Graduate Student Research Colloquia

  • Each Friday at 4:00 p.m. - 5:45 p.m.
  • 308 Louise Pound Hall (the philosophy seminar room)
  • Undergraduates are welcome!
  • For more information, contact Trevor Adams: tadams23@huskers.unl.edu

Past Colloquia

Fall 2021 (see below) Spring 2021 Fall/Summer 2020 Spring 2020 Fall 2019 Spring 2019
Fall 2018 Spring 2018 Fall 2017 Spring 2017 Fall 2016 Spring 2016

Fall 2021

December 3, 2021

Presenter: Talhah Mustafa

Title: Racial Power


Presentation

The Presentation was turned into a no-sound video so viewers can see the animations from the PowerPoint presentation.

Abstract:

I have no idea how racial powers ought to be distributed. Of course, the matter is controversial, but it is because of the controversy that this topic be explored. For both moral and sociopolitical philosophers are attempting to figure out what exactly the nature of social justice is. Far too often, philosophers explore the nature of race and the outcome that should follow. Even more argue that the differences between any marginalized group will be systematic and the purpose of such an exploration should be to evaluate the distribution of goods on a societal level. Yet, few consider the distribution of goods as pertaining to race from a zero-sum perspective. Some argue that the political sphere is zero-sum because racial power and the distribution of such a power is finite. In this paper, I’ll show why the distribution of racial power is not zero-sum, even if there are consequences that seem to be at the expense of others.

November 19, 2021

Presenter: Trevor Adams

Title: Loving Well and Knowing Better: An Epistemic Aspect of Love


Handout

Abstract:

I love my dog, Watson. She is a corgi with small legs but big barks. She is quite loud and will let you know if anything stirs, whether it be the neighbors or a leaf blowing in the wind against our patio door. It is annoying. No matter how much I love her I am aware of her annoying tendencies. If I didn't love her, I don't think I could have ever become aware of Watson's annoying tendencies, since many of them require living with her for years and paying attention to her. However, no matter how much she annoys me, I love her.

The philosophical investigation of love in recent contemporary philosophy has largely been focused on two coordinates, love of persons and ethics. In particular, a lot of debate in the literature is in regards to what reasons we have to love if any, and how these cohere or conflict with ethical demands. Much of the attention that has been paid to love's epistemic aspects has been mostly negative, or to the extent that it is focused on the positives, it has been defensive of love. For example, Simon Keller and Sarah Stroud both believe love has a negative effect on our perception of the object of our love. In particular, the type of love found in friendship requires certain norms of good belief formation to be ignored due to the partiality owed to our friends (Keller 2004, Stroud 2006). There those who dissent with this view of friendship however and argue that despite our partiality toward our friends our epistemic bias is well within the epistemic norms expected of us (Kawall 2013). Furthermore, some believe that love, generally not just in friendships, involves us seeing the world differently. Either not much less accurately(Jollimore 2011) or perhaps more accurately (Murdoch 1971).

I will begin this presentation with my argument and then, in the subsequent sections, I will give a defense of its premises. I will be arguing that loving well betters our epistemic position with regards to our beloved. My argument will not rely on any assumptions about the nature of love except one, that paying special attention to our beloved is a necessary condition for loving well. Thus, I will not enter into the debates about which view of love is correct but instead will offer what I take to be an ecumenical condition on love that implies love helps, rather than hurts our epistemic position. Next, I will look at Jollimore and Murdoch as support for my premises. Lastly, I will then turn to the objections raised by both Stroud and Keller. I will conclude by defending my argument from these objections.

November 5, 2021

Presenter: Seungchul Yang

Title: Duelist View on Fictional Characters


Presentation

Abstract:

David Lewis’s analysis of truth in fiction relies on the assumption that fictional entities like Holmes and Watson are possible entities, implying that fictional entities are not actually abstract but possibly concrete. His approach faces at least two problems: a) its failure to figure out what the following means “Holmes was created by Connan Doyle,” which seems true and incompatible with another sentence, “Holmes was created by his parents,” which must be true in Lewis’s view, and b) its failure to explain how the fictions that contain explicitly impossible sentences work. I argue that it is two types of entities that we need to explain: actual and abstract entities and mere possible and concrete ones; Lewis was partly successful but partly failed because he dealt only with the latter but not with the former. By adding to our ontology the fictional entities that are abstract and actual, we have a more simple and plausible version of analysis that avoids the problems Lewis’s one faced.

