The Focus of Virtue: Broadening Attention in Empirically Informed Accounts of Virtue Cultivation
Maria Altepeter, Washington University in St. Louis
In this paper, I argue that important variants of empirically informed proposals of virtue cultivation depend on a conception of goals, which employs a common psychological mechanism of attention narrowing. I argue for two problematic implications of this: 1) Using these techniques can unintentionally result in behaving in morally inappropriate ways, and 2) even in the case of avoiding such conduct, these techniques may nonetheless dispose one to be less likely to appreciate moral value. Thus, in order to cultivate virtue and avoid such problems, we need to at least sometimes employ a engage in attention broadening. While the mechanisms of how this might occur are currently unclear, I end this paper by exploring a potential empirically viable way forward. I review the empirical literature on Open Monitoring Meditation, showing that we get the same sort of benefits as goal-pursuit accounts while avoiding the negative ethical consequences.
Systems of Memory and the Self
Thomas Ames, University of Missouri–St. Louis
A pluralistic account of the Self typically suggests the existence of several simultaneously available mental states; that is, the Self, used as a plurality, “are the experiences and mental states we have and that’s it: no additional substances, and no bundles” (Benovsky 2014). I will show, however, that there are not only several modes of the Self that are indeed normatively bundled, namely a neurological Self and a narrative Self, but that in addition these modes correlate to two specific systems of memory: semantic and episodic, respectively. I then go on to discuss evidence of these correlations informed by amnesia and other clinical case studies. The upshot of this proposal is a better understanding of the relationship between the Self and memory.
The Capacity of Reflection, Normativity, and Moral Action
Dong An, Texas A&M University
Recent studies on animal ethics seem to challenge the binary distinction between moral agent and patient. I argue against this challenge. Specifically, I argue that acting out of moral motivation is inseparable from having moral agency. To achieve this, I reply to two arguments against the view that reflection is necessary for morality. First, I use the Wittgensteinian strategy to argue that the reflection thesis does not lead to an infinite regress. Second, I use the notions of identification, narrative integration, and life plan/policy to argue that the situationist work in moral psychology does not pose more challenge to the traditional understanding of control. Lastly, I examine the representative attempt in adding a moral status in between agent and patient. I argue the proposal is equivocal because it confuses moral normativity with the naturalist notion of normativity in terms of evolutionary fitness.
The Sexual Orientation/Identity Distinction
Matthew Salett Andler, University of Virginia
The sex/gender distinction is a staple of feminist philosophy. In slogan form, sex is “natural,” while gender is the “social meaning” of sex. Although the distinction isn’t universally accepted, its widespread endorsement is likely due to its remarkable theoretical power. By separating gender from sex, we’re equipped to explain the structure of patriarchy, validate trans identities, and imagine just alternative societies. Happily, social metaphysicians have recently turned their attention to the social significance of sexuality. Considering the importance of the sex/gender distinction, it’s interesting to ask if we might make use of an analogous distinction. In this paper, I argue that we ought to endorse the sexual orientation/identity distinction.
How to Do Things with Complete Lekta: The Stoics on Illocutionary Acts
Sosseh Assaturian, University of Texas at Austin
The term ‘illocutionary act’ was coined by JL Austin in his How to Do Things with Words (1962) to describe those expressions whose utterance constitutes an action, like promising or commanding. One striking feature of Stoic philosophy is the aim to systematize language, which becomes apparent in their taxonomy of complete lekta (roughly, the meanings of complete sentences). In this paper, I argue for a reading of the taxonomy according to which complete lekta are type-differentiated according to function. On my account, complete lekta are classified by reference to what the speaker does in uttering a sentence that expresses a complete lekton of a particular type. My reading provides a new way to understand assertibles—the type of complete lekta that form the foundation of Stoic logic. It also shows that the Stoics not only recognized the phenomenon of illocutionary acts, but embedded it into their philosophy of language.
A Strike Against a Striking Principle
Dan Baras, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Several authors believe that there are certain facts that are striking and cry out for explanation—for instance, a coin that is tossed many times and lands in the alternative sequence HTHTHTHTHTHT... (H=heads, T=tails). According to this view, we have prima facie reason to believe that such facts are not the result of chance. I call this view the striking principle. Based on this principle, some have argued for far-reaching conclusions, such as that our universe was created by intelligent design, that there are many universes other than the one we inhabit, and that there are no mathematical or normative facts. Appealing as the view may initially seem, I argue that we lack sufficient reason to accept it.
Who Do You Speak For? And How?: Anonymity and Identity in Online Abuse
Michael Randall Barnes, Georgetown University
A lot of subordinating speech has moved online, which raises several questions for philosophers. Can current accounts of oppressive speech adequately capture digital hate? How does the anonymity of online harassers contribute to the force of their speech? This paper examines online abuse and argues that these are cases of subordinating speech that are best understood as collective speech acts, rather than speech acts originating from individual speakers. I address the varied roles of identity in online abuse, for both targets and speakers, and argue that anonymity and shared language offer online abusers a path to a type of group-authority that lends more power to their speech than they might first appear to have. Accounting for the realities of subordinating speech online shows that speaker authority is dynamic and emergent, and often depends on the community in more ways than licensing and accommodation as it is discussed in in-person cases.
Perception Is Analog: The Argument from Weber's Law
Jacob Beck, York University
I develop a new argument for the conclusion that perception is analog. My argument leans on Weber’s Law, a well-entrenched finding in psychophysics. Although Weber’s Law is well known, its consequences for the format of perception have been overlooked.
Forgiveness and Normative Condescension: A Worry for Unilateral Forgiveness
David P. Beglin, University of California, Los Angeles
When we unilaterally forgive someone, we forgive that person despite their not wanting or seeking forgiveness. The predominant reasons that have been given against such forgiveness are that it doesn’t take wrongdoing seriously and that it isn’t self-respecting. Both, then, focus on the forgiver and her relation to what happened. Here, I focus instead on the forgiver’s relation to the wrongdoer. This reveals a new reason against unilateral forgiveness: it fails to take seriously the other person’s perspective as a moral agent. Unilateral forgiveness is thus, I argue, out of accord with the reciprocity that is characteristic of our ordinary moral relationships. Still, I don’t think that this means unilateral forgiveness is never justified. Rather, I argue, this aspect of unilateral forgiveness gives us pro tanto reason against it. Moreover, I hold, even when unilateral forgiveness is justified, it’s still lamentable—an important way of relating to others is lost.
Nietzsche's Natural History
Michael Begun, Fordham University
Nietzsche uses the term ‘natural history’ only infrequently in his letters and published work. The most prominent place that it appears is in the heading of Beyond Good and Evil’s fifth chapter, “On/Toward the Natural History of Morals.” While there is a seemingly important precursor to this title in Daybreak, Nietzsche in neither locus explicitly defines what he means by “natural history.” Whether Nietzsche thus sees natural history as an “actual history of nature”, or a natural history of morals as a sort of “genealogy of morals” remains unclear. What I argue in this paper is that “natural history” for Nietzsche exemplifies a natural scientific method. Accordingly, I contend that Nietzsche’s concept of a “natural history of morals,” rather than referring to any “actual history of morals,” instead concerns his proposal in Beyond Good and Evil to apply something like this natural scientific method to the study of moral principles.
Perceptual Holism and Reliable Misperception
Jacob Berger, Idaho State University
There are good reasons to think that perceptual states are representational. But if perception has content, then we require a theory of the grounds of those contents. Currently, the most widely held accounts are tracking theories, on which perceptual states’ contents depend in an atomistic way upon their standing in suitable one-to-one tracking relations to what they represent. Recently, some critics have argued that tracking theories cannot explain cases—both theoretical and experimental—of so-called ‘reliable’ misperception. While these objections plausibly undermine tracking theories, I argue here that they do not threaten an alternative holistic account of perceptual content known as ‘quality-space semantics’. This view holds that perceptual states’ relations to one another in quality spaces determine their perceptual contents. Showing how reliable misrepresentation does not challenge this perceptual holism not only illustrates the view’s explanatory power, but also offers an opportunity to clarify its details.
The Residual Access Problem
Sharon E. Berry, Oakland University
A range of current truth-value realist philosophies of mathematics allow one to reduce the Benacerraf Problem to a problem of explaining our accuracy about which mathematical practices are coherent–in a sense which can be cashed out in terms of logical possibility. However, our ability to recognize these facts about logical possibility poses its own access problem. I'll propose a solution to this residual access problem for logical possibility and suggest that accepting powerful and correct general principles for reasoning about logical possibility can be the most efficient way to predict and explain the behavior of concrete objects.
Two Concepts of Metaphysical Grounding
Michael Bertrand, Ohio State University
It is widely assumed that there is a single grounding relation and that grounding is analogous to causation. However, I argue that grounding double prevention cases reveal an intractable tension between these and other plausible claims about grounding. I claim that this tension is best resolved by adopting grounding pluralism: the view on which there are at least two distinct relations of metaphysical ground.
The Hermeneutics of Progress
Zachary Biondi, University of California, Los Angeles
Kant’s “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” proposes a method of historiography according to which we depict humanity as progressing towards a state of freedom, perpetual peace, and cosmopolitanism. In short, it puts forward what one might call a hermeneutics of progress: a self-consciously political exegetical framework. This paper locates the hermeneutic in Kant’s political essays and explores a number of its characteristics, for instance, its iterative self-reflexivity. The hermeneutic is seen to be more than a call for politically progressive historiography but also a broader philosophy of history that challenges institutional assumptions.
"Once We Were Somebodies": Arendt, Agamben, and the Right to Have Rights - Rethinking a Topology of Belonging Word Count: 2,007
Sasha L. Biro, Marist College
The following paper will address the figuration of the refugee, whose representation is yet to be adequately incised and so raises questions of identity and belonging. Arendt provides a framework for a thinking through of the figure of the refugee defined by Agamben as a “border concept”—a limit figure of radical importance in that she exposes the limits of the nation-state, by which the reconstruction of new categories of identity might configure. The refugee’s connection to the origin myth of the nation-state is deconstructed by Agamben, who in Means without End presents the refugee as the imaginable figure who could tear the fabric of the original inscription of sovereignty and revision a thinking beyond the current framework of citizenship, identity, and belonging that permeate the social fabric of contemporary times.
Toward a Clarification of "Aristotelian Essentialism"
Federica Bocchi, Boston University
I articulate two different forms of Aristotelian essentialism: a “simpler” form based on the attribution of a specific predicate to an individual as condition for its identity and a second, more complex form, related to the procedure of explanation. To do so, I offer an account of what I call the “Metaphysical Project” of Aristotle, namely his stratified search into the nature of what there is. I take this project as a coherent investigation stemming from the Categories to the Metaphysics, and as an attempt to answer two core questions: the ‘What is it’ and the ‘Why is it’ questions. Since to know something amounts to reaching its causes, for Aristotle, this “Metaphysical Project” sheds light on the ambiguous concept of “essence”—which renders the Greek phrase “to ti ên einai”—and the role it is supposed to play in the explanation of living things.
Debugging Two-Dimensionalism about Narrow Content
David Bourget, University of Western Ontario
Defending narrow content requires answering at least two challenges: the identification challenge, which is to offer a general account of which narrow content goes with which thought, and the grounding challenge, which is to give an account of how narrow content arises from plausibly primitive ingredients. In this paper, I ask whether the epistemic two-dimensionalism advanced by David Chalmers helps with either challenge when we identify narrow contents with epistemic intensions as Chalmers has proposed. I argue that it does not, and that the reason for this is that narrow content is conceptually prior to the epistemic notions (e.g. apriority) in terms of which epistemic two-dimensionalism defines epistemic intensions.
Metaphysical Nihilism and Modal Logic
Ethan Brauer, Ohio State University
In this paper I argue, that if it is metaphysically possible for it to have been the case that nothing existed, then it follows that the right modal logic cannot extend D, ruling out popular modal logics S4 and S5. I provisionally defend the claim that it is possible for nothing to have existed. I then consider the various ways of resisting the conclusion that the right modal logic is weaker than D. Perhaps the two strongest objections to this conclusion are that some objects such as numbers or states of affairs exist necessarily, so it is not possible for there to have been nothing, and that the argument assumes an objectual interpretation of quantifiers over possible worlds and is invalid on a substitutional reading. I do not pretend to settle the questions of whether it is genuinely possible for there to have been nothing or of whether to interpret quantification over possible objectually or substitutionally. But we are left with the methodological conclusion that the choice of modal logic is entangled with metaphysical questions about quantification, the possibility of nihilism, and the necessary existence of abstracta.
Does Berkeley Need a Concept of Transcendental Space
Richard J. Brook, Bloomsburg University
Does Berkeley need a transcendental account of space? The answer, I believe, is yes, and explore the consequences for Berkeley’s idealism. By “transcendental” concerning Berkeley’s view of space, I mean he requires space for those associative relations between immediate objects of sight and touch he thinks ground our mistaken view we see objects in three dimensions. That’s because those associations—visual cues associated with tactile significata—depend on bodily motions, and therefore space. Although space, therefore, is required by Berkeley’s account of the visual illusion of spatial voluminousness (“trineness”), it itself is not perceived. That conclusion follows from his minimalism about sense data—the onlysensible objects are those immediately sensed. Hence space ends up being transcendental, a conclusion at odds with his ontology that only minds and ideas exist. To counter this problem, I claim Berkeley could allow a genuine visual experience of space, while preserving his distinctive idealism, by giving up minimalism about vision.
