Abstracts are arranged alphabetically by author. To find a particular abstract, use your browser's search-in-page function (control- or command-f).
Romantic Love for a Reason (Thursday Afternoon)
Berit Brogaard, University of Miami
In contemporary and historical contributions to the philosophy of love there has been considerable resistance to three claims concerning romantic love. 1. Romantic love is love for a reason, 2. romantic love is assessable for rationality, 3. romantic love is reason-responsive. In this talk I argue that these three ideas are intimately tied together. I offer justification for all three claims on the basis of more general considerations of the nature of emotions as well as evidence in support of the claim that romantic love is best rendered a complex emotion that has evolved in order to facilitate pair-bonding during the early years of child rearing.
What can Western Political Philosophers Learn from Chinese Philosophy? (Wednesday Afternoon)
Erin Cline, Georgetown University
Confucian philosophers offered a variety of arguments concerning the role of the family in a good society. How did their views differ from those of Western philosophers, and how can they serve as a constructive resource for political philosophers and policymakers today? This talk introduces some of the distinctive features of Confucian views on the family and their potential for helping us to address questions in political philosophy, ethics, and public policy. Close attention is given to Confucian arguments for the unique and irreplaceable role of parent-child relationships during the earliest years of children's lives, and their insistence on ethical and political theories that reflect and inform actual practice. Attention is also given to how we might extend and apply Confucian insights in order to develop and defend practices and policies that can help to address some of the challenges facing modern liberal democracies today.
Gill on Sentiment-Based Moral Pluralism (Friday Afternoon)
Rachel Cohon, University at Albany, S.U.N.Y.
Michael Gill distinguishes moral pluralism, defined as the view that there are multiple independent bases of our moral judgments that sometimes mandate incompatible actions, from moral monism (all our moral judgments are ultimately based on a single end or principle) and from two other forms of moral multiplism: the views that there are indeed many ultimate ends or principles but either these never conflict with one another or they fall into a hierarchy that resolves all conflicts. Gill examines a number of ethical theories of the past and present through the lens of these distinctions, defending his illuminating classifications. He finds in Hume a basic schema for a type of moral pluralism that treats sentiment as the ultimate source of all our moral ends. Hume draws on a limited set of sentiments, but these limitations are not part of what Gill means by Humean moral pluralism (HMP); present-day investigators such as Haidt, Prinz, and Nichols turn out to be Humean moral pluralists as well though they invoke different basic sentiments. I take up three parts of the book. First, while I agree that Hume commits himself to moral pluralism, I wonder whether, given his over-all ethical theory, he can consistently defend it. Second, I consider whether Gill's very promising reply to what he calls the justification objection to pluralism (chapter 8) is completely successful, and whether, given the nature of his reply, a realistic form of pluralism such as neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics would fare just as well as HMP. Third, I argue that while Gill is surely right that Benn's "principled trade-off" alternative to pluralism cannot justify all our moral decision-making (chapter 9), it might provide more justification than he claims.
Kant's Publicity Principle As Dynamic Consent (Wednesday Afternoon)
Yi Deng (University of North Georgia)
In the second appendix to Perpetual Peace (PP), Kant introduces his publicity principle as the standard for determining justice or national and international policy, and claims, “all actions relating to the rights of others are wrong if their maxim is incompatible with publicity” (PP 8: 381). In this paper, after introducing various interpretations of the publicity principle, including publicity as mutual knowledge, publicity as general consent, publicity as negotiable consent, I will promote publicity as dynamic consent as a recursive justification of the publicity principle, which requires relevant agents’ moral incentives and dynamic knowledge. By incorporating the modal condition of negotiable consent and the practical effectiveness of mutual knowledge, the publicity principle works as a practical extension of general consent in a non-ideal world.
Margaret Cavendish on Laws and Order (Saturday Afternoon)
Karen Detlefsen, University of Pennsylvania
The early modern period saw a significant evolution of the idea of law, a concept closely related to order. Throughout this period, the idea emerges that laws can apply beyond the domain of rational beings by governing non-rational nature as well. There is also increasing tolerance for the belief that there could be laws without God as their source. Thus there is a shift from thinking of laws as prescriptive and applying to the practical, normative order only, to the belief that laws can be descriptive and relevant in theoretical philosophy, too. Yet another development sees the movement away from taking laws as causally constitutive of regularities in a metaphysically robust way, toward taking laws as descriptions of regularities derived from experimental philosophy with no strong connection to metaphysical underpinnings. Margaret Cavendish occupies an interesting position in this changing conception of laws, though for her, the emphasis is squarely on order, even while this emphasis has implications for how we think about laws of nature. In keeping with the dominant pre-modern way of thinking, she believes that only rational beings are able to conduct themselves in an orderly (and also, in a willfully disorderly) fashion. But her view of rationality represents a radical departure from dominant views on rationality, and as a result, she attributes rational, orderly (and thus lawful) behavior to all parts of the natural world. And so she also presages some aspects of developments in thinking about laws that we see in Hume, namely the idea that laws can be descriptive accounts of natural regularities. Cavendish thus occupies an interesting middle position, which entails a conception of laws that includes both prescriptive and descriptive features.