Presenter: Chen Xi

Title: An Attempt to Defend the Open Question Argument


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Abstract:

G. E. Moore puts forward the Open Question Argument to show that moral properties cannot be reduced to natural or non-moral properties. As a famous non-naturalistic point of view, the Open Question Argument has received many criticisms. I think this view is still weighty in challenging naturalism and I will attempt to defend it.

October 22, 2021

Presenter: Bjorn Flanagan

Title: Slithy Magradols and Plegrantic Toves: The Problem of Nonsense in Fiction


Presentation

Abstract:

Accounts of truth in fiction normally face two problems: How do we deal with impossible fictions and how do we handle unreliable narrators? I argue that there is another problem: How do we handle nonsense in fiction (e.g., stories by Lewis Carroll or "technobabble" in Star Trek)? Similar to the issue of reference failure for fictional characters where terms do not refer, nonsense in fiction inserts terms that have no content at all. I contend that accounts of truth in fiction that rely on "told as known fact" or pretence/"make believe" cannot determine the truth of propositions that possess contentless terms. I will examine several of these kinds of accounts (Lewis (1978), Currie (1990), Byrne (1993), and Phillips (1999)) and show how nonsense fiction undermines them. I will also show that nonsense permeates most fiction and is not an isolated issue. Then I will offer a possible account of truth in fiction that handles this problem.

Presenter: Zachariah Wrublewski

Title: Praise, Criticism, and Objectivist Accounts of Subjective Reasons


Presentation

Abstract:

In contemporary discussions on reasons, many theorists accept an intuitive distinction between objective reasons and subjective reasons. One way that many folks understand this distinction is by noting the difference in the roles they play— with objective reasons bearing on what an agent objectively ought to do, and subjective reasons bearing on what an agent subjectively ought to do. Related to these roles, it seems that objective and subjective reasons also have roles from one another when considering the second-person standpoint, such that the objective reasons bear on what a fully informed interlocutor should advise an agent to do, and the subjective reasons bear on whether (or not) a fully informed interlocutor should criticize an agent. Not only does the distinction between objective and subject reasons seem intuitive, but it further seems that these types of reasons are related in some way— though just what that relation is is far less intuitively clear and the subject of contention in the literature. In attempting to offer an account of how the two types of reasons relate to one another, some theorists take what, following Wodak, I’ll refer to as an “objectivist” approach: They argue that subjective reasons are, in some sense, reducible to objective reasons. In this presentation, I’ll argue that views of this sort— that is, objectivist views of subjective reasons— face a substantial problem stemming from a plausible constraint on theories of normative subjective reasons that I will call the “personal-criticism constraint on subjective reasons,” or the “personal-criticism constraint” for short. Specifically, I will argue that objectivist theories of subjective reasons cannot account for the personal-criticism constraint without relying on an implausible, inflexible theory of objective reasons. As such, I will conclude that objectivist views of subjective reasons should be rejected.

October 15, 2021

Presenter: John Del Rosario

Title: Faith in Process – a Conciliatory View


Presentation

Abstract:

I am currently working on a paper on Judeo-Christian faith. The chief contention is that faith is a process or is in a process. As an enduring relational attitude towards the transcendent, faith is totalizing and ideal-seeking (Cf. Dewey, Tillich). If it were so, then some inchoate or non-ideal expressions of faith can be framed as being “part of the process”. I want to use this model of faith to shed light on the current debate in Epistemology of Religion about whether faith, as traditionally conceived (Aquinas, Calvin, Newman, and recently defended by Eklund, Mugg, Malcolm/Scott) is doxastic or non-doxastic (as contended by Pojman, Alston, Audi, Howard-Snyder, McKaughan, Buchak, etc). The latter is a claim that faith is not nor does not entail belief. A motivation for saying so lies in the phenomenon of doubt – i.e., even if S has some doubts, she may be considered a person of faith. Faith obtains in situations where S holds non-maximal confidence that p. So the “sympathetic” view that I want to propose is this: faith, if it were indeed enduring and processual, must admit of non-maximal stances toward p. This then allows us to have room for doubt – even the serious ones. But faith is also aimed an ideal exemplification. It is in virtue of this ideal that faith ultimately requires holding belief. Fortunately, the Judeo-Christian tradition supports the resolution of this dialectic. Far too often, faith is portrayed as an attitude that grows or matures over time.

