Graduate Student Research Colloquia Spring 2018
May 4, 2018 FINALS WEEK The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held this week due to final examinations. We will resume Fall 2018 Semester.
April 27, 2018 A Multi-Session will be held.
April 20, 2018 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held. Instead guest speaker Elisabeth Camp will lead a colloquium on her paper.
April 13, 2018 Andrew Christmas will present.
April 6, 2018 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held. Instead the Faculty / Graduate Student Colloquium will take place. Zachary Garrett will present.
March 30, 2018 Mark Selzer will present.
March 23, 2018 Spring Break
March 16, 2018 Andrew Spaid will present.
March 9, 2018 Chelsea Richardson will present.
March 2, 2018 Aaron Elliott will present.
February 23, 2018 Adam Thompson will present.
February 16, 2018 Lauren Sweetland will present. Her title is "Interpreting and Evaluating Legal Practices". The abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: Hart argues that whether a rule is obeyed or accepted, broken or rejected, is determined by "good reasons" from an internal perspective (The Concept of Law 55). Ronald Dworkin objects that Hart's view of rules gives an internal participant's point of view, as well as the role of interpretation in legal theory, too little treatment. Hart replies that his secondary rules, especially rules of recognition, are the basis of reason from an internal perspective. As for the role of interpretation in legal theory, Hart insists that from an external observer's point of view, no moral judgment need be made with respect to some rule when describing that rule. I think that while Hart's secondary rules do indeed figure into reasons from an internal perspective, what is necessary for the legal theorist (external perspective) to describe those reasons is a value judgment. How much interpretation, if any, on the part of the legal theorist is sufficient for describing the practice of law, according to Hart's view? I argue that without interpretive and evaluative judgments about rules of recognition on the part of the legal theorist, the legal theorist could not understand reasons to regard rules in certain ways from an internal perspective. Hart's legal theorist utilizes value judgments in describing the internal perspective on reasons for rules more than he envisions.
February 9, 2018 Shane George will present. His title is "APR". The abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: Traditional accounts of autonomy have assumed autonomy stems from a connection to an authentic self. However, in my dissertation I argue that not only is this position untenable, this understanding of the relationship is backwards. Authenticity is a property which is generated by autonomy which is itself not a simple relation but a recursive process. In this presentation I will explain the ab initio Problem and the Value Formation Problem which undermine traditional explanations of autonomy. I will then argue for a Coherentist Psychosocial account of the self which is necessary for the autonomous process, and explain how this account contributes to solving both the ab initio Problem and the Value Formation Problem.
February 2, 2018 Joseph Dante will present.
January 26, 2018 Adam Thompson will present. His title is "On Balance and Course-Design: A Balance-Primitivist Strategy for Squaring Content Coverage with Skill Building". The abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: Balancing content coverage with philosophical skill/disposition building is a particularly pernicious course-design problem. By delineating a strategy for approaching the balance-challenge, as I'll call it, this essay aims to help philosophy teachers overcome it. One key to overcoming the challenge is to push against the orthodox view that treats the balance-challenge as subsidiary to adopting learning objectives and aligning them with educative assessments. Furthermore, the paper demonstrates how executing the strategy has the following three payoffs: (1) It helps us build rigor into the heart of the course; (2) It aids in the development of assessments that draw more on intrinsic motivators as opposed to extrinsic motivators; and (3) It straightforwardly connects grades to learning-objective mastery. For illustration, I focus on how I used the strategy to build my upper-level course on ethical theory. I follow up by generalizing the strategy. In particular, I show how to use the strategy to design an intro-level course on applied ethics and how to apply it to design a graduate course in philosophy.
January 19, 2018 The Graduate Student Colloquium will not be held. Instead guest speaker Charles Mills leads a colloquium on his paper "Racial Justice." Copies of his paper will be available in the Philosophy Department office.
January 12, 2018 Kevin Patton will present. His title is "Safety and Swamping." The abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: It is common for epistemologists to use the value problem as a kind of litmus test for a theory of knowledge. The value problem is, roughly, the problem philosophers run into when they attempt to explain how knowledge is more valuable than its components. If knowledge is not more valuable than its components, then our intuitions about its value are left unexplained. If knowledge is more valuable than its components, it is not/has not been uncontroversial how to articulate why. Either way, many feel that if a theory of knowledge cannot address this problem, then the theory is not worth considering. Georgi Gardiner has recently argued that any theory of knowledge which is even partially explicated in modal terms cannot, in principle, provide an answer to the value problem, and hence, is not worth considering. Gardiner specifically targets Duncan Pritchard's modal condition safety. Safety is, again roughly, a condition on knowledge which invokes possible worlds to assess if the truth of a given belief was a matter of luck. Gardiner modifies the swamping problem and uses it to argue that safety adds no value to a true belief, and, so, safety cannot answer the value problem. She then claims that this kind of argument can be generalized and applied to any theory which uses a modal condition on knowledge. In this paper, I will demonstrate that the structure of Gardiner's argument relies on an assumption about what is epistemically valuable and what is not. Once made explicit, this assumption actually serves to undermine a great many more theories than Gardiner is aware. This assumption, however, is problematic. The core issue is between epistemic value monism and epistemic value pluralism. Replacing monism with pluralism avoids all of the standard reasons to adopt the swamping problem. As such, Gardiner's argument against safety fails.
Graduate Student Research Colloquia Fall 2017
December 15, 2017 FINALS WEEK The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held this week due to final examinations. We will resume Spring 2018.
December 8, 2017 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held this week due to the Faculty-Grad Colloquium. Andy Spaid will present.
December 1, 2017 A Multi-Speaker Session will be held. Speakers will be Joseph Dante, C. L. Richardson, and Adam Thompson. The abstracts follow:
Presenter: Joseph Dante ABSTRACT: To be announced.
Presenter: C. L. Richardson
ABSTRACT: In previous chapters I've argued that there are two types of ancestry. First, there's the type we think we're using when we define racial categories. I call this Biological Ancestry or BA for short. Second, there's the type we're actually using when we define racial categories. I'll call this Social Ancestry or SA. BA is the location and appearance of one's past genetic relatives. SA is the position in a social hierarchy that one inhabits as a result of events in human and natural history which assign social meanings to markings on one's body. These markings are taken to manifest as a result of the location and appearance of one's past genetic relatives. This chapter aims to show that the moral value of Ancestral Pride (feeling some sense of empowerment, connectedness, or self-satisfaction associated with the appearance and/or location of one's past genetic relatives) can be distinguished by appealing to the distinction between BA and SA. I argue that Ancestral Pride is morally permissible (in the sense that it is beneficial to some individuals or at least not harmful to them) when it concerns BA, or SA that involves overcoming or enduring oppression done by the hierarchy. Ancestral Pride is not morally permissible (it may even be blameworthy) when it celebrates SA that involves oppression done by the hierarchy either directly or indirectly. I'll offer a variety of cases in order to make this argument.
Presenter: Adam Thompson Title: "Children of Men: Dissolving the Paradox of Self-Ownership"
ABSTRACT: Many moral libertarians adhere to Self-Ownership: Every person is initially a self-owner; and Fruits-of-Labor-Ownership: Every person morally owns the fruits of her labor. Coupled with the fact that everyone is the fruit of someone's labor, the theses of Self-Ownership and Fruits-of-Labor-Ownership entail that no one owns herself. Hence, there appears to be a paradox at the heart of moral libertarianism. After getting clear on the so-called Paradox of Self-Ownership, and showing that the most prominent attempts at a solution fail, I dissolve it.
November 24, 2017 Thanksgiving Vacation
November 17, 2017 Christopher Stratman will present. His title is "Fundamentality and Significance." The abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: I believe that there are metaphysical and theoretical pressures to accept an austere ontology. One perplexing metaphysical pressure is discussed by Peter Unger in "I Do Not Exist" (1979), where he argues that any complex object or entity (i.e., that which has parts), is vulnerable to a sorties paradox argument and, therefore, does not exist, Indeed, Unger argues that minds, thinkers, and their thoughts do not exist. And so, I do not exist. Of course, this intuitively seems disastrous. Recently, in their book Austere Realism: Contextual Semantics Meets Minimal Ontology (2008), Terrance E. Horgan and Matjaz Potrc have made similar arguments. They agree with Unger's conclusion, but argue that one can still be a realist about minds, thinkers, and their thoughts, if one adopts a distinction between a Direct Correspondence theory of truth (DC), and an Indirect Correspondence theory of truth (IC).
I will argue that they fail to show how sentences or judgments about minds, thinkers, and their thoughts can be true if these do not exist as the needed relata for any correspondence theory of truth. Additionally, I argue that Horgan and Potrc fail to give an adequate account of how we can think about non-existent objects, which does not assume the existence of minds, thinkers, and their thoughts. As such I believe that, if one accepts Unger's conclusion, as Horgan and Potrc do, then they should abandon the project of attempting to give an adequate theory of truth in favor of a distinction between fundamentality and significance. Once this distinction is adopted, then one can accept that minds, thinkers, and their thoughts do not exist, insofar as they are not ontologically fundamental, while still accepting that minds, thinkers and their thoughts "exist" insofar as they are ontologically significant.
November 10, 2017 Alfred Tu will present. His title is "Wielenberg on Egoism in the Nichomachean Ethics.": The abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: In Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle gives a full account of what is a virtuous person and what they would do in various situations. According to Aristotle, a virtuous person would choose a course of action that promotes eudimonia. The problem is, would a virtuous person always promote his own eudimonia? If we can give an interpretation of Nicomachean Ethics such that a virtuous person would always maximize his own eudimonia, then it seems that Aristotle's account would be a kind of egoism. In "Egoism and Eudaimonia-Maximization in the Nichmachean Ethics" (2004), Eric Wielenberg argues for his egoistic interpretation of Nicomachean Ethics and against Richard Kraut's anti-egoistic interpretation of Nichomachean Ethics. In this paper, I am going to argue that Wielenberg's interpretation would have some peculiar results in some situations and Kraut's interpretation can handle these situations better.
