Capitalism and the Politics of Social Reproduction
Cinzia Arruzza, New School for Social Research
Social reproduction theory views capitalism as an articulated and moving totality of social relations rather than as a merely economic system. It emphasizes the centrality of the reproduction of society and of human beings and elucidates the internal relations between class exploitation, gender and racial oppression, rather than focusing exclusively on the sphere of production. In this paper I will discuss some of the political consequences that can be drawn from social reproduction theory’s conceptualization of capitalism. In particular, I will address the following questions: Does capitalism create its own gravediggers? How should we rethink the notions of class, class composition, and class consciousness? As I will argue, the perspective of social reproduction virtually dispenses with the logic of the subject of history and re-politicizes the notion of class struggle.
For Whom Do You Speak? And How? The Management of Identities on Social Media
Michael Barnes, Georgetown University
This paper explores the management and attribution of identity on social media. Looking here, I argue, improves our understanding of subordinating speech, both online and “IRL.” I begin by noting how, while it’s always been true, social media makes it even more evident how a person’s speech is always tied to their (ever shifting) socially constituted position. Whether it takes the form of a profile picture, a hashtag—e.g., #ImWithHer, #BlackLivesMatter, #MAGA—or an emoji—e.g., an American flag, Pepe the frog, a rose—social media brings new means of signaling one’s identity, along with one’s membership or allegiance to broader social groups. Like wearing a pin or a badge, this allows individuals to actively construct and manage the version of themselves they present to (one segment of) the world. What’s more, on social media this often occurs by citing or co-opting the speech acts of another. Speaking for oneself, in this context, often means speaking with the voice of another. At the same time, these tools also offer new ways for interpreting the identity of others, as well as imposing an (unwanted) identity onto another. Online harassment, like other forms of harassment, tends to pick out and objectify an individual based on visible markers of identity, and thus enables the coercive reduction of a person to (only) some aspect of their public presentation. Unique features like the speed and repetition in online harassment, however, reveal aspects of subordinating speech that are often overlooked. Here, I sketch an account of group authority, how it can be drawn upon to both construct and tear down, that takes lessons from online harassment and applies it to subordinating speech in general.
Stereotyping and Discrimination: Their Relationship and Why It Matters
Erin Beeghly, University of Utah
Commonly, theorists think of stereotyping and discrimination as standing in a relationship of cause and effect. Stereotyping causes discrimination, and discrimination causes stereotyping. Call this the causal claim. Though theorists tend to endorse the causal claim, they have another option. Rather than just being a cause of discrimination, stereotyping might itself constitute discrimination. Call this the constitutive claim. In this presentation, I encourage theorists to adopt the constitutive claim and defend it against five salient objections. I then argue that there are four big philosophical payoffs to thinking of stereotyping as a form of discrimination.
Philosophy Walks on the Wild Side: Transsexuality and the Curio
Amy Billingsley, University of Oregon
While interdisciplinary Trans Studies has achieved increased consolidation in recent decades through venues such as the Trans Studies Quarterly journal and the International Trans*Studies Conference (2016), and trans literature has received increased contemporary attention through social media and publication venues such as Vetch: A Magazine of Trans Poetry and Poetics, Philosophy has granted comparatively scant attention towards consolidating a Trans Philosophy. While the Hypatia Special Issue on Transgender Studies and Feminism (2009) and the Trans* Experience in Philosophy Conference (2016) mark moments pointing towards a possible future consolidation, the achievement of Trans Philosophy and the results of such a possible achievement remain to be seen. In this essay I will discuss philosophy’s interest in trans subjects (cf. the 2017 Hypatia debacle), which frequently proceeds without an awareness of trans politicization and history, in the context of an uncertain future for trans philosophers writing on trans subjects. I argue that philosophy’s practice of curiosity towards trans subjects exacerbates the ease with which trans subjects (and specifically transsexuals) are reduced to ahistorical curios ripe for philosophy’s gaze under publish-and-perish neoliberal higher education. By curio, I am referring to an object approached through curiosity, fascination, exoticization, and often eroticization by centering the curious gaze while stripping the object of its time and place. Despite the ease with which it is stripped of its history and place, I argue that transsexuality resists total reduction to a curio via its “world-historical” character (addressed in the history of the barbasco root and Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side"), through which trans subjects persist in their history, continuing lived experience, and practices of world-making despite continued institutional appropriation, exploitation, and foolhardy politicization. I end my presentation by discussing the uneven production of curios across trans difference.
Donald Trump in Defense of Democracy
Daniel Bonevac, University of Texas at Austin
A little more than a century ago, progressives sought to rein in forces they believed to be centralizing economic power in the hands of a small but powerful elite. They created the administrative state, the vast array of alphabet agencies in Washington that have grown to regulate almost every aspect of American life. Increasingly, the rules governing our political association come not from the President or the Congress, and certainly not from the people, but from unelected and largely unaccountable bureaucracies that make administrative law through a process that minimizes public input. They enforce that law through administrative courts that fail to offer due process protections to the accused. Legal remedies for wrongful administrative action are too risky and expensive for any but the wealthiest corporations to attempt. The administrative state has become “the anchor weighing us down,” in Donald Trump's words. It has maximized its own power, stifled economic growth, ignored the voice of the people, harmed the general welfare, and formed an alliance with politicians, powerful interest groups, and large corporations to concentrate power to an extent that the original progressives could scarcely have imagined. It has thus created a crisis of legitimacy. The most pressing issue facing our democracy, and the highest priority of the Trump administration, is to shift power from the administrative state back to the people and their representatives.
Recent Work on the Non-Identity Problem
David Boonin, University of Colorado
In my 2014 book, The Non-Identity Problem and the Ethics of Future People (Oxford University Press), I analyzed the non-identity problem as a conflict between five seemingly plausible premises and the seemingly implausible conclusion that follows from them, presented three criteria that any solution to the problem must satisfy in order to prove successful, provided a critical survey of the extant literature on the problem, and concluded that of all the solutions that the literature then contained, the one that did best by those criteria involved accepting the conclusion rather than rejecting one of the premises of the argument that leads to it. This approach to the non-identity problem involves accepting, for example, the claim that it is not immoral to conceive a child with a condition that will have a significant negative impact on that child’s quality of life even if one could easily conceive a child without such a condition instead. Most people who have written on the non-identity problem find accepting this kind of implication to be too big a price to pay, but in my book I argued that the price of accepting the alternatives was even greater. In the relatively short amount of time since the book’s publication, the literature on the non-identity problem has already grown considerably. In this paper, I will provide an overview of the solutions to the problem that have been offered in the last three or four years, including the approach that Derek Parfit was working on at the time of his death, provide a critical analysis of those recent developments that seem to be among the most important, and attempt to sustain the position I defended in my book in light of them.
Marriage, Contract, and Care
Elizabeth Brake, Arizona State University
Enmeshment in caring is a great good. It is also a source of vulnerability, especially as a form of paid and unpaid labor. How can liberal theory address these complexities of caring relations? I have previously argued that caring relationships and caregiving are goods which the liberal state should support, in part through “minimal marriage.” Here I address a difficulty for liberal theory in addressing the vulnerabilities arising from care. Allowing spouses to contract regarding marital property might seem to protect liberal freedom—yet also threaten women’s equality. What new insights can we glean from considering property division in same-sex marriages, in polyamory and polygamy, and through comparison with the vulnerabilities of paid caregivers?
Fabrizio Cariani, Northwestern University
This paper investigates the phenomenon of credal synergy (most recently discussed by Christensen and in a paper by Easwaran, Glynn Hitchcock and Velasco). Credal synergy is the idea that, when incorporating the credences of others within our information, we might land outside the interval spanned by those credences. For instance, if two independent witnesses report .8 credence that the bicycle thief wore a pink shirt, we might land at a probability value greater than 8 for the proposition that the bicycle thief wore a pink shirt. In this paper, I aim to do two things: first, to explore the prospects for synergy-like effects in the context of credence aggregation (most extant discussion focus on the related problem of credence update); second, to explore the possibility that effects like synergy might go in the opposite direction. For instance, that there might be cases in which two agents report credence .8, but the the aggregated credence ought to be less than .8.
A Duty to Grieve?