Retributivism and Capital Punishment (Saturday Morning)
David Dolinko, UCLA School of Law
Many scholars today adopt a retributive approach to the purpose and justification of criminal punishment, while disagreeing on the details. In particular, they disagree about what implications, if any, a retributive account of punishment has on the moral propriety of the death penalty. At first glance such an account may seem to favor capital punishment, but there is reason to think that retributivism neither supports nor precludes executing the most culpable criminals. Recently, however, several writers have contended that retributivism, properly understood, commits one to reject death as a punishment. I seek to challenge this contention and to case doubt on the soundness of the arguments that its proponents have employed.
Author Meets Critics: Michael Gill's Humean Moral Pluralism (Friday Afternoon)
Don Garrett, New York University
In his new book, Michael Gill defines "Humeanism" as the view that human sentiments are causally essential to the activity of human moral judgment and that there exist no mind-independent moral properties that human moral judgments track. He defines "moral pluralism" as the view that there is a multiplicity of ultimate moral ends that can come into conflict with one another without an invariable ordering principle for resolving all such conflicts. I aim to assess both Gill's interpretive claim that Hume was a Humean pluralist and his theoretical claim that Humeanism and moral pluralism constitute a natural and philosophically powerful combination.
Group Agents, Non-Rational Animals, and Legal Personhood (Wednesday Afternoon)
Jon Garthoff (University of Tennessee)
The claim that corporations are not people is perhaps the most frequently voiced criticism of the United States Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. There is something obviously correct about this claim. While the nature and extent of our obligations with respect to group agents like corporations and labor unions is far from clear, it is manifest in moral understanding and deeply embedded in legal practice that there is no general requirement to treat them like natural persons. Group agents may be denied rights to marry, to vote, or to run for public office. More generally the need to guard against problematic discrimination, the core injustice in racism and sexism, has no direct application to the case of group agents. There is also something obviously incorrect about the claim that corporations are not people. The legal practice of treating at least some group agents as persons under law is ancient, found already in Roman law at the time of Justinian. This legal practice was greatly expanded during the 13th century by Pope Innocent IV, who counted municipalities, universities, monasteries, churches, and guilds as legal persons. It was expanded further in the 17th and 18th centuries with the advent of joint-stock companies first in Amsterdam, then later in London and elsewhere, as corporations became a crucial vehicle for economic investment. The contemporary corporate form arose later still in the context of industrialization, as the practice of limiting the liability of shareholders for corporate actions only to their investment in the corporation was developed and enshrined; and the status of limited liability corporations as legal persons was firmly established in United States case law by the end of the 19th century. In this essay I propose that reflection on how to reconcile the sense in which group agents are persons with the sense in which they are not reveals that fundamental revision to the doctrine of legal personhood is needed. More specifically I propose that legal personhood be decomposed into at least two elements — standing and liability — and that legal systems reject the principle that an entity possesses one just in case it also possesses the other. The integration of standing and liability, a central part of the doctrine of legal personhood throughout its history, results from modeling the legal status of group agents too closely on that of natural persons. The import of this point ramifies well beyond United States campaign finance, indeed well beyond the legal status of group agents. Decomposing legal personhood also makes possible a satisfactory account of the legal status of severely mentally disabled people, very young children (including fetuses), and more generally animals with phenomenal consciousness but lacking the cognitive capacities to understand reasons and justifications.
Resolving the tension between explore and exploit reasoning: Childhood as simulated annealing. (Friday Afternoon)
Alison Gopnik, University of California at Berkeley
I will argue for a theoretical link between the development of an extended period of immaturity in human evolution and the emergence of powerful and wide-ranging causal learning and reasoning mechanisms, particularly the use of causal models and Bayesian learning. In the past 15 years we've discovered that even young children are adept at inferring causal structure from statistical patterns. But can they also learn more abstract theoretical principles? And are there differences in the ways that younger children, older children and adults learn that might be relevant to our extended immaturity? I will present two case-studies showing that preschoolers can learn abstract higher-order principles from data. The examples involve abstract relations (same vs. different), and abstract logical forms (AND vs. OR). In each case, younger learners were actually better at inferring unusual or unlikely principles than older learners. I relate this to computational ideas about search and sampling and to evolutionary ideas about human life history. Our hypothesis is that childhood is evolution's way of performing simulated annealing — a computational strategy in which an early period of broad exploration is followed by later more focused exploitation. Our distinctively long human childhood allows a period of broad "high-temperature" hypothesis search, in which the primary aim is to match the structure of the environment, which can then inform a later low-temperature "exploit" strategy in which the primary aim is to act effectively. The variability and noisiness that is so characteristic of young minds and brains has distinct cognitive advantages particularly in variable and unpredictable environments. It comes, however, with the cost of greater caregiving investment, and humans also seem to be particularly adapted for such investment with the distinctive "triple-threat" of pair-bonding fathers, grandmothers and alloparents.
