: Pragmatic encroachment is the view that whether or not a subject knows (or is justified in believing) some proposition is partly determined by non-epistemic features of her practical circumstances. A formidable argument for this thesis attempts to derive it from general features of practical rationality. In this paper, I reject two recent versions of this argument?one suggested by John Hawthorne, the other by Jeremy Fantl and Matt McGrath. I will show that the intuitions on which Hawthorne's version relies cannot support the weight of the argument, while Fantl and McGrath's version relies on a hidden assumption about practical rationality that is itself part and parcel with pragmatic encroachment. I then attempt to provide an alternative explanation of the driving intuitions behind these arguments. This alternative can be captured by the slogan ?Its not just what you know, its how you know it.? I provide a modest defense of this explanation by arguing that it is at least as plausible as the explanation provided by pragmatic encroachment.


Graduate Student Colloquia Spring 2007

January 12, 2007:  "Rational Requirements and Rational Advice" Cullen Gatten

A problem that puzzles the non-reductionist about reason is what are the reasons one has to comply with rational requirements. One response is that we have no reason to comply with rational requirements; it merely appears that way. This response, however, leads to unintuitive results when one considers cases of advice. It merely appears that when an advisor provides the advisee with a reason to adopt or drop an attitude they are providing a further reason to comply with rational requirements.

I explore different permutations of this view, but conclude that one ought to reject this view on the grounds that there are cases of advice where the advisor provides the advisee with a further reason to be rational, whatever form those reasons might take. I also explore the cause of this objection. I conclude that the cause is a commitment to a false distinction between the 'ought' of reason and the 'ought' of rationality. These objections provide motivating reasons to reject non-reductionism.

January 19, 2007:  "What a Computer can't Compute, what a Believer can't Believe" Cliff Hill

In 1961 J.R. Lucas argued that Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems show that no mechanistic model of the mind is possible. The argument can be summarized as follows: if we consider the sentence "This sentence is not provable," then we seem to be able to recognize that such a sentence is true. There is no mechanistic method for determining whether it is true or not because if you can prove the sentence to be true then you make it false. How are humans or things with minds able to determine that the Gödel sentence is true? The simple answer for Lucas is "intuition" and this is something that the machine/computer will never have.

Interestingly enough in 1986 Raymond Smullyan published a book entitled Forever Undecided: A Puzzle Guide to Gödel which has not been recognized as a response to Lucas. Smullyan does not appear to have written the book as a criticism of Lucas but as a defense for Modal Logic. What seems to be a very small point that Smullyan tries to make within the course of the book can easily be modified to refute Lucas's claim. I believe I can provide this modification.

What I plan to show in this presentation is that even though the machine cannot determine the truth value of its own Gödel sentence there is a Gödel sentence that individual minds can't determine either. In other words the intuition that Lucas claims we have for identifying the Gödel sentence as true is the same intuition that the machine has. The machine cannot recognize that the sentence, "This sentence is not provable," is true (without making itself inconsistent) and we cannot recognize that the sentence, "I am consistent," is true (without making ourselves inconsistent). I will not be concerned with whether a mechanistic model of mind is the correct model of the mind only that Gödel's theorems cannot rule out such a model.

January 26, 2007:  'An Account of Non-Autonomous Levels' Patrick Arens

What is the nature of mental/psychological states? Are they causally relevant? Can they be reduced to physics?

In this presentation I will present a view that is founded on two independently plausible ideas: (1) that physical properties (as in physics) are the only causally relevant properties; and (2) realism about higher-order properties. The resultant view is that mental properties are non-reductive, causally inert, and not epiphenomenal.

February 9, 2007:  David Chavez

Gettier cases showed the JTB analysis of knowledge to be too permissive. The repeated failure of attempts at providing a fourth condition for the JTB account led many to conclude that providing a necessary and sufficient analysis of the concept of knowledge is a bankrupt project. There was an early attempt at a fourth condition that was immediately counterexampled and hence rejected: Clarks no-false-lemmas condition. I, however, argue that an approach in the spirit of Clark's makes JTB impervious to Gettier-style counterexamples with no additional costs--one hopes--to the analysis. Bill Lycan argues for a similar approach, but I maintain that he underestimates the scope of cases it handles.

