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2019 Central Division Abstracts
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Affective Animal Ethics: The Need for Novel Emotions

Elisa Aaltola, University of Turku

Much of animal ethics has remained rationalist, thus placing priority on reason as the basis of moral judgment and action. However, some have favoured a meta-ethical position, which highlights also the relevance of emotions in why and how we value and treat nonhuman animals. This "affective animal ethics" has underlined particularly positive emotions such as empathy, but recently also the role played by negative emotions (such as disgust) in de facto, everyday moral beliefs concerning other animals has been mapped out. This paper explores affective animal ethics and, following recent trends in neuropsychology and cognitive sciences, suggests that within it, emotions ought to be viewed as conceptualisations concerning ourselves, others and the world. Applying Wittgensteinian philosophy of language to the present context, also emotion concepts construct the limits of our world—that, for which we have no culturally common emotion-concepts, may thereby remain hidden from us. This being so, the claim of the paper will be that we may need new, more imaginative emotion concepts in order to more fully capture or represent the distinctiveness, variety and particularity of nonhuman realities.

Varieties of Empathy, Morality, and Bias

Elisa Aaltola, University of Turku

Elisa Aaltola’s paper defends empathy against the view—put forth by scholars from David Hume to Paul Bloom and Jesse Prinz—that empathy is uniquely susceptible to bias. Such a view has led many to conclude that empathy is a poor basis for moral agency and social justice. Aaltola begins her refutation of this argument by distinguishing several types of empathy, and argues that not all are prone to bias. She then shows that other constituents of moral agency, such as anger, guilt, and even reason, may reflect biases. Aaltola investigates how bias often originates from cultural presumptions rather than a given moral faculty. Finally, Aaltola’s paper brings forward “reflective empathy” as a variety of empathy capable of both making us aware of biases and eradicating them. Aaltola thus proposes that reflective empathy offers a fruitful foundation for moral agency and is capable of fostering social justice––both in relation to human and nonhuman beings.

Two Perspectives on Non-Ideal Epistemology

Endre Begby, Simon Fraser University

Recent years have witnessed an increasing interest in “applied” epistemology, especially within social epistemology. Lately, there seems to be a dawning awareness that this development is hampered by certain “idealizations” which carry over from traditional epistemological inquiry. Many hold that we should jettison these idealizations and devote ourselves fully to the pursuit of a “non-ideal epistemology.” This paper develops one perspective on the shape that such a non-ideal epistemology might take. I argue, in particular, that our approach should begin from an acknowledgement of two important dimensions of non-ideality. One is a dimension of endogenous non-ideality: human beings display distinctive kinds of intrinsic cognitive limitations (e.g., limitations on working memory); these limitations force us to work with modes of mental representation which entail marked information loss at various stages of cognitive processing. The other is a dimension of exogenous non-ideality: human beings have only limited access to the total information that bears on their inquiries; quite often, the particular selection of information that we have access to is a result of “interference” from human peers or social institutions. I contend that any viable notion of epistemic normativity must take these dimensions of non-ideality into account. Nonetheless, I also argue that relative to these dimensions of non-ideality, it is important to retain an idealizing perspective: we have a legitimate interest in determining what constitutes optimal epistemic performance given these non-ideal starting points, so that we can set our normative expectations for ordinary epistemic subjects with reference to that ideal. The result is a complex stance on the role of idealizations in epistemological inquiry. I then turn to assessing the usefulness of this stance by seeing what light it can shed on a number of related socio-epistemic phenomena, including the “shared reality bias,” echo chambers, and epistemic partiality in friendship.

The Deafening Silence about Slavery in Histories of Political Philosophy: Past Prejudices Preserved or Evidence of a Persisting Institutional Racism?

Robert Bernasconi, Pennsylvania State University

The expansion of slavery and the subsequent emancipation of the slaves were two of the most formative events of modernity. Canonical philosophers helped to legitimate the first, but by the end of the eighteenth century, when the legitimacy of slavery was giving rise to vigorous philosophical debate throughout large parts of the world and at all levels of society, they had much less to offer. Most prominent eighteenth century University philosophers who taught moral or political philosophy discussed slavery in their lectures, but almost none of them were at the forefront of calls for emancipation. In the United States that tendency persisted all the way to the Civil War. But histories of political and moral philosophy tend to ignore not only all discussion of chattel slavery and the debates to which it gave rise, but also the role of racial prejudice in the formation of the canon of political philosophy and the canon of Western philosophy more generally. What lies behind the studied neglect of an issue whose resolution arguably amounted to a transformation in the history of morals? In this paper I am less concerned with the failure of the canonical philosophers themselves, or the difficulty in determining which ideas are central to a given philosophy and which are not, and more with what it says about the institutional practice of philosophy today.

Global Environmental Governance and Non-Ideal Theory: What Are the Issues and How Are We Doing?

Idil Boran, York University

There is growing interest today in confronting issues of global environmental governance by claiming the mantle non-ideal theory. In spite of its irresistible appeal as a conduit to bring normative inquiry down to earth, the conceptual tools of non-ideal theory today remain incomplete and imperfectly adapted to the exigencies of a multi-centric and transnational governance complex. This paper tallies up the issues—i.e., the searching questions that arise in global governance today—and separates them from the non-issues—i.e., questions that are at first blush attractive but prove distracting. This exercise is intended as a health check for the discipline, and an opportunity to refine the agenda for future work.