Trickery as Epistemic Resistance
Laura Brown, University of Iowa
José Medina has masterfully articulated what epistemic resistance is along with examining different modes of it. One under-theorized sort of epistemic resistance, however, is trickery. A trickster disrupts dominant knowledge production by deceit. In this essay, I narrow my focus to one type of trickery: animating a caricature. María Lugones provides an illuminating example of animating a caricature (the so-called intense Latina). I examine how animating a caricature for dominant actors is a form of resistance by comparing it to the legal concept of “uncivil obedience.” In the second part of the paper, I defend animators of caricatures from two potential criticisms. First, I argue that animating a caricature is not a morally blameworthy act. Then, I show how trickery—even though it involves telling lies—is not an epistemically blameworthy action.
The Significance of Episodic Memory
Simon Alexander Burns Brown, Columbia University
Intuitively, episodic memory is extremely significant. Remembering particular events, in addition to remembering bare facts about them, seems to make a difference to how richly we can understand the world, and we might think that adding such a capacity to a relatively simple kind of mind would transform it. However, it is difficult to say why this should be. This paper clarifies what the issue is with articulating the significance of episodic memory, then articulates one reason for thinking episodic memory could transform the capabilities of a simple mind for dealing with a complex world.
Facticity in Fichte's Berlin Wissenschaftslehre
G. Anthony Bruno, Royal Holloway University of London
The concept of facticity denotes conditions of experience whose necessity isn’t logical yet whose contingency isn’t empirical. Although often associated with Heidegger, Fichte coins it in Berlin in 1801 to refer to the conclusion of Kant’s metaphysical deduction of the categories, which he argues leaves it a contingent matter that we have the forms of judgment that we do. Such rhapsodic or factical conditions, he argues, must follow necessarily, independent of empirical givenness, from the I by a process of ‘genesis’. I propose to reconstruct Fichte’s argument by (1) tracing the origin of his neologism, (2) presenting his Jena critique of Kant’s ‘rhapsodic’ appeal to forms of judgment, and (3) illustrating the Jena period’s continuity with the Berlin period’s genetic method, while noting a methodological shift where Fichte directs his critique against his own doctrine of intellectual intuition.
Metaphysics and Explanatory Paradigms
John McBride Bunke, University of Toronto
In this paper I propose a new way of thinking about disagreements in first-order metaphysics, taking persistence as my primary example. The goal is to outline an alternative to the two dominant trends in recent meta-metaphysics, namely: extraordinary realism (e.g. Fine 2001; Schaffer 2009; Sider 2011) and deflationism (e.g. Hirsch 2010; Thomasson 2015). The proposed account begins with the idea that rival metaphysical theses, such as endurnatism and perdurantism, are not rival theories (as extraordinary realism contends) nor are they different languages (as deflationism claims). Instead, they are alternative explanatory paradigms. Although at most one theory (of a phenomenon) can be correct and no language is more “correct” than any other, more than one explanatory paradigm can be correct by providing resources to explain the phenomenon (this distinguishes the account from mainstream accounts of grounding (see, e.g., Correia and Schneider 2012)). I also point out that on my view metaphysical disagreements would be “faultless” (Kölbel 2004) and thus ably treated by “assessment-sensitive” semantics (e.g. MacFarlane 2014; Lasersohn 2017).
Oligarchic Structures and Democratic Networks
H.G. Callaway, Independent Scholar
This paper defends a distinction, to be sketched and developed below, between characteristic and suppor¬tive structures contribut¬ing to oligar¬chy—illegitimate rule by a self-selecting few—and democ¬ratic net¬works of actors and partici¬pants. The cogency of the distinction is highly relevant to the oft encounter claim of the “inevita¬bility of oligar¬chy.” The key to understanding the support¬ing structures of oligarchy, including the means by which it is defended, is their comparative rigidity and the exclu¬sionary charac¬ter of the self-defi¬nition and delimitation of oligarchic insid¬ers. This is partly a matter of the degree and possibility of upward mobility within organiza¬tions and in society. But it is also a matter of the facili¬tation of organiza¬tional and social-political re-configu¬rations. A more democratic soci¬ety and system of organization is distin¬guished by its relative fluidity and flexibility of structure and modifi¬cations: specifically the facility to form effec¬tive new sub-groups for new purposes or in the face of emerging problems. Democratic net¬works of organiza¬tional, social and political actors may certainly facilitate economic relationships and development, but they must avoid rigid patron-client dependencies and rigid and pervasive clien¬telism to better promote and preserve democratic responsi¬bil¬ity, accessibility and accountability.
Optimal, Practical, and Insightful: Why Ideal Theory Needs to Pick Two
Jeff Carroll, University of Virginia
Many ideal theories of justice champion the following three adequacy conditions. First, an adequate ideal theory of justice will avoid getting stuck at sub-optimal equilibria or, alternatively, reach the global optimum of justice. If an ideal theory has this property, then let us call it optimal. Second, an adequate ideal theory of justice will allow for the rectification of pressing injustices to commence immediately. If an ideal theory has this property, then let us call it practical. Third, an adequate ideal theory of justice will offer new insight about what justice demands that nonideal theory on its own cannot. If an ideal theory has this property, then let us call it insightful. Though all intuitively plausible and appealing taken individually, there is reason to be skeptical that these three adequacy conditions can be simultaneously endorsed. That is, we should doubt that ideal theory can be optimal, practical and insightful.
Sam Carter, Rutgers University–New Brunswick
This paper argues for the thesis I term COLLAPSE—the claim that indicatives and subjunctives are co-entailing, in the relevant sense. §1 introduces the thesis, and discusses the relevant notion of entailment. §2 discusses three principles which, I argue, are each independently highly plausible for both indicatives and subjunctives. However, it can be easily shown, taken together these principles imply COLLAPSE. In §3, I argue that COLLAPSE is not as implausible as it might seem—in particular, I argue that putative counterexamples (in the form of Adams pairs) can be explained as the result of tacit context shift through pragmatic reasoning.
Pain Modulation and Sensory Inhibition
Laurenz Casser, University of Texas at Austin
Various philosophical theories of pain rely on the assumption that it is pain’s primary function to inform organisms about damage to their bodies. However, this assumption is challenged by the observation that the link between pain and injury is highly variable. Many pains occur in the absence of injury, and many injuries occur in the absence of pain. Indeed, such variability is largely due to elaborate inhibitory or ‘gating’ mechanisms in the nociceptive system, which regularly prevent nociceptive signals from ever reaching the brain and eliciting pain sensations. As such, pain routinely fails to inform organisms about bodily damage. This paper examines the implications of such inhibitory effects on the functional role of pain. I argue that pain inhibition, unlike sensory inhibition in other modalities, undermines an information-gathering account, and instead suggests that pain’s primary function is to promote protective behaviours. Implications for philosophical theories are discussed.
Alienation, Ideal Advisor Views, and Our Good
Chetan Cetty, University of Pennsylvania
Idealized accounts of the good state that what is good for you is tied not to our actual desires but those of some idealized version of yourself. Such views face a standard objection: they alienate us from our good. Connie Rosati and others have argued that our ideal advisors differ from us to such a degree that their desires and hopes for us seem remote and unmotivating. I argue that such views turn out to still deliver verdicts that we would be inclined to care about. I reject the test Rosati and others argue such views must pass in order to not be alienating. As I show, a careful analysis of the matter should lead us to conclude that what matters is not whether our ideal counterpart is similar to us, but rather whether we would care about the processes that led to her desiring a particular life for us.
Achilles Runs On: Some Alleged Solutions to a Paradox of Zeno
Thomas Hercules Davies, Princeton University
Zeno’s Paradox of Achilles and the Tortoise holds that the famously swift-footed Greek warrior cannot overtake a tortoise in a race: in the time it would take Achilles to close the initial gap between himself and the tortoise, the tortoise will necessarily have advanced, resulting in a further gap for Achilles to close (during which the tortoise will again move on). This paper examines several of the most influential responses to the paradox. Aristotle argued the paradox equivocates on two senses of infinity. Descartes showed the infinite series of distances separating Achilles and the tortoise converges on zero. Russell held that Zeno was confused about relations between infinite sets. I argue that all these solutions are mistaken or miss the core problem of the paradox. I suggest that Zeno’s formulation of the paradox means there is no way to satisfy his demands without committing a petitio principii against him. The paradox is therefore insoluble in a strict sense. Fortunately for us, this does not prove that motion is impossible—Zeno has made an unfair demand.
Having a Concept Has a Cost
Michael Deigan, Yale University
Having a given concept (like red, density, or rational number) usually has some epistemic benefits—it allows one to think new thoughts which may allow one a better understanding of the world. It also allows one to interpret others who use the concept in an especially direct way, by using in one’s attribution the very concept which they used to think. But does having a concept ever have an epistemic cost? At least when we idealize away from the physical limitations which limit the number of concepts we could have, it is tempting to accept Costlessness: possessing a concept never in itself has epistemic costs. Concepts can be misapplied, of course, but on this view there are no drawbacks to merely possessing them, space limitations aside. In the worst case, a concept is just useless, and should never be applied. I argue that Costlessness is false, and not just in some fringe cases, but quite generally. Possession of concepts prevents us from thinking as those who lack those concepts think, which prevents us from attributing thoughts to them through using the same concepts they use. This, I argue, is an epistemic cost. My argument has implications for projects, like that of Chalmers (2012), which assume that it is possible for an idealized thinker to possess all possible concepts.
Variation in Evidence and Simpson's Paradox
Corey Nathaniel Dethier, University of Notre Dame
Standard accounts of variation in evidence (e.g., Fitelson 2001) treat Reichenbach (1956)’s “screening-off”' condition as sufficient for varied sources of evidence to confirm better than non-varied sources. Stegenga and Menon (2017) demonstrate that violating this condition can lead to instances of Simpson’s paradox and thus to surprising disconfirmations, but they fail to show that the condition is necessary. In this talk, I argue that independently-motivated changes to how these accounts treat variation allow us to demonstrate the much stronger claim: in any case in which Simpson’s paradox is avoided, varied sources of evidence confirm more than non-varied sources.
Machine Learning, Theory Choice, and Non-Epistemic Values
Ravit Dotan, University of California, Berkeley
The aim of this paper is to support the claim that non-epistemic values are essential to assessment of hypotheses. Much of the current discussion of the influence of political, religious, and other non-epistemic values on empirical reasoning relies either on (i) illustrating how it happens in concrete cases, or (ii) discussing practical or politically loaded subject matters such as social science or biology. This paper supports the view that non-epistemic values are essential to assessment of hypotheses, by focusing on accuracy and using a theorem from machine learning theory called the No Free Lunch theorem (NFL). If my argument holds, it supports the view that the influence of non-epistemic values on assessment of hypotheses is: (i) not (solely) due to psychological inclinations of human reasoners; and (ii) not special to practical or politically loaded areas of research, but rather is a general and essential characteristic of all empirical disciplines and all areas of inductive reasoning.
The Anthropogenic Sublime
James Dow, Hendrix College
Natural disasters produce sublime experiences involving a pleasurable terror of nature being bigger than us, more powerful than us, and beyond our comprehension. However, once we acknowledge human-caused changes in the natural environment in the Anthropocene, how do we understand the sublimity of natural environments? In §1, I introduce a new category—“the anthropogenic sublime” — that captures how human agency is involved in sublime experiences of natural disasters. In §2, I outline two contemporary treatments of the environmental sublime (Brady 2013; Shapshay 2013). I argue that they share the problem of assuming a mind/world distinction that does not allow for the anthropogenic sublime. In §3, I provide an account of the anthropogenic sublime by focusing on awareness of human agency in the natural world that avoids the mind/world distinctions other accounts of the environmental sublime face.
Social Location as Justification: Examining the Socially Marginalized's Claim to Epistemic Advantage
Lidal Dror, Harvard University
This paper considers the ‘Inversion Thesis’, which states that the socially-marginalized are epistemically advantaged with respect to knowing about their own oppression, in virtue of their marginalization. I argue that the thesis is true, yet uninteresting, if this advantage is just a rule of thumb, grounded on the oppressed’s contingent tendency to have more relevant experiences and interest than the non-oppressed. I then explore whether the socially-marginalized have a source of epistemic advantage that the non-socially-marginalized cannot have. Considering phenomenological experience, I argue that generally the feeling of being oppressed does not give an epistemic advantage, vis-à-vis knowledge about one’s own oppression. There is, however, an important exception. For claims such as “this practice harms people of my social group,” or “this practice harms people of my social group which is a reason against it,” the oppressed person who feels the harm has an epistemic advantage over a non-oppressed person. I argue that this is because when the oppressed’s phenomenological experience has an effect on the veracity of the claim they make—such as when one feels harm and thus is harmed - they have access to evidence that non-oppressed people do not have. This epistemic advantage does have two important limitations though. Firstly, it remains a notable epistemic advantage only until the experience is communicated, at which point non-oppressed people also have access to the evidence the experience generated. Secondly, the advantage is also limited by people’s ability to extrapolate from their own experience to others’ in their groups. As such, although social location can give some epistemic advantage, the extent of this advantage is limited.