Facticity and the Jewish Condition (Wednesday Afternoon)
Sarah Hammerschlag, University of Chicago
The publication of Emmanuel Levinas's wartime notebooks in 2009 provide an important missing puzzle piece in understanding the trajectory of Levinas's thinking. In this paper I will use the evidence from the notebooks to describe how the experience of Jewish persecution inflected Levinas's rethinking of Martin Heidegger's description of facticity. Rethinking this crucial moment in Levinas's development shifts our conception of his project by revealing that the ethical relation arises out of a desire to integrate the experience of being riveted to being, a state that Levinas identifies strongly with the experience of Jewish persecution and the impulse toward transcendence. It is clear already in the notebooks that the experience of being Jewish provides Levinas with the paradigm for conceiving of the paradoxical identity of transcendence with persecution.
Confirmation via Analogue Simulation: A Bayesian Account (Saturday Afternoon)
Stephan Hartmann, LMU Munich
Analogue simulation is a novel mode of scientific inference found increasingly within modern physics, and yet all but neglected in the philosophical literature. Experiments conducted upon a table-top system are taken to provide insight into features of an inaccessible target system, based upon a syntactic isomorphism between the relevant modeling frameworks. In a recent paper it was argued that there exists circumstances in which confirmation via analogue simulation can obtain -- in particular when the robustness of the isomorphism is established via universality arguments. This paper supports these claims via an analysis in terms of Bayesian confirmation theory. The paper is based on joint work with Radin Dardashti, Karim Thebault, and Eric Winsberg.
Philosophy of Mind is Dead. Long Live Philosophy of Mind! (Thursday Morning)
Matthew Haug, The College of William & Mary
Recent years have seen a number of attacks on the philosophy of mind, claiming that both its methodology and the questions it seeks to answer are deeply misguided. On some of these views, the metaphysics of mind, in particular, should be replaced by other types of inquiry, such as linguistic anthropology, philosophy of the cognitive sciences, or the cognitive sciences themselves. I outline a naturalistic framework that allows us to identify the grain of truth in such attacks. Even if we accept the methodological critiques, we need not deny that there are distinctive questions for metaphysicians of mind to address. I illustrate how these questions can be "genuinely significant," even by pragmatists' lights, by directly bearing on the future course of research in the sciences of the mind.
Love Is As Love Does? Functionalism, Constructionism, and Romantic Love (Thursday Afternoon)
Carrie Jenkins, University of British Columbia
In a recent paper and in my forthcoming book, I am developing a functionalist view of the metaphysics of romantic love. On this view, the functional role of love is (at least partly) socially constructed, while its realizers are (at least partly) biological or natural. In this paper I explore a few of the modal and moral implications of my metaphysics of love, focusing on the possibility and the permissibility of change (at the level of the role, the realizer, or both).
Katherine and The Katherine: On the Syntactic Distribution of Names and Nouns (Thursday Morning)
Robin Jeshion, University of Southern California
Names are referring expressions. "Katherine" as it occurs in "Katherine wants a coffee" contributes an individual to the proposition expressed; it is of semantic type e. Names interact with the determiner system only exceptionally and in ways that differ dramatically from those of count nouns and mass nouns. Some expressions that may appear to be names are not in fact names. "Katherine" as it occurs in "Only one Katherine applied for the job" is not a proper name. It is a count noun whose extension includes all and only individuals who bear the name "Katherine"; it is of semantic type . Qua count noun, it shares exactly the same syntactic distribution with the determiner system as ordinary count nouns like "cat". Predicativists like Matushansky and Fara claim otherwise. They maintain that in both sentences "Katherine" is a predicate, is of semantic type , yet belongs to a special syntactic category, the category of name count nouns — in contrast with the category of ordinary count nouns. Name count nouns differ from ordinary count nouns in how they interact with the determiner system. Whereas ordinary count nouns cannot occur bare in the singular ("Cat wants water"*), name count nouns can ("Katherine wants a coffee"). And whereas ordinary count nouns can occur with "the" in the singular, even when unstressed ("The cat wants water"), name count nouns cannot ("The Katherine is dancing"*). I argue that predicativists' key syntactic data is incorrect. "The Katherine is dancing" is grammatical when "Katherine" occurs as an ordinary count noun though ungrammatical when it occurs as a proper name. "Katherine wants a coffee" is grammatical when "Katherine" occurs as a proper name, though ungrammatical when it occurs as a count noun. I also offer extensive additional syntactic data for doubting predicativism and favoring referentialism about names.
Does evaluative use of epistemic discourse come first? (Wednesday Afternoon)
Klemens Kappel, University of Copenhagen
Epistemic expressivists hold that epistemic discourse (attributions of knowledge and justified belief) generally serves an evaluative function. We use epistemic discourse to express particular kinds of evaluations of beliefs and of ways of forming beliefs. Thus, the primary aim of epistemic discourse is to issue a particular sort of evaluation of these states and processes, not merely to describe the states or processes. Epistemic expressivists offer a theory of the evaluative component of epistemic discourse. But plausibly epistemic discourse is also used for purely descriptive purposes, i.e. to express propositions made true by a particular type of epistemic states or processes, or to describe epistemic facts or properties. Expressivists could admit this. However, expressivists could hold, and typically do hold, that the evaluative function of epistemic discourse comes first. In some sense the evaluative function of epistemic discourse is primary, and the descriptive function secondary. In the paper I suggests and discuss some ways in which one might say that the evaluative function of epistemic discourse is primary. Many (indeed most) epistemologists reject epistemic expressivism. It is not that they deny that epistemic discourse can serve evaluative functions. Rather, they hold that this is better accounted for in other ways than by adopting expressivism about epistemic discourse. What these views tend to assume (or so I suggest) is that the descriptive - rather than the evaluative - use of epistemic discourse is primary. I discuss a couple of such proposals and consider whether they can account equally well for the evaluative use of epistemic discourse.