Michael Cholbi, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Robert Solomon’s “On grief and gratitude” is perhaps the best known contemporary philosophical article on grief. There Solomon makes the provocative claim that there is a duty to grieve—that those who do not grieve or do not grieve sufficiently are subject to “the most severe moral censure,” that grief is a “moral emotion” that is not only an “appropriate reaction to the loss of a loved one, but also in a strong sense obligatory.” While Solomon offer reasons why grief speaks positively of a person’s relations with others and why grief may contribute to the bereaved’s well-being, he does not offer an explicit argument for the obligatoriness of grief. Here I consider a number of routes by which such a claim might be defended. If there is a duty to grieve, its object must be other living people (those with whom one shares grief at a particular person’s death), the deceased for whom one grieves, or oneself. The first two, I argue, are likely to be candidates for duties of mourning, i.e., duties to engage in public or ritualistic memorialization or acknowledgements of the deceased’s death, etc. Only the last, a duty to grieve owed to oneself, is a credible candidate for a duty to grieve. For insofar as grief is an egocentric activity, it responds to the death of a person with whom one stands in an identity-constituting relationship and hence involves the attempt to re-establish or place on new terms that relationship in light of that individual’s death. The source of a self-concerning duty to grieve is that grief thus represents both an opportunity for, and motivator of, self-knowledge, that is, knowledge of one’s practical identity and values. The duty to grieve, I conclude, is a non-enforceable duty to oneself whose non-fulfillment should elicit agent-centered regret.
Social Media, Big Data, and the Ethics of Information Use
Tiffany Cvrkel, University of California, Los Angeles
In June 2017, Facebook hit 2 billion active monthly users, and millions of people use other social media platforms. The sheer volume of user-generated content in these formats is staggering, and it includes rich and nuanced information about beliefs, behaviors, associations, and attitudes. For social scientists who depend on data analysis, the potential applications are vast. In this paper, I consider how conventional approaches to research ethics do not address unique ethical challenges in the collection and use of social media data. I argue that an adequate standard of research ethics must take into consideration the functions that social media platforms have come to perform in community building, social support, and political activism. I conclude that even when social media data are ostensibly public, these functions have implications for the permissibility of ethical data collection and use.
Transformational Experiences of Respect and Love: Lessons from Douglass and Baldwin
Stephen Darwall, Yale University
In the past, I have argued that mutual respect among equal moral persons is a fundamentally second-personal relation of mutual accountability. But how do we come to recognize others in this way? There is no way of deriving fundamental second-personal authority from ethical values of other kinds; so how do we ground it? The most promising philosophical strategy, I claim, is a transcendental argument that reveals equal second-personal authority as an inescapable presupposition to which we are committed when we address any putatively justified claims and demands to one another. But what can give us an experience of others’ dignity? By analyzing Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” I show how Douglass uses second-personal address rhetorically to give his interlocutors an experience of their own accountability and commitment to mutual respect. Respect is an intrinsically juridical attitude that regards its object as having an authority to make claims of one and hold one accountable. Love, however, is not intrinsically juridical. It seeks reciprocation, like respect, but its form of reciprocity is not mutual accountability but a mutual openness that neither lover nor beloved can justifiably claim or demand: mutually open hearts. Through love, we make ourselves emotionally vulnerable and open to one another. The experience of love is the experience of another’s vulnerability and openness that makes us vulnerable and open in return, giving us a vivid sense of their value and worth as beings who matter beyond any issue of respectful treatment. Here my model is James Baldwin, whose writings and speeches, including his remarkable Cambridge Union debate with William F. Buckley, are interlaced both with insights about the nature and ethical and political significance of love as well as with an open and vulnerable loving practice that can elicit an open and loving experience in his interlocutors in return.
Realism and the Absence of Value
Shamik Dasgupta, University of California, Berkeley
Much recent metaphysics is built around notions such as naturalness, fundamentality, grounding, dependence, and essence. In this paper I raise a problem for this kind of metaphysics, the "problem of missing value". I survey a number of possible solutions to the problem and find them all wanting. This suggests a return to a kind of Goodman-esque view that the world is a structureless mess onto which we project our own categorizations, not something that comes with categories already built in.
Gender Appropriation: Not a Thing
Robin Dembroff, Yale University
Cat Saint-Croix, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
There is a wide consensus that it is permissible, if not obligatory, to prohibit a dominant culture from annexing the styles, speech, and activities traditionally associated with a marginalized culture, erasing that association in the process. The standard explanation given is that this extreme form of appropriation further oppresses an already subordinated group by silencing their unique expressions and representations. On the other hand, it seems wrong to constrict western masculinity in a way that precludes men from freely adopting aspects of western femininity. The growing acceptance of stay-at-home fathers, male cosmetics, and the incorporation of “feminine” cuts, fabrics, and accessories into men’s fashion seems morally neutral, if not laudable. This creates an interesting puzzle: given that women are subordinated in relation to men, the standard explanation for the harm of cultural appropriation would suggest that this “gender appropriation” also is morally problematic—that it silences the expression of feminine identity. We are left with the question of what, in fact, are the morally relevant asymmetries between these cases. We argue that prohibiting gender appropriation works to reinforce gender oppression, while prohibiting cultural appropriation does not reinforce cultural oppression.
Baldwin and the Dialectics of Racial Formation
John Drabinski, Amherst College
This essay explores the peculiar dialectical method at work in Baldwin’s early essays on race and identity. In particular, I focus on his account of whiteness as formed out of the abjection of blackness, which in turn produces white identity as inextricably bound to anti-black racism. The negative dialectics of this moment also produces the remainder Baldwin terms “the Negro”—an identity formed in the interstitial space of black life and produced in what he calls “the relation Negroes bear to one another.” This bearing, this relationship outside the social relation of racial formation, creates a sense of blackness that exceeds the white gaze and defines blackness—the Negro—as authentic Americanness.
Locke, God, and Materialism
Stewart Duncan, University of Florida
This paper considers Locke’s discussions of materialism, focusing on Essay 4.10. Here Locke—after giving a cosmological argument for the existence of God—argues that God could not be material, that matter alone could never produce thought, and that there could not have been eternal matter. The paper addresses three main questions. The first is about targets. Who, if anyone, is Locke arguing against here? The second question is about reasons. Locke argues against several materialist views here. Is there some central concern driving Locke's arguments, some connecting theme? The third question is about human minds. What connection is there between the discussions of Essay 4.10 and Locke’s discussion of the possibility that God might superadd thought to matter?
The Role of Despair and Terror in Thinking about Democracy
Saba Fatima, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Since the campaign and subsequent election of Donald Trump, there are has been a pervasive feeling of despair and terror among certain segments of population. For many marginalized, these feelings have always existed in relation to the state. This talk looks the ways we can give space to despair and terror in our dialogue around how a democracy functions vis-à-vis the shape of resistance within the current political state of affairs.
Perceptual Beginnings in Plato and Aristotle
Marc Gasser-Wingate, Boston University
Plato and Aristotle both take perception to be the starting point for our learning. But the role perception plays is quite different in each case: Plato thinks perception prompts our recollection of prenatal knowledge, while Aristotle takes it to provide the basic materials from which more advanced forms of knowledge are derived. In this paper I examine these differences and explore their broader significance in each author's epistemology.
Could Aristotle Countenance Inter-species Teleological Relations?
Jessica Gelber, University of Pittsburgh
My point of departure will be Aristotle's claim in Politics i.8 that plants are for the sake of animals and that animals are for the sake of humans. This passage has been thought to be problematic, but the precise nature of the problem has not been adequately articulated. I plan to offer a summary and assessment of the ways in which teleological relations between different kinds of beings might be in tension with Aristotle's metaphysics and natural science, as they are typically understood.
Problems and Potential in the Material Politics of Vulnerability
Erinn Gilson, University of North Florida
Recent feminist theory is marked by a surge of interest in concepts and themes related to the material, corporeal, and affective (e.g., new materialisms, affect theory, and discourses of vulnerability and precarity). The concept of vulnerability in particular has been treated extensively and endowed with special significance as a way of basing ethics and politics on the lived realities of corporeality and interdependency. Yet, some scholars express qualms about aspects of this turn to vulnerability, contending that it produces “an ethics of mortality and suffering” that seeks to evade politics (Honig 2010, 1). In response to these concerns, others call for renewed attention to method so as to avoid the “foundationalist move” that would posit vulnerability as an ontological ground for ethics and so take it to be exempt from political critique and contestation (Kramer 2015, 25). This essay begins from the premise that if vulnerability is to be central to new ways of envisioning politics and ethics, then a better understanding of the concept, its relations to other concepts, and its role in normative accounts is needed. It analyzes vulnerability in two senses: as an experience and affect that has become increasingly salient in the contemporary social world and as a theoretical concept or framework that is the subject of growing scholarly attention. In particular, I consider the tension between conceiving vulnerability as a universal ontological condition and as a situational condition that some experience far more than others, and argue that both dimensions are necessary for an account of vulnerability that is useful for anti-oppressive politics. Furthermore, as that tension reveals, vulnerability is characterized by complexity and ambiguity, but rather than representing a theoretical dead end, I contend that the potential of the concept can be found precisely in recognizing and responding to its ambiguity.