November 3, 2017 Jason Lemmon will present. His abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: Some have recently argued that belief/desire psychology is not fundamental to practical reason. This work is fairly limited in range, especially among philosophers (though less so among psychologists.) I will examine the main philosophical proposals and argue that they are quite implausible. The main thrust of these proposals is that results from empirical psychology, such as 'framing effects' and 'ongoing unrelated experiences,' affect our decisions in ways that purportedly cannot be explained by the belief/desire model. As an example of an ongoing unrelated experience, holding a teddy bear affects the way a subject judges other people in social settings; but the teddy bear, it is claimed, has no bearing on the subject's beliefs and desires. Opponents of the belief/desire model admit that proponents have responses to make here, but opponents go on to argue that all plausible responses boil down to either positing an extra, unnecessary mental state, or else admitting that a nice, warm teddy-bear-caused mood, say, influences our beliefs; we must reject the former by parsimony and reject the latter because it is purely ad hoc. In response, I will show that the latter is not only not ad hoc but that it is just what we would expect from a reasonable belief/desire model.
October 27, 2017 Lauren Sweetland will present. Her title is "Descriptive Mental Files?" The abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: What is the relationship between external objects and mental representation? How can we think of an object as one and the same even as it changes through time? Some people offer the notion of a mental file to explain how we track objects through changes in time and think of them as individual objects and not merely possessors of certain properties. A mental file is an acquaintance-relation based mental representation of some object. Mental files are typically construed as having essentially relational contents rather than descriptive contents. But are there some descriptive mental files? That is, can we think singular thoughts of an object via its relation to ourselves or via some description of that object? Or do we think of an object primarily via its (non-descriptive) modes of presentation? According to Recanati, singular thoughts are non-descriptive. According to Goodman, one can think a singular thought about an object not necessarily by accessing singular content, but by understanding the description conveyed by its name. Some, but not all, descriptive files are singular.
I will argue that if there are no descriptive mental files, then we will have a hard time explaining some cases of functional and communicative success in reference when one thinks with mistaken information about the object. If mental files are exclusively relational, and yet one successfully refers to an object on the basis of mistaken relational information, it seems a natural way to account for the mistake is by appealing to some description, at least in some cases. An answer to whether there are some descriptive mental files will help answer the larger question: Are all mental files singular thoughts?
October 20, 2017 Samuel Hobbs will present. His title is "Augustine and the non-existence of the past." The abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: Augustine argues that the present depends upon non-being since the present depends upon passing into the past and the past doesn't exist. Since, for Augustine, past, present, and future all depend upon non-being, then they must only exist simultaneously with perception. For Augustine's theory of time, the past exists in present memories, the present exists in present perception, and the future exists in present expectation. This paper argues that if the past merely exists in memory, then Augustine must accept metaphysically absurd events. To avoid this result, Augustine has to accept that the past depends upon existence. Since the past depends upon existence, and the present depends upon the past, then the present depends upon existence. This puts Augustine in a dilemma: either he must accept metaphysical absurdities, or else he has to reject his psychological view of time.
October 13, 2017 Adam Thompson will present. His title is "(Un)Marginalizing Interests: Correcting Profession-Wise, Unjust Treatment of Those Interested in Studying Teaching and Learning in Philosophy." The abstract follows:
ABSTRACT: The search for truth is best carried out by those well-equipped to critically interrogate and evaluate propositions, their perceptions, their memory, the testimony of others, etc. This should give pride of place to those primarily interested in effectively facilitating the development of those capacities. However, as is well-known, professional philosophy by-and-large marginalizes those interested in the study of teaching and learning. This essay argues that that marginalization is unjust and offers suggestions for correcting this wrong. Further, since this essay argues that, in most settings in higher education, it is a mistake to value interest in the search for truth above interest in how best to develop students' critical faculties, it explores explanations for the fact that many intelligent, well-meaning people make the mistake.
October 6, 2017 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held this week due to the Speakers' Series. The guest speaker is David Estlund. Click here for more information
September 29, 2017 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will be presented by Chelsea Richardson. Her title is "Where is your family from originally?: A conceptual analysis of the role of ancestry in the philosophy of race." The abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: Linda Martin Alcoff, Charles Mills, and Sally Haslanger each appeal to a notion of ancestry in their accounts of race. I will examine these appeals and argue that as a collective they face two key problems: the regress problem and the inference problem. The regress problem shows that the scope of ancestry as it is used for racial membership is ill-defined. Further, what can be inferred about racial membership on the basis of ancestry and its complex relationship with visible properties of the body is similarly ill-defined — the inference problem illuminates this. These two problems ultimately show that while ancestry plays a key role in our concept of race, both folk views and appeals by the philosophers I analyze do too little to converge on a clear account of what ancestry actually is. The way Alcoff, Mills, and Haslanger treat ancestry sometimes obscures our understanding of race and racial membership and potentially reinforces a folk view of ancestry (and, as it pertains, race) that, all of these authors agree is morally dubious. In the end, I present a view of ancestry that seeks to avoid the key problems I identify.
September 22, 2017 No colloquium is scheduled.
September 15, 2017 Zack Garrett will present.
September 8, 2017 Joey Dante will present. The abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: As we all may be aware, J. L. Mackie famously argues that there are no objective values. I want to investigate Mackie's interpretation of what objective values indeed ARE, and then consider and attempt to understand (one of) his arguments against such entities. Specifically, I want to see whether his arguments apply to Kantian objective values. As such, this talk is as much an interpretation of Kant as it is of Mackie (at least in so far as I understand them.)
It seems that Mackie thinks objective values, if they exist, have strange causal profiles. Specifically, these entities have the POWER to cause in a subject that is aware of them a certain motivation (to comply with their recommendations, whatever that means.) Does Kant think the objectively valuable entities have such POWER? Is such power metaphysically strange?
September 1, 2017 Kevin Patton will present. His title is "Safety and Skepticism." The abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: Duncan Pritchard has advocated for a necessary condition on knowledge known as safety. Pritchard's definition of safety is an explicitly modal one in which a true belief is safe if and only if in all / nearly all close possible worlds to ours, the belief is also true, and we believe it on the same basis. Since Pritchard's 2005 book, there have been a flurry of powerful criticisms, some of which have resulted in Pritchard modifying his general framework. One criticism that Pritchard has not responded to is raised by Dylan Dodd. Dodd argues for the following conditional: if safety, as Pritchard contends, explains the lottery intuition, then skepticism follows. In this paper I will argue that Dodd's formulation of the problem can be easily addressed by a safety theorist such as Pritchard. In so replying, however a dilemma will result for Pritchard: either he must reject common sense cases of knowledge, or he must reject his stated motivations for safety.
August 25, 2017 The Departmental Pizza Party to start off the semester will be held starting at 4:00 pm.
Graduate Student Research Colloquia Spring 2017
May 5, 2017 FINALS WEEK The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held this week due to final examinations. We will resume Fall 2017.
April 28, 2017 A Multi-session colloquium will be held this week. The presenters are (in order) Zachary Garrett, "Semantic Nihilism and Supervaluationism"; Andrew Christmas, "Kant's Theory of the Good and the Justification for Agent-centered Constraints"; and Adam Thompson, "Against GTA Restraint: Why GTAs Should Practice Learner-Centered Pedagogy (and How to do so)." The abstracts follow.
Zachary Garrett, "Semantic Nihilism and Supervaluationism"
ABSTRACT: In recent years, David Braun and Ted Sider as well as John MacFarlane have attempted to revitalize semantic nihilism, a theory of vagueness that rejects the truth-evaluability of sentences containing vague words. Both views make use of things resembling supervaluationism's admissible precisifications, but they reject the identification of truth with supertruth. In this paper, I argue that Braun and Sider and MacFarlane have not given a sufficient reason for avoiding the identification of truth with supertruth. Supervaluationism fits the story for how vague communication works just as well as these new forms of nihilism, but with the added bonus that it can account for our everyday intuitions about truth. I begin by objecting to arguments for semantic nihilism and then respond to the objections Braun, Sider and MacFarlane level at supervaluationism.
Andrew Christmas, "Kant's Theory of the Good and the Justification for Agent-centered Constraints"
ABSTRACT: David Cummiskey argues that Kant's ethical theory is normatively consequentialist. Cummiskey focuses most of his effort on showing that the second formulation of the categorical imperative could allow for the sacrifice of some rational beings if it meant promoting the existence of more rational beings and that Kant provides no justification for agent-centered constraints on our actions. I argue that Cummiskey's argument presupposes an agent-neutral theory of the good that fails to provide an adequate account of Kant's ethical system. I also argue that Kant's conception of the good does provide justification agent-centered constraints and does not allow for the sacrifice of innocent people even if that sacrifice would save the lives of more.
Adam Thompson, "Against GTA Restraint: Why GTAs Should Practice Learner-Centered Pedagogy (and How to Do So)"
ABSTRACT: Graduate student teaching assistants (GTAs) typically begin their assistantships playing a supporting role in a course prepared by someone else. It is typical for GTAs to believe that they can only use a very limited subset of the full range of teaching strategies. Call that belief, the GTA Restraint Belief. Though this belief is often supported through (explicit or implicit) advocacy by the discipline and professionals in it, the GTA Restraint Belief stands as a major obstacle to student learning and GTA-pedagogical growth. For one, it is used by many in academia as an excuse for GTAs to essentially ignore the literature on effective pedagogy. For another, the GTA Restraint Belief is leaned on as a reason for GTAs to forgo trainings focused on improving their pedagogy. Thus, typically, the students served by GTAs are unacceptably underserved as are the GTAs with respect to their professional development. On those grounds and others, this essay (a) argues that the GTA Restraint Belief should be rejected and (b) shows how GTAs can discharge the obligation to reject that belief and permissibly practice effective pedagogical strategies.
April 21, 2017 Aaron Elliott will present this week. His title is "What Naturalism Is, What Non-Naturalism Isn't". The abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: Non-Naturalists need to be able to explain exactly what their view is. While perhaps an obvious requirement, the need is made salient in two ways. The first is objections from non-reductive naturalists, like Sturgeon, who challenge non-naturalists to say what it is that excludes the normative from the broader class of the natural. Since, he says, we have good reason to think normative properties are causally efficacious, we have good reason to include them along with physical, biological, and chemical properties. Until we are given an explanation for what excludes them from this group, we have a presumption of naturalism.
The second is a dialectical concern inside of debates about the viability of non-naturalism. There are two overarching objections to non-naturalism (that I care about—queerness is either unmotivated or collapses into one of the two), the metaphysical and the epistemic. Both are basically "we need an account of X, but non-naturalism can't deliver." I think the better way of framing this objection is "the minimal commitments it takes to offer an account of X entail naturalism." So, in order to assess this in principle claim, we have to be clearer on what marks the difference between these families of views, and which commitments are strictly incompatible with each. Allowing no connections means non-naturalism cannot respond to the metaphysical and epistemological challenges. So, the non-naturalist is on the hook to show which connections between the normative and the natural come with a presumption of naturalism and which don't. Clearly, identity between normative properties and natural properties would revoke a theory's non-naturalist credentials. But we need to consider other relations, and whether something could defeat a presumption of naturalism.