February 16, 2007:  "Warranted Assertability Maneuvers and the Rules of Assertion" Leo Iacano

I argue that a warranted assertability maneuver (WAM) against the cases that motivate epistemic contextualism cannot succeed. Such a WAM is inconsistent with the knowledge account of assertion, according to which assertion is governed by the rule: Assert ' p' only if you know that p. Although the knowledge account of assertion is well supported by diverse linguistic evidence, it has recently been argued that other, weaker rules suffice to account for the supporting evidence. The rules that have been proposed, however, are also inconsistent with a WAM against the contextualist cases.


Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2006

Meets: Fridays 4pm - 5:45pm in Oldfather 1007, unless otherwise noted.

September 22, 2006:  "Reflective Faith and the Boundaries of Mere Reason" Christopher McCammon

The abstract follows:

In the General Remark he appends to Book I of Religion, Kant makes a series of startling admissions: (1) reason is subject to moral impotence; (2) beyond the borders of reason there lies an "inscrutable field of the supernatural" which may contain "something more" that could supplement the moral impotence of reason. (3) This "something more" is available through an what Kant calls reflective faith. These admissions spawn corresponding interpretive difficulties: (i) In what sense is reason morally impotent? (ii) What is the "something more" that populates the inscrutable field of the supernatural that might "make up" for this impotence? (iii) What is the reflective faith that might make this "something more" available to us? In this paper I will attempt to reconstruct answers to these questions and fit these answers within a coherent picture of Kant's moral and religious philosophy.

September 29, 2006:  "Synonymy in Proclus's Elements of Theology" Brent Braga


Neoplatonist metaphysics had it that the essential properties possessed by the head of a genus differed from the properties possessed by members of that genus. This required a rejection of the Aristotelian concept of synonymy. A. C. Lloyd has argued that two early propositions in Proclus's Elements of Theology call for adoption of Aristotelian synonymy, while a later proposition explicitly rejects the concept. My project has both a negative and a positive aim. I argue first that Lloyd's reading of the two early propositions is not well supported by the text. Once that argument is in place I will present an alternative interpretation of the two propositions that is more coherent with the context in which the propositions appear and is consistent with the rejection of synonymy.

October 6, 2006:  "Metaethics and Metaphilosophy" Tim Loughlin


When told that one ought to φ, one may meaningfully ask why one ought to φ . The response that one's interlocutor provides, if it is to have any hope of being satisfactory, must be a member of one of the following types:
(a) You ought to φ because φing is an instance of ψ, and you ought to ψ.
(b) That you ought to φ admits of no explanation, it is a brute fact.
(c) You ought to φ because φing will accomplish ψ, and ψing is something that you desire/ you are psychologically predisposed to do/ is evolutionarily beneficial, etc.
It is my thesis that neither (a), (b) nor (c) can, upon close inspection, provide one with a satisfactory explanation as to why one ought to φ . This project depends upon the correct analysis of the concept of explanation and not upon the metaphysical or epistemological status of moral propositions. As such, this thesis, if correct, will have implications for the moral realist, anti-realist, skeptic and anti-skeptic alike.
In this paper, I will analyze the concept of explanation, show why (a), (b) and (c) are the only potential explainers and show why neither (a), (b) nor (c) can explain normativity. I will then explain how this position differs from moral anti-realism and moral skepticism. Finally, I will outline how this critique of ethics might be generalized for application to metaphysics and epistemology."

October 20, 2006:  "Maybe We CAN Solve the Mind-Body Problem" Bill Bauer


Assuming a physicalist stance, we know that the brain and consciousness are connected somehow, so we might presume that eventually we can come to understand how they are connected. Despite our relatively open access to the two terms of the mind-body relation, the nature of the link remains elusive. Colin McGinn thinks it will remain so, at least for beings like us, because we are not cognitively equipped to solve the mind-body problem. He claims there is some natural property, P, responsible for the connection between mind and body, but he argues that we cannot understand what P is or how it works. We are cognitively closed with respect to P, thus we cannot solve the mind-body problem. After explaining McGinn's argument for cognitive closure, I argue that we might arrive at an understanding of P by means of a theoretical inference to the best explanation from brain data, in contrast to McGinn's argument that such an inference is not possible. My main claim is that the purported cognitive closure breaks down because McGinn presents too narrow an
account of how we would go about trying to theoretically infer the nature of P.

