Graduate Student Colloquia - Spring 2022

Spring 2022

May 6, 2022

Presenter: Swarnima Kain

Title: Instrumental Reasons



Instrumental Reasons Abstract
April 15, 2022

Presenter: Seungchul Yang

Title: Bald to the same degree, but bald not equally



This paper is related to Chang’s account of hard cases of incommensurability, for example, where we are comparing two things in respect of F-ness, none of which is Fer than another, but they are not equally F. Based on Chang’s idea that there are some cases where the covering consideration (or value) that we use comparing the options is mere conjunction of considerations (or values) related to the options, I argue that we need to have this concept of incommensurability that cannot be examined by other concepts like vagueness, suggesting that there are at least some cases where things are incommensurable, and the incommensurability of the things is not because of vagueness. To do so, I show that some value we ordinarily deal with, F-ness, for example, is just the sets of constituent values, A-B-or-C-ness, and each constituent values are not individually necessary to F-ness, but if an option has the value, F, because of some of its constituent values, A, for example, its F-ness qua A-ness is meaningful to us so that we cannot regard it as equally F with another option that is F to the same degree but because of B-ness. In this case, we can say that the options are F to the same degree but cannot say that they are equally F, which means that this is the hard case of incommensurability. Further, I argue that rationality is an epitomical value of this sort.

April 8, 2022

Presenter: Jason Lemmon

Title: Relations and Fundamentality



If A grounds B, then A is more fundamental than B. Something is (absolutely) fundamental iff it is ungrounded. But what, then, should we say about the grounding relation itself? Is it grounded, fundamental, or neither? Karen Bennett claims the relation is grounded but admits the claim must be qualified, on pain either of leading to a regress of relations, or of violating irreflexivity (nothing can ground itself) – one among several of the properties of the grounding relation. Bennett opts to tackle the potential regress, arguing that it is as harmless as the truth-regress (if p is true, it is true that p is true, and it is true that it is true that p is true, etc.), since all grounding relations are internal relations. How does that make it harmless? Bennett adopts David Armstrong’s view of internal relations, as an “ontological free lunch,” whereby such relations are nothing over and above their (substantial) relata. Says Bennett: “There may be only one ‘step’ of grounding between B and its ultimate grounds [in A] — but those grounds are infinitely long.” Against the Armstrong-Bennett view, I argue that relations are at least as ontologically robust as their relata, and so cannot simply be deflated out of existence. I further argue that if we take the deliverances of our best current physics as a chief feature of any general theory of things, as Armstrong and many others argue we should, then it follows that relations, or inherently “relational things” – in the form of quantum fields, which are not substantial objects – are the most fundamental “elements” of nature. But if relations are fundamental, then a better answer to our initial question is that the grounding relation is fundamental, too.

March 25, 2022





March 11, 2022

Presenter: Il-Hwan Yu

Title: In Defense of P.F. Strawson's Account against a Metaphysical Challenge


Abstract: This presentation aims to address a traditional metaphysical worry regarding the relationship between determinism and freedom in P.F. Strawson’s theory of moral responsibility. Strawson’s notion of excuses, which serve to exculpate an agent from moral responsibility, seems to involve a kind of freedom: freedom to do otherwise. This in turn suggests that if an agent could not have done otherwise, they should not be deemed morally responsible for their action. It makes Strawson’s theory of moral responsibility vulnerable to the following metaphysical challenge pertaining to freedom: if determinism is true, then no one could have done otherwise and thus nobody is morally responsible for their actions. To resolve this problem, I propose to revise excusing conditions in terms of a different kind of freedom based on sourcehood, i.e. whether an agent is the source of their action. Working under this revision of excusing conditions, my central claim is the following: moral responsibility requires sourcehood. By showing that sourcehood is compatible with determinism, I argue that the Strawsonian account can be defended against the incompatibilists. I conclude that there is a significant advantage to my revision of excusing conditions: it can address the metaphysical issues in Strawson’s theory of moral responsibility. In this Friday’s presentation, I will focus only on showing how each premise of my argument can be plausible.