Contrast or Continuum? The Case of Belief and Imagination (Thursday Morning)
Amy Kind, Claremont McKenna College
In recent years, the standard folk psychological categorization of mental states has increasingly come under fire. Some of the worries come from consideration of neuroscience, with eliminativists predicting that our mental state categories are unlikely to hold up as we learn more about the brain. More generally, however, there is a sense that a wide swath of philosophical problems might best be solved (or perhaps dissolved) by a re-examination of our standard taxonomies. In some cases — as with aliefs and i-desires — it's charged that we need to introduce new mental states categories that have previously gone unrecognized. In other cases — as with besires — it's charged that we need to rethink the divisions we already have, that some of our categorizations might best be understood as continuums rather than as divisions. To think about the future of philosophy of mind, then, it is clear that we must think about the future of folk psychology. In this paper, I attend to this issue by focusing specifically on the case of belief and imagination. Are such mental states to be as sharply distinguished as folk psychology proposes, or would we do better to think instead of a belief-imagination spectrum and recognize an intermediary — what has been sometimes called bimagination — between these two extremes? As I will suggest, though the future of philosophy of mind will undoubtedly witness dramatic changes to our basic folk psychology categorizations, the categories of belief and imagination need nonetheless to be retained.
Philosophy Finds Itself in a Bit of a Situation (Saturday Afternoon)
Rebecca Kukla, Georgetown University
I will argue that a great deal of philosophy has long been driven by a fear of situatedness. This fear has recently heightened to a moral panic in the discipline, as the possibility of unsituated knowledge has come increasingly under both theoretical and practical fire. Hegel accused Kant and his modernist predecessors of being driven by a fear of error; this fear, he argued, led to ultimately unworkable programs designed to inscribe, protect, and boundary-police a domain of certainty, free from epistemic risk. I claim that likewise, many contemporary philosophical projects are driven by the desire to inscribe, protect, and boundary-police an unmarked and universal perspective, even while that unmarked domain continues to shrink under various assaults. I hypothesize that the - or at least a - future of philosophy lies in its coming to terms with the fact that all perspectives are situated within social networks of meaning and power all the way down, and reconstructing itself from within that recognition. Right now we are caught in a dialectic between attempts to show that various traditional philosophical notions are contextually variant and stunted by the exclusion of diverse voices, and attempts to double down and re-inscribe the "˜safe' domain of the unmarked. Consider discussions of "˜pragmatic encroachment' in epistemology: the language of "˜encroachment' itself indicates that even those arguing for ineliminably situatedness often view it as a threatening form of trespassing into pure domain in need of protection. We need to move on to positive projects in philosophy that begin by assuming that situated perspectives are the only perspectives there are. To exemplify the dialectic we need to overcome, I will briefly discuss standpoint epistemology. I will argue that standpoint theory is not only basically correct, but obviously and mundanely so. The various stock arguments against it, I claim, are motivated misreadings born of a deep-seated fear of situatedness and a desire to (question-beggingly) smuggle back in the assumption of an unmarked perspective. I will give a few examples of everyday ways in which knowledge practices are marked by socially structured standpoints, and run through the standard objections, which I will try to show are symptoms of a systematic pathology of the sort that I have described.
Interspecies Politics (Saturday Afternoon)
Will Kymlicka, Queen's University
Western political theorists have largely ignored the animal question, assuming that animals have no place within our theories of democracy, citizenship, membership, sovereignty, and the public good. Even those who acknowledge that animals might be entitled to a certain moral status and to certain moral rights — and hence that animals belong to the moral community — resist the idea that animals should be seen as members of the political community, or that human-animal relations can be characterized as political relations. Animals may be part of our moral world, and perhaps even part of our social world who live and work alongside us, but they are not part of "politics", which remains conceived as an exclusively human sphere of activity. This paper traces the historic origins of this exclusion of animals from political theory, as well as recent attempts to overcome it. We argue that this exclusion reflects a number of assumptions about both the moral purpose of politics and about the circumstances that make politics possible. These assumptions are so deeply entrenched in the Western tradition of political philosophy that they are rarely made explicit, let alone defended. But we will argue they are outdated, and indeed inconsistent with many core tenets of contemporary liberal-democratic political philosophy. We offer an alternative account of the purposes and circumstances of politics which would put human-animal relations squarely within the realm of the political, and we explore how this requires rethinking fundamental political concepts such as citizenship and sovereignty. While some commentators worry that an interspecies conception of politics will inevitably weaken the moral force of ideas of citizenship and sovereignty, we will argue that on the contrary it helps clarify and deepen our understanding of their moral significance
Theorizing 'The Before' (Wednesday Afternoon)
Jennifer McKitrick, Philosophy Department
What were things like before social construction? What was the state of nature like? I take these questions to have analogues that are not necessarily historical or diachronic, such as "What is given?" and "What is natural?" This presentation will not try to answer such questions, but consider the prospects for addressing them. In particular, I am interested in reasons for dismissing or resisting such questions. One reason is that past attempts to answer such questions have been self-serving; they have masked ideology and socially constructed reality as given. Combining that with an association between naturalness and inevitability, permanence, and normativity is problematic, since doing so can provide tools for hegemony. Another reason not to investigate The Before is that the prospects for answering such questions are hopeless; because we only have our socially constructed concepts and perspectives to work with, it is impossible to grasp or describe any sort of pure pre-social or extra-social reality. It is not clear that these are adequate reasons for metaphysicians to be disinterested in such questions. The fact that some philosophers have given politically problematic answers to metaphysical questions is not a conclusive reason to be disinterested in such questions. And lack of direct, unfiltered access to mind-independent reality is not a reason to think that theorizing about that reality is hopeless. Furthermore, there is no necessary connection between what came before and what is inevitable, permanent and good. Since it is reasonable to believe that something came before, even if we know not what, what we should be resisting is any reason to accept that the status quo is inevitable, permanent, and morally unproblematic. While investigating The Before presents various challenges, these challenges do not constitute conclusive reasons to refrain from trying to adress such questions.