In light of these two related concerns, I will develop an account of non-naturalism that respects the distinctness of the non-natural without foreclosing the possibility of responding to the metaphysical and epistemological challenges.
April 14, 2017 Joseph Dante will present this week. His title is "Panpsychism?". The abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: I will be 'arguing' that if all entities are fundamental then panpsychism is plausible.
Flat-worldism: All entities that exist are fundamental; there are no entities whose existence depends on more fundamental entities.
Panpsychism: All entities are minded.
P1: Some entities are minded (assumption)
P2: All entities are fundamental (assumption)
P3: If some entities are minded and all entities are fundamental then all entities are minded.
Therefore: All entities are minded.
I assume P1 and P2. Argument for P3:
Assume for reductio that all entities are fundamental and that some but not all of the fundamental entities are minded.
Then, there must be a non-arbitrary criterion to distinguish the non-minded from the minded entities.
There is no non-arbitrary criterion to distinguish the minded from the non-minded entities (as we cannot employ any notion of emergence or grounding, arguing that some are minded due to their relation/interaction with other entities.)
Therefore, If some entities are minded and all entities are fundamental then all entities are minded.
April 07, 2017 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held this week due to the Faculty / Graduate Student Colloquium. Professor Jennifer McKitrick will present. Her title is "Whites, Women, and Witches: Analogies and Disanalogies among Social Kinds". The Colloquium will meet from 4:00-6:00 pm in Oldfather 1007.
March 31, 2017 Kiki Yuan will present this week. Her title is "Perception and Perceptual Inference". The abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: Is perception a bottom-up or a top-down processing? It seems that the top-down processing is a more plausible theory. If so, what's the mechanism of top-down approach? Psychologists and philosophers have offered many modules to show the top-down mechanism of perception. Gregory and his "Charlie Chaplin Optic Illusion" case has offered a good demonstration of perception as a cognitive mechanism. Similarly, Helmholtz suggests that perception is mediated by unconscious inference and that inference is the same as that for ordinary reasoning and scientific inference. With the development of modern psychology, many scholars' modules of perception separated perceptual inference from the cognitive inference that associates with reasoning or knowledge, such as Rock and Fodor. Based on modern psychology study, I will argue that the separation of two kinds of inference is more plausible. In addition, I will discuss the role of perceptual inference in moral perception and how it distinguishes moral perception from other moral cognitive activities, such as moral reasoning or moral knowledge.
March 24, 2017 SPRING BREAK The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held this week.
March 17, 2017 C. L. Richardson will present this week. The title is "Ailefs and Singularity". The abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: Non-doxastic attitudes are a subject of little concern in most of the singular thought literature. However, it's becoming clear to theorists who work in this area that specific accounts of singular thought for a variety of non-doxastic attitudes are crucial for motivating the view that we can have singular thoughts at all. One interesting candidate for such an account is Tamar Gendler's notion of Ailef. Ailefs are non-doxastic, sometimes-propositional, mental states that appear to go a long way in explaining social biases and marginalizing treatment of certain groups of people. In an influential analysis, Robin Jeshion claims that providing an account of de re belief (i.e. singular thought) compels us to answer the questions of what it is to believe, and what the conditions are on believing a singular proposition.  Insofar as providing an account of de re ailef requires one to address similar questions, I'll aim to meet Jeshion's challenge. This paper will be concerned with two major questions with respect to the concepts of ailef and singular thought: 1) Can ailefs refer singularly to their objects? 2) Can ailefs be explained in terms of mental files? I'll argue that ailefs do refer singularly and that they can be explained in terms of mental files. I'll provide an account of file dynamics for ailef-type mental files. Additionally, I'll explain how my account serves to inform and potentially motivate more general views of singular thought and implicit bias.
 Robin Jeshion, New Essays on Singular Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 54.
March 10, 2017 Mark Diep will present this week. His title is "The Implausibility of Bratman's No-Regret Condition". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: In his 1999 book, Michael Bratman argues that his No-Regret condition solves problems of rationality that he argues sophistication theory and resolution theory can't. He argues that the main problem for both theories is that they fail to account for the fact that we are temporal and causal rational agents. His No-Regret condition, he claims, solves the problems by accounting for these features of rational agents. In this paper, I argue that Bratman's No-Regret condition is not a plausible condition of rational agency. I shall show that there are cases where the No-Regret condition offers recommendations that we normally find difficult to follow. The primary problem, I shall argue, is the regret feature of the No-Regret condition. There are times when an agent is faced with a future regret that does not factor into the agent's decision on whether or not to follow through with prior plans. In the cases that I will discuss, if there are future regrets that don't align with the agent's current preferences, she is still rational to act contrary to those future regrets that the No-Regret condition recommends her to take seriously. Since the No-Regret condition always recommends that an agent acts on the bases of preferences of these future selves in these cases, the No-Regret condition is implausible.
Lastly, I present a case where an agent's possible future choices are in conflict. Despite conflicts in these choices, Bratman's No-Regret conditions claims that the agent is rational if she forms a plan about these conflicting choices and acts on the plan. I show that No-Regret's recommendations in this case show that No-Regret is incoherent.
March 3, 2017 Alfred Tu will present this week. His title is "Modal Skepticism and Similarity". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: In Modal Epistemology, Peter Van Inwagen argues that anyone who accepts Yablo's theory should become a modal skeptic. Modal Skepticism, in Van Inwagen's term, is a conservative epistemological position that believes we can have "basic" modal knowledge, such at "It is possible that Lincoln has an earthquake" or "It is possible that I will have pasta as dinner tonight." But it is not the case that we can have "remote" modal knowledge, such as "It is possible that transparent iron exists" or "It is possible that purple cows exist." Modal skepticism has one obvious theoretical advantage: we can keep most of our ordinary, commonsensical modal knowledge, but we can refute some puzzling philosophical arguments that build on remote possibilities (Van Inwagen 1998, Hawke 2016). Van Inwagen's modal skepticism is defended and developed by Peter Hawke later (Hawke 2010, 2016). Nevertheless, I think the crucial point of modal skepticism is that modal skeptics must give us some principals that can adequately differentiate remote possibilities from basic or uncontroversial possibilities, and deny we can have knowledge of remote possibilities. And I am going to argue that Hawke's work is not satisfactory for adequately differentiating remote possibilities and ordinary possibilities.
February 24, 2017 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium will not be held this week due to the Speakers' Series. The guest speaker is Lucy Allias. Click here for more information
February 17, 2017 Lauren Sweetland will present this week. Her title is "Cooperation: From Joint Intention to Evolutionary Explanation". Her abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: How can the notion of joint or we-mode intentions be incorporated into theories of social science? In particular, how can joint intentions fit with Tooby and Cosmides' Integrated Causal Model, according to which social behavior is a product of evolved information-processing systems? How can joint intentions fit with Henrich and Henrich's Dual Inheritance Theory? According to this view, human biological/psychological adaptations produce prosocial cultural behavior.
I argue that the notion of joint intention, with modifications, may be incorporated into an analysis of Dual Inheritance Theory and the Integrated Causal Model. Both Searle and Tuomela argue that individual (not group) intentions are crucial for understanding joint action. For Searle, individuals have intentions "in the we-mode": psychological states with the content of we-actions. For Tuomela, joint action involves we-mode intentions in the form of team reasoning, where each agrees to promote the ends of the group by cooperating and coordinating with other members. To accommodate joint intentions into these broader models, we should forego two assumptions contained in the notion of joint intentions. First, we should give up the assumption that there is a large divide between the social and the natural sciences (akin to a divide of mental and physical). Second, we might give up the assumption that the social level cannot be reduced to the individual level. In addition, a notion of joint intentions should meet several criteria: i) Henrich and Henrich's Core Principle, ii) Tooby and Cosmides' description of the frame problem and iii) the evolvability criterion, and iv) Hamilton's rule.
February 10, 2017 Zachariah Wrublewski will present this week. His title is "Conceivability, Abduction, and Modal Knowledge". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: In his paper "Is Conceivability a Guide to Possibility?" Stephen Yablo analyzes several existing conceptions of conceivability before ultimately offering a positive account of conceivability that he believes better gives us prima facie knowledge of possibility. In this paper, I will argue that while Yablo might be successful in ruling out the relevant conceptions of conceivability as methods for reliably gaining modal knowledge, he is unsuccessful in offering his positive account of such a method. To show that this is the case, I will offer an objection to Yablo's account of conceivability that centers on a problem with the completeness of conceived worlds that plagues his account. Furthermore, I will argue that one of the conceptions of conceivability that Yablo rules out can still be useful if applied in the generative step of a two-step theory of abductive inference about modal knowledge, while his preferred positive account of conceivability cannot be used in such a way.
February 3, 2017 Mark Albert Selzer will present this week. The title of his presentation is "The Latent Capacity Interpretation of the Explanatory Constraint". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: In his influential article, "Internal and External Reasons" (1979), Bernard Williams argues for the Explanatory Constraint:
EC The fact that 𝑝 is a normative reason for A to Φ only if A can Φ because 𝑝.
There is a problem with EC: if 'can' means that there is some possible world where A can Φ because 𝑝, then almost anything would count as a normative reason for A to Φ. Therefore, a plausible interpretation of EC must avoid such a 'bare possibility' interpretation of 'can'.
In "Internalism and Externalism about Reasons" (forthcoming), Hille Paakkunainen argues for the Actual Capacity interpretation of EC:
AC The fact that 𝑝 is a normative reason for A to Φ only if A has an actual present capacity to Φ because 𝑝.
First, I argue that AC is an unsatisfactory interpretation of EC because it conflicts with the reasons that the akratic or the person with a poorly developed character has. Second, to address these shortcomings, I argue for the Latent Capacity interpretation of 'can' in EC:
LC The fact that 𝑝 is a normative reason for A to Φ only if A has a latent capacity to Φ because 𝑝'.
LC is an account that is not trivialized by a bare possibility interpretation of EC—yet, contra AC, LC remains in harmony with the reasons the akratic or the person with a poorly developed character has.