Self-Knowledge, Self-Consciousness, and Reflexivity in Late Medieval Philosophy

Susan C. Brower-Toland, Saint Louis University

Medieval philosophers take it as given that the human mind is self-reflexive in nature. On the theory of mind they inherit from Augustine, mind’s reflexive character takes the form of a kind of Trinitarian structure. As he argues in the latter books of his enormously influential treatise, De Trinitate, the mind is constituted in such a way that it “always remembers itself, always understands itself, and always loves itself.” While there is, among Augustine’s medieval successors, no consensus regarding the proper interpretation or explication of this Trinitarian psychology, medieval philosophers nevertheless agree that the human mind is in some way reflexively aware both of itself and of its own states. In this paper, I survey later medieval treatments of each of these two basic types of self-reflexive knowledge: namely, (1) the mind’s knowledge of itself (i.e., ‘subject-reflexive self-knowledge’) and (2) its knowledge of its own occurrent acts or states (‘state-reflexive self-knowledge’).

The Development of Conscience through Shame, Guilt, and Pride

Paniel O. R. Cardenas, Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, Mexico

One of the key issues of improving the conditions of justice in democratic contexts is, by and large, the problem of appealing to emotions in order to convince the masses. Emotions are tainted with a negative label. In this paper I want to resist this tendency by proposing a positive role of moral emotions in democratic dialogue.

In order to understand the place of emotions in social moral conflicts, however, we need to acknowledge that deep politics is eminently characterised by the fact of conflict at disagreements in beliefs of different members of a given society. The problem of deep politics includes, accordingly, a paradox of moral disagreement: On what extent a moral doctrine opposed to the state policies must be tolerated without going against the liberties? Talisse, for example, answers: "It seems, then, that the very liberties that constitute the core of democracy render the democracy's own conception of legitimacy unsatisfiable. This is the paradox of democratic justification." (Talisse, 2012, Democracy and Moral conflict. Vanderbilt: VUP p. 15).

The recognition of moral pluralism does not imply either moral relativism or scepticism, but renders the possibility of "honest moral error" plausible. So, the honest moral error can be overcome through reasoned debate. Now, the problem of deep moral disagreement in the democratic assessment of moral issues within a plural society is a constant in liberal democratic societies: Several vibrant problems of contemporary politics are indeed needed of engagement and also involving an utterly notorious disagreement such as: the science curriculum, marriage, pharmacists on emergency contraception, and the like. Reasoned debate is needed to make our minds clear and prove ourselves capable of convergence and a rational and straightforward answer to them, but the main question at play here is how positive moral emotions are even beyond the disagreement expressed in moral conflict and, hence, provide an opportunity to solve conflicts.

I will put an emphasis in the following moral emotions as universally helpful for reasoned conflict resolution: empathy, shame, guilt and compassion. Understanding these as emotions that educate us towards reasoned debate will help us to build a more consistent frame to discuss core moral disagreements. 

Chickens, Chameleons, and Emos: From Ethical Naturalism to Not-Just-Naturalism

Sophie-Grace Chappell, Open University, UK

I offer a critique of ethical naturalism in the style of Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Michael Thompson. My main conclusions are 1) that as things are the theory is dangerously dependent on bad science, and especially a conception of animals more suited to a mediaeval bestiary than to modern zoology; 2) that natural normativity is real, but on its own an under-determining base for ethical normativity; 3) that ethical naturalism takes insufficient account of the possibilities that people might without incoherence take no interest either in the dominant version of flourishing, or indeed in any version of flourishing; 4) that ethical naturalism’s focus on the “glossy coat and the gleaming eye” leaves us saying not enough about the realities of human experience, about phenomenological ethics; and so 5) that we need to move from “ethical naturalism” to “not-just-naturalism,” to a view that uses the resources of natural normativity but is open to using other resources too.

Agency, Normativism, and Epistemology

Charles Côté-Bouchard, Université de Montréal

Epistemic constitutivism (EC) seeks to ground the epistemic domain in constitutive features relevant to agency. In this presentation, I examine two distinctions within the epistemic constitutivist family and how these distinctions relate to one another. The first is between what I call requirement-constitutivism (ERC) and normative-constitutivism (ENC). This distinction is about what epistemic constitutivists should try to ground. While ERC only seeks to ground the requirements (norms, standards) of epistemology, proponents of ENC want to go further and ground the normative authority or force of those epistemic requirements. The second distinction, which draws from recent work by Kate Nolfi and Amy Floweree, is between belief-constitutivism (EBC) and action-constitutivism (EAC). This second distinction is about what should do the grounding of epistemic norms or normativity. Which constitutive facts are supposed to ground the epistemic domain exactly? While EBC grounds the epistemic in what is constitutive of belief, EAC invokes the constitution of action or agency more generally. My goal is to formulate and evaluate the four possible versions of EC that we get given these distinctions. I argue that the most plausible version of EC combines requirement-constitutivism (ERC) and belief-constitutivism (EBC). I briefly discuss what this means for views like normativism and epistemological naturalism.

Relationships and Reasons for Belief

Lindsay Crawford, Connecticut College

The pragmatist about reasons for belief argues, against the evidentialist, that there are at least some non-evidential reasons for belief. One way of motivating pragmatism involves identifying cases in which an agent’s standing in a certain kind of valuable relationship with another (e.g., a friendship) appears to give that agent some non-evidentially-reducible reasons to form (or refrain from forming) particular beliefs about that person. Though these cases have become increasingly common in recent pragmatist arguments against evidentialism, it remains unclear exactly what relationship-based, non-evidentially reducible reasons for belief are supposed to consist in, and what would explain the favoring-relation these considerations stand in with respect to our beliefs. In this paper, I examine a variety of ways the pragmatist might make precise the nature of relationship-based reasons for belief and how those considerations normatively bear on the beliefs for which they are reasons. I argue that even though the pragmatist is right to argue that the evidentialist is unable to block or explain away the possibility of relationship-based, non-evidentially-reducible reasons for belief, the pragmatist fails to establish that there can be relationship-based, non-evidentially reducible reasons for belief.