February 25, 2022

Presenter: Drew Gallagher

Title: Kantian Transcendental Skepticism


Abstract: In the Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant introduces a distinction between a thing-as-appearance and a thing-in-itself, with the former corresponding to our experience of an object and the latter corresponding to the object as it exists independently of our experience of it. By separating out the phenomenal realm of experience from the noumenal world independent of experience, Kant intends to be able to introduce apodictic certainty to our knowledge claims about the world as it appears to us without being committed to making any claim whatsoever about that which lies beyond our experience. Objects are empirically real yet also transcendentally ideal. By restricting the scope of reach of our knowledge to experience, Kant believes our knowledge of the phenomenal world can be elevated to scientific certainty.

February 11, 2022

Presenter: Zach Garret

Title: A Gunky Vague World


Abstract: What is a sandwich? Answering this question might seem easy, but when we delve deeper we find layer after layer of vagueness. Epistemicism holds that there is a sharp boundary that separates the sandwiches from the non-sandwiches. However, this would entail that a single gluten molecule hanging on the edge of a piece of bread could make the difference between a sandwich and a non-sandwich. A more promising solution, called supervaluationism, claims that evaluating sentences involving vague words requires us to look at all of the ways of precisifying our language. If a sentence is true on all of the ways we can precisify our language, then it is supertrue. If it is false on all of them, it is superfalse. If it is true on some and false on others, then it is neither true nor false. I argue that it is possible to have unprecisifiable words. If such words are possible, then full precisifications of our language can fail. So, there can be sentences for which supervaluationism will fail to give us an evaluation.

February 4, 2022

Presenter: Eunhong Lee

Title: The Fine-grained Experience of Pleasure and Its Value


Abstract: In order to compare the quality of pleasure; Higher and Lower pleasures, the experience of pleasure seems to be defined as the coarse-grained one. However, all experiences of pleasure are, in fact, fine-grained. So, it is impossible to compare the quality of pleasure as a Utilitarian (J. S. Mill) has done. If experiences of pleasure are fine-grained based on every individuals’ former experiences, memories, the order of experiences, and qualia, it seems impossible to compare the quality of pleasure based on Mill’s preference of competent judges. Even if the competent judge can compare the quality of pleasure based on his/her experience, it seems impossible to be competently acquainted with both fine-grained experiences. For some people, playing chess (or pushpin game) can become a higher pleasure compared to reading poetry. The value of an experience of pleasure seems to be internalistically defined and determined by the individual.

January 28, 2022

Presenter: Alfred Tu

Title: Aesthetic Testimony and Aesthetic Expert


Abstract: Testimony has been regarded as an important source of knowledge. However, it is controversial that we can get aesthetic knowledge through testimony. It seems weird that we can know a movie is good via testimony without watching it. Philosophers divided into two camps of this issue. Pessimists claim that using testimony as a source of aesthetic knowledge is impossible or illegitimate, and optimists are those who accept it. Even though pessimists are supported by aesthetic tradition and strong intuition, it has been threatened by some ordinary aesthetic practices such as recommendation. We frequently take recommendation from others on aesthetic matters, and it seems to be puzzling if aesthetic testimony is not the case. Furthermore, if a major social-epistemic function of aesthetic export is providing valuable testimony and recommendation, then failed to explain recommendation seems to be failed to explain the role of aesthetic expert too. In this paper, I am going to argue that pessimists cannot handle the challenge from recommendation and aesthetic expert.

January 21, 2022

Presenter: Vileru Tivexi

Title: Gender Detox: Gender-Affirming Postgenderism


Abstract: Gender abolitionists argue that we should destroy socially enforced gender roles. Some claim this would completely eliminate gender as a social construct. Such an outcome poses great harm to binary trans folks who are best able to flourish in distinct gender roles. But this outcome does not necessarily follow from the destruction of socially enforced gender roles. I contend that we can maintain gender as a meaningful social construct and detoxify it of its harmful trappings, thus achieving the goals of postgenderism without making the existence of gendered people conceptually impossible.