January 27, 2017 A Multi-session colloquium will be held this week.
January 20, 2017 Christopher Stratman will present this week. The title of his presentation is "Heilian Truthmaking". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: John Heil's account of truthmaking, what I call "Heilian Truthmaking" (HTM), fails to avoid several significant objections. This claim depends on a controversial interpretation of Heil's view of truthmaking, one that interprets it as a primitive concept. I will consider whether or not it is fair to interpret HTM as primitive and the consequences that follow from such an interpretation. It will be shown that the proponent of HTM faces an important dilemma, which is stated below:
- Either HTM is a primitive concept or not.
- If HTM is a primitive concept, then there are missing truthmakers.
- If HTM is not a primitive concept, then it fails to avoid Kit Fine's three objections.
- Therefore, whether or not one interprets HTM as a primitive concept, one has good reason to reject it.
The structure of the paper will be divided into two parts: In part one I will consider Heil's general approach to ontology and his appeal to truthmaking. In order to get a better grip on why one might interpret HTM as a primitive concept I will consider the second horn of the dilemma first. It will be argued that the only way the second horn of the dilemma can be avoided is by interpreting HTM as a primitive concept. In part two I will consider the first horn, arguing that interpreting HTM as primitive undermines Heil's realist ontology because we will not be in a position to know what makes our sentences true. I will consider how Heil might respond to this objection prior to concluding.
January 13, 2017 Joey Dante will present this week. The title of his presentation is "Controversial?!". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: I will be discussing Sarah McGrath's "Moral Disagreement and Moral Expertise." McGrath argues that, at least many of, our moral beliefs do not amount to knowledge. McGrath argues that "CONTROVERSIAL beliefs do not amount to knowledge." (page 92). Where "CONTROVERSIAL" is understood as follows: "Thus your belief that p is CONTROVERSIAL if and only if it is denied by another person of whom it is true that: you have no more reason to think that he or she is in error than you are." (page 91). She then argues that many of our moral beliefs are indeed CONTROVERSIAL. As such, many of our moral beliefs do not amount to knowledge.
I will be discussing whether or not her argument overgeneralizes. She maintains that her argument does not overgeneralize. I will argue that she has not given compelling reason to suppose that her argument does not overgeneralize.
Let us focus on one of the beliefs that she focuses on; namely, the belief that there is an external world. McGrath maintains that that belief is not CONTROVERSIAL.
She supposes that one or a few (highly intelligent) dissenters should not tip the scales in such a way that we should be skeptical about that belief. Lack of unanimity should not render a belief CONTROVERSIAL. She supposes that there should be substantial disagreement before a belief is rendered CONTROVERSIAL.
Now, she does not give criteria for what substantial disagreement would be but it seems that she relies on the thought that if a vast number of more or less equally epistemically situated people disagree with a very small number of equally epistemically situated people then that kind of disagreement does not render the relevant belief (of the vast number of people) CONTROVERSIAL.
She gives a case: if you and I disagree about when the train departs (and we are peers in the relevant sense) then my belief concerning the departure is rendered CONTROVERSIAL. However, if 10 people all agree the train will depart at time X and I (and only I) believe that the train will depart at time Y then the 10 people's beliefs are not rendered CONTROVERSIAL (although my belief is rendered CONTROVERSIAL).
This is supposed to illustrate that numbers can make a difference as to whether or not a belief is rendered CONTROVERSIAL due to disagreement among peers. She is thinking that because there are so many people that disagree with me concerning the train departure I should feel as if I am more likely to be in error and as such that the others are less likely to be in error.
- (i) The example she gives may not generalize. Maybe ordinary beliefs such as when a train is departing are such that numbers matter more than other kinds of beliefs.
- (ii) Who is the relevant class of people that should matter when considering whether or not disagreement renders a belief CONTROVERSIAL? One could feasibly think that the average everyday person's beliefs, let's say concerning religion or souls or the external world, shouldn't matter as much. If we can coherently limit the relevant class of peers then it seems that it is not merely a very small minority (a few geniuses) that deny that we have knowledge or the external world.
- (iii) What people believe is contingent. As such, it is perfectly possible that everyone (aside from a few geniuses) believe that there is no external world. In this case the relevant CONTROVERSIAL belief would be that there IS an external world. Of course, this is not really an objection since it will be contingent whether or not I have knowledge concerning a particular belief. But it seems that a vast majority of people could believe something false. This isn't saying much since what is at issue here is whether or not the mere fact that you know someone disagrees should alter your credence in your disparate beliefs; but it seems that someone (like some imminent thinker that is going against the status quo) who denies the status quo position loses knowledge about their revolutionary theory merely because the vast majority of people disagree. (Let's take geo versus heliocentric theories and the thinkers who wanted to push for heliocentrism; is it really the case that some of those thinkers in fact never had knowledge in their lives concerning the truth of heliocentrism, merely because they were aware that the vast majority disagreed?)
- (iv) Let us grant that the belief in the external world is not rendered CONTROVERSIAL. That does not mean that her argument does not overgeneralize. I imagine that McGrath herself would NOT want her argument to extend to this belief: that perception is a reliable indicator of the truth. However, her argument does indeed extend to such a belief. That is because many people from different ways of life and different cultures across time have denied this (think of some religious traditions that think everything is an illusion, philosophical traditions.) Or at least, she cannot explain why that belief is not CONTROVERSIAL by appeals numbers in the way she does with the belief about the external world.
Graduate Student Research Colloquia Fall 2016
December 16, 2016 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium is cancelled this week due to Finals Week. We will resume the meetings on Friday, January 13, 2017.
December 7, 2016 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium is cancelled this week due to the Faculty / Grad Colloquium, meeting from 4:00-6:00 Friday in Room 1007.
December 2, 2016 Andrew Spaid will present this week. The title of his presentation is "Desire Theory: How to Measure Well-being". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: Desire theorists about well-being accept the following view about how to measure a person's level of well-being: a person is well-off to the extent that they are getting what they want. There are two options for making this view more precise. According to the first, your level of well-being is represented as a ratio of satisfied desires over total desires. According to the second, your level of well-being is represented as an integer equal to the number of your satisfied desires minus the number of your frustrated desires. I believe more turns on which of these two options the desire theorist accepts than desire theorists have tended to notice. I explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of each option and argue that, for most desire theorists, the first option should appear the most attractive.
November 25, 2016 The Graduate Student Research Colloquium is cancelled this week due to the Thanksgiving break.
November 18, 2016 Due to the Speaker's Series, the Graduate Student Research Colloquium is cancelled this week. The guest speaker is Karen Bennett, her topic is "Causing". Click here for more information
November 11, 2016 Due to the Speaker's Series, the Graduate Student Research Colloquium is cancelled this week. The guest speaker is Neil Sinhababu, his topic is "Empathic Hedonists Escape Moral Twin Earth". Click here for more information
November 4, 2016 Christopher Stratman will present this week. The title of his presentation is "Why I Am Not A Color Realist". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: I am not a color realist. I do not believe that colors exist independent of one's phenomenal experience of them; they are not a part of the correct ontology; they are not a part of the way the cosmos looks from the perspective of the ontology room; they are not in the book of the world; they are not fundamental. Our commonsense perception of the world around us errs when it tells us that ordinary objects are colored. I don't think that ordinary objects are colored, because I don't think that ordinary objects exist. In this paper I will consider the Sorites Paradox and several issues concerning material constitution in order to demonstrate that there is good reason to believe that mereological nihilism is true. The aim of this paper is to argue that color realism is false by showing that mereological nihilism is true. Consequently, mind-independent, color properties that are possessed by ordinary objects don't exist. Hence, there is good reason to deny color realism. The astute reader will notice, however, that it is technically incorrect to say that "I" am not a color realist. The correct way to make this point would be to say that, simples arranged "I—wise" am not a color realist. After presenting the main argument against color realism I will consider similar challenges and argue that such worries are benign.
October 28, 2016 Due to the Central States Philosophical Association conference, the Graduate Student Research Colloquium is cancelled this week. Registration is now closed, but Click here for more information
October 21, 2016 Joseph Dante is this week's presenter. The title of his presentation is "Contra Sound as Disturbances". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: I will be offering various considerations that call into question Casey O'Callahan's recent work on Sounds. O'Callahan argues that sounds are disturbance events. I will argue that O'Callahan fails to meet his own desiderata for any adequate theory of sounds. And further that his arguments to suggest that sounds cannot occur in a vacuum fail. He wants his theory to be neutral with respect to the proper metaphysics of events yet also he wants sounds to be causally powerful. I will argue that either his theory allows for sounds to be epiphenomenal or else he must be committed to the thesis that every event has only one cause (namely he would have to be committed to a controversial theory of event individuation). Either way his own desiderata are not met. Further, he argues that because there are no audible qualities in a vacuum there is no sound in a vacuum. I will point out flaws in this way of arguing. Namely, the premise "If there are no audible qualities in X then there are no sounds in X" will either commit O'Callahan to saying that there are no sounds in places where his theory should allow or else leave room for sounds existing in vacuums.
October 14, 2016 Due to the Chambers Philosophy Conference Series, the Graduate Student Research Colloquium this Friday is cancelled. The Chambers Conference is hosting the Midwest Annual Workshop in Metaphysics. Registration is now closed, but Click here for more information
October 7, 2016 Due to the Speaker's Series, the Graduate Student Research Colloquium is cancelled this week. The guest speaker is Alex Rosenberg, his topic is "The Program of Strong Scientism and its Challenges". Click here for more information
September 30, 2016 Zachary Garrett is this week's presenter. The title of his presentation is "The Epistemic Theory of Vagueness". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: Epistemicism is a theory of vagueness that makes two claims: (i) all vague predicates have sharp cutoff points and (ii) for any borderline case we cannot know whether the predicate applies or not. The primary proponents of epistemicism are Timothy Williamson and Roy Sorensen. Williamson, unlike Sorensen, attempts to give an account of how predicates get their sharp borders. He claims that our uses of predicates set the cutoff via some very complicated procedure. He does not spell out the procedure itself. The plausibility of our uses setting unique cutoff points for vague predicates has been questioned extensively. Even attempts to set the cutoffs via other means have come up short. As for Williamson’s version of (ii), he explains our limited knowledge to a margin for error principle. Essentially, we lack knowledge in borderline cases because we could have easily been wrong. Sorensen thinks that Williamson is misguided in his efforts to give an explanation of the procedure that sets sharp borders. Instead, Sorensen argues that we are forced to accept the existence of sharp borders by virtue of the fact that the sorites argument is invalid. He claims that this is enough reason to accept sharp borders. Sorensen explains our ignorance as a result of a lack of truthmakers for propositions about borderline cases. Since the propositions are not linked to the world in any way we cannot come to know them. I argue that Sorensen’s explanation of our ignorance is worse than Williamson’s. Since Williamson’s explanation of how vague predicates get their borders is problematic I consider a hybrid view that utilizes both Sorensen’s optimism about the existence of cutoffs and Williamson’s account of our ignorance. I finally argue that this account also fails because it gets the direction of explanation between logic and the phenomenon of vagueness wrong.