Eating in an Ugly World

Bob Fischer, Texas State University

Intensive animal agriculture wrongs many, many animals. Many philosophers have argued, on this basis, that we have a moral obligation to go vegan. I argue that most people have such a duty, even in wealthy Western contexts. I reach this negative conclusion by contending that the major arguments for veganism fail: they don’t establish a general obligation, and even if they did, the obligation would not be to abstain from all animal products, but to eat unusual things instead—e.g., roadkill, insects, and things left in dumpsters. That second position—that we ought to eat unusually—is one I find deeply implausible, and I take it to provide further evidence that it’s a mistake to think that we have strenuous duties regarding diet. Nevertheless, I argue that some people are obligated to be vegans. However, they don’t have this obligation because the arguments for being vegan are morally decisive. Instead, they have it because they’ve joined a movement, or formed a practical identity, that requires this particular sacrifice. I argue that there are good reasons to make such a move, albeit not ones strong enough to show that everyone must do likewise.

A Good Woman: Challenges to a Partialist Virtue Ethic

Erin Frykholm, University of Kansas

A partialist virtue ethic takes virtuous traits as morally central and determines which traits are virtues according to their effects on others, with priority to others to whom we bear special relationships. The traits that best suit us to the relationships we have will be virtues. This view considers individuals as situated social beings who have particular ties, determining virtue in consideration of these ties—for example, being a teacher sets certain boundaries for developing traits suited to effective and productive interaction with students. This view is, on its face, problematic for reasons familiar to feminists: a) some women may bear relationships to others that, for their continuation, seem to require obviously problematic traits, such as a heterosexual relationship that demanded deference or submission on the part of the woman, or a relationship between coworkers that demand kindness and helpfulness from a woman; and b) a focus on relationships as morally central might build in traditional norms that disadvantage women and threaten autonomy (similar to the charge some have leveled against care ethics). I will defend and expand the view in respect to these challenges, arguing for its plausibility and maintaining that it does not generate these problematic demands.

Moods, Burnout, and the Struggle for Racial Justice

Francisco T. Gallegos, Wake Forest University

Francisco Gallegos’ paper addresses the question: How is it possible to maintain a passionate commitment to justice over time without getting emotionally burned out? A person who cares about racial justice, for example, is liable to experience many painful emotions, such as anger about the countless instances of racial injustice that occur every day, and fear and sadness about the many future threats and present and past losses that she and her community must cope with. Such experiences, when prolonged, can lead to compassion fatigue and emotional burnout, undermining an activist’s capacity to sustain her passionate commitment to justice and remain resilient in the face of setbacks. Gallegos warns against compartmentalization as a strategy for coping with the painful emotions (such as anger, fear, and sadness) that activists are bound to experience in a society that is rife with racial injustice. Instead, he proposes the cultivation of what he calls “integrative moods,” which allow one to maintain emotional resilience without minimizing the painful aspects of struggles for justice. He conducts a moral psychological analysis of the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez to illustrate this approach.

Inequality-Based Empathy Deficits

Lori Gallegos de Castillo, Texas State University

Lori Gallegos de Castillo’s paper begins with the observation that one often encounters people who, though normally caring and empathetic, exhibit inconsistent moral insensitivity with respect to the suffering of people belonging to marginalized social groups—people of color, trans people, homeless people, undocumented immigrants, and so on. Research shows that empathy can motivate pro-social behavior, so a lack of empathy towards oppressed people is a moral problem for those who are concerned about injustice. Scholars have raised concerns about empathy’s susceptibility to in-group bias, here-and-now bias, and familiarity bias. Gallegos de Castillo argues, however, that these categories of bias do not adequately explain the ways in which social hierarchy on the basis of group identity influences some people’s capacities and tendencies to empathize less with members of marginalized groups. She proposes that the notion of inequality-based empathy deficits better addresses how social location, cultural context, and background experience shape the ways in which people empathize. Drawing from work on implicit bias, social epistemology, and critical race theory, Gallegos de Castillo identifies inequality-based empathy deficits as largely structurally produced. She concludes by considering what hopes and challenges this raises for mitigating the effects of this limitation in empathy.

Beauty: An Artist’s Ponderings on Longing and American Expectations of Womanhood

Sarah Gjertson, University of Denver

Much of Sarah Gjertson’s work has explored American expectations of “womanhood”, the complexities of nostalgia around some of those histories, and the utilization of objects/materials/processes that may elicit feelings of longing or familiarity. She often undertakes extensive research about specific subjects that become much larger projects, such as the “Parlor Project” which explored the waning culture of small neighborhood beauty parlors and their aging clientele, and “Married with Children…Or Not” that satirically examined the expectation that women marry and procreate. Her most recent “Human Imprint” project has investigated the roles and contributions of women at historic mining towns in Colorado, and their relative invisibility at such a pivotal time in the American West. As an artist without allegiance to any particular medium, Gjertson’s process begins with an initial research base that includes print sources, travel, accessing archives, and collecting ephemera to build a solid knowledge base and understanding of the history. This accumulated knowledge then informs material choices and processes, which have included sculptural objects, installation, film and video, photography, works on paper, repurposed found objects, and printmaking processes. She hopes to make visible (and in some cases tangible) the histories, voices and stories of women traversing the complex and conflicting expectations they experience living in American culture.

Émilie DuChâtelet: Philosopher, Physicist, Role Model

Liz Goodnick, Metropolitan State University of Denver

In this talk, I begin with a short biography of Émilie DuChâtelet, reviewing her life, her relationship with Voltaire, her achievements, and her influence and importance during the time in which she lived and shortly thereafter. I go on to discuss the erasure of women’s voices in the time period and detail a few recent efforts to recover voices from the past, including DuChâtelet’s. I then describe some recent research on role models and the importance of having role models who are from relevant identity groups. I explain some of DuChâtelet’s arguments, focusing on her “Foundations of Physics” and her “Discourse on Happiness,” and explore how she can serve as a role model to women students in philosophy, humanities, and even STEM fields. I describe some of my own experiences discovering both historical and contemporary role models through my work in recovering the voices of women in the Early Modern Period--especially DuChâtelet. I conclude with a discussion of steps I’ve taken to encourage my women undergraduate students to discover historical role models and provide some examples of classroom activities and assignments that serve this end.