On the Variable Choice and Multiple Partitions Problems
Adam Edwards, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
We connect the problem of variable choice to the so-called Bertrand Paradox. We begin with a neglected argument by C.S. Peirce against conceptualism, or what we now call “objective Bayesianism.” Peirce skewers the conceptualist on a dilemma. Either the conceptualist will not be able to learn from her evidence or she will have to endorse a contradiction. In the argument for the second horn of his dilemma, Peirce produces an instance of Bertrand's Paradox. We consider a version of the Paradox from White (2010) and his argument that the Principle of Indifference is unnecessary to generate Bertrand-style problems. We generalize these arguments and show that any non-trivial partition of the event-space has a paradox-generating counterpart. We observe that partitions are essential to variable definitions and argue that the problem of variable choice—previously thought only a problem for interventionists—is in fact a problem for everyone.
The Philosopher of Emptiness and the God-Intoxicated Man: Nagarjuna in Dialogue with Spinoza
Zeyad Sameh El Nabolsy, Cornell University
What could a Buddhist skeptical philosopher who asserts that “everything is empty” and that “emptiness itself is empty” have in common with Spinoza, a metaphysician for whom it seems that the world is not only not empty but rather full to the brim with God or Nature (a philosopher described by Novalis as “that God intoxicated man”)? In this paper I attempt to show that Nagarjuna and Spinoza have a lot more in common than might first appear to be the case. I aim to show that they employ structurally similar arguments in order to arrive at radically different conclusions—for the one there are no substantial existents, for the other there is only one substantial existent. Moreover, I will attempt to show that Nagarjuna’s claim that “everything is empty” can provide an adequate description of the status of modes in Spinoza’s metaphysical account.
Does Definition Admit of Substitution?
Samuel Z. Elgin, University of California, San Diego
Many metaphysicians maintain that real definition is both irreflexive and admits of substitution. I show that these commitments are at odds. That is to say, if substitution is permitted, then there are reflexive definitions: cases in which something is defined directly and exclusively in terms of itself. As a corollary, I demonstrate that the claims in ‘Real Definition’ Rosen (2015) are mutually inconsistent. I close with a brief discussion of the implications this has for the opacity of definition and for philosophical methodology more generally.
The Presuppositions of Being and Time: Heidegger's Interpretation of Aristotle in the Summer Course of 1924
Lucas Fain, Boston University
It is often remarked that Heidegger’s Being and Time was originally proposed as a book on Aristotle, and that formative work for this initial expression of Heidegger’s existential ontology was developed through the early 1920s in a series of lecture courses and seminars on Aristotle’s practical philosophy. This paper examines select details from Heidegger’s 1924 summer course in order to question the presuppositions of Heidegger’s decision to found the project of fundamental ontology on a purely philological reading of Aristotle. At stake is the method of investigation which permitted Heidegger to think politics through ontology in his most controversial writings from the 1930s—and ultimately the meaning of philosophy itself.
Higher Types, Not Great Men: Nietzsche's Critique of Carlyle
Leonard Feldblyum, Brown University
Nietzsche opens Ecce Homo by declaring: “Listen to me! I am who I am! Above all, do not mistake me for anyone else!“ (EH P 1). One figure that Nietzsche takes great pains to distance himself from, so as not be mistaken for him, is Thomas Carlyle. In this paper, I examine the implications of Nietzsche's dismissal of Carlyle’s Great Man theory of history. My goal is to show that for Nietzsche, higher types are distinguished by specific physiological traits, and that many ‘great men’ in Carlyle’s sense are not higher types or overmen because they don’t exhibit those traits.
Medicine's Transparency Problem: What We Can Learn By Paying Attention to Attention Deficit Disorder
Vivian Feldblyum, University of Pittsburgh
This paper argues that if medicine is committed to its status as a normative enterprise then it must be transparent about the role played by social norms in defining the concept of ‘health’. First, I argue that judgments about the functions of parts of the body are always made in reference to judgments about the function of the whole. Then, I show that implicit in conceptions of health is a norm of ‘living well’, and that in certain medical cases, like attention deficit disorder, this norm is set not by physiology but by social norms. Finally, I argue that in such cases, it is negligent, potentially dangerous, and overall to the detriment of patients to leave these social norms critically unexamined.
The Two Views of Aristotle on the Infinite
James R. Finley, Columbia University
Interpretations of Aristotle on the infinite usually take the position that there is a single, consistent view that can be attributed to Aristotle. In this paper I argue otherwise, and I claim that while there is an irresolvable tension in Aristotle’s view of the sense in which the infinite is, we can nevertheless pick out reasonable motivations that affect his and later views on the infinite. In particular, I focus on (Coope 2012)’s recent attempt to offer a middle-ground interpretation between the influential interpretations of Hintikka and Lear. I argue that her interpretation, and any other middle-ground view, will fail to fully capture all of the arguments where Aristotle relies on different senses of when it is possible to indefinitely extend some process.
“Fuck Flattering!” and Beauty Resistance
Cheryl Ann Frazier, University of Oklahoma
In 2015 Alysse Dalessandro released the Convertible Cupcake Dress, helping spark the “Fuck Flattering” movement. This movement challenges the idea that women must wear “flattering” clothing. In this paper I will argue that it is a form of beauty resistance. Using Shirley Anne Tate’s discussion of the adage “beauty comes from within” (Tate, 2009), I will articulate two modes of beauty labor as resistance, distinguished by differing intentions to resist norms. Based on this, I will (1) identify common features to all accounts of beauty resistance, and (2) demonstrate two different ways in which we can defy beauty norms.
Radical Moral Encroachment and Reasons of the Wrong Kind
James Fritz, Ohio State University
Moral considerations have recently been creeping into epistemology. On the view that I call radical moral encroachment, the fact that a belief would be morally bad to hold can make a difference to its epistemic rationality. This paper argues against radical moral encroachment. I provide evidence that the moral badness of a belief is a reason of the wrong kind against holding the belief, and therefore does not bear on a belief’s epistemic rationality. I further argue that radical moral encroachment is, by its own lights, insufficiently motivated. I close the paper by addressing a recent version of radical moral encroachment, due to Mark Schroeder, on which a belief’s moral wrongness is tied closely to its falsehood. Though this view makes some progress toward solving the wrong-kind-of-reason problem, it takes on serious costs in first-order normative theory. I conclude that we should leave radical moral encroachment behind.
Moral Incompetence and Expert Failure: How to Be Virtuous in Corrupt Environments
Mario Ivan Juarez Garcia, University of Arizona
When fighting corruption in highly corrupt societies, honest politicians face numerous threats to their life or to the wellbeing of their loved ones. This is the story of Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance in Nigeria, whose mother was kidnapped as a response to her attempts to create transparent institutions to eliminate corrupt behaviors. We may consider her story heroic and try to imitate it so as to help our own society. However, I argue that Okonjo-Iweala’s story is case of moral incompetence given that she failed to bring forth the major social changes that she wanted to achieve. This paper intends to demonstrate that, in this case, moral incompetence is the result of her expertise: as a policy expert, she failed to understand the particular context of her country and that the classical recipes that she imposed don’t work in highly corrupt societies. Okonjo-Iweala’s story teaches us that policy expert are likely to fail in in messy environments when they try to shape them following a blueprint that is very useful in developed countries. My conclusion is that, in order to be virtuous in corrupt environments, sometimes one is required to listen to the people in the field instead of imposing the classical recipes against corruption. In similar circumstances, honest politicians ought not to choose to pursue her mistaken anti-corruption policies. If they pursue them, they are not heroes, but morally incompetent agents.
Conventions and Counterlogicals: Here There Be C-Monsters
Kelly Gaus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
We learned from Kripke that when we evaluate the truth of a sentence in a counterfactual situation, we use our own linguistic practices, regardless of those being used by the inhabitants of the counterfactual situation. Building on that insight, Lewis and Stalnaker have given us a powerful semantics for counterfactuals. This paper concerns two types of counterfactuals that seem to cause trouble. First, counterconventionals are counterfactuals that seem to fly in the face of the Kripkean gospel: they seem to require us to shift conventions when evaluating them, rather than worlds. Following Kripke, many want to deny that counterconventionals are a semantic phenomenon. The second, counterlogicals, are problematic for the Lewis-Stalnaker account of counterfactuals. They have logically impossible antecedents, and thus receive a vacuous truth-value on these views. Counterlogicals have been considered the final frontier of the counterfactual family: we might feel they have non-trivial truth-values, but we are far from having tamed them. Many think it cannot be done. Counterconventionals and counterlogicals pose different problems for the orthodox account of counterfactuals. However, one might think there's a connection between the two. If we follow in the Quinean tradition, we might think that logic is an essentially conventional matter. If we were able to semantically account for counterconventionals, perhaps we could use them to account for counterlogicals. Or so one might hope. I'll argue first that we should take counterconventionals seriously, and suggest a semantics for them. Then I'll consider how the semantics applies to counterlogicals, and ultimately argue that while there might be counterconventional readings to counterlogicals, they’re not the ones we tend to be interested in. So while we’ve made progress on the counterconventional front, we're stuck treading water on counterlogicals.
Darwin, Disenchantment, and the Great Chain of Being
Kristina M. Gehrman, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
The idea that nature is “disenchanted” or intrinsically devoid of value and meaning is a widely accepted starting point of contemporary moral theory. But I argue that disenchantment itself is a sort of illicit holdover or artifact of the ostensibly-rejected medieval worldview. I demonstrate this in the work of Christine Korsgaard and Bernard Williams. In the context of the life sciences, Darwin's evolutionary paradigm displaced the medieval conception of the world as a “Great Chain of Being.” But this left value theory facing an explanatory vacuum. In the absence of another comparably rich paradigm of value, we still see value itself in the hierarchical and mind-structured terms of the Great Chain. Thus we conclude that it's either value construed in the terms of the old paradigm—or it’s nothing. But these options are not exhaustive. We should recognize disenchantment as a lingering vestige of commitment to the Great Chain.
Differential Normative Statuses and the Institution of Responsibility
Peter A. Gildenhuys, Lafayette College
I defend the view that public policies that depend for their justification on the social practice of responsibility attribution ought to be dismantled. I provide reasons that people should not be held responsible for their conduct that have nothing to do with whether people have freedom of the will. I argue that social policies that depend on holding people responsible constitute bad social practices, whether or not people are free.
Alienation or Regress: A Dilemma for Inferentialism about Agential Knowledge
Juan Sebastian Piñeros Glasscock, University of Toronto
A central debate in philosophy of action concerns whether agential knowledge, the knowledge agents characteristically have of their own actions, is inferential. While inferentialists like Paul (2009a) hold that it is, others like O’Brien (2007: 176-7) and Setiya (2007, 2009, 2008) argue that it is not. In this paper, I offer a novel argument for the view that agential knowledge is non-inferential, by posing a dilemma for inferentialists: on the first horn, inferentialism is committed to holding that agents have only alienated knowledge of their own actions; on the second horn, inferentialism is caught in a vicious regress. Neither option is attractive, so inferentialism should be rejected.
Interventionism and the Causal Relevance of Semantics
Veronica Gomez Sanchez, Rutgers University–New Brunswick
Mental states such as beliefs and desires are representational. They portray the world as being a certain way. They are also causally efficacious. My desire to be entertained and my belief that movies entertain me causally explain my going to watch a movie. Common sense suggests that these two aspects of mental states are intimately related: it is because these mental states have the representational properties they do, that they cause the behaviors they cause. But philosophers of mind have struggled to accommodate this seemingly obvious fact. In this paper, I evaluate a recent attempt to defend the causal relevance of (wide) semantic properties to behavior, due to Micheal Rescorla and James Woodward. They argue for the relevance of content on the basis of an influential counterfactual theory of causation: interventionism. My main argument against the interventionist criterion of casual relevance is that it is too permissive: it counts too many properties as casually relevant. As I explain, the criterion predicts that if we take any relevant property F and tack on an irrelevant conjunct (i.e., F & G), we get another causally relevant property. As I will argue, it is this bug in the criterion that makes the argument for the relevance of semantic properties possible. Having presented the problem, I discuss what seems to be the most promising strategy to dealing with it, appealing to proportionality. I argue that the appeal to proportionality ends up weakening the argument for the relevance of semantics, and that even the proportional version of the interventionist criterion is threatened by related counterexamples.
Confronting Mental Illness Stigma: Hermeneutical Heroism in the Face of Mental Illness Bias
Abigail E. Gosselin, Regis University
We commonly use language that refers to people with mental illness in a dismissive way as representative of that which is not taken seriously. Using language in this way reflects stigma against mental illness, often held unconsciously as implicit bias. In this paper, I examine what mental illness stigma is and analyze some of the cognitive biases that support this stigma. Then I consider what we should do when we are a bystander to such stigma. People who are both bystanders to bias and members of the group targeted by the bias face a difficult choice either to self-silence or to expend epistemic labor to help privileged people recognize their bias. Both choices can lead to contributing to one’s own experience of epistemic harm. I conclude by recommending José Medina’s suggestion of “hermeneutical heroism” as an appropriate response to stigma under certain conditions.