An Abstract Evaluation of the Uniqueness/Permissiveness Debate (Thursday Afternoon)
Christopher Meacham, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
In this talk I'll discuss the arguments for and against Evidential Uniqueness at the most abstract level, and evaluate the potential merits of various considerations that have been offered for/against Evidential Uniqueness in light of this.
No Justice, No Peace: Racial Violence, Epistemic Death and Insurrection (Wednesday Afternoon)
Jose Medina, Vanderbilt University
Those protesting against the killing of Michael Brown in the summer of 2014 were often accused of disturbing the peace. But what peace? One of their slogans was "No Justice, No Peace", which was a way of denouncing that there was no peace to be disturbed to begin with, that such peace was the dangerous and harmful illusion of a privileged few sheltered from the structural violence under which the black majority of Ferguson lives: systematic police brutality, extreme poverty, high unemployment, lack of representation in public institutions (from law enforcement to municipal, state, and federal offices), etc. Denying these realities, indulging in the fiction of a social peace that most members of society do not enjoy, that itself is a form of violence, epistemic violence: appealing to this illusory peace reenacts the very violence that it purports to deny, redoubling a silence by pretending that those being silenced have equal voice, equal representation, equal access to institutions, etc. Epistemic violence of this sort is intimately connected with other forms of violence that helps to facilitate (psychological violence, symbolic violence, institutional violence, and physical and material violence—from being beaten to being denied access to health care and social services). Epistemic violence can rise to the level of killing someone as a subject of knowledge and understanding, what I call epistemic death. I will discuss the different phenomena involved in epistemic death: killing voices, rendering their meanings unintelligible, undermining trust, etc. Building on my analysis of epistemic death, I will offer an argument for epistemic insurrectionism according to which strategies of disobedience, resistance and disruption have to be mobilized to fight against oppressive epistemic dynamics. Following Kristie Dotson and drawing from the insurrectionist tradition, I will elucidate the kinds of epistemic insurrectionary acts that are required for resisting epistemic violence.
Novel evidence for the argumentative theory of reasoning (Friday Afternoon)
Hugo Mercier, University of NeuchÃ¢tel
The argumentative theory of reasoning suggests that the main function of human reasoning is to argue: to find arguments to convince others, and to evaluate others' arguments to be convinced when warranted. Support for this theory has come so far from reviewing work in several domains of psychology. Here I will present novel experimental evidence supporting the theory's predictions: 1) argumentative competence is universal and early developing; 2) the improvement of performance in group discussion stems from sound argumentative competence; 3) there is an asymmetry in the way people evaluate their own and other people's arguments.
Mary Wollstonecraft and the Ambivalence of Modernity (Thusday Afternoon)
Natalie Nenadic, University of Kentucky
The continental tradition (e.g., Nietzsche, Heidegger, Frankfurt School, Arendt) has variously drawn our attention to ambivalent aspects of modernity, especially its notion of freedom. I claim that Mary Wollstonecraft's thought may be considered a harbinger of another needed critique of modernity in this vein, but here centered on its ambivalent relation to women. Her work criticizes the Enlightenment's gendered idea of "universal" freedom, which assumes humanity to be divided into two ontological kinds distinguished by sex, with each accorded the freedom appropriate to it. I show how Wollstonecraft uses methods that Rousseau employed to criticize Aristotle's similar division of humanity into two natural kinds, slave-like peoples and free peoples, so that she may show how a gendered freedom simultaneously advances and masks mass harms to women. This historical treatment of modernity's problematic freedom offers insights into how a gendered notion of freedom continues today to promote and mask mass harms to women, especially various forms of sexual abuse and violence.