September 23, 2016 Jason Lemmon will present this week. The title of his presentation is "Aristotle on Non-Contradiction: Logical, not Metaphysical ". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: In book IV, chapter 4 of the Metaphysics, Aristotle defends the principle of non-contradiction (PNC) -- namely, that it is impossible for something both to have some feature and to not have that feature, at the same time and in the same respect. Edward Halper, among others, denies that Aristotle is concerned to defend PNC. He complains that many philosophers have treated Met. IV 4 "as an island of logic in a sea of metaphysics." He argues that Aristotle's project in IV 4 isn't to defend PNC; rather PNC is being used by Aristotle as an assumption in an argument for the conclusion that beings have essential definitions. Thus, says Halper, Met. IV 4 consists of metaphysics, not logic, and should be seen as continuous with Aristotle's main concerns in subsequent books of the Metaphysics. I argue that Met. IV 4 is indeed an island of logic in a sea of metaphysics. I offer four main arguments against the metaphysical reading (and the claim that PNC functions as a premise). One of my arguments, for example, includes the claim -- borrowing from Jonathan Lear, and ultimately Carroll -- that PNC, as a principle of inference (acceptance of Fx is all it takes to reject ˜Fx), can no more constitute a premise in an argument than Modus Ponens can.
September 16, 2016, 4:15-6:00 pm: Aaron Elliott will present this week. The title of his presentation is "Avoiding Bruteness Revenge". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: In this paper I examine Tristram McPherson's presentation of the supervenience challenge for non-naturalism in metaethics, and focus on the issue of brute necessary connections. The Challenge is that non-naturalists must either: i. allow that the supervenience of the normative on the natural entails an unexplained necessary connection between distinct existence; ii. accept an explanation for the necessary connections that is committed to naturalism; or, iii. reject supervenience. I explain why McPherson concludes that any non-naturalist explanation for supervenience must rely on positing some further brute necessary connection, and therefore makes no progress towards discharging the explanatory burden. I then argue that McPherson's account conflates two kinds of bruteness, and show that in light of this distinction explanatory progress is possible. There are brute necessary connections and there are brute absences, and commitment to each is a cost to a view. Due to this distinction, I replace Hume's Dictum with a principle against positing brute impossibility, because this better captures the concern over both kinds of bruteness. We can decrease the amount of bruteness a non-naturalist is committed to by eliminating brute connections without positing further brute connections or additional brute absences. This reduces the cost of supervenience to non-naturalism, and makes explanatory progress, even if some commitment to brute absence remains.
September 9, 2016: This week's presenter will be Kevin Patton. The title of his presentation is "The Psychology of Skepticism". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: The thesis of this presentation will be mostly fragmented. The idea behind this presentation will be to frame the first (eventual) chapter of my (eventual) dissertation. The goal/project for the first chapter will be to recast the challenge of epistemic skepticism in positive, rather than negative terms. Nearly every author I have surveyed addresses epistemic skepticism as a challenge that needs answering. This has the effect of producing combative attitudes toward both skepticism and the core issues the skeptic is focused on. I want to view skepticism as a welcomed friend, not as a foe to be vanquished. The skeptic is someone who desires certainty and any theory of knowledge which does not produce such certainty is faulty - or so says the skeptic. This reframing of the debate in positive terms will help me address some naturalized epistemologists who have attempted to refute the skeptic (probably chapter 2 of the dissertation?)
September 2, 2016: Adam Thompson will be presenting this week. The title of his presentation will be "How Anti-Humeans Keep the Blame in Blame (and Why Humeans Cannot)". His abstract follows.
ABSTRACT: Recently, several accounts have emerged on which blame is neither confined to the emotional nor always affectless. These accounts seem antithetical to popular Reactive Attitudes Accounts on which blame is constitutively tied to certain emotions. This essay shows that only a subset of those emerging accounts run contrary to Reactive Attitudes Accounts. It primarily argues that those accounts of blame's nature that appeal to the Humean idea that cognitive states cannot motivate absent aid from independent desire should be rejected. Thus, if we reject Reactive Attitudes Accounts of blame, we should adopt an anti-Humean construal of blame. The key idea is that only anti-Humean accounts capture the essence of the reactive emotions. Hence, only anti-Humean accounts keep intact the aspects of the reactive attitudes that render them paradigmatic of blame. In other words, it shows how anti-Humeans keep the blame in blame and explains why Humeans cannot.
Graduate Student Research Colloquia Spring 2016
May 6, 2016: The Graduate Student Research Colloquia will resume this coming fall semester (Fall 2016.)
April 29, 2016: Christopher Richards will be presenting this week. The title of his talk is "Grounding and Univocity". His very short abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: In this paper, I argue against what I call the Koslicki-Wilson objection to grounding.
April 22 and 23, 2016: The Department of Philosophy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln presents the Robert R Chambers Philosophy Conference. This year's topic will be Practical Reason & Metaethics.
April 15, 2016: Joey Dante will be presenting this week. Topic to be announced.
April 8, 2016: Alfred Tu will be presenting this week on the topic of grounding. The title of his project is "Grounding and Primitiveness." His abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Grounding has become a central topic of metaphysics in recent years. According to Daly, in various theories of grounding, they hold some general features: grounding is intelligible, grounding is primitive, and grounding is useful. Some grounding skeptics argue against grounding theories and they claim it is not the case that these general features can apply to grounding. This paper has two parts. The first part includes my concerns about grounding skeptics’ strategies and why some grounding theorists claim grounding is primitive. In the second part, I try to argue that Jonathan Schaffer’s novel contrastive account of grounding is not well integrated with his general claims of grounding relation. It seems implausible to accept the contrastivity – an unorthodox and counter-intuitive formal property – as one formal property of a primitive notion. Therefore, either Schaffer cannot take grounding as a primitive notion or grounding does not have contrastivity.
April 1, 2016: Lauren Sweetland will be presenting this week. The title of her project is "A Question of Justice for Indigenous People and Environment." Her abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Principles of climate mitigation in environmental ethics often draw on either considerations of fairness and forward-looking concerns, or on justice and backward-looking concerns. That is, according to some theorists, considerations of the current distribution of climate benefits and burdens are foremost, while others take repairing historic wrongs as paramount. Some theorists integrate considerations of fairness and justice to formulate hybrid climate principles. Such an integrative approach is promising particularly in the context of environmental harm to indigenous subsistence peoples, who are among those suffering the most from climate change. I argue that existing integrative climate principles tend not to sufficiently emphasize considerations of backward-looking justice. This is a problem for indigenous peoples seeking reparations for environmental harm and violations of their human rights, according to Rebecca Tsosie. I argue that the current climate situation facing some Native people is unfair according to Rawls' second principle of justice. In addition, the situation is unjust as indigenous people suffer from emissions by others and few attempts are made for reparations. Thus, Rawlsian fairness combined with reparative justice provide a befitting theoretical framework. I conclude that an acceptable climate principle will adequately integrate considerations of both fairness and justice, both forward-looking and backward-looking considerations.
March 25, 2016: SPRING BREAK
March 18, 2016: Zachary Garrett discusses his project "The Structure of Higher Order Vagueness." His abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Take a sample of native English speakers and a line of men with differing numbers of hairs on their heads. Arrange the men in order by the number of hairs they have. Start with the man with 0 hairs and end with a man of 150,000 (50% more than average). Now, as you walk the English speakers along the line of men ask them to determine whether or not the man they are currently looking at is bald. At the two extremes we should expect the participants to confidently answer either bald or not. As we get closer to the middle, though, we expect that it will become more and more difficult for the participants to answer. There are some cases that are neither clearly bald nor clearly not bald. We call these borderline cases. Now, instead of asking whether some man x is bald we ask whether or not it is clear that he is bald. Just like how it is hard to tell when we move from bald to not bald, it is hard to tell when we move from clearly bald to borderline bald. The same thing can be repeated for the move from clearly clearly bald to borderline borderline bald. This procedure has led many to believe that there is a hierarchy of higher order vagueness.
This hierarchy has been objected to in two different ways. First, Mark Sainsbury and Diana Raffman, have argued that higher order vagueness is incoherent. Sainsbury has argued that the hierarchy collapses into three clear sets, contradicting accepted features of vagueness. Sainsbury argues that the failure of higher order vagueness reveals a problem with classical approaches to vagueness. He goes on to provide a non-classical analysis of vagueness. Raffman provides similar arguments and tends to agree with Sainsbury’s analysis. Raffman goes on to argue for a way of making sense of higher order vagueness, but one that is only uninterestingly hierarchical. Second, Susanne Bobzien argues for higher order vagueness, but rejects a hierarchical view. Bobzien claims that vagueness just is higher order vagueness, and so if it is clear that A, then it is clear that it is clear that A. Similarly, if it is borderline that A, then it is borderline that it is borderline that A. She calls this view columnar higher order vagueness.
In this presentation I will defend hierarchical higher order vagueness. Sainsbury and Raffman’s arguments against higher order vagueness make use of what Bobzien calls the in-between borderlineness, which is the understanding of borderlines as classes falling in between clear classes. I will follow Bobzien and argue for undecidability borderlineness, which says that borderline cases are ones that cannot be decided one way or another. Under undecidability borderlineness Sainsbury and Raffman’s objections can be handled. Next I will argue that Bobzien’s columnar higher order vagueness is built off of the wrong understanding of clearness. Where Bobzien’s understanding of clearness comes from the way that individual rational agents would respond to sorites paradoxes, she should look at how large numbers of rational agents would respond.