A Puzzle for Creationism about Fictional Objects
Dana Goswick, University of Melbourne
Creationists about fictional objects are committed to the following two claims: (i) fictional objects exist, and (ii) many of a fictional object's properties are determined by the author of the fiction. I argue that, despite their protestations to the contrary, these two claims inexorably commit the Creationist to indeterminacy.
Guilt, Responsibility, and the Environmental Crisis
Roger S. Gottlieb, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
How is it possible to lead a decent, moral life in a society—indeed, in an entire civilization—that is environmentally destructive? This essay offers reflections on this question, concentrating on the ethical impact of varying social positions, the relation between environmental obligations and other moral imperatives, the distinction between guilt and responsibility, tensions between personal moral identity and the calculation of consequences, the moral imperative of self-knowledge and its role in assessing our moral resources, and the ethical role of questions rather than conclusions. The discussion will unfold in the face of the difficult reality that very few of us are moral heroes; most of us have other moral commitments besides being environmentally responsible; few are willing to sacrifice all our free time or freedom (e.g., if we were to be jailed for civil disobedience in support of renewable energy) for this cause; and there are countless occasions when our moral selves takes a back seat to fatigue, a hunger for distraction, or plain laziness.
True by Default
Aaron M. Griffith, College of William & Mary
This paper develops and defends the idea that propositions are true or false by default. The notion of a default truth-value is employed to generate an alternative to traditional truthmaker theory, called ‘Truth-Value-Maker’ theory. According to this theory, contingent propositions are either true or false by default, but they must be made to have their corresponding non-default truth-value. Truth-value, not simply truth, depends on being. Truth-Value-Maker theory provides a criterion for determining the default truth-value of a proposition. It thereby supplies a principled restriction of the truthmaker principle, saving us the wasted effort of arguing for truthmakers for truths that do not need them. The theory absolves negative existential (among others) from needing truthmakers, which tend to be exotic and controversial ontological posits.
Aristotle on Perceptual Discrimination: Perception as Substance and as Point
Rory Hanlon, University of Chicago
I propose an interpretation of Aristotle’s claim that perception is a ‘point’, which occurs in his investigation of perceptual discrimination in De Anima III.2. I argue that this investigation consists in a dialectic between two pictures of perception: 1) as a natural capacity of a material object or 2) as a capacity of a more peculiar metaphysical nature, like a point. Having argued that perception must be unified, Aristotle initially contends that the unity of perception resembles that of normal material substances—undivided in number, but divided in account. Yet, because this substance-model fails to explain the discrimination of opposites, I argue that Aristotle discards the substance-model of perception, instead claiming that the unity of perception resembles that of a point. Aristotle thereby affirms an anti-naturalist picture of perception, which rejects accounts of perception that attempt to explain perception on the model of natural material objects.
Group Mental States as Extended Mental States
Keith Raymond Harris, University of Missouri
Philosophers of mind have argued that interactions between human individuals and their environments sometimes give rise to extended mental states—properties not strictly of biological human individuals. At the same time, some social epistemologists have argued that groups are sometimes the subjects of beliefs and other mental states. The view that some groups are the subjects of mental states is controversial, in part, because it requires that some groups have minds. While claims as to the existence of both extended and group minds face considerable resistance, the former claim is generally taken to be more plausible than the latter. I argue that the relative popularity of the extended mind thesis rests on a mistaken construal of that thesis. Properly construed, groups minds are extended minds.
Advancing Imagination: Perceptual Illusions in Film
Sydney Harvey, University of Calgary
The way the mind edits perceptions received from the senses is strikingly similar to the director's cut of a complex film. There is a developing consensus among contemporary philosophers that the mind works through two codependent components, pure sensation or perception, and conceptualizing thoughts applied to pure sensation (Block 2011, Dennett 1991). In the field of film theory, researchers have come to similar conclusions about a codependence in the creation of films, namely that they are objectively visible (the camera captures an image of reality) but are also subjectively structured or mise-en-scène (the designed visual theme) (Allen 2001, Sobchack 2016). The conscious mind and film both essentially involve these two components, giving rise to the interesting and difficult challenge of separating them. While it is clear that the purpose of film is to evoke meaning, the mind seems to be less clear in its own role in directing its perceptions. We tend to ignore or repress the idea that we are the directors of our lives, constantly dictating and creating meaning from chaos. Although philosophers have discussed the connection between philosophy and film (e.g., Cavell 2005, Carroll 2008), this work has been strictly focused on aesthetics and general theory of value. Philosophy so far lacks work on how film can be used as a tool to investigate analytical questions of consciousness and metaphysics. In this paper, I argue that perceptual illusions in narrative films advance the ordinary function of imagination in the mind and can demonstrate to philosophers how the mind reacts to audio and visual paradoxes that have intentional narrative meaning.
Need and Necessity in Kant's Doctrine of Right
Rafeeq Hasan, Amherst College
Kant’s Doctrine of Right [DR] provides an account of the institutional conditions necessary to secure a community of embodied free beings—beings who can meaningfully move and act within a finite material world. Kant includes among the conditions of freedom membership in a state with powers of redistributive taxation. In this paper, I offer an analysis of Kant’s argument for such powers. I pay particular attention to Kant’s remarks on the role of taxation in meeting our “most necessary natural needs” and “the needs of the people.” Kant’s reference to need is surprising, since a defining feature of the concept of right [Recht] is that “it does not signify the relation of one’s choice to the mere wish (hence also to the mere need) of the other” (6:230). So if Kant is not flatly contradicting himself—at once excluding and including need from the domain of right—the notion of need must be transformed through the course of his argument. How does this work? What are the relevant needs at issue, and why is the Kantian state obliged to attend to them? Why does the state owe me something that no private person does? Answering these questions is relevant not only for Kant interpretation but also for constructive political philosophy. Libertarian thinking emphasizes individual freedom as a constraint on state power. Egalitarian thinking advocates for a strong state to meet individuals’ basic needs. Tracking the transformation in the role of need in Kant’s freedom-based argument opens up a possible avenue for showing how libertarianism is self-undermining, since its own premises lead to egalitarian conclusions. This would be no minor result.
From the Beautiful to the Political: How Arendt's Kantian Political Philosophy Avoids the Situatedness Critique
Steven Haug, Independent Scholar
Hannah Arendt models a Kantian political philosophy on Kant’s disinterested approach to aesthetics. Kant’s aesthetics has been widely criticized by feminist philosophy for ignoring situatedness, the fact that we all judge things from the position of our particular social situation. With this paper, I argue that the Kantian political philosophy Arendt models on Kant’s aesthetics is not subject to the same criticism.
The Priority of the Good and the Contingency of the Right
Max Hayward, University of Sheffield
Many philosophers accept the “priority of the good.” But even among those who share the same conception of good—welfare, say, or benefit more generally—many disagree about the correct criterion of rightness. Some are act consequentialists, others rule- or motive- consequentialists, and others have different theories still. This paper argues that “goodists” should not care about any supposedly universal facts about what makes something right. To the extent that beliefs about “rightness” have any practical import, it is because they give us guidance in action-deliberation, assigning praise or blame, and internalising principles and motivations. What matters is not having the “true” views about these things, but having the beliefs that it is good for us to have. And what is best to believe will vary across context. So either rightness is practically—and hence ethically—irrelevant, or it is highly contingent what criterion of rightness we should adopt.
Higher-Order Evidence in Groups: A Defense of a Summative Account of Group Justification
Blake Hereth, University of Washington
I defend summative accounts of group justification. A summative account of group justification is an account on which some group G is justified in believing some proposition P if and only if most or all of the members of G believe P. I don’t argue that this is true of all groups. Rather, it’s a necessary and sufficient condition for groups comprised of epistemic peers (or of groups comprised of individuals each of whom believes that every other member of the group is their epistemic peer), where X and Y are epistemic peers just in case X and Y are (roughly) equally adept at acquiring all the relevant evidence, forming justified beliefs based on that total evidence, arriving at the truth based on that total evidence, and the like. Call this the Peer Summative Account. First, I assume Modest Evidentialism: A group of expert epistemic peers G is justified in believing P only if all or the majority of G’s evidence supports P. Second, I defend the Peer Evidence Thesis: G’s total evidence supports P only if all or the majority of G’s members believe P. From these theses, it follows that a group of expert epistemic peers G is justified in believing P only if all or the majority of members believe P. I then show how variants of Modest Evidentialism and the Peer Evidence Thesis support a sufficient condition for group justification.
Towards Enhancing Moral Agency through Subjective Moral Debiasing
Mark Howard Herman, Bowling Green State University
The capacity to act in accordance with one’s morality (broadly construed) is constitutive of moral agency. This capacity can be undermined—in whole or in part—by for instance, hypnosis, addiction, or obsessive-compulsion. Another way this capacity can be undermined is through poor moral reasoning. Moral irrationality can frustrate one’s capacity to act in accordance with one’s morality and in turn, stunt one’s moral agency. In a similar respect, improving moral rationality can strengthen this capacity and enhance moral agency. The empirical research program on (non-moral) cognitive debiasing inspires developing techniques to improve our moral rational capacities—i.e., moral debiasing. Yet, moral debiasing presupposes moral biases—that is, systematic moral errors. So, what are moral errors exactly? The pertinent kind is subjective moral errors. Ultimately, A’s φ-ing is a subjective moral error insofar as φ-ing deviates from A’s genuine morality per instrumental subjective moral rationality (ISMR)—i.e., insofar as φ-ing frustrates A+’s morally-relevant ends, wherein A+ is a counterfactual idealization of A upon whom is bestowed those endowments that A considers authoritative under ordinary optimal conditions. The provision of an in-principle standard of subjective moral error lays important theoretical groundwork for future empirical inquiry into subjective moral debiasing.
On Human Sexual Lust as a Non-Basic Emotion
Larry A. Herzberg, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh
In a forthcoming publication, I argue that human sexual lust (attraction and arousal) should be understood as a basic emotion, and not merely as a basic motivation or appetite. Here I extend that conclusion by arguing that at least some /i>occurrences of human sexual lust can most aptly be described as non-basic /i>emotions /i>(i.e., as cognitive elaborations /i>of basic lust emotions), and hence as mental states that can be experienced only by subjects with the requisite cognitive abilities and conceptual repertoires. I hope that this helps to mitigate any humanist concerns that a science-based psychology and philosophy of mind cannot illuminate the complex intentionality and affective dynamics of interpersonal sexual relations.
Ting Fung Ho, University of Texas at Austin
Even after decades of attempts to explain consciousness in physicalistic terms, we still haven’t found a physicalist explanation which can demystify how consciousness arises from a physical basis. In this paper, I call for a new way to demystify the physical nature of consciousness. The reason why, despite the rigorous intellectual effort in explaining the physical nature of consciousness, we fail to see how conscious states are physical is that what keeps us from understanding is not explanatory in nature. Before I knew how to cook, the relation between the ingredients and the dish often seemed mysterious. Why do the ingredients (together with the cooking process) give rise to the dish that I am eating, rather than some other dishes? To demystify the ingredients-dish relation, explanations are of limited use. What really brings about the understanding is my first-person engagement with the ingredients—to cook the dish myself. I argue for a similar story in the case of physicalism. The consciousness-brain relation seems mysterious because of our lack of first-person engagement with the neural states. I consider a point of disanalogy between physicalism and cooking—that the former is a theoretical subject matter, whereas the latter is a practical subject matter. I argue that this point of disanalogy does not make any difference as for whether explanations are the core feature of understanding the subject matter. As long as a subject matter consists of a non-negligible subjective point of view, explanations are insufficient for understanding it.
Why Can't Truth Be Valuable?
Jim Hutchinson, Indiana University–Bloomington
Recent discussions of the so-called “value of truth,” typically assume that what is valuable is not the things that are true, but only our dealings with those things. Some infer this claim from the fact that the relevant value outruns the value of the truths themselves while it coincides with the value of such dealings. I consider two reasons to think that this value really outruns the value of the truths themselves, but argue that neither actually justifies that claim. I conclude by explaining why this result matters.
Contemplative Freedom in the Anthropocene: Inspiration from Sloterdijk
Jessica Ludescher Imanaka, Seattle University
What new meaning of freedom can be found in the Anthropocene, and how can it be accessed in support ethics and justice? This paper sketches a vision for an Earth oriented contemplative freedom, based on the writings of Peter Sloterdijk. The paper explores Sloterdijk’s concept of freedom, as freedom from stress and “availability for the improbable” (Sloterdijk 2016, 54), in relation to his account of the demands placed upon us by the “Great Catastrophe” of eco-crises (Sloterdijk 2013, 44). This paper shows how Sloterdijk draws from both leftist and conservative conceptions of freedom, but moves beyond them with a Nietzschean twist. Sloterdijk’s notion of freedom may be linked with his ideas of anthropotechnics, especially when stress and freedom are brought into dynamic relationship. Revealing the contemplative dimensions of his account of freedom, this paper then sketches a vision of contemplative freedom oriented toward and from the Earth.