The Irreducibility of Aesthetic and Critical Reasoning

Keren Gorodeisky, Auburn University

Frank Sibley famously argued that the aim of the critic is to get others to perceive a work in the way that the critic does. On this basis, he famously denied that the work of the critic is based on reasoning: “An activity the successful outcome of which is seeing . . . cannot . . . be called reasoning” (“Aesthetic/Non-Aesthetic”). Not convinced, some have recently given up on the perceptual character of criticism, and explained its rational nature in terms of action. In response, others, sympathetic to Sibley’s understanding of the perceptual nature of criticism, but who seek to carve out space for critical reasoning, have proposed to modify Sibley’s notion of perception. This paper aims to correct the limitations of each of these approaches by focusing less on Sibley’s understanding of perceptual experience (though this will also be tackled), and more on the restrictive notion of reasoning that underlies both Sibley’s denial and the responses to it. I propose that we discard this notion, and replace it with a more capacious notion of reasoning. This allows us to explain in what sense the work of the critic, even though largely perceptual and affective, is a mode of reasoning, but an irreducible mode of reasoning, different in kind from both theoretical and practical reasoning. On the proposed capacious notion of reasoning, not only can an activity “the successful outcome of which is seeing” be a form of reasoning, but even an activity, the successful outcome of which is an affective experience can be a form of reasoning. Criticism can be perceptual and affective and rational provided we adopt the right notion of reasoning and recognize the sui generis nature of aesthetic and critical reasoning.

Pomona College's PPE Program

Michael J. Green, Pomona College

I will describe the history and present challenges of the PPE program at Pomona College.

A Corpus Study of "Know": On the Verification of Philosophers' Frequency Claims about Language

Nathaniel Hansen, University of Reading

We investigate claims about the frequency of “know” made by philosophers. Our investigation has several overlapping aims. First, we aim to show what is required to confirm or disconfirm philosophers’ claims about the comparative frequency of different uses of philosophically interesting expressions. Second, we aim to show how using linguistic corpora as tools for investigating meaning is a productive methodology, in the sense that it yields discoveries about the use of language that philosophers would have overlooked if they remained in their “armchairs of an afternoon”, to use J. L. Austin’s phrase. Third, we discuss facts about the meaning of “know” that so far have been ignored in philosophy, with the aim of reorienting discussions of the relevance of ordinary language for philosophical theorizing.

Kant and the Philosophy of Hope

Daniel R. Herbert, University of Sheffield, England, and Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla, Mexico

It is often assumed that Kant treats the capacities for emotion and rationality as necessarily opposed, such that each inhibits the other and sensitivity to reason is therefore compromised by one’s emotional being. To interpret Kant in such a fashion, however, is to overlook the role which he affords to reason in producing, directing and supporting certain emotions. Reason takes an interest, for instance, in the question, “What may I hope?” and authorises an attitude of emotional commitment sufficient for belief in certain propositions the truth-value of which cannot be decided on exclusively theoretical (or value-neutral) grounds. Certain hopes are in fact not merely consistent with reason, according to Kant, but rationally demanded of us. In particular, Kant purports to ground belief in certain propositions concerning our individual and collective destinies by appeal to rational hopes which compensate for our necessary ignorance in such matters of vital human concern. According to Kant then, there are cases (including matters concerning God and the immortal soul) where reason must admit a necessary ignorance but may nonetheless motivate a hopeful attitude sufficient for belief. This presentation shall draw upon recent scholarship concerning Kant’s relevance for the philosophy of emotion in order to elucidate an area of the Critical system which remains somewhat neglected and under-researched—its treatment of the relation between reason and hope. This shall shed light upon Kant’s philosophies of religion and history.

Do Division Puzzles Provide Reason to Doubt that Your Organism was Ever a Zygote?

David B. Hershenov, University at Buffalo SUNY

Puzzles arising from the possibility of early embryos dividing in the first two weeks after fertilization have been interpreted as providing reason for believing that one’s organism could not have existed before such division becomes impossible. I will argue that four such puzzles can be resolved without recourse to denying that one’s organism existed from fertilization onwards. The first has to do with the zygote dividing into two cells. The second concerns the early embryo giving rise to both the placenta and the “embryo proper.” The third deals with the mere possibility of twinning allegedly indicating that the early embryo lacks sufficient integration to be a multicellular organism. The fourth presents a transitivity of identity puzzle as it seems that the early multi-cell embryo could survive the destruction of either half of its cells but those two halves could have also been separated and grown into distinct organisms.

Knowing Things Differently

Bryce Huebner, Georgetown University

We are constantly exposed to information that shifts our attention toward things that are seen as salient to the members of the groups that we belong to. These shifts of attention then shape the way that we think about things, as well as the kinds of things that we are likely to remember (and the kinds of things that we are likely to forget). These tendencies play a critical role in our overall sense of social fluency (cf., Reber & Norenzayan 2018); but just as importantly, they can make those who approach the world differently seem dangerous or disingenuous to us. In this talk, I will explore some of the ways that feedback from our social world can shape our attentional landscapes, and shape our understanding of what's possible, leading people in different groups to 'know the world differently'.