Women Philosophers 1600–1900: A Workshop
Kristin Gjesdal, Temple University
Elizabeth Goodnick, Metropolitan State University of Denver
This panel focuses on recent attempts to diversify curricula in the history of modern philosophy, broadly speaking. In their introductions, Elizabeth Goodnick and Kristin Gjesdal will discuss the fields of early modern and nineteenth-century philosophy, respectively. Goodnick’s presentation consists of two parts. First, she will provide three different models to incorporate women philosophers into undergraduate philosophy courses: (1) The Dialogue Model; (2) The Full Books Model; (3) The Topics Model. While her main focus will be on History of Modern Survey courses, she will also touch on other courses. Second, she will review various available and forthcoming resources (both online and in print) to aid in this process, including scholarly editions of primary texts, textbooks/anthologies, secondary literature and bibliographies, relevant videos and websites. Gjesdal will take as her point of departure a number of women philosophers in the German tradition and ask what kind of challenges and possibilities are involved in including their works into the standard curricula in Nineteenth-Century philosophy. She will discuss how such an inclusion challenges our standard understanding of this period, but also how it necessitates a rethinking of philosophical form and methodology. She will also survey various teaching resources, texts, translations, and websites. After the presentations, Goodnick and Gjesdal will lead a discussion on the experiences, challenges, and rewards of diversifying curricula in the history of modern philosophy. Particular attention will be paid to the inclusion of women philosophers and to comparing and sharing experiences across historical periods and cultural regions.
What Time Is It in Other Possible Worlds?
Martin Glazier,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Philosophers who countenance tensed facts face the question not only of what these facts are but of what they could have been. I show that the latter question raises a puzzle about what time it is in other possible worlds. The puzzle can be resolved, I argue, only by distinguishing two tensed notions of metaphysical modality.
Stacey Goguen, Northeastern Illinois University
Stereotypes seem capable of a range of psychological, moral, and epistemic harms. They also seem to be socially ubiquitous and deeply entrenched in human cognition. Therefore, is it possible to overcome stereotypes? If so, what would that look like? That is in part an empirical question, but as philosophers, we can help think through what our options might be. I argue that there are at least four different goals one might have in trying to overcome stereotypes and the damage they do: (1) mitigating specific adverse effects of stereotypes (2) replacing pernicious stereotypes with less harmful ones (3) preventing stereotypes from perpetuating oppressive ideologies (4) eliminating stereotypes from our thinking Considering these potential goals is important for thinking through education policy, norms within philosophy departments, and how individual philosophers structure their classrooms. One reason it is important is because it is not obvious that any of these goals are wholly satisfying or wholly feasible. Furthermore, they may conflict with one another in places. Despite that conflict, I argue that pursuing a mixed strategy is likely the best path forward. Also, thinking about the end goal for overcoming stereotypes provides insight for the debates over how we should define stereotypes and whether they are always morally and epistemically problematic.
Locke on Space, Time, and God
Geoffrey Gorham, Macalester College
Locke on Space, Time and God In comparison with two of his greatest influences, Descartes and Newton, Locke's views on the metaphysics of space and time have not been thoroughly investigated, even though Locke devoted considerable time and space to these ideas. Like his influences, and nearly all his contemporaries, Locke approaches the problems of space and time from several perspectives: metaphysical, scientific and theological. In this paper I argue that Locke arrives at a view similar to Newton's: space and time are absolute beings closely related to God's attributes of immensity and eternity. Besides the three chapters on space and duration in the published Essay, I rely on Draft C of the Essay, Locke's Examination of Malebranche and, especially, the 1697-8 correspondence with Van Limborch/Hudde. Besides the question of God's relation to space and time, I argue that these texts shed considerable light on several other metaphysical problems of continuing interest to Locke scholars, such as action at a distance and identity and co-location.
Recalcitrant Injustice and the Case for Epistemic Deference
Clifton Granby, Yale University
In the Epistemology of Resistance, José Medina aims to direct our attention to a richer account of the political and social character of epistemic interactions. By offering a more contextualized description of epistemic agency and responsibility, he demonstrates a deeper sensitivity to the variables—political, social, cultural, and historical—which give shape to our communicative exchanges. I raise three concerns for Medina’s position—all of which contribute to the claim that epistemic deference plays an essential, if undertheorized role in efforts to combat epistemic injustice. First, I draw attention to the existential factors that lurk behind various modalities of epistemic recalcitrance. I locate these powers of resistance in the significance that narration plays in the construction of our identities, both in our attempts to make sense of the actions of others and in the way we make sense of our own values, choices, and sources of existence. I argue that narratives, especially racial ones, often play a crucial role in the reproduction of certain identities, impacting how we navigate built environments. Second, I argue for an expanded account of epistemic sensibility that takes seriously the racially-coded nature of sound itself, especially defiant speech acts and other utterances. Third, I point to the dangers of merely focusing on the illuminating potential of double-consciousness without sufficiently paying attention to its limits. I conclude by arguing that appropriately marshaled epistemic deference must be an essential component of any effort to name and ameliorate epistemic harms. Although misplaced deference is the source of much that’s wrong with our epistemic practices, I don’t think we can do without it wholesale.
The Structure of Visual Content
Gabriel Greenberg, University of California, Los Angeles
In this talk, I argue for a structured view of visual content, understood as the type of content common to visual perception, mental imagery, visual memory, pictures, maps, and computer imagery. The position that such content is structured is analogous to structured views of propositions within the philosophy of language. In this case, I argue that visual contents take the form of what I will call “perspectival feature maps,'' a type of 2-dimensional feature map organized by angular relations to a central viewpoint. The general idea builds upon a long tradition within vision science, beginning with the work of Treisman (1980, 1988) and Marr (1982), of understanding perceptual states in terms of feature maps, and draws directly upon recent work by philosophers including Haugeland (1991), Tye (1991), Casati and Varzi (1999), Burge (MS), and Lande (MS). My goals for the talk are two-fold. First, I'll motivate and define the target notion of a perspectival feature map, with an eye towards specifying precise accuracy conditions. Second, I'll argue that we must adopt this account of visual content in contrast to (a) an unstructured view of visual content, as viewpoint-centered worlds, and (b) proposals derived from Peacocke's (1992) theory of scenario content. More course-grained than scenarios, more fine-grained than sets of centered-worlds—structured visual content, I'll argue, gets things just right.
Origins of Descartes' Modern Concept of a Law of Nature
Helen Hattab, University of Houston
Descartes’ laws of nature are commonly traced back to two prior traditions: the rules or laws used in the Aristotelian mixed mathematical sciences and the natural laws of late medieval Scholastic Aristotelian philosophy and theology. I argue that, despite some superficial similarities, the way Descartes conceives of the laws of nature differs fundamentally from both. In my examination, I will be concerned not so much with the specific content of Descartes’ three laws, but with their nature and scope. First I highlight that at the metaphysical level, Descartes’ account of the laws of nature displays fundamental similarities to the way we continue to think of the laws of nature today. I show that these similarities are not shared by the laws developed in the Aristotelian mixed mathematical sciences. Next I turn to conceptions of God’s natural law developed by Aquinas and Jesuit philosophers which would have been familiar to Descartes. I argue that despite the divine origins of Descartes’ laws, the way these Scholastic philosophers conceived of natural laws is incommensurate with his view. Finally, I propose that the roots of Descartes’ modern laws of nature are rather to be sought in late 16th and early 17th natural philosophy. Using the example of an eclectic work in natural philosophy published by Sebastian Basso in the early 17th century, I show how the incorporation of Stoic and Neoplatonic principles into natural philosophy during this period generates a metaphysical account of the laws of nature that anticipates Descartes’ recognizably modern account.
Conflicting Duties and Multiple Oppressions
Carol Hay, University of Massachusetts Lowell
Most of us are familiar with the idea that we should respect ourselves. I’ve argued elsewhere that the duty of self-respect means that people who are oppressed have a duty to resist their oppression. But what happens when this duty of self-respecting resistance comes into conflict with other duties you have—say, the duty to cultivate solidarity with other members of your oppressed group? I'll argue that in addition to its more familiar wrongs, oppression can wrong its victims by imposing certain kinds of moral dilemmas, placing them in unfair situations where it's impossible to fulfill their multiple competing commitments. Oppression has been famously described as like being caught in a birdcage, as being trapped, constrained, closed in on all sides. What I want to suggest is that in some cases oppression is better thought of as akin to a rack—a torture device that rips its victims apart by pulling their limbs in opposite directions.
When and Where I Carry: Black Feminism and the Right to Bear Arms
Tempest Henning, Vanderbilt University
Black feminist activist Ida B. Wells asserted that the key factor in people’s escape from lynching mobs was the usage of firearms for self-defense. Wells recommended that “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home” (Wells, 1982). This notion of Black individuals, specifically Black women, taking up firearms in the name of self-defense has recently been revived not only due to the freeing of Marissa Alexander, but also due to the heightened sensing of violence directed towards Black women in the era of Trump politics. The political climate is one where relying on the state for personal security is ludicrous and has proven fatal to countless Black women since the inception of the United States. This essay not only advocates for Black women to begin to carry firearms for the sake of self-defense, but the argument is also made that to take part in Second Amendment rights for Black women is to take part in an act of civil disobedience. Misogynoir is part and parcel to the United State’s political system. Because the system is setup to actively maintain violence towards Black women’s bodies to fight against the system and to take up arms in self-defense is to civically disobey the political order. By making an argument that entails the usage of firearms within the framework of civil disobedience, I am committing myself to a conception of allowable violence when citizens elect to disobey the law civilly. I argue that the particular case of Black women carrying guns is an acceptable mode of civil disobedience on two fronts: 1- the “unlawful” nature is de facto rather than de jure, and 2- intent to seriously injure or kill other individuals is not at the forefront of the act of carrying.