March 11, 2016: Chris Gibilisco and Adam Thompson co-author a project entitled "Quiddistic Individuation Without Tears". Their abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: In a recent paper, Deborah C. Smith notes that quidditism comes in two varieties, I-quidditism and R-quidditism. I-quidditism is a view about how properties are individuated, while R-quidditism is a view about how properties may be recombined. In this paper we present and defend a novel version of I-quidditism that doges the traditional problems with other versions of I-quidditism on the market. Further, our view is extremely ecumenical: it is consistent with R-quidditism of all varieties, causal structuralism, immanent realism, and trope theory.
March 4, 2016: Aaron Elliott will present a paper entitled "Why Non-naturalists Need Something Else to Explain Supervenience". His abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Non-naturalists are supposed to explain why the normative supervenes on the natural. Since supervenience is a phenomenon of property distributions, an explanation for supervenience requires an explanation for the distribution of normative properties. I provide a taxonomy of frameworks for such an explanation, in terms of the elements the explanation appeals to. I then rule out options that employ only natural elements on the basis of losing the non-naturalist commitment, and options that fail to employ natural elements on the basis of being unable to explain supervenience. This leaves a core set of non-naturalist frameworks. I argue that the framework that employs only features of normative properties and features of natural properties fails, thus leaving only frameworks that employ in addition some element that is external to both normative properties and natural properties. I show this by considering two prima facie plausible models, identifying why they fail, and why these reasons generalize to other models in this framework.
February 26, 2016: Shane George is this week's presenter. His abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Adaptive preferences arise when one changes their goals based on events in their life, or realizations of limitations (unexpected or otherwise.) These potentially cause a problem for accounts of autonomy. While my inability to be a Jedi is likely an innocuous feature which urges me to change my life goal preferences, my being enslaved is not. Structuralist accounts of autonomy have argued that the key feature for determining innocuous and problematic instances of adaptation centers on the relational properties and contexts that cause these adaptations. These accounts cannot then be value neutral as they have to evaluate said contexts. Proceduralists disagree and present value neutral accounts of autonomy which seek to center the issue squarely upon the processes one undergoes to maintain/achieve autonomy. Christman argues that due to asymmetries in the social context of selected cases, structuralist solutions do not provide the correct answer to these problems. I will argue that Christman's account also fails, and perhaps a stronger structuralist inspired response is required.
February 12, 2016: Christopher Stratman is this week's presenter. The title of his paper is "A Critique of Moore's Anti-Skeptical Argument in 'Proof of an External World'." His abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: In this paper I will argue that a philosophically important distinction needs to be made between skeptical arguments that involve our everyday empirical knowledge of ordinary objects and those that involve ontological explanations of such knowledge. Once this distinction is established, I argue that the proponent of G. E. Moore's anti-skeptical argument, as it is presented in "Proof of an External World", faces the following dilemma: she can either (i) accept that the argument misses its intended target of ontological skepticism; or (ii) accept that it does engage with its intended target of ontological skepticism. If she chooses the first horn, then the argument fails to answer the skeptic's challenge insofar as the argument focuses on epistemic skepticism. If the second horn is chosen, then the conclusion goes far beyond the scope of its premises insofar as the conclusion is ontological in nature while the premises are epistemic in nature. In both cases, I argue, Moore's response to the skeptic's challenge is inadequate.
In Part 1, an exposition of G. E. Moore's anti-skeptical argument will be offered. This will be followed by a consideration of Anthony Rudd's distinction between epistemic and ontological skepticism, as well as its relevance for the traditional skeptic's challenge. Then, in Part 2, some common objections to Moore's anti-skeptical argument will be considered, as well as Peter Baumann's responses. There I examine Baumann's argument that the best response to these objections involves interpreting Moore as being focused on ontological skepticism rather than epistemic skepticism. Prior to concluding in Part 3, I offer a final objection grounded in the above dilemma, consider several potential problems with the dilemma, and defend a version of ontological skepticism regarding the external world in support of the above dilemma.
January 22, 2016: Guest speaker Nomy Arpaly: "In Defense of Benevolence".
January 15, 2016: Adam Thompson is this week's presenter. The title of his paper is "Reasonable Fear Is Killing Justly and What You Should Do About It." His abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: The primary justification offered for not indicting a police officer for murder in connection to their involvement in killing an individual while on-duty is that the officer reasonably feared for their life. Recently, the failure to charge on-duty police officers who kill non-white individuals with murder has sparked nation-wide and world-wide outrage. Much of that outrage targets and rejects the claim that it was reasonable for the officer to fear that they, a fellow officer, or an innocent bystander would likely suffer serious bodily harm. This paper argues that the problem is not the truth-value of a claim of reasonable fear. Rather, the problem is that so many are apt to fear non-white individuals and so many others are disposed to accept the claim that the fear was reasonable as true. Here, I diagnose why, in the current U.S. climate, it makes sense (a) for so many to feel fear when encountering non-white individuals and (b) for so many to accept the reasonable-fear defense when cops kill. I go on to offer strategies for positive change.
Graduate Student Research Colloquia Fall 2015
December 4, 2015: Faculty / Graduate Student Colloquium
November 27, 2015: Thanksgiving Break
November 20, 2015: Alfred Cheng Chang Tu is this week's presenter. His abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: In philosophy of mind, some philosophers argue that high-level properties are sometimes represented in human visual experience (Thesis K). One argument that supports this idea is the argument from phenomenal contrast. In this paper, I am going to defend the argument from phenomenal contrast and argue that the perception account that integrated Thesis K has higher explanatory power.
November 13, 2015: Andrew Spaid is this week's presenter. His abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Contemporary hedonists distinguish between two types of pleasure: 'sensory pleasure' and 'attitudinal pleasure.' Pleasures of the former type are constituted by a feeling, and would include the pleasure involved in getting a massage. Pleasures of the latter type are constituted by an attitude, and would include being pleased that or glad that your child is getting married. Some hedonists maintain that all pleasure, including sensory pleasure, is constituted by an attitude. That is, they reduce sensory pleasure to attitudinal pleasure. I will consider two arguments in favor of this view and try to show why those arguments should be rejected.
November 6, 2015: This week's presenter is Kevin Patton. His paper is entitled "Video Games as Active Fictions." His abstract is below:
ABSTRACT: Morgan Luck has offered a powerful objection to the permissibility of violent video games. Luck's claim is that if the playing of violent video games is to be permissible because it is virtual violence, as opposed to actual violence, then we must allow video games to depict, or have the player engage in, acts of pedophilia since those will be cases of virtual pedophilia. The burgeoning literature that has emerged in response to this dilemma has not incorporated a key feature of video games: they are a species of fiction. It is the thesis of this paper that the gamer's dilemma will dissolve once it is clearly seen as belonging to this genus. In the context of a fiction any action is permissible so long as it makes the story better.
October 23, 2015: This week's presenter is Chris Gibilisco. His abstract is below:
ABSTRACT:In this presentation, I am interested in why various forms of legislative redistricting are incompatible with democratic principles. Answering this question is in service to a larger project of why state legislators should not draw the district lines in the US. I consider four ways legislators abuse this privilege to draw district lines: partisan redistricting, bipartisan redistricting, racial dilution, and racial packing. Now, it's obvious that these abuses are wrong. But the question I am interested in asking is why they are incompatible with democratic principles concerning representation. The reason why (bi)partisan redistricting is incompatible with democratic principles, I argue, follows straightforwardly from the voting rights of *individual* citizens. But this same rationale cannot be easily carried over to why *communities* or racial *groups* have any right to fair representation. Ideally, I hope to find a unified solution for why all four abuses are undemocratic.
October 16, 2015: Joey Dante will be presenting his paper this week. The abstract is below:
ABSTRACT:My presentation is two-fold:
- (i) I want to attempt to argue that Libertarianism is not completely insane and the core idea of Libertarianism (which I will call the Nozickian insight, realizing that Nozick most likely is not the originator of the thought) is powerful and hard to deny;
- (ii) I want to then argue that Libertarianism (specifically of the Nozickian variety) has the tools to conclude that it is permissible for a government (although maybe not required) to implement a social safety net, specifically a basic minimum.
Set-up: I want to grant Nozick many of his premises, at least in the second part of the presentation. Namely, I want to grant that Nozick is roughly correct and then argue that Nozick was wrong about the extent to which a just (properly libertarian) government could exercise its power. (I want to fight Nozick on his own grounds). The main assumption made is that consequentialism is false. I feel that Nozick is difficult to appreciate unless we realize that he believed that consequentialism is false (for Nozick arguments relying on consequentialist assertions such as "it is morally permissible to do action X to person P because action X helps person or persons C more than or in equal magnitude as it hinders person P" will be illicit moves, or so I will argue).
Here is a sketch of my arguments made during the presentation:
- Nozickian insight: A government cannot do to an individual what an individual cannot do to an individual.
I take this to mean that it is morally impermissible for a government to perform actions or institute policies that infringe on the rights of individuals. (Of course everyone would agree with this; what the Nozickian insight offers is a way of determining when a government has unjustly infringed on the rights of individuals: i.e. a government has unjustly infringed on the rights of individuals if the government has performed an action or actions (etc.) that, were an individual to perform similar actions with similar effects to another individual, that individual would be infringing on the rights of the other individual. In other words, If an individual, S, were to perform action A with effect E to another individual, P, and if A would be deemed morally impermissible, then if a government were to perform similar actions with similar effects, the government would be acting unjustly). I want to argue that this insight is powerful and hard to resist. I will offer a Sorites-style argument in favor of the insight.
Part 2: Nozick seems to think that compensation for a wrong-doing ameliorates the wrong-doing. As such, a government, but only the minimal government for Nozick, can infringe on the rights of individuals when establishing its monopoly on the enforcement of wrong-doings, and can force its members to pay taxes as long as the government compensates the members of the monopoly. I want to argue that there are other cases, besides internal and external protection, where a government can force its members to pay taxes because the compensation for that forced taxation is weighty enough to ameliorate the wrong-doing. (I am specifically concerned with showing we can get a basic minimum and/or a bare bones health care program, but my argument may extend to infrastructure, etc.).
Worries: If I am right then how far can we go? Can we get a full-fledged socialism out of Nozick? I do not want to say that, but maybe my argument extends further than desired.
October 2, 2015: Katerina Psaroudaki will be presenting her paper this week, entitled "The Puzzle of Self-Sufficiency in Aristotle's Philosophy of Friendship." The abstract is below:
ABSTRACT: "Why do supremely happy and virtuous people need friends, given that they have the things that are good and being self-sufficient they need nothing further?" I will develop a novel interpretation of Aristotle's response to that Platonic puzzle.