Reciprocity in Aristotle's Political Philosophy

Kazutaka Inamura, Waseda University, Japan

My book, Justice and Reciprocity in Aristotle’s Political Philosophy (Cambridge UP, 2015), is criticized by Dorothea Frede (Hermathena, 2013), Bradford MacCall (Ancient Philosophy, 2017), André Sousa (Journal of Ancient Philosophy, 2017), Andrés Rosler (Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 2018), et al. In the talk, I will respond to these critics to show how the notions of reciprocity and friendship are used in Aristotle’s Politics. In particular, I will examine Aristotle’s background for promoting the public policy of distributing resources to the poor in Politics 6.5 and argue that Aristotle addresses the problem of the hostility between the rich and the poor as a cause for destroying the polis. Unlike present-day Aristotelians, his key notions are reciprocity and friendship, and not individuals’ well-being or distributive justice. Although the Greek view of justice—helping friends and harming enemies—is criticized by Plato’s Socrates, Aristotle reformulates a civilized version of reciprocity to offer a consistent framework of his ethical, political and economic thought. The texts I am going to examine are Politics 2.2.1261a30–7; 3.6.1279a08–16; 4.11.1295b1–1296a5; 6.5.1320a29–b1; Nicomachean Ethics 5.5.1132b34–1133a5; and 8.2.1155b27–1156a5, which will illuminate the origin of a reciprocity-based practical philosophy.

Reciprocal Justice and Political Justice in NE V

Dhananjay Jagannathan, Columbia University

My aim in this talk is to help rehabilitate Aristotle’s account of justice in Nicomachean Ethics Book V by demonstrating that it has more internal coherence than has been supposed. The difficulty is the impression that the foundational taxonomy of justice in NE V.1-2 is contradicted elsewhere in the book. Indeed, each of his two primary distinctions seems to be undermined, yielding two problems of coherence. As I will show, the idea of reciprocity is a pivot in the argument of the book. When properly understood, reciprocity holds the key to dismissing both apparent problems and demonstrating the book's unity.

Logics as Needed

Teresa Kouri Kissel, Old Dominion University

In this paper, I will argue that logics are primarily tools for deductive reasoning. As such, any logic which is useful will count as a good logic. Thus, we have as many logics as we need. The argument that logics are (merely) tools will stem from the usefulness of conflicting logics in studying various applications. In this paper, I will focus primarily on two applications: using linear logic and classical logic to model natural language syntax. Both are good ways to reason about natural language syntax, but the methods occasionally produce conflicting results. I will show that assuming that there is only a single logic or single (canonical) application for logic will not allow us to appropriately make sense of how useful different and conflicting logics can be.

Justice in Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics

Mitzi Lee, University of Colorado Boulder


Machine Learning and Epistemology: Pursuit of Platonic Tethering to the Truth or, More Generally, the Learning Target

Hanti Lin, University of California, Davis

Machine learning has a subdiscipline, called learning theory, which is sometimes taken to do some theoretical work and provide evaluations of inductive procedures and learning algorithms. That sounds like epistemology, and I will argue that it is. I will provide an accessible review of learning theory and its various branches (such as PAC learning theory, statistical learning theory, and formal learning theory), and I will identify some of the underlying epistemological ideas. I will argue that those ideas, when explicated carefully, constitute a development of a long tradition in epistemology—one that can be traced back to Putnam, to Reichenbach, to Peirce, and even to Plato (hence the title of this talk). And I will argue that this epistemological tradition, when developed in line with learning theory, can serve as an important, plausible addition to each of the following epistemological views: internalism, externalism, scientific realism, instrumentalism, and Bayesianism.

Potentiality, Persons, and Futures of Value

John Lizza, Kutztown University

Proponents of the potentiality argument against abortion, such as Germain Grisez and Jason Eberl, argue that in virtue of having the potential for certain characteristics, such as intellect and will, a human embryo is already a human person and thus entitled to all the basic rights as any other human person, including a right not to be killed. This argument assumes that the relevant potentiality is intrinsic to the embryo. I challenge this assumption and show how factors extrinsic to the embryo can affect its potentiality and thus its moral standing as a human person. I argue that not all human embryos have the same potentiality due to certain intrinsic or extrinsic differences among them, including physical and decisional factors that may restrict an embryo’s possibilities. I then consider whether this view may challenge Don Marquis’s argument that most abortions are morally wrong because they deprive the embryo of a certain potentiality, i.e., a future of value like ours.

Meta Beauty

Dominic McIver Lopes, University of British Columbia

Aesthetic value pluralists hold that there are many aesthetic practices, each with its own aesthetic style or profile. Some add that aesthetic practices are social practices in which agents act well by coordinating with each other on the practice’s style or profile. Networks of agents routinely look inward, at the style or profile of the practice that enables them to coordinate with one another. However, they can also look outward, taking in the style or profile of other practices. Sometimes, when they do that, they see a practice’s style or profile as cool or jarring, cramped or serene. Indeed, some art forms, notably photography, are especially well suited to representing aesthetic styles or profiles of aesthetic practices. This talk considers the nature and the point of second-order aesthetic values, with special attention paid to photography.

Potentiality and Origins

Don Marquis, University of Kansas

I shall discuss the role of the concept of potentiality in understanding the ethics of killing. First, I shall discuss how the concept of potentiality is necessary in order to understand the correct ethics of the wrongness of killing those who we agree are members of the moral community. Second, I shall show how this concept of potentiality is useful in understanding when it is wrong to end the existence of alleged precursors of us.

From Truth to Beauty: The Phenomenological Aesthetics of Edith Landmann-Kalischer

Samantha Matherne, Harvard University

According to the early phenomenologist, Edith Landmann-Kalischer, beauty has the function of disclosing a specific kind of truth to us, viz., the truth related to subjectivity. Moreover, she argues that beauty discloses subjectivity to us in a way that nothing else, e.g., psychology or philosophy, can. Landmann-Kalischer’s theory of beauty thus turns on an analysis of both the cognitive status and uniqueness of beauty. In this paper, I consider the viability of this account of beauty in relation to other popular accounts of beauty, viz, mimetic and Kantian accounts. Unlike on the mimetic view, I show that Landmann-Kalischer’s route to securing the cognitive status of beauty precedes via the connection between beauty and subjectivity. However, unlike on the Kantian view, I argue that Landmann-Kalischer construes this connection between beauty and subjectivity in objective terms, i.e., as something that involves the correspondence between beauty and subjective reality. In contrast to the more object-oriented account of the mimetic theorist and the more subject-oriented account of the Kantian, I claim that Landmann-Kalischer offers us a promising theory of beauty, which attempts to do justice to both its objective and subjective dimensions.