Totipotency, Morality, and Modality
David Hershenov, University at Buffalo
The totipitency of the parts of the early embryo have been thought to give rise to moral and modal puzzles that can be avoided by denying that we could have been been an early embryo. The moral puzzle is that the totipotent cells could develop in an identity preserving manner into persons. Why support the embryo's development over that of its totipotent parts? I argue that living creatures, when mindless, only have interests in healthy development. It is not unhealthy for parts of an embryo not to become persons, so they have no interests frustrated, and thus there is no morally relevant potential neglected.
Still, a modal puzzle remains that involves the early embryo being reduced in size to one of its totipotent parts. If that part had instead been removed and replanted in another womb, it would have have developed into a person. But the replanted would become a person distinct from the person the embryo develops into, thus violating the transitivity of identity. I argue that the early embryo could not survive the reduction in size to any of its single cells and that its alleged multicellular parts that could come to compose it, don't exist. So totipotency provides neither modal nor moral reasons to doubt whether we could have been very early embryos.
Re-Bunking Corporate Agency
Kendy Hess, College of the Holy Cross
In this paper I suggest that the literature on corporate agency has not paid enough attention to the metaphysics of the entities in question—that it has focused on corporate agency to the exclusion of corporate agents. Each proponent has presented a single mechanism by which a collective could exercise agency, and the general silence regarding other properties of the collective has left the impression that this (single) mechanism defines the entity—that this single mechanism is the sole source of its unity, cohesion, endurance, intentionality, action, and identity. Critics have responded with an entirely appropriate skepticism, charging that such an entity is ghostly and mysterious, too flimsy to support the robust capacities proponents claim for it. To those criticisms I add my own: that this presentation does a disservice to the holist position, failing to acknowledge the deep integration of the corporate agent, the undeniable presence of multiple mechanisms for corporate agency, and the significant contributions that lower-level members make to both the content and the enactment of the corporate agent’s intentionality.
The paper begins with a quick sketch of my own, metaphysically robust account of corporate agents. In presenting this account I emphasize the myriad components that contribute to the unifying structure of a corporate agent: a heterogeneous mix of mechanisms that includes all of the formal, intentional mechanisms identified by other proponents as well as the tacit, informal, unintended mechanisms that play such a significant role in social life. Recognizing the power of this immanent structure allows us to recognize the corporate agent as a robust whole—something that qualifies as a material object on standard accounts, that possesses agency without being entirely defined or determined by it. This allows us to respond to all of the criticisms listed above, and more besides.
Beyond Subject Selection: Justice and Drug Pricing in the Clinical Research Enterprise
Spencer Hey, Harvard Medical School
Justice is one of the foundational principles in the field of research ethics. However, the practical applications of justice for the existing systems of research oversight and regulation have been largely limited to matters of subject selection—that is, ensuring that the burdens of research do not disproportionately fall on socioeconomically vulnerable populations, and conversely, that vulnerable populations are not unfairly excluded from participating in research. In this paper, I will argue that the future price of an experimental intervention, should it enter the market, must also be factored into the assessment of justice for every research protocol. I then explore how price considerations could be folded into the judgments of various research stakeholders—including regulators, research ethics committees, and study participants—in order to support a more just research enterprise.
Why Not Polygamy?: Early Modern Natural Law and the Family
Colin Heydt, University of South Florida
This paper argues against recent interpretations of the content and significance of Locke's views on polygamy. It does this by situating Locke's views within the broader context of early modern moral philosophy, with special emphasis given to the work of Grotius and Pufendorf. The paper concludes with reflections on the account of the family and marriage offered by early modern moral philosophy.
Aristotle on the Teleion
Sukaina Hirji, Virginia Tech
Aristotle gives different accounts of what it is for something to be teleion in his natural science, metaphysics and ethics; this is reflected in the various preferred translations of teleion—as perfect, complete or end-like—in different contexts. I argue that better understanding how these different senses of teleion are related sheds light on the relationship between what it is for something to be an end and what it is for something to be good.
Impure at the Origins: Interracial Traffic in Women and the Invention of Whiteness
Sabrina Hom, Georgia College
Philosophers writing on the history of the concept of race have often focused on academic, theological, and intellectual dispute, as opposed to legal constructions and economic strategies. At the same time, academics studying mixed-race have defaulted to uncritical the view that mixed-race “subverts” a preexisting discourse of racial purity. A look at laws and practices at the inception of the white settler state reveals that norms regulating interracial sexuality emerge long before an academic consensus on the stability and heritability of race, and that these norms emerge as a way of inventing white purity in the face of existing strategies of interracial sexuality. The white settler state originates through a “traffic in women” in which interracial sexuality and mixed-race subjects, especially women, were instrumental and instrumentalized. The contemporary white settler state is founded on both an original, interracial traffic in women and on the myth of white purity that obscures and stigmatizes this traffic Race theory, feminist theory, and mixed race studies have too often uncritically accepted a narrative which starts from a point of unmixed purity and interprets interracial sexuality as subversive or hypocritical within regimes of white supremacy. By failing to conceptualize the original instrumentalization of women of color and mixed-race women at the economic and political foundation, theorists miss the institutionalized sexual exploitation of, for example, black and indigenous women in the history of the United States and leave the foundational myth of white supremacy—that of racial purity—unchallenged. Using local examples from Savannah, including the English and Yamacraw translator, diplomat, and businesswoman Mary Musgrove (1700–1763), I’ll argue that our contemporary concepts of both race and gender emerge from the economic and legal repercussions that emerge from the racially “impure” origins of the white settler state.
Can There Be Any Agreement about Immigration?
Adam Hosein, Northeastern University
Immigration is one of the most divisive issues in U.S. politics. In my talk, I will discuss two strategies for forging some kind of new consensus. The first approach accepts that immigration policy will always implicate different notions of nationhood—of what it is to be an American—and tries to offer a conception of the nation that is inclusive enough to satisfy liberals and sufficiently rooted in tradition to satisfy conservatives. The second approach tries to divorce immigration policy from national identity altogether. I’ll suggest that philosophers have a role to play in crafting these strategies, even though ultimately each will have to be tested in political debate.
Loving Curiosity: On the Intersection of Bisexual and Transgender Oppression
Grayson Hunt, Western Kentucky University
With the increased visibility and political mobilization of non-binarist identities, fresh scrutiny has been leveled against bisexual and transgender identities that appear to maintain rather than subvert gender and sexual orientation binaries (man/woman, heterosexual/homosexual). I argue that the oppressions experienced by transgender people and bisexual people are structurally identical insofar as they are premised on accusations of “reinforcing the binary,” an accusation that undermines not only the legitimacy of trans and bi lives, but also the political efficacy of trans and bi activism and coalition building. Given this similarity and the empirical fact that bisexuality is the most prevalent sexual orientation for trans women, there ought to be thriving trans and bi coalitions; and more resistance to attitudes that pit bisexuality against transgender experience. Bisexual and transgender coalitions appear to be missing, and my work explains why by revealing the extent to which queer theory fails to meaningfully engage with bisexuality.
The Importance of Imagination in Decision (and Everything Else)
Jenann Ismael, University of Arizona
Laurie’s book uses the tools of formal decision-theory to bring into focus something about the epistemic character of decisions that we all know deep in our hearts when we are in the grips of a difficult decision: viz., the limited role that rationality (in the thin, formally characterizable sense) in helping us make them. She focuses on extreme cases that involve new types of experience that are epistemically impenetrable in a particularly acute sense. I’m going to look at less extreme cases, and argue that imagination—in the specific sense of being able to imagine being someone that you are not—plays a central role not only in practical reasoning, but in epistemic reasoning when it comes to understanding “what happened” in any human interaction. I’m going to talk about the relationship between imagination and experience, and how the imagination is educated. I’m going to talk about the importance of educating it. And I’m going to suggest that philosophers should be less focused on reason, and more focused on imagination.
Physics and Metaphysics in Du Châtelet, Clarke, and Leibniz
Andrew Janiak, Duke University
In Newton's defense, Clarke employs the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) primarily to defend Newtonian physics from Leibniz's trenchant criticisms, rather than to reach substantive conclusions. Intriguingly, Du Châtelet embraces a Newtonian conception of the reach of physics, but then creatively employs the PSR to reach substantive positions on philosophical topics that Newton eschews. These involve the "foundations" of physics noted in the title of her magnum opus.