October 8, 2021

Presenter: Il-Hwan Yu

Title: Reactive Attitudes and Sourcehood: the Remaining Threat from Determinism in P.F. Strawson’s Account


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Abstract:

According to the incompatibilist, especially a hard determinist, if determinism is true, then free will is impossible, rendering moral responsibility moot. In “Freedom and Resentment” (1962), P.F. Strawson attempts to constitute moral responsibility based on reactive attitudes as natural facts of human society, so as to safeguard moral responsibility from the threat of determinism. However, I argue in the viewpoint of hard determinism that Strawson’s theory of moral responsibility fails to address the threat to moral responsibility. My argument relies on the following premise: reactive attitudes can serve as a basis of moral responsibility only if an agent is the source of his action, which requires that the agent be free. I argue that if determinism is true, then sourcehood is impossible; therefore reactive attitudes cannot appropriately serve as the basis of moral responsibility. I conclude that Strawson’s theory of moral responsibility is still vulnerable against a hard determinist’s claim.

October 1, 2021

Presenter: Trevor Adams

Title: “Epistemic Aspects of Hope”


Presentation

Abstract:

In much of the current hope literature, there is little to no consideration of how, and which, beliefs enable hope. There is also very little consideration of hopes' relationship to knowledge and belief in general. In this paper I will first briefly sketch out my own view on the nature of hope. Next, I will present my own view of the relationship between hope and belief. I will sketch a view that hope is enabled by certain beliefs depending on the content and the context. I will then argue, in light of my view, that hope is consistent with knowledge.

September 17, 2021

Presenter: Eunhong Lee

Title: “Two Problems of Mackie’s Causation model and Normative Field”


Presentation

Abstract:

J. L. Mackie tried to analyze our causal arguments through the concepts of necessary and sufficient conditions and clarify what a cause is through his INUS analysis. Mackie’s causation model is not plausible due to (1) problems of his applying formation of propositional logic into the causal model regarding INUS conditions and (2) his undefined/subjective Causal Field. So, I suggest that ‘Normative Field’ should be considered in Mackie’s causation model. This ‘Normative Field’ is crucial to most of the counterfactual causation model.

September 10, 2021

Presenter: Janelle Gormley

Title: “Are Motivating Reasons Generalizable?”


Presentation

Abstract:

Since Stocker’s (1978) virtue theoretic challenge against ethical theories that divorce motivating reasons (which tend to track partiality but not always) from normative reasons (which tend to track impartiality), Ethicists have responded to the challenge by offering accounts that either rationally justify or normatively justify agents acting partially. In order to justify partial actions, philosophers such as Setiya (2014) and White (2020) argue that if we can isolate a ‘reason’ for acting partially, then in the former, we can offer a practical principle that shows an agent remains practically ration in so far as strangers are concerned, and in the latter, if we take the arguments from Setiya further, we can get that it’s possible to love or be partial to all, but in a qualified way. But to do this, each author isolates a reason that is offered from an agent’s answer to the why question and generalizes that reason to provide a practical principle of action in the normative domain. In this paper, I argue that using the reason a partial agent offers (a motivating reason) to support a normative conclusion is not sufficient justification.

September 3, 2021

Presenter: Christopher Stratman

Title: “Toward A Mereological Account of Phenomenal Intentionality”


Presentation

Abstract:

The Phenomenal Intentionality Theory (PIT) is a phenomenology-first approach to intentionality. Instead of attempting to explain what phenomenal consciousness is by appealing to intentional or representational states, the order of explanation is reversed—that is, intentionality is explained in terms of phenomenal consciousness. The central thesis of PIT says: All genuine intentionality is phenomenally constituted. Standard versions of PIT hold that the phenomenal and the intentional are related either by being identical or by the latter being partly grounded in the former. I will offer an alternative approach, which claims that phenomenality and intentionality are related by being Proper Parts of an agent’s, first-personal, subjective mental event. Indeed, the conditions of satisfaction for phenomenal intentionality just are the conditions of satisfaction for a phenomenal mental event or episode that an agent might undergo. My goal is to develop and partly defend this mereological account of phenomenal intentionality by showing how it does a better job of explaining what is arguably the most difficult problem case for PIT—that is, the problem of unconscious thought like your belief that “grass is green”.