Epistemically Faultless False Beliefs (Thursday Morning)
Kate Nolfi, University Of Vermont
A starting point for the sort of alethic epistemological approach that dominates both historical and contemporary western philosophy is that epistemic evaluation is evaluation with respect to a set of norms, standards, or ideals, characterized, at least in part, by appeal to some kind of substantive, perhaps explanatorily fundamental, normative relationship between belief and truth. Accordingly, on the alethic approach, false beliefs necessarily and inevitably fall short, epistemically speaking, simply by virtue of their falsity. I propose here an alternative to the alethic approach, one that is inspired by recent developments in psychology and cognitive science, and which takes seriously the old idea that part of what makes belief the distinctive type of mental attitude it is is that beliefs have a specific action-enabling job to perform or purpose to fulfill—i.e. a constitutive, and explanatorily fundamental action-enabling proper function—within our mental economies. I argue that this sort of action-oriented approach in epistemology both can and should deny that falsity, in and of itself, inevitably constitutes a kind of epistemic imperfection in belief.
Photographing Ignorance, Seeing Otherwise (Wednesday Afternoon)
Mariana Ortega, John Carroll University
Photographing Ignorance, Seeing Otherwise Contemporary discussions regarding the epistemology of ignorance concentrate on the various ways in which the lives, knowledge production, and experience of members of marginalized or non-dominant groups are distorted, ignored, or even made invisible by epistemic practices. They also alert us to the oppression and injustice perpetuated by such practices. Charles Mills' writing on the racism, and white privilege inherent in Western philosophical views has sparked tremendously important work on the ways in which more and more ignorance regarding marginalized populations, be it in terms of race, sexuality, gender, ability and so on, continues to be created and the manner in which these populations may suffer what José Medina calls "epistemic death." In the following presentation, I wish to discuss how artistic practices, cultural artifacts, and other aesthetic creations can perpetuate ignorance. In her recent monograph on aesthetics, The Cultural Promise of the Aesthetic, Monique Roelofs writes that "the aesthetic constitutes an uncannily resonant point of interest for a critical encounter with ignorance (2014, 108)." In her view, the aesthetic is connected to embodiment, social life, and the sensory, thus having the capability of forming "patters of awareness and obliviousness, affectivity and disassociation" (108). In the first section, I discuss the connection between aesthetics and the production of ignorance and invisibility, and how, according to Roelofs, there are aestheticized matrices of knowledge and ignorance in all areas of existence (111). Moreover, in the second section, I analyze a specific mode of photographic representation, and its double-movement of both bringing to light the existence and history of particular racial and sexual identities while at the same time creating ignorance. I concentrate on photographic representations of Latinidad.
Friendship and the Nature of the Stoic Good (Friday morning)
Carissa Phillips-Garrett, Rice University
Friendship occupies an important place in Stoic philosophical thought, but it also produces several puzzles regarding the sage’s good and the nature of friendship, both of which are underexplored in the existing literature. The first puzzle begins because friendship seems to be a good for the Stoics, and, as a good, friendship must benefit the Stoic sage by adding to her good. However, the sage’s good should already be complete; that is simply what it is to be a sage. Thus, the Stoic seems to face a dilemma: either friendship is not a good (and thus cannot contribute to the sage’s good), or friendship is a good, but the sage’s good is not complete. This additionally suggests the more general worry that applies beyond friendship: since the sage should already have complete happiness, how can her happiness be added to? In response, I reject both the suggestion that friendship should be considered a preferred indifferent instead of a good and also a reading of Seneca’s discussion of the goodness of friendship in Ad Lucilium epistulae morales 109 on which friendship is good because it helps to maintain virtue. Instead, I suggest a way forward by noting that although a sage’s virtue is complete, the exercise of certain virtues still requires friendship. Thus, although the practice of certain virtues occurs in friendship, this does not threaten the completeness of the sage’s virtue itself. The second puzzle is related: the sage’s happiness must be stable and non-contingent. However, friendship is a necessarily relational good, and thus will be contingent on an agent other than the sage herself, which threatens her self-sufficiency. Moreover, the solution to the first puzzle seems to feed this worry, since friendship is necessary for the practice of some types of virtue. I argue that because of the nature of Stoic friendship, however, the Stoic sage is still self-sufficient because she is not dependent on anything particular about a friend, but rather, upon the benefits of their friendship, which can easily be replaced if it is lost. If replacement of one’s friends thus is easy, then the sage’s happiness is still up to her, and so her self-sufficiency is not threatened by the loss of a friend. This further suggests that while friendship or having a friend ought to be understood as a good, having a particular friendship or friend is not a good but rather a preferred indifferent. In the symposium version of the paper, I then argue that although the solution is philosophically consistent, the Stoics have two incompatible goals for friendship: intimacy and interchangeability. As demonstrated in Seneca’s and Cicero’s accounts, the intimacy of love and friendship require that we are not entirely self-sufficient. If the view of friendship advised by the Stoics is possible, then the Stoic sage is unable to truly have intimacy with anyone, even another Stoic sage. While this is certainly consistent with Stoic thought, it seems both psychologically improbable (perhaps impossible) and selfish.
Un-wesen: Tarrying with the Negative in Heidegger's Black Notebooks (Wednesday Afternoon)
Richard Polt, Xavier University
What is Heidegger for? What is he against? Is he pro-Nazi or anti-Nazi? Is he anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish? When his Black Notebooks describe the world around him in terms of machination, subjectivity, and the will to power, is he condemning these phenomena or celebrating them?