Against Conventional Wisdom
Ethan Jerzak, University of California, Berkeley
Arc Kocurek, Cornell University
Rachel Rudolph, Auburn University
Conventional wisdom has it that the truth of a sentence at a scenario is evaluated using our actual linguistic conventions, even if those diverge from the linguistic conventions that would be adopted in that scenario. This explains, for instance, why a counterfactual like, “If ‘water’ had referred to oxygen, then water would have caused fire” is false. We argue, however, that there are linguistic contexts in which this conventional wisdom fails. In particular, it fails in the presence of what Einheuser calls c-monsters, or convention-shifting operators (on analogy with Kaplan's monsters, or context-shifting operators). For instance, someone defending the new, more restrictive definition of ‘planet’ might say, “If Pluto were a planet, there would be way too many planets in our solar system.” We demonstrate how such c-monsters can be accommodated by adopting an expressivist semantics, inspired by Barker and Gibbard, combined with a generalization of Stalnaker's pragmatics of conversation, on which the common ground is modeled as a set of world-convention pairs. We close by considering three applications of this framework: to hyperintensionality, modal conventionalism, and moral and social disputes.
Fictional Truth and Formal Features: Critique of D'Alessandro, Lewis, and Searle
Hannah H. Kim, Stanford University
William D’Alessandro, David Lewis, and John Searle’s theories of fiction are unsatisfactory because they fail to account for the way formal features of a text such as italics or font size contribute to the generation of fictional content. D’Alessandro’s explicitism is too restricting because it only renders what is explicitly stated in fiction to be true in the fiction. And though Lewis and Searle allow for inferences in fiction, their overemphasis on what is said makes it difficult for them to account for the ways in which non-semantic features of literature add to what is fictionally true. An additional challenge for Searle is that fictional content generated by formal features cannot be pretend-asserted since formal features don’t say anything at all. Any satisfactory theory of fiction must be able to explain how formal features of literature, in addition to semantics of sentences comprising the work, generate what is fictionally true.
Was Martin Heidegger a Völkisch Thinker? On Landscape, People and Belonging
Adam J. Knowles, Drexel University
This paper argues that understanding Heidegger’s politics does not merely involve measuring his proximity to National Socialism, but also involves understanding Heidegger’s place within the diffuse intellectual world of the strands of anti-Semitic and conservative thinking which gave rise to and lived beyond National Socialism—the völkisch movement. Focusing on a reading of Heidegger’s 1933 text “Creative Landscape: Why Do I Remain in the Provinces,” this paper traces a number of völkisch themes in the text and shows how Heidegger sought to cast himself as the genuine thinker of the German peasant.
Standards-Based Permissivism and the Problem of Irrelevant Influences on Belief
Liang Zhou Koh, University of Toronto
Standards-based permissivism is the view that what one ought to believe given a body of evidence depends on what epistemic standards one has, and different people can have different standards with full rationality. This version of permissivism, it is argued, provides us with a solution to the epistemological problem brought about by irrelevant influences on belief. In this paper, I present a puzzle which this proposed solution seems to give rise to. I argue that there is no easy way out of this puzzle for the permissivist as she lacks the resources to justify why we ought to revise our beliefs in some but not all permissive cases upon learning about irrelevant factors.
A Case for Case-Based Epistemology: Clinical Bioethics and Miracle Cures
Sara Kolmes, Georgetown University
Knowledge-exchange between parties who do not share epistemological strategies is sometimes difficult. This difficulty has not been seriously studied. I intend to describe how this study would begin. This is case-based epistemology, the study of the effect of epistemological disagreement for real-world cases. Epistemological roadblocks to knowledge-exchange have been noticed by philosophers who work to solve ethical problems caused by these roadblocks. I will use one example of this: bioethicists providing guidance to physicians when patients make medical decisions based on their expectation of a miracle. Clinical bioethicists have described ways for physicians to respond to a patient's belief in miracles without being disrespectful of a patient's religious belief. They also describe ways non-religious physicians can evaluate claims about miracles. We can see the outlines of what systematic case-based epistemology will look like in this literature.
A Constraint on Rich Visual Experience
Casey Landers, University of Miami
In this paper, I introduce a method for the Rich/Thin Debate about the contents of visual experience. The method uses pop-out effects to reveal whether a particular kind of property is visually experienced. Using this method with an example, I argue for a constraint on rich representation. Visual experience can only represent rich properties when visual experience represents some low-level property that is uniquely indicative or diagnostic of that rich property. I argue that this constraint holds negative consequences for theories that posit that visual experience represents rich properties, especially in that it undermines the initial motivation for positing those theories.
What Is the Difference Between Telling and Asserting? Reconsidering the Social Nature of Assertion
JJ Lang, Stanford University
Philosophers concerned with testimony question whether testimony provides evidence in favor of a claim or non-evidential reasons based on trust. Those in the latter camp claim testimony plays this role through the distinctive speech act of telling. They develop a significant contrast between telling and asserting by adopting a minimal view of assertion, whereby assertion only communicates propositional content. I argue that the arguments in favor of distinguishing telling from asserting actually provide evidence against this minimal view. This is because there is a class of utterances that communicate more than propositional content, but are not tellings, which leads to a dilemma for the minimal view. If these utterances are not assertions, the view becomes trivial. But if they are, this undermines the view’s picture of speech acts. I conclude that distinguishing telling from asserting requires accepting that the two speech acts have more in common than previously thought.
Identity and Society: What Makes You Who You Are
Joanna Lawson, Yale University
In this paper, I unpack the inner workings of individual identity. I maintain that one of the most important factors in determining who a person is, is in fact society as a whole. Although we have some autonomy in choosing our identity, there are very real social constraints on who we can be.
Knowing Pain Is Bad
Andrew Y. Lee, New York University
Pain is bad. But how do we know this? On the one hand, it seems that pain is bad because of how it feels, and we know how pain feels only on the basis of introspecting our pain experiences. By consequence, knowledge that pain is bad seems a posteriori. On the other hand, it seems that anyone who possesses the concepts pain and bad is in a position to know that pain is bad. By consequence, knowledge that pain is bad seems a priori. This paper develops a theory I call proportionalism, according to which the more one’s concept of pain reveals how pain feels, the more conceptual justification one has for believing that pain is bad. The limit case is a subject deploying a perfect phenomenal concept of pain, which provides a complete grasp of what it is like to have pain and which confers maximal justification for believing that pain is bad. For cases that fall short of this limit, introspection plays an indispensable justificatory role. Along the way, I also explain how proportionalism has implications for our theories of phenomenal concepts and enables a new argument for objectivism about the badness of pain.
“Ought” and Intensionality
Junhyo Lee, University of Southern California
The syntactic structure of the deontic “ought” has been much debated in philosophy and linguistics. Schroeder (2011) argues that the deontic “ought” is syntactically ambiguous in the sense that it can be associated with either a control or raising construction. However, if there is a control sense of “ought,” it implies that there is a sense of “ought” in which the word carries an external argument. Chrisman (2012) proposes two linguistic tests (i.e. er-nominalization and passivization) to verify this prediction. I add a new test, which I call the intensionality test, to the list.
Sane Sensing: Art and Affective Disorder in Merleau-Ponty
Madeleine M. Levac, University of California, Berkeley
John Dewey (1934) remarked that “The sense of an extensive and underlying whole is the context of every experience and it is the essence of sanity” (194). I am interested in the relationship, suggested by this passage, between integral, meaningful, and sane experience. In my paper, I consider anomalous perceptual experiences associated with mental illness in order to bring out the aesthetic dimension of ordinary perception as Maurice Merleau-Ponty conceives it. My discussion culminates in an analysis of his essay, “Cézanne’s Doubt.” Like a work of art, I argue, perception is expressive and organizational. The disordered breakdown of Cézanne’s perception gave the world to him unfinished. In his art, however, he made up this perceptual deficit. Merleau-Ponty’s account of Cézanne’s life and art suggests a complex relationship between the sane, the aesthetic, and the meaningful.
Confucian Meritocracy, Political Legitimacy, and Constitutional Democracy
Zhuoyao Li, St. John’s University
The increasing diversity in East Asian societies has led to a new wave of political theories that attempt to situate Confucianism in a liberal and democratic background so that both the historical and cultural influence of Confucianism and the accommodating capacity of liberal democracy can be maintained. Despite their differences, these theories share a similar aversion toward Confucian political meritocracy. Despite their objective to replace liberal democracy, some theories of Confucian political meritocracy include democratic elements that contribute to the legitimacy of the Confucian meritocratic state. This somewhat paradoxical strategy raises two key questions that require a thorough exploration of the relationship between legitimacy, meritocracy, and democracy. First, in the backdrop of pluralism in East Asian societies, how should the concept of legitimacy be understood? Second, can a nondemocratic meritocracy be nonetheless legitimate? After demonstrating that both “multiple legitimacies” and hybrid view of legitimacy fail to provide substantial guidance in reconceiving legitimacy in pluralistic societies, this paper will propose a multivariate view of legitimacy by drawing from John Rawls’s liberal principle of legitimacy. Then, it will show that nondemocratic meritocracy, of which Confucian political meritocracy is an example, need not be illegitimate under all circumstances. However, the lack of practicality and conflict with contemporary pluralism make it a less likely candidate for East Asian societies. Finally, based on the answers to the two questions, it will become clear that a pluralistic and multivariate understanding of legitimacy does not rule out meritocracy, but it does make a strong case for an antiperfectionist state, even if it might be nondemocratic.
Obligation and the Ethics of Non-Hindrance
Alida Liberman, Southern Methodist University
It is widely acknowledged that it is generally wrong to interfere with someone’s autonomy by making it impossible or needlessly difficult for them to achieve a goal they have set. In this paper, I articulate and defend an expanded ethics of non-hindrance, which offers an underexplored and productive lens through which to identify how a variety of social practices, policies, and individual actions are morally problematic across a wide range of areas. I introduce the Non-Hindrance of Obligation Principle, or NHOP, which states that, ceteris paribus, it is morally wrong to intentionally or negligently make it unnecessarily and significantly harder for someone to fulfill (or to be motivated to fulfill) their genuine (e.g., moral, prudential, epistemic, or other) obligations, regardless of whether they intend or desire to fulfill said obligations. I formulate NHOP, offer an argument for it, and illustrate how it applies to cases across different domains of obligation.
Why Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature?
Daniel Lindquist, Indiana University–Bloomington
Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature is often regarded by its detractors as having been obsoleted by the continuing progress of the empirical sciences; its admirers often praise it for boldly attempting to prove a priori various claims about nature, such as the truth of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. Against both parties, I argue that Hegel cannot be understood while a dualism is left in place that sharply distinguishes between a posteriori empirical sciences and an a priori philosophy of nature. Once this dualism is set aside, my approach to Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature shows Hegel to be dealing in that work with an enigma that is still with us: how can the spiritless mass disclosed by the natural sciences be that in which we live and move and have our being? Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature is surprisingly helpful at coming to grips with this riddle of nature.
On the Antipathetic Fallacy in Phenomenal Thought
Haoying Liu, University of Massachusetts Amherst
To defend physicalism against the dualist intuition that consciousness is nonphysical, Papineau has offered an explanation of this dualist intuition in terms of what he calls the “Antipathetic fallacy.” According to Papineau’s hypothesis, the intuition exists because thinking about experience requires a special mode of thought that recruits actual experience, which is lacking when thinking in physical terms. Thus for any physicalist claim that identifies an experience with a physical process, there is a “phenomenal contrast” that induces the dualist intuition. The Antipathetic fallacy hypothesis is subject to challenges from counterexamples proposed by Sundstrom and Kammerer. In this paper, I respond to the counterexamples by revising the Antipathetic fallacy hypothesis, especially its notion of phenomenal contrast. The revision to the Antipathetic fallacy hypothesis answers the counterexample challenges by offering a better explanation of the dualist intuition.
The Fabric of Akrasia: A New Reading of Plato’s Protagoras351b-358e
Wenjin Liu, Princeton University
In this paper, I offer a new interpretation of Socrates’ account of akrasia. I argue that he adopts b>motivational monism /i>and b>judgment internalism: evaluative judgment is the only source of human motivation. When the circumstances allow, an evaluative judgment in itself generates corresponding motivation. Based on those theories about human motivation, Socrates constructs a two-stage model of human motivation. At the first stage, one experiences various evaluative appearances which present possible options as pleasant or painful from certain perspectives. Then, one makes evaluative judgments, which generate motivation under appropriate conditions. Akrasia is a two-fold ignorance about both normative facts and oneself. An akratic person makes a wrong and unstable first-order evaluative judgment, which leads her to act akratically. On top of that, she mistakenly assumes a truthful appearance as her judgment.
Deception, Moral Encroachment, and Consent
Alexandra Lloyd, University of Colorado Boulder
Deception, like coercion, can invalidate the moral force of consent. In the sexual domain, when someone is deceived about some feature of their prospective partner, knowledge of which would be dispositive of their decision to have sex, the validity of their consent is undermined. Having sex with someone without their morally valid consent is seriously wrong, and morality demands that we avoid such an outcome. I argue that to avoid culpability for such an outcome, we ought to focus on the epistemic perspective and investigate under what conditions an agent is justified in accepting the proposition that their partner has consented to sex. I maintain that in order to determine whether an individual has acted culpably by deceiving someone in the sexual domain we ought to ask whether or not they have discharged their epistemic duties and are justified in accepting the proposition that their partner has consented to sex.