October 27, 2006:  "Governing the Globe, Albeit Differently" Charlie Gilkely


The classic question in international political theory-what is the best possible international political regime?-is posed and answered by Michael Walzer in his recent book Arguing about War. His project, at first glance, is very simple: identify the criteria by which to judge the different arrangements and provide a logical methodology by which to delineate different arrangements. However, the actual structure of his argument is quite complex. My project will be to simplify the structure of his argument, accept his criteria, and show that the world federation arrangement is a much better candidate for the ideal international arrangement than the candidate he indicates.

November 10, 2006:  "Can a Dispositional Property be an Essential Property?" Cliff Hill


The essentialist debate has found itself on the outskirts of the dispositional debate; Brian Ellis has argued for scientific essentialism which claims that a dispositional property of an object is essential to that object. Elizabeth Prior appears to imply some connection between essentialism and dispositions when she suggests that we should use rigid designators to pick out dispositional properties. On the other hand there are many within the dispositional debate who don't even mention its relation to essentialism and others who flat out reject the idea rather quickly.

This presentation will show that at least some objects have dispositional properties which are essential to the object in question. The clearest example of this is an electron: if we come across an object that is disposed to be attracted to protons and disposed to repel from objects like itself in any possible world then necessarily, that object is an electron. Even though this implies that some dispositional properties are essential it does not imply that all dispositional properties are essential. This is a far less radical view than Ellis's scientific essentialism."

November 17, 2006:  'Two conception of justification' Seyed Ali Taher

There are two possible conceptions for epistemic justification. One requires the justification to be determined by the content of proposition. I call this conception the strict conception of justification and the other which does not requrie this limitation the tolerant conception. I argue for the possiblity of strict conception and further argue for advantages of adoption of this conception in epistemology.

If I have time I will argue for one consequence of this conception and that will be the inconsistency of a priori knowledge of a proposition with a posteriori knowledge of that proposition.


Graduate Student Colloquia Spring 2006

Meets: Fridays 4pm - 5:45pm in Oldfather 1007, unless otherwise noted.

January 13, 2006:  "Contextualism, Invariantism, and their Error Theories." - Leo Iacono

Abstract: Contextualists and invariantists have to account for the intuitive plausibility of certain utterances that they take to be false; each view must therefore be accompanied by an error theory. I sketch an error theory for invariantism which explains why "I don't know that I am not a BIV" is intuitively plausible yet false, and compare this error theory to the contextualist error theory that purports to explain the intuitive plausibility of "I know that I have a hand," which contextualists claim is false when uttered in skeptical contexts. I argue that the invariantist error theory is superior to the contextualist error theory. Although the invariantist error theory remains a mere sketch until it is supplemented by a correct theory of knowledge and an empirically adequate psychological account of our epistemic reasoning, it is easy to see how certain plausible theories would, if correct, provide a complete explanation for the recalcitrant but incorrect epistemic judgments. The contextualist error theory, on the other hand, leaves it utterly mysterious how a rational and linguistically competent subject could make the sort of mistake the contextualist attributes to her. Other things being equal, the classical invariantist error theory is therefore preferable to the contextualist error theory.

January 20, 2006:  "Is Cultural Anthropology Science?" Becky Zavada

January 27, 2006:  "Consequentialism and Detachable Obligations" Mark Decker, 3:55-5:45 pm

Abstract: My comments on a paper for the upcoming Pacific APA meeting.

Fun TV-style abstract: Tonight's episode - "Deadly Came the Dangerous" When a group of consequentialists get together to argue about how "the best consequences" should be interpreted, they miss dozens of opportunities to make the world a better place! Hilarity ensues.

February 10, 2006:  "Constraints on the Independence Constraint" Virendra Tripathi

February 17, 2006:  "The Fuss about Fit" Steve Swartzer

Abstract: To avoid the charge of dogmatic adherence to the Humean Theory of Motivation, proponents of this view have relied extensively on an argument surrounding the notion of ‘direction of fit.’ The direction of fit argument is meant to show (1) motivated action mustbe caused by an attitude with the appropriate direction of fit, (2) beliefs don’t have this fit, therefore (3) beliefs cannot, by themselves, cause motivated action. The author argues that the anti-Humean should reject (2); some unitary attitudes might have more than one “fit,” and if this is true of a subset of beliefs (e.g. normative judgments), these beliefs might be intrinsically motivating.Furthermore, the author contends, the common Humean responses to problem betray the position for what it is—dogmatic Humeanism in rather thin disguise.