“I Really Didn’t Say Everything I Said”: Retraction in the Age of Social Media
Rebecca Kukla, Georgetown University
Dan Steinberg, The MITRE Corporation
This paper explores the pragmatics and the ethics of retraction, especially in the age of social media. We have three goals. First, we argue that retraction is an interesting and understudied speech act in its own right. We consider, for instance, the distinctions between retractions, apologies, and updates of one’s views. Second, we explore how social media have made retractions more complicated and important. The internet can amplify our missteps almost instantly, making the need for retraction more pressing; and it also leaves traces of whatever we say, regardless of whether we retract. Third, we argue that, especially in the age of social media, retraction is a privacy issue. Our (limited) right to manage and craft our own image and persona is central to our privacy, and what this involves is changing radically in the internet age. Like the “right to be forgotten,” the ability to retract should be seen as a crucial element of contemporary privacy, but we have no settled understanding of what constitutes retraction or its limits.
The Evolutionary Foundations of Morality
Victor Kumar, Boston University
In this talk I identify three principal elements of human morality and argue that each evolved at a different period of human evolution. Prosocial feelings and values have existed among social mammals for millions of years; they intensified and diversified beginning with the evolution of our genus 2,000,000 years ago. Norms and a corresponding norm psychology evolved through gene-cultural evolution in the period leading to the evolution of our species 200,000 years ago. Moral institutions evolved through cultural evolution well after our species appeared and partly explain why we were able to leave Africa roughly 70,000 years ago and explode across the rest of the world, eventually displacing all other human species.
On Some Complexities of Counter Speech
Mary Kate McGowan, Wellesley College
Speech can be harmful. A widespread view in the free speech literature is that the proper response to harmful speech is more speech. This has come to be known as the “more speech” response. Some versions of the more speech response concern face-to-face speech situations. A person yells racial epithets to a women riding her bike and this face-to-face version of the “more speech” response has it that the proper remedy for this sort of harmful utterance is to respond with speech that blocks, objects, mitigates, reverses, or somehow undoes the harms of this use of the racist epithet. A man tells a sexist joke to a group of colleagues and the face-to-face version of the “more speech” response has it that the proper remedy is a conversational counter-move. In this paper, I will argue, using work in the philosophy of language and the kinematics of conversation, that things are considerably more complex than this “more speech response” appears to assume.
The Cosmos and the Household in Metaphysics Lambda 10
Katy Meadows, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Aristotle is committed to the claim that eternal substances are causes of being for perishable substances, but nowhere makes clear exactly in what way. I approach this question through Aristotle’s explanation of how the Prime Mover makes the other substances in the cosmos good in Metaphysics Lambda 10. I argue that the Prime Mover is a cause of being for perishable substances by making them good.
Desiree Melton, Notre Dame of Maryland University
"Active Agitation" This paper is a discussion of my activist work as a black female philosopher who agitates for change in black women’s lives. Agitate is defined as “campaigning to arouse public concern about an issue in the hope of prompting action.” I am deeply concerned with the well-being of black women. Black women, particularly those who positively identify with the image of the “strong black woman,” are the least likely to seek and engage in self-care. This is a problem with sweeping individual and social implications. Empirical data have shown—and theories have been posited—that black women in the US, at the intersection of sexism and racism, experience personal, professional, emotional, and physical challenges that other groups do not. Fairly recently and largely over social media, black women have taken to calling themselves “magical” when they accomplish, achieve, or overcome an obstacle. "Black girl magic" has been used as a rallying cry and a motivator for the defeated. However, I am concerned that the magical black woman functions like the image of the strong black woman, and could contribute to black women’s failure to practice self-care. Magic defies explanation. It is illusory. If black women’s tenacity against adversity is magical, we may be less inclined to recognize and address the real mental and bodily effects of oppression. “Magic,” like “strength,” may discourage us from seeking help when needed. The ultimate difference between the two images is that one was created by our oppressors and continues to be useful in justifying the lack of attention and resources devoted to black women’s issues, while the other is of our own making. My hope is that sharing my concern will agitate black women to refuse controlling images that may dis-serve and harm us.
Charles Mills, The Graduate Center, CUNY
The term "racial capitalism" has been in circulation for some years now. Its intuitive meaning is obvious: a capitalism that is (somehow) shaped by race. But how exactly? In this paper, I will explore some of the possibilities, and the different ways in which such a concept could be historically and currently illuminating of our world.
Representing As Coordinating with Absence
Nico Orlandi, University of California, Santa Cruz
Current accounts of mental representation in philosophy and cognitive science—particularly in the naturalist tradition—tend to focus overwhelmingly on the issue of mental content. This focus can mislead into thinking that providing necessary and sufficient conditions for a state to have a certain content is tantamount to providing conditions for a state to be a representation. I propose, instead, to distinguish the question of content from the question of whether a certain contentful state plays a representational function. I then offer a proposal for what this representational function is.
Countermemory and Critical Historiography: Resistant Imaginaries in Latin American Feminist Philosophy
Andrea Pitts, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
A number of feminist theorists in recent years have noted that the language of “intersectionality,” a term for overlapping identity categories or patterns of oppression, has become commonplace across various cultural, institutional, and political sites (Cf. Ahmed 2012; hooks 2015; May 2015; Mohanty 2013). One of the concerns expressed by these theorists is that the language of intersectionality has become incorporated within neoliberal rhetorics of “diversity” that often depoliticize the meanings and aims of the labor associated with the concept. In this sense, intersectionality can be used as a management tool to facilitate the expansion of global capital, and/or as a technique to suppress more effective forms of anti-racist and anti-sexist action and advocacy. In response to these concerns, some scholars have turned to the genealogical roots of the concept of intersectionality within feminist of color critique to reframe the discourse of intersectionality (and related concepts). Within this critical discourse, the role of historical memory and resistant imaginaries has been marked as salient for work that seeks to end structural oppressions and the socio-politico-economic conditions that sustain them. This presentation takes up this strand of analysis and revisits questions within the study of critical historiography. In particular, the presentation traces how scholars interested in Latin American feminist philosophy can develop resistant countermemories that seek to avoid reifying contemporary Eurocentric and US-centered metrics for interpreting the nuances of past philosophical debates. To localize the focus of the presentation, the discussion culminates in a brief study of the writings of Vera Yamuni Tabush (1917–2003), a philosopher studying and working in Mexico throughout the 20th century, to discuss the scope and breadth of her “intersectional” scholarship. This analysis of Yamuni thereby aims to provide an example of the potential challenges and benefits that accompany the task of developing resistant imaginaries.
Intergenerational Generativity: Toward a Feminist Ethics of Life
Mary C. Rawlinson, Stony Brook University
From Hobbes to Hegel, philosophers in the West locate the origin of social life in a mythic time outside history where violence is pervasive and the fear of death motivates men to institute the law of property, substituting right for might to secure life and ownership. This narrative renders nature a state of war and installs the man of reason as the figure of the human. Under man’s regime, the exchange of women’s bodies, the paradigm of property, cements the bonds of fraternity. Property, the originary right, is inextricably linked to laws of sexual propriety and to a universal always already marked masculine. The politics of rights aims at “mastering nature and the nature in man” (Kant), a mastery requiring the subjection of man’s others: women, children, and “savages.” Against this ethics of death, property, and subjection, my recent work develops an ethics of life. Eschewing the speculative universal of the man of reason, I invoke two concrete universals—everyone has been born of a woman and everyone needs to eat—to advance an ethics of intergenerational generativity, figured in the two mothers, Demeter and Persephone. But what exactly do I mean by ‘life’? Beginning from Hegel’s identification of Geist and life, I analyze the logical, temporal, and ethical distinctions that determine the concept of life. Against Hegel, I argue that an ethics of life not only requires the cultivation of intergenerational generativity, but also incorporates the ethical and political effects of the irreparable loss of the singular living being. In this narrative, ethics and politics require, not merely tolerance, respecting the other’s rights, but collaborations that generate conditions of agency across generations. This narrative of justice and solidarity aims at the creation of a community capable of collective agency, while also preserving the singularity of each and all.
Gluttony and Sloth: Blame, Praise, and Being Fat
Alison Reiheld, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Fatness has long been seen as a sign of a character defect in our culture, though even here it is seen as more defective for some people (women, and people of color) than for others (imagine Winston Churchill’s stout form). Being fat comes along with implicit or explicit claims of agency. Consider the association of fatness with laziness or gluttony, not only the mind of the public but also the minds of health care providers. Indeed, the very language of dieting and weight talk combines judgments of moral desirability with judgments of moral responsibility: “she doesn’t take care of herself” is just one example. As obesity has come to be seen as a disease and not just a risk condition, such moralizing about fatness has picked up a new attendant: healthism. Stigmatizing, dehumanizing behaviors against fat people can now be justified by this framework in which fat people are both assumed to have poor health (not morally desirable) and are blamed for their fatness (attribution of moral responsibility). In turn, weight loss is praised regardless of cause. Many a once-fat cancer patient has a tale of being praised for weight loss. These patterns produce a flawed view of fat people’s agency with respect to moral responsibility, blame, and praise that turns on the conception of fatness as a reliable exterior sign of viciously bad character and thinness as virtue.