September 25, 2015: Chelsea Richardson will present her paper, "A Failure to Rescue Frankfurt-Style Cases." The abstract is below:
ABSTRACT:The Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) maintains that an agent is morally responsible for an action if and only if that agent could have done otherwise. The aim of PAP is to explain two things: (1) the intuition that freedom of choice is relevant to moral responsibility, and (2) to outline necessary and sufficient properties of moral responsibility. The major claim of PAP supporters though, is that PAP requires the falsity of causal determinism and as such, so too does moral responsibility. Harry Frankfurt famously put forth a counterexample to PAP whereby an agent seems, by way of intuition, morally responsible for an action despite the action being causally determined. In this paper I briefly outline the failure of Traditional Frankfurt Cases (TFCs) according to Alfred Mele and David Robb, and then discuss Mele and Robb's Revised Frankfurt Case (RFC) against PAP. Carl Ginet and David Palmer reject Mele and Robb's RFC for a variety of reasons. I will argue that, although they are right to reject the RFC, their reasons don't effectively address the issues of the RFC as it stands in opposition to PAP.
September 18, 2015: Gabriel Bruguier will present his paper, "Value from Without, but from Within." The abstract is below:
ABSTRACT:This paper is a work in progress. In this paper I will discuss a point of contention between Susan Wolf and Harry Frankfurt on their accounts of meaningful lives. Wolf's main slogan of her position is that a life is meaningful when "subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness." In short, a plausible account of meaning must include some kind of objective value. In contrast, Frankfurt appeals to volitional necessities like love that arise from characteristics of human nature as a source of meaning, thus eschewing objective talk. He argues, 'Devoting oneself to what one loves suffices to make one's life meaningful, regardless of the inherent or objective character of the objects that are loved.' In this paper I will give a metaphysics-y kind of argument to defend Frankfurt's position, arguing that his claim that human nature grounds some sort of objective value is more plausible than Wolf's position of objective value construed as "out there, somewhere." (That last bit isn't a quote from Wolf, those are scare quotes.)
September 4, 2015: Chris Richards will present his paper, "Grounding and the Problem of Entry." The abstract is below:
ABSTRACT:Grounding faces a challenge from skeptics that would argue that we do not, and cannot, understand grounding. Skeptics such as Hofweber (2009) and Daly (2012) claim that grounding is subject to what I call the problem of entry. To even understand the term 'grounding', regardless of whether it is instantiated anywhere, we need some way to 'enter into' the knowledge by either seeing how the term works, or by being given some help from other, already understood terminology. The skeptics argue that we can't solve this problem for grounding. I argue that the restrictions on term acquisition and competency that these skeptics defend are too stringent, implying that we do not, and cannot, understand commonplace terms such as 'jazz.' Thus, if the problem of entry is a problem for grounding, it is a problem for many other terms that we ordinarily take ourselves to understand, undermining the problem of entry for grounding.
Graduate Student Research Colloquia Spring 2015
March 6, 2015: Allison Fritz will present her paper, "A Critique of Noel Carroll’s Arousal Model for Environmental Aesthetics." The abstract is below:
Noel Carroll also offers an alternative to Allen Carlson’s account of aesthetic appreciation of nature. In particular, Carroll argues that a model that centers around the emotional elicitation in the face of nature can fulfill the two desiderata that Carlson offers for his own account. He to accepts that an account must have a means for fixing the appropriate focus for the appreciation and it must be able to account for the objectivity of aesthetic judgments about nature, which will then help us reach the “correct” or “true” judgments. I will argue against Carroll on two different levels. Firstly, I will question the relevancy and possibility of these two desiderata in general. Then I will show that even if these desiderata are acceptable, Carroll's the arousal model does not fulfill these desiderata in a satisfactory way.
February 27, 2015: Katerina Psaroudaki will be presenting her paper titled “Van Inwagen’s modal argument for incompatibilism.” The abstract is below:
ABSTRACT: Incompatibilism is the philosophical view, according to which, free will is incompatible with determinism. Van Inwagen in his paper “A modal argument for incompatibilism”, presents one of the most compelling arguments in favor of the view by showing that, if we don’t “have a choice about whether” determinism is true nor do we “have a choice about whether” the proposition representing the past and the conjunction of the laws of nature is true, then necessarily we don’t “have a choice about whether” any future description of the world is true. Even though most of the premises of the modal version of the argument have received a lot of critical attention in the literature and Van Inwagen himself has taken great pains to defend them, the first premise of the argument regarding the definition of determinism (□ (P0 & L) → P) is considered to be uncontroversial. The goal of my paper is to challenge the first premise by a) offering two possible definitions of determinism that could correspond to the modal version of the premise, and b) suggesting ways to refute the premise under each interpretation.
February 20, 2015: Kevin Patton will present his paper "Does Disagreement Matter?" The abstract is below.
There are two basic camps in the epistemology of disagreement. That of conciliationism and that of steadfastness. Conciliationism holds that, all things equal, when you and an epistemic peer become aware of your disagreement, you are obligated to reduce your confidence in your belief or to become agnostic. The steadfast view says essentially the opposite in that disagreement with an epistemic peer itself is no basis for reducing your confience in your belief. A few have attempted a hybrid position such as Jennifer Lackey. Her position holds that some circumstances demand we be conciliatory, and others demand we remain steadfast in our belief. Though her position is very attractive, it is not without at least one major drawback. Her view places all its normative weight on weak notion of justification. After putting some pressure on this part of her theory, it will be found to be no more helpful than the other two views on the table. Then I will offer some distinctions which only a few authors have hinted at which may shed some light on the debate.
February 13, 2015: NOTE: Colloquium will be held at 4:00 p.m. in Oldfather 203 this Friday, February 13.
Lauren Sweetland will be presenting her paper "Why Should I? The Collective Harm Problem, the Standard Principle, and Nefsky's Proposal." The abstract is below.
In actual and possible worlds, a set of actions causes or avoids some outcome, but no single action causes or avoids this outcome, or even makes a morally relevant difference, giving rise to the 'Collective Harm Problem.' Only exceptional individual actions/events (mega oil spill, tiebreaking vote), could singlehandedly cause the relevant outcome to occur or make a difference. What reason do we have to motivate our contributing in collective action cases? One proposed solution to this problem is the Standard Principle: the only reason to contribute is because doing so will make a morally significant difference to the outcome. One's action must play a significant and non-superfluous causal role in bringing about the desired outcome. Another proposed solution is the Helping Principle: we can help in bringing about an outcome without making a difference. This renders the contribution non-superfluous and gives reason to perform the contributing action because we can help. I argue the Standard Principle remains the best solution and has better indications for some collective harm problems than does the Helping Principle. The latter requires us to contribute even when doing so is virtually guaranteed not to make a difference. The Standard Principle motivates substantial contributions when we think the rightness of an act depends on the difference that it makes to the outcome.
January 30, 2015: Luke Elwonger will be giving this week's colloquium presentation. His talk is titled "Arguments for a Conceptual Engineering Model of Epistemology." The abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Traditional epistemology has been deeply concerned with the project of providing adequate analyses of core epistemic concepts such as knowledge, justification, evidence, warrant, etc. Much of the literature in the late 20th century often centered around debates as to whether a proposed analysis was intuitive, or whether the proposed definition can account for and explain our use of a concept or linguistic term in making various assertions. These kinds of arguments are especially prevalent in the literature and debates surrounding contextualist accounts of knowledge and justification. This chapter provides some preliminary arguments for thinking that modeling the conceptual project in epistemology as one of engineering and formulating epistemic concepts that fulfill our epistemic purposes rather than simply analyzing our existing concepts of linguistic terms. Arguments of rough three types will be considered. (1) The conceptual engineering project is less susceptible than the analysis project to worries surrounding variance in cultural intuitions about specific epistemic terms. (2) The results of successful engineering are more likely to directly answer traditional epistemic concerns rather than merely bypassing the concerns that motivated them. (3) The conceptual engineering model allows us to refocus debates where parties may seem to be talking past each other, such as debates between internalists and externalists about justification.
February 6, 2015: Aaron Elliott will be presenting his paper "Reasons, Dispositions and Value." Aaron has copies of the paper. The abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: I discuss an objection to Reasons Fundamentalism (RF), and other related "buck-passing" accounts of value. These views take reasons to be the fundamental normative element, and all others to be derivative. The objection: since there can be value in worlds in which there are no reasons, value must not be ontologically derivative of reasons, thus, RF is false. However, RF can allow such worlds while maintaining that reasons are fundamental, without controversial metaphysics, if value is a disposition to provide reasons. The paper proceeds as follows. After explaining RF, I discuss the strongest version of the challenge. Following this, I show that on many accounts of dispositions, while we should accept that particular instances of dispositions are prior to their particular manifestations, we should also accept that there is a sense in which dispositions are dependent on their manifestations. This provides RF with resources to respond to the challenge.
January 30, 2015: Luke Elwonger will be giving this week's colloquium presentation. His talk is titled "Arguments for a Conceptual Engineering Model of Epistemology." The abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Traditional epistemology has been deeply concerned with the project of providing adequate analyses of core epistemic concepts such as knowledge, justification, evidence, warrant, etc. Much of the literature in the late 20th century often centered around debates as to whether a proposed analysis was intuitive, or whether the proposed definition can account for and explain our use of a concept or linguistic term in making various assertions. These kinds of arguments are especially prevalent in the literature and debates surrounding contextualist accounts of knowledge and justification. This chapter provides some preliminary arguments for thinking that modeling the conceptual project in epistemology as one of engineering and formulating epistemic concepts that fulfill our epistemic purposes rather than simply analyzing our existing concepts of linguistic terms. Arguments of rough three types will be considered. (1) The conceptual engineering project is less susceptible than the analysis project to worries surrounding variance in cultural intuitions about specific epistemic terms. (2) The results of successful engineering are more likely to directly answer traditional epistemic concerns rather than merely bypassing the concerns that motivated them. (3) The conceptual engineering model allows us to refocus debates where parties may seem to be talking past each other, such as debates between internalists and externalists about justification.
January 23, 2015: NOTE: Due to a rare demonstration of technical savvy, colloquium will be held at 4:00 in Oldfather 203 on Friday, January 23.
Chelsea Richardson will present her paper titled "Standpoints as Penetrating the Contents of Perception: Developing Empathy by Paying Attention." The abstract is below.