These questions are too simplistic, since Heidegger writes, “Whoever encounters the Un-wesen by merely negating it is not yet ready for the Wesen either”; a thinker’s “no-saying … is the struggle for the most essential yes.” The German prefix un- connotes deformity and malignity, so the Un-wesen is the degenerate essence. This degenerate essence is not inessential, and it must be “affirmed” in a certain sense. This thought becomes especially important when Heidegger writes that he “affirms” National Socialism even though he has recognized that it is not the new inception he craves, but rather the most extreme form of the modern will to power. This affirmation is a kind of amor fati that says yes to a catastrophe that is needed to make room for another possibility.
The complexities of Heidegger’s positions should not be abused to construct excuses for his behavior or thought. His attitude toward the essence and the degenerate essence involves an appalling indifference to concrete victims, whose suffering he dismisses as merely inessential. I will ask whether such failures of insight and sympathy are also risked by Heidegger’s other ways of conceiving of the “deficient” and the “essential” in both his earlier and later thought, and whether such risks face all philosophy—which, in spite of everything, remains a search for essences.
Capacities, Roles, and Respect for Persons (Saturday Afternoon)
Grant Rozeboom, Stanford University
It is clear that respect for persons is an attitude of regarding others as persons. But what exactly goes into regarding others as persons in the relevant way? I explain how this attitude is plausibly conceived as one by which we accept the role-authority that others wield as adults, and I argue that this role-authority view improves upon a common Kantian view that casts respect for persons as an appreciation of the value that inheres in rational agency. In particular, I show how the role-authority view captures a central aspect of the functioning of respect for persons that the common Kantian view does not.
The Rational Significance of Etiological Information (Thursday Morning)
Joshua Schechter, Brown University
Learning information about the causal history of one's beliefs can rationally debunk (or vindicate) the relevant beliefs. Learning information about the causal history of one's desires, feelings, and conceptual apparatus can also have a debunking effect. In this talk, I explore the hypothesis that there is a unified account of etiological debunking that applies across all of these cases.
Why Permissivism Matters (for Rationality) and Why Rationality Matters (to Permissivists) (Thursday Afternoon)
Miriam Schoenfield, University of Texas at Austin/New York University
In the past few years permissivism has enjoyed somewhat of a revival, but it is once again being threatened, this time by a host of new and interesting arguments, which I'll call the "new anti-permissivist arguments". (These include arguments by Sophie Horowitz, Sinan Dogramaci, Daniel Greco and Brian Hedden). I take the core thought behind the new anti-permissivist arguments to be the following: if rationality is permissive, how can it matter? It has also been argued (by David Christensen, Ben Levinstein, Michael Titelbaum and Matthew Kopec) that permissivism, even if true, doesn't have the implications on disagreement and higher order evidence that it's frequently taken to have. The aim of this paper is resist both of these movements. Once we see how permissivism matters for rationality (it has implications on the rational response to disagreement) we'll also see why rationality matters to permissivists.
The--Problem with The--Predicativism (Thursday Morning)
Anders Schoubye, University of Edinburgh
Predicativism about proper names is the view that names are predicates. The—Predicativism is a variant of this view where it is assumed that when a singular name occurs in argument position of a predicate, it is the syntactic sister of a covert definite determiner. For example, the name 'Frank' in 'Frank is a plumber' is analyzed at LF as a constituent of a definite description, namely the description 'the Frank' (with 'the' phonologically null). Predicativist views became unpopular in the wake of Kripke's 'Naming and Necessity' lectures. There, Kripke provides persuasive arguments that proper names are rigid designators and this is a significant problem for the general Predicativist thesis. However, in recent years, proponents of The—Predicativism have proposed various alternative ways of remedying this problem, cf. Elbourne (2005), Matushansky (2006, 2008), and Fara (2015b). The purpose of this talk is to show that nothing has changed: the rigidity of proper names remains the Achilles heel of The—Predicativism. I argue this by demonstrating that these recent attempts to capture rigidity are either purely stipulative (and thus non-explanatory) or too general (and thus undermining of other aspects of the The—Predicativist view). Moreover, I will show that parts of the syntactic data often considered as evidence in favor of The—Predicativism will be undermined if rigidity is to be captured in a principled and systematic way.
Mary Astell: Toward an Intersectional Analysis (Thursday Afternoon)
Alice Sowaal, Dept of Philosophy
At this stage in the study of Astell, scholars are still mapping out the territory of her philosophical arguments and positions, writing exploratory papers that reconstruct her views, and often doing so for the first time in the secondary literature. They do so by focusing their attention on Astell's views regarding what we today call sexual and gender politics. In this regard, they follow a trend in research on early modern European women philosophers. However, this focus is limiting insofar as it overlooks many rich issues to be explored with respect to Astell's positions on other aspects of identity, such as race, class, sexuality, and nation. In this paper, I address this lacuna. First, I discuss some complicated ways in which such aspects of identity are at work in Astell's life and views, revealing that while Astell is not quite in step with the political views of her era on race, class, sexuality, and nation, neither is she entirely in step with those of twenty-first century feminists. Second, I explore two claims: (1) by examining Astell's identity and views on identity, we better understand aspects of her philosophical thinking and motivations; (2) by studying Astell's philosophical thinking, we better understand her identity, the kinds of knowledge (and ignorance) she has of others' identity, and her views on different axes of oppression.