Value, Existence, and Nonidentity
M. A. Roberts, The College of New Jersey
Two claims (a) and (b) seem independently compelling. (a) A better chance at existence is a moral plus. It can make up for a loss of wellbeing and thus can make an outcome that would otherwise be morally worse than another at least as good as that other. And (b) the fact of existence itself is not a moral plus; existence doesn’t (other things equal) make an outcome morally better. Points (a) and (b) are, however, in tension. Unless we can reconcile (a) against (b), population ethics may simply slowly devolve into nothing more than code for moral skepticism. But there’s a prior matter. The task of reconciliation isn’t worthwhile if either (a) or (b) is grounded in a principle that we think is false. But (b) is considered by many philosophers to be grounded in just such a principle—what is called the person-affecting, or person-based, intuition in ethics (PBI), the idea that an outcome can be morally worse only if it’s worse for an existing or future person. My first goal in this paper is to show that whether PBI is truly vulnerable to the nonidentity problem and what I will call the addition problem depends on how we formulate PBI. Formulated in compliance with a standard convention—the independence of irrelevant alternatives—PBI falls flat. Formulated outside that convention and combined with other person-based principles, PBI’s analyses become perfectly plausible. But it does raise worries relating to inconsistency and impracticality. Addressing those worries is the second goal of my paper. We then turn to the question of how a better chance of existence can have a morally salutary effect—as it does, under (a)—when the fact of existence cannot—according to (b)—make an outcome better? My third and final goal is to answer that question.
Black Feminism and the White Working-Class Trump Voter
Camisha Russell, University of Oregon
In Strangers in Their Own Land, Arlie Hochschild seeks, in her own words, to scale the empathy wall that stands between her (a white liberal Berkeley professor) and white, Southern, working class Tea Party republicans. Though a work of sociology, her study provides a number of epistemological insights that resonate with past and recent work in critical epistemology. Much of this work originates from and continues to be produced by Black Feminist scholars, and several particular Black Feminist insights seem apply to both to Hochschild’s subjects and to black women. In this paper, I will show how Black Feminism can be used to better understand the standpoint of Tea Party Republicans, and explore what sorts of bonds of relationality might exist between these poor white Tea Party followers and black women. I will then consider whether developing empathy for poor, white Trump voters could or should ever be a part of a Black Feminist agenda.
We've Only Just Begun
Marya Schechtman, University of Illinois, Chicago
Questions about the endpoints of our lives are frequently addressed in conjunction with questions about what we most fundamentally are. Those who hold that we are essentially psychological subjects place the beginning of our existence at a different point than those who hold that we are essentially organisms. This paper starts from a view according to which we are fundamentally bio/psycho/social beings, constituted by a life which involves ongoing interaction among biological, psychological and social processes. On this view there is some room for social factors to determine when one of us begins to exist. While this claim may seem initially troubling from both a theoretical and practical perspective, the paper argues that it is less troubling and more plausible than it first appears. The lives which constitute beings such as ourselves are a particular kind of complex process, and so the question of when one of us begins is the question of when such a process begins. Answering this question requires us to draw a line between the preconditions for a process being in place and the process having actually started. The claim is that this line is one which is reasonably seen to be responsive to pragmatic and social circumstances. After providing theoretical support for this claim, its ethical implications are discussed.
Rethinking #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen: A Framework for Intersectional Feminism
Jeanine Weekes Schroer, University of Minnesota Duluth
Discourse identifying and condemning "white feminism" is the most recent cottage industry to arise in the era of #activism. Despite the contentious rhetoric, this is not an attempt to stereotype white women or their feminist engagements. Instead this language is meant to capture the central critique from this “wave” of feminism: a failure of intersectionality that recreates racist, classist, ableist, cisgendered and heterosexist hierarchies within feminist movements. Mainstream feminist responses have been at best mixed, but crucial to moving forward as a movement that can be unified but not silencing is developing a new(ish) framework for political engagement that makes intersectionality more than an add-on to individual feminist political actions. Instead intersectionality needs to be foundational element for future feminist political activism. This paper will attempt to give a clarifying account of the notion of “white feminism.” Then it will use and invert the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag as a case study for how a intersectional feminist political framework can work. While the hashtag was developed to function as a critique of the absence of intersectionality in some feminist engagement, it could be reread as a request and model for a foundational intersectional engagement by mainstream feminists.
Ideal and Non-Ideal Approaches to Epistemology
Whitney Schwab, University of Maryland–Baltimore County
Scholars have long noted that Plato's and Aristotle's epistemology differs quite dramatically from what we find in the Hellenistic schools (indeed, some philosophers have claimed that epistemology actually starts with the latter group). In this paper, I provide a specific way of understanding these differences, claiming that it results from two quite different ways of conceiving of the epistemological enterprise. Both Plato and Aristotle were engaged in what Robert Pasnau has recently labeled “ideal epistemology”: they both take as their central target the optimal or best cognitive state human beings can achieve, and then put their characterization of that optimal state to further theoretical uses. The Hellenistic schools, on the other hand, take a neutral notion—something like belief—and attempt to determine the threshold that must be crossed for a belief to deserve the honorific title “katalêpsis,” which is explicitly conceived of as a non-optimal cognitive state. I argue that many of the most notable differences between the epistemologies of these different philosophers and philosophical schools can be explained by recognizing their fundamentally different conceptions of the epistemological enterprise. I then speculate on what lessons this ancient difference can teach us about contemporary epistemology.
Two Arguments for the Inexorability of the Reactive Attitudes
Seth Shabo, University of Delaware
P. F. Strawson famously linked our practices of blame and punishment with the stance that we normally take toward our fellow participants in personal relationships. To illuminate this link, Strawson called attention to resentment and other reactive attitudes. In his view, our susceptibility to these attitudes is a hallmark of the participant stance. And, he believed, blame and punishment are at root expressions of these same attitudes. On the basis of this link, Strawson denied that relinquishing these attitudes—and, by extension, blame and punishment—is a real possibility for us. While he did not provide an explicit argument for this view, his essay contains suggestive hints. Here I examine two related ways in which these hints have been developed. The first holds that we cannot seriously strive to relinquish these attitudes because they are responses to violations of the normative expectations that partly constitute personal relationships. By contrast, the second locates the main obstacle to such an undertaking, not in the inescapability of these expectations, but in the fact that other participant emotions reinforce instances of the reactive attitudes, making it harder to put these instances behind us or to disavow them. I argue that the second approach fares better against challenges to the Strawsonian view.
Democracy After Trump
Laurie Shrage, Florida International University
The 2016 U.S. presidential election was highly polarizing, and the right and left remain so deeply divided on many issues that some observers are wondering whether there is any common ground between Trump’s supporters and his critics. The panelists in this session will analyze the problem and consequences of political polarization, and the implications for democratic societies when there are vast gaps in beliefs and values.
The Ontology of Terrorism
Barry Smith, University at Buffalo
The talk has two parts. The first explores recent attempts to define “act of terrorism” and related terms from the perspective of speech act theory. The second describes how an ontology of terrorism based on such definitions can be of practical significance. For Searle, familiarly, a directive speech act is an act by means of which a speaker attempts to get an addressee to carry out a certain action. One class of terrorist acts can be defined in these terms as an act of violence whereby a non-government agent strives to send a message to one or more government agents as its addressees. This definition works well when applied to the IRA or the PLO. But it fails in the case of ISIS. Here acts of terrorism seem much more like expressives, comparable to congratulating or lamenting or boasting, but on a much grander scale and with a much more complex mix of underlying motives. Moreover, they seem to be directed not primarily to governments but rather to God, or to co‐religionists, or to the world as a whole. The practical significance of such considerations turns on the fact that ontologies, understood as controlled vocabularies consisting of terms and logically structured definitions, are nowadays being applied to real-world problems. The SIRI app in your iPhone is built out of ontologies in this sense, where they are used to tag large bodies of data in such a way as to allow SIRI to retrieve answers to your questions. Applied ontologies have been especially useful in the life sciences, where they provide a means of integrating disease data with genomic data. The talk will show how they can be useful, too, in the field of counter-terrorism.