Nativism and Empiricism in Artificial Intelligence
Robert Long, New York University
Historically, nativists and empiricists have argued about the nature of human and animal intelligence. This paper argues that we can use nativism and empiricism to clarify debates about the nature of artificial intelligence: will the development of truly general artificial intelligence (AGI) require nativist systems, or can AGI systems be relatively empiricist? First, I characterize the ‘classic’ nativism versus empiricism dispute about human intelligence. Then, I broaden this account to theories of artificial intelligence, and distinguish between two types of empiricism and nativism about AI. Lastly, I canvass arguments for and against AI nativism.
Phenomenology and Cognitive Science: Husserl's Computational Theory of Mind
Jesse Daniel Lopes, Boston University
Hubert Dreyfus once noted that it would be difficult to ascertain whether Edmund Husserl had a computational theory of mind. I provide evidence that he had one. Both Steven Pinker and Steven Horst think that a computational theory of mind must have two components: a representational-symbolic component and a causal component. We proceed, therefore, to a close-reading of the sections of “On the Logic of Signs” wherein Husserl presents, if I’m correct, his computational theory of mind. My argument goes like this: the computational theory of mind is the idea, following Haugeland, that the mind comes prepackaged as, or is endogenously constrained to be (with respect to certain domains), an automatic formal system (or a set of them); this explains, according to Husserl, why trains of thought without logical intent naturally resemble arguments exhibiting deductive structure with logical intent. Automatic formal systems yield true results provided that 1) the syntactic symbols with which they compute are univocal and are semantically evaluable, and 2) the mechanized inferences they perform are valid and preserve truth. These two conditions describe a computational cognitive process: the first condition connects representations to syntax (corresponding to Pinker and Horst’s 1st component), and the second condition uses the syntax, in inauthentic judging, to arrive at true conclusions through blind causality (corresponding to Pinker and Horst’s 2nd component). Now, in point of textual fact, these are the conditions which Husserl attributes to our "natural psychological mechanism of symbolic inference" which typically yields true results (42). Since an automatic formal system attributed to the "internal structure" of the mind, and guided by blind causality, just is the computational theory of mind, it follows, I think, that Husserl had a computational theory of mind (38). I conclude with a discussion of the methodological relationship between phenomenology and cognitive science.
A Can of Precisificational Worms
Josiah R. Lopez-Wild, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
A recently developed metaphysical account of vagueness, called the modal-precisificational view, exploits i) a structural similarity with supervaluationism, the most popular account of vagueness, and ii) a system ‘precisified’ worlds, similar to modal possible worlds. This essay is a reformulation of the modal-precisificational view’s response to the problem of the many as presented in Ken Akiba’s (2004). I argue that the view is committed to a precisificational worm theory of objects. This commitment will prove to be crucial, as it generates an additional problem: too many worms to choose from. After considering various solutions to the problem, I conclude that both the worms and the precisified objects that comprise them must be restricted in ways not found in Akiba’s formulation of the view.
The Emancipatory Continuity of Buddhist Emotion
Olga Louchakova-Schwartz, Hult International Business School
In this paper, I present constitutive phenomenological analysis of the continuity in transformation (“transmutation”) of religious emotion, from unwholesome (anger, alienation, grief) to wholesome (love, sense of connectedness, bliss). Phenomenological evidence in these practices contradicts the traditional philosophical and phenomenological claims to incremental nature of emotions. The findings show that with a development of practice, givenness of emotion undergoes a change, from incremental, complex and axiologically directed at intentional objects, to nonrepresentational, and further, to embodied, self-affective and teleologically directed flow towards wholesomeness. I explain how different phenomenological theories, from Husserl-Brentano “priority of presentation” claim, to Levinas’ non-representational emotion claim, to Henry’s nonintentional phenomenology and philosophy of affectivity, apply to these levels. I further describe the changes in noema-noesis relationship which convert emotion into a counterphenomenon, and show the corresponding conditions of possibility. Finally, I describe the noetic and noematic horizons related to the non-intentional continuity of emotion.
Women and Comic Heroines: A Look at Hegel on Aristophanian Comedy
Meryl F. Lumba, Temple University
In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel’s remarks about women are confined to the passage on Antigone. He creates a dialectical structure of gender difference and argumentatively uses this Greek tragedy to purport that it illustrates the tragic collapse of Greek culture. However, we know that Hegel’s treatment of art culminates in comedy. Scholar Karin de Boer takes a step further by analyzing comedy and gender. She argues that Aristophanian comedy is a symptom of emerging individuality (or, what she calls the “principle of individuality”), which ultimately causes the collapse of Greek culture. Turning to Aristophanian comedy, she contends, would also help shed light on Hegel’s comments about women. Despite de Boer’s effort to analyze Aristophanian comedy in this way, her “principle of individuality” is negatively connected to womanhood and does not take into account the social context of women in ancient Greece, which would make for a more complete treatment of Old comedy. This paper seeks to complement hers. I claim that Hegel’s analysis of Aristophanian comedy showcases the emergence of consciousness that ties together action, its social context, and art. I support this claim in two ways. First, I explicate the social role of women in Greek culture—as Hegel views it—in order to argue that there is a positive, implicit connection between freedom, individuality, and womanhood. Second, I explore a few themes in Aristophanian comedy and Hegel’s theories of comic action in the Lectures on Fine Art to argue that comic heroines are the embodiment of change.
Giving Weight to Reasons: Toward a Feminist Conception of Deliberation
Lisa M. Madura, Vanderbilt University
This paper defends a feminist conception of democratic deliberation that emphasizes perspective-taking in decisive public discourse. There is a robust body of feminist work exposing the masculinist or otherwise exclusionary nature of the deliberative ideal as commonly deployed in democratic theory. These critiques are animated by the concern that standard models of deliberation have the effect of reproducing and exacerbating already existing social inequalities. Motivating this paper is the question can (and should) the Deliberative Ideal (DI) be rescued in light of Feminist criticisms? I make three claims. First, DI can be rescued because these criticisms point to problems with how DI has been interpreted and taken up, not with the ideal as such. Second, DI should be rescued because decisive outcomes are rendered and legitimized on the basis of reasons. Finally, for DI to be viable it must attend to, rather than circumvent, difference in social location.
Being-in-a-World: Is Badiou's "Objective Phenomenology" Useful to Husserlian (and Other) Phenomenologists?
Kevin Mager, Loyola University Chicago
This paper aims to show that Alain Badiou’s method of objective phenomenology is useful to phenomenologists. Badiou suggests that it is possible to do phenomenology while bracketing intentional experience. In section I, this paper shows where the real point of tension is between Badiou’s phenomenology and the traditional Husserlian approach. This point of tension is much more nuanced than some may believe. In section II, this paper shows that Badiou’s phenomenology does not deny the knowledge found in intentional phenomenology but provides an alternative method for phenomenological description and analysis.
Epistemic Injustices and Political Responsibilities: Using Taylor to Aid Medina's Project
Dennis McEnnerney, Colorado College
José Medina’s Epistemology of Resistance offers a compelling analysis of how rethinking virtue epistemology in relation to the challenges of democratic communication offers both an effective critique of the silencing and marginalization of “different” others and a challenging call to resistance. However, Medina’s call to resist, in the end, falls short of his aim of opening up “a way out” of or around the roadblocks that obstruct the development of genuinely inclusive democratic life in diverse societies. Drawing tools from Charles Taylor’s Language Animal, the essay seeks to clarify and extend the performative call of Medina’s work, arguing that in the end the greatest challenge may not be opening up the field of epistemic contestation but coming to terms with the dangers of anti-democratic forces that we may not want to face up to in our ostensibly democratic societies.
Neighborhoods and States: Why Collective Self-Determination Is Not Always Valuable
Torsten Menge, Northwestern University in Qatar
Collective self-determination is considered to be an important political value. Many liberal political philosophers appeal to it to defend the right of states to exclude would-be newcomers. In this paper, I challenge the value of collective self-determination in the case of countries like the US, former colonial powers with a history of white supremacist immigration and citizenship policies. I argue for my claim by way of an analogy: There is no value to white neighborhoods in the US, which are the result of racist attitudes and state policies, determining autonomously who should become a neighbor. In light of this commitment, defenders of the US's right to exclude would need to explain why it should be of moral value that a community whose character and composition has been shaped by white supremacy be able to determine its membership on its own terms.
Drain the Swamp!
Kian Mintz-Woo, University of Graz
Veritism, the thesis that true belief is the sole fundamental epistemic value, has been challenged in the context of process reliabilism. This challenge, sometimes called “the swamping problem,” holds that process reliabilism cannot explain the value of knowledge over true belief, at least under veritist assumptions. To address the swamping problem, Olsson extended veritist evaluations over time. I argue that this extension pulls process reliabilism too close to internalism. The solution offered here is to extend veritist evaluations further, over agents. By considering the true beliefs that are expected to accrue to different agents, we can avoid the appeal to any given agent's internal higher order capacities. This solution addresses the externalist’s worry, while also making the response more parsimonious and avoiding several other objections which have been made to Olsson’s solution. I argue that my extension can also be motivated as a more thorough-going externalist response.
Theorizing Spatial Dis/appearance as a Middle Passage
Dana Francisco Miranda, Muhlenberg College
Whether it is the transplantation of Africans in slave ships or the pilgrimage of Europeans to the New World, colonization fundamentally changes the moorings of individuals to communities and geographies. The inability of the colonized to be encountered as human beings within public space is not only historical but also is emblematic of the ongoing, contemporary practice of disappearing peoples and histories. Within the colonial founding, segregating, and designing of cities into “para-sites,” we begin to encounter how a spatial politics of disappearance is undertaken. City planning itself becomes a colonial method and practice of vanishing those deemed undesirable or sub-human. Drawing on the theoretical works of Frantz Fanon and Ackbar Abbas, I explore how the in/visibility of colonized subjects is imbedded in the “disappearance of colonial space” through examining paradigmatic practices of “white flight” and gentrification.
Demedicalizing PrEP for HIV Prevention: The Social and Political Effects on MSM
Michael Montess, York University
In this paper, I will explore the ethics of using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as HIV prevention for men who have sex with men (MSM). PrEP for HIV prevention is the use of antiretroviral drugs before any exposure to HIV as a strategy for its prevention. People who take PrEP are usually people who are at high risk of contracting HIV, such as MSM, injection drug users, and sex workers. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers MSM to be the highest risk group for contracting HIV in North America. The ethics of using PrEP as HIV prevention among MSM, however, has both a medical dimension and a social dimension. Whereas the medical dimension of the ethics of PrEP includes concerns about side effects, drug resistance, and distribution, the social dimension of the ethics of PrEP includes concerns about stigmatization, sexual and romantic relationships, and sexual freedom. The medical concerns of the ethics of PrEP may take precedence over the social concerns, but there is a growing body of literature that already addresses the medical concerns. Much less attention has been given to the social concerns of the ethics of PrEP and in this paper I will fill this gap in the literature. How will PrEP actually affect the lives of MSM? MSM face a unique challenge with the risk of HIV, but MSM also face a unique opportunity with PrEP as an HIV prevention strategy. The medical, social and political controversies around PrEP have obscured the realities of the lives of MSM and the possibilities of PrEP. Therefore, I will focus on the often overlooked social dimension of the ethics of PrEP in order to help understand the connection between the risks, relationships and responsibility of MSM using PrEP as HIV prevention.
Knowing Without a Doubt
Andrew Y. Moon, Virginia Commonwealth University
In this paper, I argue that Knowledge Precludes Doubt (KPD): S knows that p only if it’s not the case that S has doubt that p.
To this end, in §2, I show that KPD is an interesting, new requirement on knowledge. In §3, I discuss the nature of doubt. In §;4, I clarify KPD by distinguishing it from related theses. In §5, I defend KPD. In §6, I explain how KPD relates to some issues in contemporary epistemology, including lotteries, pragmatic encroachment, inquiry, knowledge-first epistemology, and analysis of knowledge.
Neo-Aristotelian Naturalism as Ethical Naturalism
Parisa Moosavi, University of Toronto
Standard forms of ethical naturalism purport to explain ethical claims in terms of facts that fall within the scope of natural science. In contrast, neo-Aristotelian naturalism maintains that ethical claims are based on human nature while denying that human nature falls within the scope of natural science. In this paper, I argue that despite the contrary suggestion of some commentators, neo-Aristotelian naturalism is a form of ethical naturalism in the standard, metaphysical sense. In doing so, I reconstruct the neo-Aristotelian argument for ethical naturalism in terms of a continuity between the ethical domain and the natural domain of life.
Concerns with White Privilege
Mukasa Mubirumusoke, Claremont McKenna College
The idea of white privilege has become indispensable to both academic and public discourse concerning issues of race and I find serious issue with this reality. The concept is the ultimate trump card to play when one wants to describe the unacknowledged road blocks white persons serve for the thriving of non-white people. My issue with the concept of white privilege and how it is often employed stems from the socio-political framework whereby social hierarchy is just a matter of quantitative distribution of access and goods, and not the qualitative ontological distinction of human white civil society and non-human blackness.
The Non-Identity Problem Does Not Exonerate Farmers Who Raise and Slaughter Animals Humanely
Joshua Mund, University of Wisconsin–Madison
The non-identity problem arises when an agent’s action inflicts a very undesirable state on an individual but also maximizes the individual’s well-being. One prominent resolution of the non-identity problem is to reject the judgment that such actions are wrong. Assuming that this is the correct resolution, does it follow that it is permissible for farmers to humanely raise and kill their animals, given that these animals would not exist if the farmers did not create them? I argue that this does not follow. If the farmer’s options are artificially limited to (1) not creating the animal, and (2) creating it and humanely slaughtering it, then non-identity considerations are exonerating. But, in actual practice, farmers almost always have the option of not killing the animal and continuing to support it. Thus, killing the animal is not the action that maximizes the animal’s well-being.