Translation Studies in Chinese and Comparative Philosophy

Sarah Mattice, University of North Florida

After giving a brief history of translation theory from a Chinese context, in this presentation I focus my attention on an excerpt from twentieth-century literary giant 钱钟书QIAN Zhongshu’s essay, “林纾的翻译Lin Shu’s Translations.” This essay, which Yu Chengfa has called the most significant single piece of writing on translation in 20th century China, is itself rarely translated and has not been given significant philosophical attention. I explore what Qian calls 化境huajing, the highest standard for translation, and consider the philosophical roots of this term in Chinese Buddhism. I then seek to put Qian’s work into conversation with major European and American translation theorists including Friedrich Schleirmacher, Walter Benjamin, and Lawrence Venuti. Finally, I argue that, broadly speaking, one of the distinctive values of continental philosophical methodologies to comparative work is in their ability to attend to translation, providing a number of examples to illustrate this claim.

Metapragmatics and Political Contestation

Rachel McKinney, Suffolk University

Call political contestation over the usage of language “metapragmatic political contestation.” In this paper I describe the promise and peril of such contestation, and its complex relationship to first-order political contestation. Drawing on Gramsci’s distinction between the “war of maneuver” and the “war of position,” I argue that in times of backlash and realignment such metapragmatic contestation becomes particularly fraught, and political actors would do well to speak, think, and act strategically. The paper proceeds as follows. First I give a brief overview of ‘metapragmatics’ as it is found in linguistic anthropology. Then I argue that political contestation has a dual mandate: on the one hand, to achieve understanding and uptake, and on the other to enable individuals to discover for themselves their interests and collective potential. This dual mandate places practical constraints on modes of discursive contestation for political actors. Finally I offer some thoughts on guiding principles and success conditions for such metapragmatic political contests and interactions.

No Right to an Open Future

Joseph Millum, Clinical Center Department of Bioethics/Fogarty International Center (NIH)

The child’s “right to an open future” is widely cited in philosophy and medical ethics to adjudicate questions ranging from whether parents may remove their child from school early to the permissibility of sex selection and the ethics of circumcision. In this paper, I argue that there are no cases in which citing this purported right is helpful in deciding what may or should be done. In paradigmatic cases where the implications of the “right to an open future” are supposed to be clear, we do not need it to draw our moral verdict. In ethically more challenging cases the “right to an open future” does no real work. Instead, progress is made by analyzing other rights of the child (whose content is clearer), the different interests that the child may have, and the interests and claims of other parties.


Kelly Oliver, Vanderbilt University

Starting with the concept of earthling, I develop an earth ethics based on the obligations inherent in sharing a home. Although we may inhabit different worlds, as earthling, we all share the same planetary home.

Natural Reasons through Virtue

Hille Paakkunainen, Syracuse University

I’ve argued elsewhere that it’s a hallmark of the normativity of normative reasons for action that they’re premises in good deliberation towards the action that they’re reasons for. I’ve also argued elsewhere that, if normative naturalists could capture and explain this and other hallmarks of normativity in terms of their view, this would assuage the worry that the normative is “just too different” from the natural to be part of the natural world. In this paper, I argue that a naturalistic virtue theory of normative reasons looks uniquely promising among naturalist views in its ability to capture and explain this important hallmark of normativity. On the virtue theory, the necessary connection between reasons and good deliberation is explained by the fact that what it is to be a normative reason for action is to be a certain kind of premise in good deliberation—where the goodness of good deliberation is cashed out in terms of virtue, naturalistically understood. I elaborate on the virtue theory and on why it counts as naturalist, and I argue that “just too different” concerns don’t re-arise with equal force at the level of naturalizing virtues.

Rage Against the Machine: Integrating Economic Simulation into Debates about Social and Economic Inequality

Brendan Palla, University of Providence

In this presentation, I discuss how I model the construction of market economies for Rage against the Machine—a role-playing scenario for the Reacting to the Past Series. I discus market-mechanisms specific to early industrialization in 1810s Manchester, UK, how students drive economic transformations over repeated class sections, and how these models inform student-driven debate about social and political inequality. I discuss the decision-space in which students determine the outcomes of these quasi-historical debates (possible end-games range from revolution to bourgeois compromise to conservative repression), as well as challenges and resiliencies in giving students such significant control of classroom time and space.

Making Space for Women with Student-lead New Narratives

Katie Paxman, Brigham Young University

This talk will explore the related issues of representation of women in the philosophical canon and representation of women in undergraduate classrooms. In recent discourse exploring the under-representation of women in philosophy, it has been suggested that one contributing factor is the lack of mentors and role models for women in philosophy, including in the standard historical narratives presented to students. This talk will consider what it might mean to build historical course content with an eye to providing role models for female undergraduate students. The aim is to create space for women in the classroom by creating spaces in the canon that can empower the female student’s ability to project herself into the role of ‘philosopher’. The discussion will consider in particular recent efforts to create space for female students in the Philosophy Department at Brigham Young University (BYU), where woman have made up only 18% of the graduating majors in the last 30 years. In a recently developed course at BYU students were challenged to think critically about what it means to have a philosophical canon and a received historical narrative. Readings engaged treatments of the concept of ‘woman’ from major players in the dominant historical narrative of Western philosophy, as well as the writings of female philosophers who are often over-looked in the history of philosophy. This talk will consider in particular the efficacy of challenging the students themselves to discover and research women who might appropriately be recognized as philosophers, and student-led efforts to reimagine the philosophical canon and historical narratives as driven by questions and discussions that highlight the contributions of female thinkers.