February 24, 2006:  "Persistence: A Defense of Perdurantism" Michael Tooley

March 3, 2006:  "Knowledge, Hope and Religious Belief" Christopher McCammon

A rough abstract: "A popular version of religious epistemology (sometimes called 'Reformed') has claimed that religious beliefs - at least sometimes - are epistemically okay (even sufficiently okay to count as knowledge) in the same ways that ordinary workaday beliefs are epistemically okay (even sufficiently okay to count as knowldge): i.e. both may be "properly basic" or "weakly justified" etc. I think there are generally Kantian reasons to think this is mistaken. What I'm doing here is just the first steps toward exploring these generally Kantian reasons. Kant claimed that optimal religious beliefs are a species of hope rather than of knowledge. I will address two questions that must be answered in order to make sense of this and related claims: (i) What is hope? (ii) Are there norms that apply to hope? After a brief attempt to answer these questions, I'll turn to what I take to be an obvious intial objection to the Kantian story about religious belief - Isn't it just bad descriptive psychology to talk about religious belief as a species of hope?"

March 10, 2006:  "Against Deriving Pluralism" Mark Decker

Abstract: Moral pluralism claims that there are multiple properties which are fundamentally morally relevant (e.g., W.D. Ross's view). Some philosophers have attempted to defend moral pluralism by embedding it within a monistic moral theory such as consequentialism or Kantianism. I argue that any such attempts are doomed to failure.

April 7, 2006:  "In Defense of BonJour's Doxastic Presumption" Bill Bauer

Abstract: Laurence BonJour (1985, 2003) claims that any coherence theory of empirical justification must make the Doxastic Presumption, the assumption that an agent’s grasp of her overall belief system is approximately correct. This grasp is in the form of beliefs about one’s beliefs, or metabeliefs. After clarifying the role of the Doxastic Presumption I will discuss the objection, raised separately by Alvin Goldman (1989) and Noah Lemos (1989), that the metabeliefs specified by the presumption act like basic beliefs, and thus force coherence theory to collapse into foundationalism. Drawing upon the strengths of their accounts of the objection, I will reformulate the objection and argue that it does not work because metabeliefs and basic beliefs serve different justificatory roles in their respective theories. Nonetheless, the metabeliefs specified by the Doxastic Presumption possess a similar degree of epistemic priority to basic beliefs.

April 14, 2006:  "Hole Time- The End of A Game" Maria Kon


Graduate Student Colloquia Fall 2005

Meets: Fridays 4pm - 5:45pm in Oldfather 1007, unless otherwise noted.

August 26, 2005:  "Classical Invariantism and the Knowledge Account of Assertion" Leo Iacono

Keith DeRose's argument in "Assertion, Knowledge, and Context" fails to establish that classical invariantism (the traditional view that denies both epistemic contextualism and subject-sensitive invariantism) is false.

September 2, 2005:  "More Than They Think It Does" Mark Decker

Abstract: Moral particularists think that there are no true moral generalizations: the moral status of any specific action must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Advocates of this view often argue for it by appealing to holism about reasons. Recently, it has been argued that, regardless of its truth-value, holism provides no support for moral particularism. I argue that this is mistaken: if holism about reasons is true, then so is moral particularism.

September 9, 2005:  "Representation in Rawls's Original Positions" Ed Abplanalp

There are still openings throughout the remainder of the fall semester. Those of you working on honors theses or 400-level papers are encouraged to present.

September 16, 2005:  There will be no philosophy graduate student colloquium this week.

September 23, 2005:  "Notions of 'Actually' and Primary Necessity" Grace Helton

Abstract: In response to arguments by Putnam and Kripke that necessity does not entail apriority, some have attempted to salvage a version of the necessity-->apriority link by arguing that a certain type of necessity, called primary necessity or 1-necessity, entails apriority. Against the 1-necessity-->apriority relation, I will argue that some claims are both 1-necessary and aposteriori.