What’s So Special About Reasoning? Rationality, Belief Updating, and Internalism
Wade E. Munroe, Indiana University
Recently, a cottage industry has formed with the expressed intent of analyzing the nature of personal-level reasoning and inference. The recent interest in reasoning is due to the recognition that reasoning is of central epistemic importance—especially in discussions of rationality. The dominant philosophical view—what I refer to as the ‘algorithmic model’ elsewhere (redacted)—is that attitude updating solely involves representational states that are propositional attitudes and transitions between these states that must constitute basic cognitive acts of rule-following. In this paper, I argue that the representational states and our operations over these states performed in the process of updating our attitudes need not be internal, that is, mental states and operations. If we are interested in the personal-level activity that is relevant for the rational evaluation of our attitude updating procedures, there is no reason to restrict discussion to processes that occur in the head.
Cultural Affordances in AI Perception
Zachariah A. Neemeh, University of Memphis
The perpetually shifting nature of the environment poses a significant challenge to robotics research. Autonomous agents must continually negotiate and adapt to changing environments. Representational architectures limit autonomous agents' capacity to do so, however. Central problems include limitations of bandwidth, processing power, computational time, and programming time required to represent shifting environments. Nonrepresentational and affordance-based architectures have been proposed to overcome these difficulties. A significant challenge to implementing affordance perception has been in perceiving cultural affordances, or affordances that require enculturation or cultural knowledge. AI implementations of cultural affordance perception have typically reintroduced representational mechanisms, thereby losing what purported advantage they had over traditional architectures. In this paper, I critically review extant approaches to cultural affordance perception in AI and propose that a robust representationalism is not required for its implementation.
Transhumanism and the Iliad
Geraldine Ng, University of Reading
I respond to the transhumanist view that transcending our mortal natural beings would be prudential and desirable. I take Homer’s Iliad as a resource for thinking about, and opposing, the transhumanist view. I will defend what I call the Homeric View, and argue that invulnerability, where it is conceivable at all, would make our lives go worse. I will put together the ambition of transhumanism to be invulnerable with the Iliad, one of the oldest stories about gods and mortals, and about war and death. We are familiar, in the Iliad, with the importance of courage, virtue, and honour to human flourishing. But Homer also presents war as the occasion to reflect upon the significance of mortality and human vulnerability. The flourishing of an individual depends not only on courage in light of the inevitability of death in battle but also, more basically, on an understanding of human mortality.
The Hole Argument Against Everything
Joshua D. Norton, University of California, Irvine
The Hole Argument was originally formulated by Einstein and it haunted him as he struggled to understand the meaning of spacetime coordinates in the context of the diffeomorphism invariance of general relativity. This argument has since been put to philosophical use by Earman and Norton (1987) to argue against a substantival conception of spacetime. In the present work I demonstrate how Earman and Norton’s Hole Argument can be extended to exclude everything and not merely substantival manifolds. These casualties of the hole demonstrate that the Hole Argument hinges essentially on our notion of determinism and not on the diffeomorphic freedom of general relativity. In order to prevent all things from falling into the Hole, I argue that we ought to restrict what we require of our deterministic theories. The central conviction which drives the arguments of this paper is that deterministic theories are not required to determine for future moments what they cannot determine for any present or past moments. The form of sophisticated determinism which I defend requires physical theories only to determine those facts for which they are a theory. Since general relativity is diffeomorphically invariant, spacetime point locations are not part the theory’s physical content and are therefore irrelevant for determinism. Since Earman and Norton’s original argument assumes that in substantival general relativity, one is required to determine spacetime point locations, their argument fails.
David O’Brien, University of Wisconsin–Madison
G. A. Cohen defends what he considers to be a truth in conservatism: namely, that there is a reason for some intrinsically valuable things to be preserved, even if they could be replaced with other, more valuable things. In defense of this conservative thesis, Cohen presents several hypothetical cases, intuitive judgments about which are intended to confer support on the thesis. In section II, I argue that, even if one shares Cohen’s judgments, it is questionable whether these cases provide undefeated intuitive support for Cohen’s conservative thesis. However, as I explain in sections III and IV, it is possible to construct a case that, for those who share Cohen’s judgments, provides undefeated intuitive support for the thesis. As I explain in section V, this case also shows that two alternative reconstructions of Cohen’s thesis in the literature are inadequate.
Racism as Vice and Civility as Social Norm
Keunchang Oh, Purdue University
In this paper, I will begin by reconstructing Jorge Garcia’s account of racism and argue that it suffers from its own shortcomings. I will show this by referring to the influences of social norms over individual moral agents. After elucidating Garcia’s model’s affinities to a virtue-theoretic model of ethics, I will argue that Garcia’s theory can be susceptible to something analogous to the situationist critiques of virtue ethics. When it is the case that there are no such things as global personality traits, the point is to construct non-racist social environments. On this view, our social roles as citizens would constrain our obligations toward others. In this regard, it is vital to consider the efficacy of social enforcement of morality through proper social practices. Next, I will examine the concept of civility. Finally, I will suggest that civility as a social norm should be cultivated to overcome racism in mind.
On the Epistemic Objection to Non-Presentist A-theories
Ryan A. Olsen, University of Massachusetts Amherst
There is a “powerful objection,” in Ted Sider’s (2011, 261) words, to certain non-presentist A-theories of time: they would foist upon us the incredible skepticism that we cannot know we are present. But how powerful is it, really? Below, I evaluate this objection—due to Bourne (2002), Braddon-Mitchell (2004), and Merricks (2006)—and Ross Cameron's (2015, ch. 1) recent response to it. That response: depending on one's epistemological theory, both presentist and non-presentist A-theories stand or fall together with respect to the objection. Hence, it cuts no philosophical ice. I argue that, for at least some epistemological theories, Cameron's response fails and presentism has the advantage. Moreover, I suggest that it would be unsatisfying even if we could know we are present on such non-presentisms, e.g. by assuming other epistemological theories. For this result would still not accommodate a compelling datum: that it is absurd to believe oneself to be past. Having argued that the objection hits its mark, I turn to an extant non-presentist solution and raise an important question about influential criticisms of it: does this solution add to non-presentist A-theory’s costs, or are those costs present already? Judging the epistemic objection's power requires answering this question. I conclude by offering a framework for answering it.
The Perceived Fit between Music and Movement: A Multisensory Approach to Understanding Innocent Dance Appreciation
Tyler Olsson, University of California, Santa Cruz
There is a way of appreciating dance that has been called “Innocent Eye” appreciation. It is my contention that to innocently appreciate dance (in the relevant sense) just is to have actualized a multi-sensory capacity to perceive a structural ‘fit’ that obtains essentially between features available to multiple sense modalities. Specifically, I argue that dance is what Casey O’Callaghan calls a “novel feature type,” i.e. a perceptual feature type that is only available through multiple sense modalities working in coordination. One upshot of this approach is that we secure a metaphysical connection between music and movement such that we vindicate a form of expressivist dance criticism which purports to move its audience toward aesthetically appreciating the ways in which movement can appropriately accentuate musical contours.
Émilie du Châtelet and the Illusions of Space and Body
Walter R. Ott, University of Virginia
Like her predecessors G.W. Leibniz and Christian Wolff, Émilie du Châtelet denies the mind-independent reality of absolute space. But unlike them, she presents a powerful and attractive error theory that explains why Newtonian space is an inevitable result of the way in which we represent the world. Similarly, she turns the Leibnizian notion of petites perceptions to a new use: accounting for the appearance of bodies. Pace some of the recent literature, I argue that she is a thoroughgoing and sophisticated idealist.
Self-Deception and Epistemic Injustice
Alexander Scott Paparella, West Chester University
Normative morality usually demands there be, at the very least, limits to the use of lies and deception in testimonial exchange. While the standard conception of lying involves at least two interlocutors, philosophers have debated to what degree self-deception counts towards an agent’s moral culpability. In my view self-deceptive practices commit both epistemic violence to the self and the community at large, regardless one's justification. The concept of ‘Testimonial Injustice,’ as explained by Miranda Fricker, illustrates the dynamics of misapplied credibility judgements in society. She demonstrates prejudices, originating from the process of socialization, can lead to the adoption of self-destructive stereotypes, a form of epistemic self-harm. While Fricker fails to adopt the title of self-deception for this variety of injustice, I believe this term can offer insights into the nature of Fricker’s critique of testimonial exchange and offer guidance on the moral culpability of subordinate groups holding internal prejudicial stereotypes.
Avoid Avoiding the Wishful Thinking Problem
Adam Frederic Patterson, Syracuse University
Dorr argues that the pure non-cognitivist expressivist cannot explain the intuitive rationality of moral modus ponens’. Call this the wishful thinking problem. However, recently many (e.g., Lenman 2003; Enoch 2003; Mabrito 2013; Budolfson 2011; Long 2016) have attempted to do so on behalf of the pure non-cognitivist expressivist. Here I show that the responses share a common strategy called the auxiliary belief strategy. I argue that the auxiliary belief strategy fails. I also argue that even if the strategy does not fail, all of the response miss the point of Dorr's argument.
Transformative Choice and the Non-Identity Problem
L.A. Paul, Yale University
Some acts change who we are. Call them personally transformative /i>acts. When an agent performs a personally transformative act, she brings into existence a future self that is radically different from who she previously was. In some of these cases, the agent may be antecedently certain that the existence of this future self, though worth having, will be unavoidably flawed, even if the future self values its existence. Now, if the agent doesn’t perform the transformative act, she won’t change so radically, so her unchanged future self may indeed be better off than her transformed future self. In this essay, we argue that situations of this kind raise a problem that is structurally similar to the non-identity problem. /i>
John Toland’s Extreme Epistemic Egoism
Kenneth L. Pearce, Trinity College Dublin
This paper examines John Toland’s views about the epistemology of testimony in the discussion of the nature of faith in Christianity Not Mysterious (1696). I argue that, although Toland sometimes (perhaps intentionally) appears to endorse a more moderate view similar to Locke’s, his considered position is a version of extreme epistemic egoism: that is, Toland flatly denies that testimony is a source of epistemic justification. On Toland’s view, the most testimony—even divine testimony—can do is prompt us to consider reasons for or against a proposition. The testimony as such has no epistemic weight at all. I show that this radical conclusion follows, by a simple argument, from Toland’s hybrid Cartesian/Lockean epistemology: Toland follows Locke in holding that testimony can never provide certainty, but he follows Descartes in holding that we ought never to assent in the absence of certainty.
Solving the Ideal-Worlds Problem
Caleb Perl, University of Colorado Boulder
Rule consequentialists take moral facts to depend on facts about the consequences of rules. Or rather, since rules only have consequences when they are embedded (widely or universally followed, or accepted, or internalized, by some or all or most of the community), rule consequentialists really take moral facts to depend on the consequences of rules being embedded. So because facts about embeddings are facts about patterns of group behavior, rule consequentialists take moral facts to depend on facts about patterns of group behavior. By contrast, many other normative views deny that moral facts are grounded in facts about patterns of group behavior. Act consequentialists, for example, take moral facts to be grounded in facts about the consequences of individual actions, considered on their own. There is a deep problem for any view where morality is pattern-dependent in the way that rule consequentialism is. The problem is that no particular pattern of group behavior always seems morally relevant. No matter which pattern of behavior you pick, it’s always possible to find a context where that pattern seems morally irrelevant. Derek Parfit (2011) dubbed this objection the “ideal world” objection. Now it turns out that the ideal world objection is forceful against any moral view that is pattern-dependent; for instance, it’s also forceful against the sort of contractualism that T. M. Scanlon (1998) has defended. This paper answers the ideal world objection.
The Transparency Procedure and the Opacity of Desires
Blakely L. Phillips, Indiana University–Bloomington
Byrne (2018) argues that desires are transparent to judgments of desirability. Ashwell (2013) suggests that desires are instead transparent to appearances of value. I argue that desires are transparent neither to judgments of desirability nor to appearances of value. These proposals fail because value and desire come apart: it might be the case that everything we desire seems valuable, but not everything that seems valuable is something we desire. I argue that the only sense in which desires are transparent to options is that thinking about options sometimes makes us aware that we desire them.
Aristotle on the Role of Prohairesis in Philia
Larkin Philpot, University of Pittsburgh
In Nichomachean Ethics VIII.5, Aristotle appeals to the role of prohairesis (“decision” or “choice”) in philia (“love” or “friendship”) to argue that philia is a hexis (“state” or “disposition”). Most commentators have understood prohairesis in this passage broadly as referring to the decision to reciprocate affection that forms the basis for philia. I argue that we should rather understand prohairesis narrowly as referring to the decisions that friends make concerning one another within philia. I argue that this interpretation makes better sense of Aristotle's argument in this passage and furthermore helps us to better understand the nature of philia. In particular, we can see that philia plausibly shares a similar motivational structure to virtue.