Émilie Du Châtelet’s Contribution to the Metaphysics of Forces
Monica Solomon, University of Southern California
This paper focuses on one crucial tension in the epistemological order of Du Châtelet’s project in Institutions de Physique(1740) and follows its consequences in her commentary to Newton’s Principia. The main argument here is that the real and apparent (or virtual) states of motion and rest that are supposed to ground an ontology of forces, already presuppose the framework of living and dead forces. The Institutions has a clear Leibnizian influence: the ontology of dead and live forces (and their sub-taxonomies) is developed explicitly from Leibniz’s works (for instance, Du Châtelet draws from Leibniz’s 1686 letter in Acta Eruditorum). At the same time, Du Châtelet presents Newton’s three laws of motion without using the pair of vis insita-vis impressa and, among other things, recovers Galileo’s results about the phenomena of gravity such as the uniformly accelerated motion and the parabolic path of the motion of projectiles. In this paper I follow Du Châtelet’s challenging project of reformulating Newton’s laws of motion on the framework of Leibnizian forces. I then delineate the consequences of cashing out the action of gravity in terms of living forces (and her original derivation of the quantity of living force of a free falling body as mass times the square of the speeds). Finally, I show how her arguments rely on the implicit metaphysical distinction between real (actual) versus apparent and virtual motion and rest (along with the accompanying strict distinction between rest and motion). This distinction however turns out to also depend on the ontology of living forces.
The Meta-Metaphysics of Distant Entities: Unifying the Temporal and Modal Domains
Olla Solomyak, Polonsky Academy, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
Debates surrounding the metaphysics of time and modality are commonly conceptualized in parallel ways: In each case, there is, first, an ontological question about the existence of the relevant ‘distant entities’ — do non-present and/or non-actual objects exist? Then, there is a question about the status of what we might call the ‘perspectival facts’: Are some facts irreducibly tensed or modal? The two questions in each case are typically seen to be independent, and one’s stance on the issues in the one case independent of one’s stance on the issues in the other — with the parallels taken to be, at best, a guide for turning our attention to features of each case that might have otherwise gone unnoticed; not, in themselves, reason to adopt parallel views. My purpose in this paper will be to call these assumptions into question, and explore some ways in which the questions within and across the two debates may not be independent after all. I’ll argue that at the root of what appear to be four questions, there is actually one — a question about what we might call the ‘shape’ of reality, or of the fundamental perspective on reality, can be seen as at the heart of the issues in both the temporal and modal domains. I’ll present an alternative meta-metaphysical framework for conceptualizing the issues in these terms, and explore the upshots of this framework for our understanding of the structural parallels.
Varieties of Idealism
Nicholas Stang, University of Toronto
Despite some recent interest, idealism is largely neglected in contemporary analytic philosophy. When idealism is discussed, it tends to be a broadly Berkeleyan form of idealism, according to which material objects are “constructions” (of some form) of mental states. Many philosophers, though, dismiss Berkeleyan idealism for a host of familiar reasons: it is counter-intuitive, it makes objects counterfactually depend on our perceptions of them, etc. However, there is a substantial idealist tradition in modern philosophy that does not fall prey to these anti-Berkeleyan arguments, that of Kant and his successors in “German Idealism” (e.g., Fichte, Schelling, Hegel). Kant and the German Idealists were unanimous in their rejection of Berkeley’s “subjective” idealism. In this talk I will explore some ideas from German Idealism and why they might be of contemporary interest in metaphysics. While Berkeleyan idealism has been interesting to philosophers concerned with the mind-body problem, the metaphysics of material objects, etc., I will explore instead the relation of German Idealism to a different question: how is metaphysics possible? I will argue that the contemporary interest of German Idealism does not lie in its answers to “first-order” metaphysical questions (e.g., whether physicalism is true) but in its answers to “meta-metaphysical” questions about the semantics (e.g., why do metaphysical concepts refer?) and epistemology (e.g., how do we obtain knowledge in metaphysics?) of metaphysics. I will distinguish several different idealist meta-metaphysical views that have been ignored in the contemporary literature on “meta-metaphysics” and suggest some reasons they might be worthy of further study.
Of Monkeys and Morals
Julie Tannenbaum, Pomona College
Benjamin Callard, University of Chicago
Animal researchers, such as Frans de Waal, claim that some apes and monkeys have the “key components of morality.” In particular, they claim that chimpanzees engage in altruistic behavior and are motivated by feelings of sympathy, while capuchins have a sense of fairness. The researchers grant that the “moral system” of humans is more complex than that of non-human primates, but the difference is one of degree, not kind. The researchers embrace a Humean model of emotions, motivation, and moral action. However, an alternative account of emotional motivation, moral agency, and judgments of fairness is far more compelling, and with such an account in hand the “continuities” between human and non-human primates begin to disappear. In fact, we argue, even the non-comparative claims made about these apes and monkeys are insufficiently supported.
Social Explanation and Social Groups
Elanor Taylor, Johns Hopkins University
In order to explain a number of different phenomena including certain some forms of injustice and certain features of our everyday lives, it seems that we must appeal to the existence and causal efficacy of social groups. Some have argued that this gives us good reason to be metaphysical realists about social groups. However, metaphysical realism about social groups faces a variety of problems. For instance, social groups appear not to be metaphysically homogenous, given that some social groups (such as groups corresponding to trends and subcultures) are extremely context-specific while others are more robust. The metaphysical realist about social groups also faces difficult questions about the causal capacity of groups, and how it relates to the causal capacity of individuals. Finally, questions about what social groups are are far from settled. So this leaves us with a problem. What are we to do if we want to respect the explanatory and perhaps also political indispensability of groups, while also acknowledging these difficulties for metaphysical realism about groups? In this talk I propose an answer to this question that appeals to the notion of context-dependent naturalness. Context-dependent naturalness, I have argued, is an analogue of metaphysical naturalness that captures context-dependent, rather than metaphysical, structure. In this discussion I introduce the general idea of context-dependent naturalness, and argue that we should understand social groups in terms of context-dependent naturalness. I argue that doing so enables us to respect the explanatory and political indispensability of social groups, while leaving room for ongoing metaphysical debate and research into their precise nature.
Sex and Friendship in Marriage: Some Enlightenment Perspectives
Jacqueline Taylor, University of San Francisco
It was common in the eighteenth century for philosophers to hold that a man and woman who shared an intimate relationship such as that of marriage had also entered into a bond of friendship. Yet the characterizations of the nature of marital friendship varied, and I examine the reasons for these different views. Some, such as Rousseau and Fordyce, held that ideally women cultivated meekness and deference while at the same time competently managing a household; different male and female natures would complement each other in marriage. These views lacked little basis in the facts of the moral psychology of men and women according to more feminist minded thinkers such as Macaulay and Wollstonecraft, who appealed to the association of ideas and the power of custom and habit in creating sex-based differences. They argued that a robust and equal education for the sexes could help in shaping character and agency for a more equal friendship in marriage. Several key Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, including Hume, Kames, and Millar, as well as the French Enlightenment philosopher, Montesquieu, examined sex roles and social relations in terms of the stages of society, or the kinds of circumstances (whether moral or physical causes) that created differences in the social standing of different kinds of persons, including men and women. In more refined societies, a flourishing economy provided greater opportunities for knowledge in the arts and sciences, which in turn leads to a greater sociability that makes possible a more equal friendship between the sexes. I critically examine the philosophical arguments for these different views on marital friendship, and explore their legacy.
When God's Your Second Husband: Medieval Women Contemplatives on Human and Divine Love
Christina VanDyke, Rutgers Center for Philosophy of Religion
Medieval contemplatives often describe mystic union in highly erotic, embodied terms. Modern scholars--particularly philosophers—tend to either avoid such descriptions entirely (sticking to apophatic discussions of the “God beyond thought”) or to read them as the natural but unilluminating outbursts of sexually repressed women. In this paper, I focus on erotic descriptions of mystic union in the writings of 13th-14th c. beguines—women who dedicated their lives to God and lived in intentional communities but who did not take vows and become nuns, and who were free both to enter such communities as widows and to leave them for marriages—not as psycho-sexual curiosities but as instructive examples of how central the body and emotion are to medieval conceptions of love and the self.
True But Not Clear
Katja Maria Vogt, Columbia University
It is often taken for granted that inquiry aims at the discovery of truth. Ethical inquiry as Aristotle conceives of it, however, is different. In his ethics, Aristotle assesses fundamental premises as true but not clear. Inquiry aims at clarifying these truths and making them precise, up to the point where they can guide action. A prominent example is that one should do what “right reason” (orthos logos) says (RR). RR is a substantive premise; it is not trivially true. Nevertheless RR is accepted, and considered a starting point, by any number of ethicists who proceed to formulate theories that make RR more precise. The paper focuses on Aristotle’s method in ethics and includes analysis of the notions of precision and clarity in Plato’s Philebus. Its larger aim is to identify a mode of inquiry that seems relevant in a wide range of contexts. Inquiry often does not start with a blank slate. In other words, the aim of inquiry is not always to find an answer to an open-ended question. On the contrary, in many inquiries fundamental premises are already in place and yet inquiry is far from concluded. Questions are open only up to a point: they aim at making more precise premises that are antecedently accepted as true. A dichotomy between open and closed questions, it is argued, may not be able to accommodate widely employed modes of investigation.