September 30, 2005:  "Animals, Brainstems, and Persistence: A Response to Olson" William Bauer

Abstract: Eric T. Olson thinks that psychology is neither necessary nor sufficient in questions about our identity over time. In place of the Psychological Approach, he posits a Biological Approach to questions of personal identity. According to his view, a human animal persists just in case its capacity to direct its vital functions persists. In this paper I present two counter-arguments to Olson’s claim about our persistence conditions. In one case, I explain a scenario, contrary to Olson’s criteria, in which a human animal persists that I think Olson would reluctantly consent to. In another case, I expose a contradiction in Olson’s argument between his privileging of the brainstem—the organ which directs vital functions— and his overall picture of the nature of animals.

October 14, 2005:  "Kant's Anthropocentrism" Edward Abplanalp

Abstract: By exploring many subtleties of Kant’s anthropocentrism, including certain aspects of his philosophical theology and teleology, this paper explains how Kant’s anthropocentrism is rooted in his broad conception of the human race and its relationship with the cosmos. Specifically, I examine certain important connections between his anthropocentrism and his conception of the human species (the only entities on the earth possessing rationality) and his teleological conception of the universe. Although his deontology is patently anthropocentric, he does believe that moral agents have duties to non-human animals, as well as our natural environment. After demonstrating the affect of Kant’s anthropocentrism on his theory of the duties we have to the myriad non-human entities in our world, I conclude the paper by sketching out the ramifications for Kant’s moral theory if, as biocentrists maintain, other non-human entities possess absolute worth. If Kant’s anthropocentrism is wrong, it is possible to construct a Kantian moral theory under which nature itself is the rational determining ground for morality. The second formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative would then implore moral agents to respect nature by never using natural entities merely as a means to an end.

We will not have a colloquium on October 21, 2005 . Instead everyone is encouraged to attend the talk by Sir Michael Atiyah, entitled "The Nature of Space", which will be in Kimball Recital Hall at 4:00 pm.

October 28, 2005:  No colloquium, presentation by Sydney Shoemaker.

November 4, 2005:  "Supervenience and Multiple Realizability" Tim Loughlin

Abstract: In his article, 'Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction', Jaegwon Kim carries multiple realizability to what he considers to be its logical conclusion concerning the reducibility of the psychological (and, in fact, reducibility simpliciter). His conclusions, however, are not palatable to everyone. I will argue that, using his framework for scientific kinds and supervenience, another interesting, more acceptable conclusion for reduction beyond Kim's own might be drawn from the problem of multiple realizability.

November 11, 2005:  "Dispositions, Causation, and Reduction" Jennifer McKitrick

Abstract: Dispositions are not conceptually or metaphysically reducible to causes. Definitions of dispositions in terms of causes are inadequate or non-reductive. A necessary condition for metaphysical reduction cannot be met: disposition facts do not globally supervene on causal facts. The best attempts at reducing dispositions point towards reducing both dispositions and causes to something else. The possibility that causal laws reduce to dispositions is at least an equally viable option.

December 2, 2005:  "Mental Content and Moral Motivation" Mark Decker

Abstract: Tonight's episode begins with two bar-room brawls - one between individualism and anti-individualism about mental content, the other between the dark forces of Humeanism and the renegade freedom fighters of anti-Humeanism about motivation. Worlds collide when THE OXFORD PROFESSOR points out that the two fights are occurring in the same bar! All seems bleak when the dark forces of Humeanism, lead by THE OXFORD PROFESSOR, attempt to marshal the powers of externalism in favor of their view. It is left to THE UGLY AMERICAN to set things straight.

December 9, 2005:  "Implicit Definition and A Priori Knowledge" - Nate Charlow

In *Relying on Others* Goldberg argues that the standard commitments of process reliabilism commit it to what he calls "the extendness hypothesis". The extendness hypothesis holds that, in case of testimony, attributions of justification (and not merely knowledge) depend on the reliability of the cognitive processes in the original source and not just those in the consumer of testimony. Goldberg thinks this commits process reliabilism to a limited, but powerful
form of social epistemology about justification.

I will argue that the analogy to inferential beliefs he uses in the argument proves too much and that he ignores important distinctions between different normative roles that a concept like justification
could play. In particular he ignores the difference between issues of personal responsibility and questions of trust and validation of sources. I finish by giving reason to think that final reliabilist social epistemology Goldberg endorses would ignore important individual obligations that emerge only from a more social outlook on
the epistemic good.