ABSTRACT: Recent studies in psychology and cognitive science suggest that perceptual judgments may be penetrated by cognitive states. More precisely, previous knowledge or background beliefs can affect the way that we perceive objects. Susannah Siegel has previously offered suggestions for how this might actually happen that I make copious use of throughout this essay. Additionally, Feminist Standpoint Theory offers a view that describes various ways in which the socially privileged are epistemically disadvantaged. I present an argument using literature in the philosophy of perception that will explain why the socially privileged are epistemically disadvantaged and moreover, this argument will explain why understanding perception is an important part of solving issues of social injustice and oppression. I argue that, while standpoints are mental states that can penetrate perceptual experience, they do so in a way that Siegel says is epistemically non-problematic (but still epistemically interesting) because it concerns an agent failing to or refraining from attending to stimuli rather than being insensitive to it (i.e. unable to perceive it). This account supports the claims of feminist standpoint theorists (that knowledge is socially situated and that marginalized social groups are epistemically privileged) and also provides evidence to the effect that understanding the role of perception in standpoints as cognitively penetrating states can lead to solutions in issues of social oppression.
Graduate Student Research Colloquia Fall 2014
December 12, 2014: Allison Fritz will present her paper titled, "Seeing is Believing: The Justificatory Demands for Landscape Visualizations in Democratic Decision-Making." Landon Hedrick will present his paper titled, "Two Boxes." Brett Anderson will present his paper titled, "A Crisis for Capitalism: The Inevitability of Automation." Abstracts of these papers are included below.
Allison Fritz: Our federal government has made, and continues to make a concerted effort to accommodate environmental aesthetic value in its laws and policies. The National Environment Protection Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires that all federal agencies incorporate environmental values into their decision-making processes, and makes explicit mention of aesthetic value. Yet, even if there were no such laws, using theoretical justifications for democracy, one can argue that the government in a democracy ought to recognize, track, and accommodate the values of its citizens. And one value that citizens hold is aesthetic. In this paper I will argue that the United States government falls short in its effort to adequately capture and accommodate for aesthetic value. In particular, I will argue that it ought to be codified policy that any agency or contractor tasked with presenting value estimations of an area for which there is proposed development must supply a visual representation of that change—that is, they need to supply some form of an image.
My argument for this thesis will be developed in several ways, the most important of which focuses on informed consent. Any theoretical justification for democracy demands that the government provide citizens with full information and equal access to that information. In order for a political decision to be legitimate, it is necessary that all interested parties be supplied with full information. If a piece of information could change the balance of reasons in the minds of citizens, then the information is central to the ability to make a fully informed decision. When this information is missing, those decisions lack legitimacy. Furthermore, from a pragmatic environmentalist standpoint, changing the way we try to assess and present possible environmental aesthetic value may very well influence more citizens to support conservation movements and policies.
Landon Hedrick: In this paper I offer what I take to be a convincing (and hopefully novel) resolution of Newcomb's Problem.
Brett Anderson: Capitalism is the defining socio-economic philosophy of our time. It has triumphed over every other alternative, and as we march deeper into the 21st century, it seems to be widely assumed that capitalism will continue to be the defining economic paradigm. However, I argue that the structure of capitalism is insufficient to handle the inevitability of technological advances; advances that will almost certainly continue to result in ever-increasing levels of automation. The displacement of the workforce brought about by the inevitability of automation will strain the welfare state beyond its capacities and will likely result in the downfall, and by extension the forced transcendence, of the capitalist system. My argument has the somewhat novel upshot of being predictive, and thus will be verified or falsified based on empirical events that will unfold in this century.
December 5, 2014:
This week's colloquium will feature a performance by our very own Shane George, called "Second Order Manipulation and Metaexternalism." The abstract is below.
Abstract: Personal autonomy requires an account of how one comes to hold the mental states that one does. However to avoid heteronomy such an account must also maintain and establish authenticity conditions for those mental states. Traditionally, the debate has centered around internalist or ahistorical explanations which focus on an agents ability to establish authenticity via internal mechanisms and externalist or historical accounts which rely on external features about the agents environment to establish authenticity. More recently concerns regarding the establishment of authenticity have pointed to a regress problem for internalist accounts. By noting the similarity to the regress problem for autonomy with the regress problem in epistemic justification, Laura Wadell Eckstrom has attempted to utilize the tools from the justification literature to resolve the autonomy regress. However, such solutions ultimately cannot address second order manipulation problems which undercut the core value formation of an individual. In this paper, I intend to explain the second order manipulation problem and show why both internalist and externalist accounts fail to address these worries. I will then explain a metaexternalist criterion that must be net to address these concerns, and give a tentative proposal for meeting that criterion.
For those of you who were privy to my CSPA paper, this is the bigger version of that project. But please stay tuned because the 7:30 show is totally different from the 9:30 show and so there should be new and interesting things to consider. Additionally, I promise none of the same old lame jokes. Instead I'll provide all new lame jokes.
November 21, 2014:
This week Ben will be presenting his ambitious project, titled "Fixing All The Problems: a three stage account of philosophical methodology." You can find what might be an abstract or what might be the paper below.
Abstract: I hope to accomplish two goals: First, I will articulate and defend a three-stage account of philosophical methodology as we try to articulate necessary(ish) of features of stuff like Knowledge, Moral Rightness, etc. (I’ll use Knowledge as a primary example):
1. In Stage 1, we elicit a range of case judgements (and similar data) about the target concept.
2. In Stage 2, we (typically tacitly) abduct to what I call the ‘evidential concept’, a psychological entity whose content is simply the judgements we would in fact make in an infinite set of cases.
3. In Stage 3, we use these principle to infer the nature of the target concept from the evidential concept.
In order to accomplish this first goal, I will summarize the related views of Timothy Williamson in “The Philosophy of Philosophy” and Henderson and Horgan in “The Epistemological Spectrum”. I’ll show how my own view can be seen as developing out of these two views. Also, the primary motivation for my view will be its ability to solve problems with these views.
My second goal is to draw out two important implications of this model for current philosophical practice, corresponding to the second and third stages of the account. First, with respect to Stage 2, I’ll show how the psychological literature on categorization processes can inform the methods of philosophy (not just its epistemology). Among other things, psychological theories can help us sort probative from non-probabitve intuitions; the most obvious example of this is psychological debunking stories for certain intuitions. Second, with respect to Stage 3 (and partially because of the findings just mentioned), we need to do a better job of articulating methods for moving from intuitions to general principles. Specifically, it doesn’t look as if a simple application of inference to the best explanation will fit our philosophical purposes.
October 31, 2014:
Gabe Bruguier will be giving a presentation on a paper called "How Dispositions Save the Day for Humean Subjectivism." The abstract is below:
Abstract: This paper is still a work-in-progress, but I can say the following things about it. I will consider a problem that Barry Stroud raises for subjectivism. He claims that subjectivists (whether about color, value, maybe other things?) maintain an untenable position. On the one hand, they deny that certain facts are true of the world (that colors and values are "out there"), on the other hand they also hold that their own and others' thought and discourse about colors and value are true. But, he continues, the latter couldn't be the case unless the subjectivist admits those very things to be "out there", because otherwise those beliefs, etc., would be content-less. He thinks the content-less problem applies equally to colors as to value. But his argument relies on the assumption that there is an important parallel between the two cases, which is that both rely on perception in their account of how beliefs get their content. I want to challenge that assumption. At least in the case of Hume's subjectivism, one need not think that the role of perception is interestingly similar across both cases. This is a controversial claim, because the comparison of color and value was something Hume endorsed ("Vice and virtue, therefore, may be compar'd to sounds, colours, heat and cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are not qualities in objects, but perceptions in the mind"). So, one part of the paper is getting clear on what Hume thinks are the relevant elements of perception that apply to the color case, and to the value case. Somewhere in this discussion the role of dispositions will be discussed. It will turn out, I think, that dispositions toward certain things (loving one's children) that are "original", i.e., based on instinct or basic features of human nature, don't require perception in any way relevant to the color case. If that is the case, then we can resist Stroud's problem for subjectivism: the facts about value aren't "out there", they are wholly contained in the agent herself.
October 17, 2014:
Andy Spaid will present his paper "How Practical Interests Affect Standards for Knowledge." The abstract is below:
Abstract: Pragmatism about knowledge is the view that practical interests play a role in determining the standards required for a belief to count as knowledge. The role practical interests play in regulating standards are often described in one of two ways: 1) as the stakes (practical interests) go up, so do the standards for knowledge; 2) as the costs of being wrong go up, so do the standards for knowledge. I argue that these two ways of viewing the relationship between practical interests and standards for knowledge are either false or overly simple because they fail to account for the way the benefits of being right affect standards for knowledge. I offer a new analysis according to which the benefits of being right also play a role in regulating standards for knowledge (in addition to the costs of being wrong) by driving standards down as the benefits of being right go up.
October 10, 2014:
Chris Richards will present his paper "The Fact-view of Grounding." The abstract is below.
Abstract: One prominent view in the grounding literature is the view that the relata of grounding are facts. That is, the appropriate form of grounding claims is
1. The fact that F grounds the fact that G
Call this the fact-view of grounding. I argue that the fact-view is both unmotivated and does not account for one of the major desiderata on a theory of grounding, that it help capture the idea of a layered, stratified structure to reality. I first argue that major argument in favor of the fact-view, that grounding is an explanatory relation, and explanations only hold between facts, does not support the conclusion. I argue that there are cases where explanation is prima facie not between facts, but between things, and that there are cases of grounding explanation that are prima facie not between facts, but between things. These cases show that the fact-view has a burden to satisfy, and its defenders have not satisfied that burden. I then argue that what I call the stratification desideratum—that grounding is posited to explain the layered structure to the world—is not satisfied by the fact-view. The combination of these two problems give us reason to consider an alternative view of grounding.
September 26, 2014:
Jason Lemmon will be presenting "A Defense of Joyce’s Moral Fictionalism." The paper is part of a larger project on moral fictionalism that Jason was working on this summer. The focus in this 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 Research 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 Research 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.
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 Research 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 Research 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 Research 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 Research 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 essencei.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 Research 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 Research 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 Research 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.
Graduate Student Research 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 Research 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 Research 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 Research 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.
December 7, 2007: "PRACTICAL REASONING AND THE CASE FOR PRAGMATIC ENCROACHMENT" Steve Swartzer
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 Research 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 Research 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 Research 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.