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: Some Benefits of Rationalization
Jesse Summers (Duke University)
Some research suggests that the explicit reasoning we offer to ourselves and to others is rationalization, that we act instead on instincts, inclinations, stereotypes, habits, reactions, and, at best, unexamined principles, then tell a post hoc story to justify our actions. Although the research reaches its conclusions too quickly, I want to give a more precise characterization of rationalization and then ask why it should bother us if it’s true that we rationalize a great deal. One obvious drawback of rationalization is that it interferes with our praise and blame of others, and, similarly, it interferes with correct self-assessments and thus self-improvement. However, there are also benefits of rationalization. Rationalization allows us to work out, under practical pressure of rational consistency, which reasons are good reasons to act on. Such rationalization further prompts us to turn some meaningless decisions between merely permissible options into meaningful choices.
Classic Arguments in Chinese Philosophy (Panel on Learning from Chinese Political Philosophy) (Wednesday Afternoon)
Bryan Van Norden, Vassar College
There is an inaccurate stereotype that Chinese philosophy consists of nothing but (in the words of Justice Antonin Scalia) "the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie." In fact, Chinese philosophy is rich in argumentation and carefully thought-out positions. This talk is intended to introduce philosophers who are not specialists in Chinese or comparative thought to some of the most famous arguments in ancient Chinese philosophy, including a state-of-nature argument, a thought-experiment for universal impartiality, and a version of the circularity argument against justification.
(Very) Modest Epistemic Expressivism (Wednesday Morning)
Lisa Warenski, City College/CUNY
I consider whether normative epistemic judgments might, in some cases, admit of a modest expressivism. A normative epistemic judgment would be partially expressivist when an optimally-good system of epistemic norms, together with the total available evidence, underdetermines what an agent ought to believe or what credences she ought to have; and further, an assessor’s judgment from within this system of norms, in addition to complying with these norms, expresses an attitude that could be properly understood as epistemic. A normative judgment might also express a preference with respect to a choice of a system, in the event that there is no unique maximally-good system of epistemic norms. I suggest that one or both of these conditions may be met in certain specific kinds of cases.
I develop this very modest expressivism within a constructivist metaepistemology, a view that is analogous to some forms of metaethical constructivism. On the view, conditions for objectivity of normative judgment are grounded in the requirements of reason from within an epistemic perspective. Normative epistemic properties, such as justifiedness or reasonableness, are understood to be evaluative properties that are the resultants of epistemic norms. When we attribute a normative epistemic property to a doxastic attitude, we evaluate the attitude from within a system of epistemic norms, a system comprising belief-forming rules and standards of assessment for beliefs and other doxastic attitudes. However, the requirements of reason may underdetermine a choice of a system, or a normative judgment from within a system, in ways that allow for a restricted form of expressivism.
Anomalous Refutation of Idealism (Friday Afternoon)
Tung-Ying Wu, University of Missouri-Columbia
In the "Refutation of Idealism," Kant attacks Cartesian skepticism by arguing that our determination of time presupposes something permanent and objective. Georges Dicker's influential reading of it is causal, which entails physical objects outside us. However, Andrew Chignell presents a counterexample: a possible creature whose visual experiences contain a digital clock stamp that is not caused by any physical object. Hence Dicker's causal reading is in danger. I propose a different reading that justifies an inference to the existence of outer objects. My reading, which relies on something like Davidson's Anomolous Monism, is superior to Dicker's causal reading in that the anomalous reading does not require that one's past experiences be caused by physical objects in order to determine one's experiences' positions in time, while it still entails the existence of physical objects.
The Peaceable Commune: Animals and Anarchism (Saturday Afternoon)
Jason Wyckoff, University of Utah
Anarchism is often equated to anti-statism, but that is not all it is. Anarchism is first and foremost a rejection of hierarchy and domination. In positive terms: anarchists take the position that for any being whose interests are impacted by a social order, it is wrong to impose upon that being some social scheme, decision-making process, institutional framework, or rules that instrumentalize that being or subject her to the domination of others. To ask an anarchist to supply a more detailed social blueprint is to misunderstand anarchism's most fundamental moral commitments. But an anarchist can and should say something about what a rejection of hierarchy means for the relationships we in fact have with each other as well as the relationships we might imagine having in a world in which no one rules anyone else. In this talk, I will do three things. First, I will summarize an argument that I have made more fully elsewhere, the conclusion of which is that any plausible principles of justice preclude the creation of a class of sentient beings whose interests are systematically discounted in the operation of social and political institutions. This shifts attention from applied ethics to political philosophy. Second, I will argue that animals cannot justly be dominated by humans—that the core anarchist ideal of non-domination is incompatible with speciesism. I will begin this task by clarifying some of the concepts that anarchists usually employ, and then I will argue that the moral core of anarchism is plausible and entails a commitment to animal liberation. Third, I will try to draw out some of the implications of this thesis for political theory. Broadly speaking, which forms of association does it rule out and which forms might it recommend? And how might animals figure into the latter forms of association?