Authority and Explanation in the History and Philosophy of Medicine
Julie Walsh, Wellesley College
In 1740, Stephens produced a recipe for a tonic that she claimed cured bladder stones. She demanded £5000 of Parliament to make it public. It was not an easy sell. Stephens had the support of some notable and powerful men in the medical community. She also had empirical evidence that her tonic worked. Still, it took two years of petitioning, discussing, and even (unsuccessfully) crowd-sourcing the general public for her fee before Parliament relented and awarded her the sum she demanded. In this paper, I explore how this case can illuminate issues of authority and explanation in the history and philosophy of medicine. Central questions include: What kinds of practitioners can claim authority? What model of medical explanation ought to be favored? What sorts of experiments and trials are required for an intervention to be recommended as efficacious?
Eating and the Existential Phenomenology of Bodily Self-Control
Talia Welsh, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Contemporary research in the health sciences has documented how modifiable habits contribute to certain poor health outcomes. Diet, exercise, cigarette smoking, and drug abuse are primary concerns for deliberate individual change. This paper will take up how our bodily sense of wellness has increasingly become a set of concerns about bodily self-control. Health is state that can be achieved by a kind of self-directed labor, rather than just a combination of genetic luck and good medical care. A phenomenology of how such a concern changes our behavior toward food will explore how attention toward deliberate eating is part of a larger overall historical shift toward seeing the individual as a self-regulated product. Precursors to the idea of the individual as a self-creation exist in existential philosophies where the rejection of the universal legitimacy of any religion or morality laid the ground for a sense of radical freedom. In addition, the body’s centrality comes to the forefront in many such accounts. However, the contemporary model only reproduces the responsibility of freedom in relationship to a strict morality of health that is itself not questioned. This paper will explore the ways in which existential analyses dovetail with our interest in deliberate eating as well as ways in which it can provide a critique against healthism.
Belly Laughs: Catharsis, Vital Affects, and Feminist Humor
Cynthia Willett, Emory University
Recent reflections on the comic for the most part keep their proper distance from any attempt to explain humor’s cathartic power. These approaches emphasize the cerebral functions of humor while neglecting the larger social dynamic as well as the emotions, the body, and the physiology of the affects at stake. My coauthor and I do not deny the value of brainy humor, but with a nod to feminist materialism’s interest in the gut (not the phallus) as the “second brain”, we turn to the deep-down relief of the belly laugh to generate social change. The contemporary Feminist Slutwalk movement along with Amber Rose and the humor of Amy Schumer and Tina Fey exemplify the cathartic power of humor to alter negative attitudes and transform the social atmosphere by literally and figuratively changing the air we breathe.
Shifting to the Relational in Agency, Identity and Behavior Change in Eating
Catherine Womack, Bridgewater State University
Multiple psychological theories explicate the role of the individual in health behavior change. Most implicitly attribute a high level of personal agency in order to bring about behavior change. Less attention has been paid to how experiences of identity formation, community norms and behavior change processes may influence agency. In this paper, I briefly review theories of health behavior change in social psychology and public health to draw attention to how these theorists assume high levels of individual agency, even within theories that incorporate community norms and environmental influences. I then expand upon a notion called “identity-constitutive affiliation” as a key factor in understanding the process of health behavior change. Identity-constitutive affiliation is the affective relation that takes as input a person’s values for others and the embedded contexts in which those valuations occur (Mulvaney-Day and Womack, 2009). It gives as output a person’s behavioral practices, and helps form, reinforce or shift that person’s sense of identity via the modeling of behaviors of those to whom she is affectively connected. This affects both the implicit norms used by persons to make decisions and the level, scope, and contexts of agency within which persons can act based on those norms. Importantly, this theory of behavior and behavior change relies upon a relational concept of identity—one subject to social and community influences. I look at cases of efforts at eating behavior change within public health through the lens of identity-constitutive affiliation. A thorough examination of these cases will show us how a shift in the direction of relational agency and identity more clearly represents the challenges involved in health behavior change, particularly among populations with disproportionately poorer health outcomes. In this case we see both epistemic and ethical benefits to making this shift.
The Place of Evolution in a Functionalist Theory of Morality
David B. Wong, Duke University
Biological evolutionary theory deserves a major place in any naturalistic theory of morality. The question is what sort of place it should have. I have defended a functionalist theory of morality as that part of human culture that promotes and sustains social cooperation and as fostering internal motivational coherence in the individual. Our biologically evolved nature sets morality up to have these functions, and it also places constraints on what kind of morality can adequate fulfill them (though the constraints do not narrow the possibilities to just a single morality). In this talk I return to address some foundational questions about a functionalist theory of morality: what does it mean to claim that morality has a function? Is a functionalist theory compatible with saying that we ought to realize moral ends for their own sake? When we say that a function of morality is to foster cooperation, how much consensus is required on norms that structure cooperation? Our biological nature has not necessarily finished evolving, and cultural niches are among the forces that place new selection pressures on possible further evolution. Our current moralities go into the composition of those cultural niches, and therefore it is possible that in the future human beings could change in ways that make new, more demanding moral norms appropriate for their changed nature. However, moralities may not be among the most powerful cultural forces, and it is possible that we will become less capable of satisfying the norms we currently have. These considerations form a new, extremely challenging moral problem for creatures who have reached a high level of self-understanding.
When Free Speech Meets Speech for Freedom
Naomi Zack, University of Oregon
Free speech is unfettered expression; speech for freedom is progressive discourse. Democracy Post Trump consists of a revitalization of the Left and passive electorate. Many are in the midst of answering this March 13, 2017, call from ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero “We'll do the work in the courts. You do the work in the streets." There are casualties and tragedies in this process of resistance, but the strength of Democracy now lies with this Opposition through the courts and streets.
How Computational Results Can Improve Metaphysics: Case Study
Edward N. Zalta, Stanford University
Whereas the formula ∃F(Ft) ("t exemplifies some property") may be used to represent the conditions under which an individual term 't' denotes an individual, the formula ∃xPx ("P is exemplified by some individual") can't be used to represent the conditions under which a property term 'P' denotes a property. For there are (we may suppose) property terms which denote properties that nothing exemplifies. However, object theory has two modes of predication: Fx and xF ("x encodes F") and one can use ∃x(xP) instead of ∃xPx to define the conditions under which the property term 'P' denotes, for in object theory, every property is encoded by some object. These facts have led to an advance in object theory, and they were prompted by some recent work in computational metaphysics. Daniel Kirchner's work, which uses the automated reasoning system Isabelle/HOL to represent the language, axioms and theorems of object theory, shows a danger: if the second-order comprehension schema for relations isn't carefully formulated, a loophole permits the reintroduction of a known paradox. When the the schema is carefully formulated to block the loophole, it becomes apparent that one can use ∃x(xP) within the system to define property existence. Thus, the two modes of predication in object theory allow one to define conditions for the existence *and* identity of individuals and relations.
Curiosity at the Margins: Queering the Directionality of Inquiry
Perry Zurn, American University
Breaking from a long tradition of critiquing the violence of curiosity directed at marginalized communities, this paper explores some philosophical models of curiosity from and for the margins, paying special attention to LGBT experience and disability studies.
Democratic Constitutional Authorship: Clearing Away Three Conceptual Impediments
Christopher Zurn, University of Massachusetts Boston
This paper is part of a larger project seeking to defend a principle of democratic constitutional authorship as a preeminent criterion of normative legitimacy for systems of government. While there is empirical support for such a principle in new research from comparative constitutionalism, its philosophical defense must overcome a number of conceptual and theoretical impediments. Seeking to overcome three of those impediments, this paper recommends that we adopt a specific interpretation of the component parts of the principle of democratic constitutional authorship. It argues, first, that we should reject the juridical conception of constitutionalism favored by rule of law and rights fundamentalist theories, as it renders constitutionalism itself as essentially anti-democratic. We ought rather adopt a conception of a polity’s constitution as the organic law structuring its political processes. Second, it argues that we ought to reject the traditional conceptualization of constitutional authorship in terms of the people’s legally unbounded constituent power for creating a new legal-political order de novo. Rather than the doctrine of constituent power which romantically stylizes all constitutionalizing practices as essentially anti-democratic, we ought to understand constitutional authorship as a complex, reflexive and on-going process of legal-political change that is neither a radical break from the past nor strictly continuous with it. Third, it argues that we ought to move beyond relatively weak conceptions of democracy focused on voting alone, since in cases of constitutional change they require only minimalist procedures such as ratification referenda or endorsement by ordinary legislatures. Yet such procedures are easily manipulated in order to transform constitutional change processes into anti-democratic schemes protecting extant incumbents and elite power holders. We ought rather adopt a deliberative co-authorship conception of democracy, one that recommends wide and diverse “bottom-up” participation of equal citizens in processes intentionally structured to promote high-quality public deliberation and democratic will-formation.