The Normativity of Logic: A Particular-ist Story

Gillman Payette, The University of Lethbridge and The University of British Columbia

That logic is normative is almost an axiom in philosophy. But recently philosophers of logic have been finding it difficult to determine in what way logic is normative. The advent of logical pluralism has made the question more complicated. The tough slog is articulating how logic is normative for attitudes, i.e., knowledge, beliefs, desires, and intentions. When we attempt to make the connection between what we actually believe and what we should believe we face counter-intuitive results. But the normativity of logic is clear in one application: argument evaluation. The norms for argument evaluation are fairly straight-forward: does the argument conform to a valid argument of the logic? If yes, the norm is satisfied. If no, then it has been violated. For all of its simplicity, even this evaluative normativity is not without its problems. Which logic's rules are applicable in a given situation, what we will call 'theoretical indeterminacy', is a problem for pluralists and indecisive monists. Which rules of a logic are applicable in a given situation, what we will call 'analytic indeterminacy', is a problem for pluralists and monists of any stripe. As this is joint work with Nicole Wyatt, our goal is to establish two claims: 1) our particularist philosophy of logic is in a better position regarding theoretical and analytical indeterminacy than most philosophies of logic, and 2) within particularism we can show that the normativity of logic for the various attitudes can be reduced without loss to evaluative normativity. While a certain kind of monist may be in as good a position as the particularist, we will finally argue that typical monists, i.e., those who are exceptionalists about logic, are not able to employ our reduction.

Speech Effects

Mark Phelan, Lawrence University

I argue for two theses in this paper. First, I argue that unintentional meaning is possible—that is, that a speaker’s utterance can mean something to a hearer without the hearer taking the speaker to mean that thing by the utterance. It follows from this, I will further explain, that there can be speech effects without speaker endorsement. Second, I argue that, having noticed the possibility of unintentional meaning, speakers have exploited it, and that the exploitation of unintentional meaning is a constitutive feature of a variety of different linguistic phenomena. Specifically, I will sketch how exploitation of unintentional meaning contributes to and can help explain metaphor and dog-whistles. I connect the discussion throughout to the foundational pragmatic frameworks inaugurated by Austin and Grice, as well as to recent work on metaphor and dog-whistles.

Deepfakes and the Epistemic Backstop

Regina Rini, York University

Deepfakes are fabricated video/audio recordings, generated by algorithm, that present the face or voice of a person doing something they never did. Since emerging in 2017, the technology has become easily available online, suggesting that within a few years we should no longer expect recordings to reliably depict reality. Before that happens we must reappraise the social epistemic role of video/audio recordings. In this paper I argue that they function as an epistemic backstop. Specifically, recordings function to regulate and correct testimonial practices. In large modern societies, our reliance on the testimony of strangers is epistemically justified (in part) by the potential availability of recordings. In the near future, deepfaked recordings will erode and eventually eliminate this backstop role. Once that happens, testimonial practices that have developed over the last two centuries may come undone very rapidly, stranding our social and political discourse in practical skepticism.

Creating Happy People

Tina Rulli, University of California, Davis

The Procreative Asymmetry holds that although 1) we have strong reasons, obligation even, to not create a child who would have a miserable life, 2) we have no moral reasons, and thus no obligation, to create a child who would have a happy life. Proponents of this intuitive pair of claims are hard-pressed to defend it in a principled, non-arbitrary way. But what if we assume that we do in fact have a moral reason to create happy people? In this paper, I argue that this reason is both mitigated and potentially defeated or defeasible in many, if not most, real life cases of people deliberating procreation. There are mitigating and defeating reasons of both the philosophical and practical kind. I suggest that the fact of these defeating reasons might help explain why we have the intuition that there is no moral reason at all to create happy people in the first place. Accepting that we have pro tanto, but typically defeated, reasons to create happy people provides grounds for rejecting the Procreative Asymmetry and makes space for intuitive responses to other puzzles in population ethics, although it faces its own challenges. I discuss these as well.

Market Forces, Moral Duties, and Climate Action

Alex Sayegh, McGill University

This paper focuses on two strategies to overcome the collective action problem: (i) showing whether markets can help agents to act according to the collective goal and (ii) showing whether agents’ self-interest in the short-run can be aligned with the collective interest to mitigate climate change. Each of the two strategies contains part of the solution to the collective action problem. That is because both contribute to clarifying the distribution of our moral duties while providing reasons for action. An agent-based distribution of moral duties and its connection with reasons for action should in turn diminish the non-compliance effect in a non-ideal world. This paper thereby exposes the unavoidability of morality in the response to climate change, even in the short-run reply to the collective problem. I aim to provide a normative cartography for an agent-based distribution of market-related duties for rapid climate action. In the climate case, win faster is the only way to win at all. More precisely, this paper argues that we can identify agents which have second-order duties to guide market forces, such that markets will make it easier for agents to comply with their climate change mitigation duties. The answer to (i) above will inform the answer to (ii). By showing that agents have a duty to tilt markets in favour of climate action, we will be ascertaining that, increasingly, it will be in the short-term self-interest of agents to mitigate climate change. Establishing moral duties at the market level will provide reasons for action at the individual, corporate and government level. This paper thus offers a normative framework for the design of a market that will contribute to the climate effort, making it easier for agents to act upon their duties of climate change mitigation.

From Patients to Populations: Characterizing the Epistemic Value of Diversity in Medical Research and Care

Joseph Shin, Weill Cornell Medical College

In clinical medicine, observational and experimental trials continue to provide the majority of relevant diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic knowledge. When taking into account the embodied nature of much of medical knowledge, the composition of the data sources—such as the diversity of the populations from which these conclusions are derived—play a significant role in determining both the validity and generalizability of this knowledge. Additionally, as biomedical science and clinical medicine have advanced, the fields have moved beyond merely studying health and disease through the many interrelated mechanisms seated within individual biological and organ systems. There is now increasing recognition and investigation of the cultural/behavioral and materialist/structuralist mechanisms which also influence health. This research examining psychosocial determinants of health is relevant not only for understanding population health but also informing individual healthcare decisions, and is advanced through knowledge that is often situated in the complex experiences and preferences of specific groups and individuals. Moreover, while this situated knowledge is most often acknowledged in study populations or individual patients, it should also be recognized by the researchers and clinicians themselves. Through several illustrative examples drawn from research and clinical scenarios, I will discuss the phenomenology of embodiment and the types of situated knowledge that can inform and improve medical knowledge, highlighting the epistemic value of diversity to health outcomes, health equity and patient-centered care.

Recent Conceptions of Happiness from Psychology: A Selective Overview and Critique

Nancy Snow, The University of Oklahoma

With the rise of positive psychology, interest in the study of happiness has increased in the field of psychology. Many philosophers are probably familiar with popularized works such as The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, by Jonathan Haidt, and Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, and Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, both by Martin E. P. Seligman. Fewer philosophers are likely aware that some psychologists have made and continue to make serious scholarly efforts to engage with philosophical work on happiness. Interesting in this regard is the work of Carol Ryff and Alan S. Waterman in bringing elements of Aristotelian eudaimonia to bear on various aspects of psychological theory, and that of Blaine Fowers in integrating numerous elements of Aristotelian virtue ethics into the field of psychology. Based on an overview and critique of work by these three psychologists, I address two key questions: (1) To what extent, if any, does the integration of philosophical theories and ideas into their work enhance their approaches to happiness?; and (2) To what extent, if any, does examining this work in psychology present philosophers with new ideas and insights for potential exploration? To put it more bluntly, what, if anything, have these psychologists learned from us about happiness that is of value to their work; and what, if anything, can we learn from them about happiness that is of value to ours?

Essentialism and Determinism in Popular Thinking about Genetics

Kathryn Tabb, Columbia University

"Given the widely-held intuition that genetic causes are seen as relevant to people’s ability to do otherwise and therefore to assessments of their desert, it is surprising that empirical studies have shown little such effect. One explanation has been the presence of a “double-edged sword” effect, where genetic explanations for behavior are seen as both mitigating and aggravating, due to intuitions about genetic determinism, on the one side, and intuitions about genetic essentialism, on the other. I present data suggesting another possible factor: people commonly discount certain sorts of genetic explanations before they even come to factor them in to decisions about reward or punishment. I argue that these data are best explicable not in terms of a widespread rejection of genetic explanations as such, but rather as manifestation of a more general form of motivated cognition about blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. Genetic determinism and genetic essentialism both have a role to play in the psychology of such judgments, but I argue that their roles are different than those previously attributed to them in the literature."

Prolegomena to Machine Epistemology

Gregory Wheeler, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management

Until very recently, artificial intelligence was an interesting if mildly disreputable academic endeavor. There were logical approaches emphasizing intelligent thinking and statistical approaches emphasizing intelligent action, but neither really worked that well. And the philosophy of computer science was as speculative and detached from practice as the philosophy of mind once was. Those days are over. AI works now, and it runs on statistical machine learning methods. The philosophy of machine learning engages two types of topics (i) those that concern the foundations of machine learning, and (ii) those that contrast the performance of common machine learning algorithms to the performance of common programs in traditional and formal epistemology. This talk presents examples of each.

Mince Pie Reasons

Eric Wiland, University of Missouri, St. Louis

Let us assume that there are some reasons to believe. Are there more specifically practical reasons to believe? To answer this, it would first be wise to wonder how to determine whether for any modifier M, there are M reasons to believe. M might take as values: 1) practical, 2) aesthetic, 3) humorous, 4) mince pie . . . I argue that any strategy that seeks to establish that there are practical reasons to believe also threatens to entail that there are mince pie reasons to believe, an absurd outcome. We can dodge this outcome only by making the same kind of substantive assumptions about the specific point of reasons to believe that anti-pragmatists already make. Dialectically, the defender of practical reasons to believe is left in a unhappy place. In the rest of the talk, I raise problems specifically for Susanna Rinard's view that if the rationality of believing is to be determined the same way as the rationality of anything else is, then there are practical reasons to believe. I argue that this does not follow: I will focus on exclusionary reasons for action as a case study. Given that there can be reasons to exclude regarding certain considerations as reasons for action, we can explain why there are no practical reasons to believe.

Intercultural Philosophy and/or New Confucianism

Kathleen Wright, Haverford College

There is a certain urgency if not an imperative today to go beyond “philosophy,” that is, beyond “Western European philosophy” and to practice “comparative philosophy,” “multicultural philosophy” or “intercultural philosophy.” This paper asks about what “intercultural” means when we talk about “intercultural philosophy” by considering the case of twentieth century New Confucian thought. I discuss Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in Early Twentieth-Century German Thought by Eric S. Nelson (2017) and The Confucian Political Imagination by Eske J. Møllgaard (2018), two books that reach completely different conclusions about New Confucian thought. Nelson, starting with Zhang Junmai, concludes that Zhang’s New Confucian thought is a “significant example of and model for” intercultural philosophy. Møllgaard, beginning instead with Tu Weiming and Mou Zongsan, maintains that there is a fundamental “clash” between the sage-knowledge of Confucianism, including New Confucianism, and Western European philosophy, a clash that is “exhibited in an exemplary way” in the work of the New Confucian thinker, Mou Zongsan. For Confucianism, according to Møllgaard, is always only about “reviving the Confucian social imaginary” and practicing the “art of humanity.” New Confucian thought is therefore for Møllgaard not even philosophy let alone an example of intercultural philosophy.

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