What's Heraclitus to Him, or He to Heraclitus? On Nietzsche's Beloved Personal Archetype Heraclitus
Joshua W. Rayman, University of South Florida
Continental Nietzsche scholars have focused on the personal character of his readings of Heraclitus without delineating the relationship between this biographical approach and Nietzsche’s larger project of an overcoming of metaphysics, a project in which Heraclitus plays a central role. To emphasize either Heraclitus’s life or his philosophical positions in isolation is to presuppose a dichotomy between the personal and the philosophical that Nietzsche rejects. I argue that Nietzsche articulates important philosophical claims precisely through his biographical, personal, and psychological claims. Hence, I examine what is of philosophical significance in his general concentration on biography, his specific attention to the life of Heraclitus, and his emphasis on particular biographical details, such as pride, hybris, and solitude. Notably, what is most personal in his reading of Heraclitus crosses the personal-philosophical boundary in the sense that Heraclitean biography is little more than the construction of an archetype from his philosophy.
Aristotle on Praise, Honor, and Activity
Bryan Reece, University of Chicago
In Nicomachean Ethics 1.12, Aristotle examines whether happiness is among things that are praised (τῶν ἐπαινετῶν) or rather among things that are honored (τῶν τιμίων). He ends up placing it squarely in the latter category, but there has been disagreement about why he does so and why this categorization matters for ethics. Some commentators have dismissed the chapter as philosophically unimportant. Others have thought that it provides powerful evidence for adjudicating between different interpretations of what happiness includes. I argue that both positions miss the true significance of NE 1.12 within Aristotle’s overall ethical project. This chapter provides an interesting theory about how to distinguish various forms of approbative speech-acts, grounding them in a distinction between categorially different goods that is partially anticipated in NE 1.6 and Topics 3.1.
Three Kinds of Social Critique: Popper, Adorno, Mannheim
Iaan Reynolds, Villanova University
The critique of contemporary society faces difficulties when it comes to articulating concrete solutions to its problems. These difficulties vary depending on the notion of “critique” at work, since this notion governs the kinds of injustices the social theorist is likely to diagnose and the possible means of redressing them. Here, I define and analyze three historical approaches to social critique, exemplified respectively in the critical rationalism of Karl Popper, the critical theory of Theodor Adorno, and Karl Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge. I argue that Mannheim’s concept of critique is an attempt to work through the shortcomings of Popper’s critical rationalism and Adorno’s critical theory, without sacrificing their deepest insights. “Critique” for Mannheim is a process of collective political education oriented toward changing society. In this way, Mannheim’s work is an important resource for contemporary thinkers concerned with normative epistemology, ideology, and nonideal theory.
”A Craving for Higher Things”: John Stuart Mill's Secular Religion
Vance A. Ricks, Guilford College
Mill is best known nowadays for his writings in moral and philosophy. But in three somewhat unpolished and still-too-little-studied essays published after his death, he turns to matters of religion, spirituality, and cosmology. Mill writes of himself that he was “one of the very few examples, in this country, of one who has, not thrown off religious belief, but never had it: I grew up in a negative state with regard to it.” Yet that “negative state” was not oppositional, but a position from which he brings his wide-ranging curiosity and incisiveness to bear on assessing just what was the “ordinary acceptation” of religious belief; what was to be said in its favor; and in what ways it could be improved. Taking the definition of “secular” as referring to “the present world,” we can evaluate Mill’s self-conscious articulation of a kind of “secular religion”.
The Epicurean Classification of Desires Revisited
Jan Maximilian Robitzsch, Sungkyunkwan University
At Letter to Menoeceus 128, Epicurus claims that the unwavering contemplation of how desires are to be classified (among other things) enables Epicurean agents to make correct choices and reach the highest goal in life: freedom from bodily pain and mental distress. Put differently, Epicurus stresses that it is of utmost practical importance that agents are able to sort desires into one of three classes: natural and necessary, natural and unnecessary, and unnatural and unnecessary desires. Yet which desires fit exactly into each of these classes and what exactly is their relationship to each other? In this paper, I will argue that there are not only issues with the readings of the classification that previous scholars have offered, but that the classification itself is not as clear-cut as is often assumed.
Agency and the Self: Insights from Schizophrenia Research
Alexandra Romanyshyn, Saint Louis University
In this paper, I explore the connection between agency and integration of the self. Drawing on recent findings in schizophrenia research, it seems that forms of treatment that involve the patient’s agency are more successful in helping the patient recover from, or at least manage, their illness. Since schizophrenia involves a fragmentation of the self, it seems that agency helps people reunite or integrate the self. This, in turn, has implications for human flourishing, since flourishing seems to require integration of the self. Insights into the reintegration of people with schizophrenia can also extend to our understanding of self-integration and flourishing in general.
A New Approach to Ontological Economy
Noel B. Saenz, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
According to a much talked about approach to ontological economy, the things (or kinds) relevant to ontological economy are fundamental things (or kinds). In this paper, I push for a different approach to ontological economy. The aim of this paper is to get clear on this approach and show why it is superior to the fundamentality approach.
Appetitive Desire and Aristotle’s Scheme of Character Virtues
Victor Saenz, Rice University
In this paper, I argue that Pearson’s (2012) account of epithumia is mistaken and offer a fresh alternative: Aristotle does not hold two different notions of appetite, but a single notion with three-layers and principled relations between each later. My account also invites us to re-think a standard reading of the EN. On this reading, Aristotle’s list of the moral virtues in III-IV is a grab-bag, largely determined by parochial Greek intuitions (e.g. Ross). Focusing on the psychology of generosity, I suggest this reading is misguided. First, I present an account of appetite as not just desire for food, drink, and sex (layer 1), but also for wealth as means of self-preservation (layer 2). Second, I sketch how appetite works in concert with spirited and rational desires (layer 3). Third, I show how this account illuminates the psychology of generosity and helps us re-think the standard reading.
Agency Lost: Mental Action in Light of the Kripkensteinian Paradox
Kateryna Samoilova, California State University, Chico
Building on the work of Kripke (1982) and Wittgenstein (1953), Boghossian (2008) puzzled over what it means to follow a rule. Rule-following naturally seems to be a matter of acting on an intentional state, which in turns seems to be a matter of inferring. But then inferring itself seems to be a matter of rule-following. In this paper, I argue that this puzzle stretches beyond the narrow topics of rule-following and inference and into the realm of mental actions more generally. Rule-following and inferring are mental actions, if anything is. Moreover, actions are commonly understood in terms of their causal antecedents such as intentions. If mental actions are no different, the stage is set for the Kripkensteinian puzzle to apply to mental actions in general. To avoid the puzzle, we need to approach mental actions from a different angle than we are used to with bodily actions.
Kant on the Singularity of Intuition: Thoroughgoing Determination and Cognition
Alejandro Naranjo Sandoval, Princeton University
In this paper, I argue that intuitions are singular in the sense that they are thoroughgoingly determined representations of their objects. That is, for any representable feature F of the object of cognition o, an intuition of o must represent F to the subject. In this sense, intuitions are maximally fine-grained: they represent every (representable) feature of the object, thereby distinguishing it from any other object. The paper is divided into three sections. In section 1, I clarify my view and then compare it to other competing accounts of the singularity of intuition. In section 2, I provide two different reasons to believe that intuitions are thoroughgoingly determined: one related to Kant’s notion of infima species, the other related to Kant’s theory of truth. I conclude in section 3 with a discussion of some upshots, including the claim that the thoroughgoing determination of intuition is orthogonal to the conceptualism/non-conceptualism debate.
Wittgenstein’s Fundamental Thought: On Redundancy and Hyperintensionality
Giorgio Sbardolini, Ohio State University
The “fundamental thought” of the Tractatus, according to Wittgenstein, is that the logical constants do not represent. For theories of structured propositions, on the other hand, the logical constants do represent: they contribute properties of propositions to the contents expressed by logically complex sentences. The price of contravening Wittgenstein’s fundamental thought is that a straightforward Gricean explanation for observable facts about language use is no longer available. Consequently, structured propositions cannot be successfully integrated with independently motivated parts of Linguistics.
The Paradox of State Sovereignty: A Call for Revision
Eric John Scarffe, Boston University
Most international lawyers have long-since left behind the question of whether international law is ‘law.’ Unfortunately, this has led scholars, lawyers, and international institutions themselves to accept consent-based views of international law by default. What makes international law ‘law’ is State consent, full stop. In this paper, I argue the received view of international law not only fails to explain many features of international law (such as jus cogens norms), but it fails to resolve the problem that made consent-based views attractive in the first place: namely, it fails resolve the paradox of state sovereignty.
What Are Modal Propositions About? A Medieval Alternative to Possible-Worlds Semantics
Boaz Faraday Schuman, University of Toronto
Possible-worlds semantics has become the standard way of accounting for the semantics of modal propositions. Briefly: on this view, “Necessarily φ” is read “In every possible world, φ.” The success of this method has prompted commentators to look for precedents, particularly in medieval logic and in the theories of influential logicians like John Buridan († ca.1358). However on Buridan’s modal semantics, the terms of modal propositions extend their reference to possible objects, not worlds. On these semantics, Buridan builds an axiom system that cannot be accommodated on any possible-worlds semantics of the modern sort, as I will show.
When Silence Is Golden: Rethinking the Virtue-Continence Distinction
Nick Schuster, Washington University in St. Louis
In the Aristotelian tradition, the psychological difference between virtue and continence is commonly understood as follows: while both act for the right reasons, continent agents are conflicted about doing what is called for, while virtuous agents are not. For virtuous agents, competing considerations are silenced, if they occur at all. Critics of this view argue, however, that virtuous agents, too, can be conflicted about acting well, especially when the circumstance require sacrificing something of genuine value. But if this is so, what differentiates virtuous from merely continent agency? This essay argues that the traditional distinction conflates two aspects of virtue as well as two types of continence. Distinguishing between them provides resources for making sense of the complex relationship between inner conflict and good moral agency. Nonetheless, even with these additional resources, the psychology of virtue versus continence is too variable to capture fully with any set of general principles.
Kenneth Silver, Trinity College Dublin
According to proponents of group agency and responsibility, groups are capable of being responsible in ways that do not reduce to the responsibility of their members. If they are right, one follow-up question concerns what leads groups to fail to meet their obligations. A much-discussed way that we fail morally is when we know what we should do and yet fail to do it, perhaps out of incontinence, akrasia, or weakness of will. However, this kind of failure is much less discussed in the group case. Peter French argued that groups are less prone to weakness, and only Philip Pettit has argued that groups can act weakly (in very circumscribed situations). Here, I argue that groups can and often do suffer from weakness of the will. I conclude by showing how conceiving of group weakness has upshots for how we conceive of corporate compliance.
Communion, Division, and Dialectic in the Sophist
Colin C. Smith, University of Colorado
In this paper I offer an interpretation of a central passage of Plato’s Sophist that shows the interconnection of several elements of that dialogue that I think has largely gone under-recognized and offers insight into fit of the parts of the dialogue as a whole. I argue that the Eleatic Stranger’s account of that which the dialectician ‘adequately views’ from 253d1-e3 involves both bifurcatory division and the communion of ontological kinds, instead of only one or the other as has usually been argued. This passage is between the division into the forms of the angler and the sophist and the discussion of the communion of the great ontological kinds, and thus most commentators have taken the passage to connect most essentially to one or the other notion, but typically not both. I take the hybrid of these views to be strongest, as I argue that the dialectician passage demonstrates that bifurcatory division entails an investigation into the communion, and the nature of a given whole form with reference to its ontological structure. While considering the major lines of interpretation from which I derive my hybrid view, I focus on two aspects of dialectic described in the passage, dialectical method and dialectical knowledge. I conclude by indicating ways that seeing this connection prepares us for the task of situating the ontology and method of the Sophist within the broader Platonic project.
Hegel On the Principle of (Non-)Contradiction
Joris Spigt, Institute of Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
In the Science of Logic, Hegel formulates what we may call the principle of contradiction, which says that “All things are in themselves contradictory.” At first glance, this principle implies the denial of the principle of non-contradiction. As I will try to show in this paper, however, Hegel seeks to demonstrate the continuity /i>rather than the opposition /i>between both principles. By carefully considering Hegel’s discussion of both principles, I will argue that Hegel thinks that certain habits of thought occlude the idea that the principle of contradiction is the explication of what is implicit in the principle of non-contradiction.
Here, We Are: A Native American Relational Social Ontology
Alex R. Steers-McCrum, The Graduate Center, CUNY
I aim to present a broadly Native perspective on social ontology and bring this view into contact with the relational ontology views of some Western feminist theorists. Relational views of social ontology attempt to navigate between the Scylla of perfectly isolated Enlightenment individuals and the Charybdis of all-consuming (and often hierarchical) communities. Conceptually, the aim is to avoid the pitfalls of both kinds of theory while better explaining human experience than either. Normatively, the goal is to avoid a view of persons that leads either to an ethics based merely on the “negative” rights of individuals, or nebulous cultural traditions. Native views of social ontology (when they are countenanced at all) are often assumed to be communitarian and hierarchical, but this is mistaken. Instead, Native views—both contemporary and historical—from across North America have repeatedly emphasized the relationality and equality of humans. The social ontologies either expressly described by Native theorists or implied by their normative commitments take both individuals and their relations seriously. These theories are not value-neutral; whether these views have evolved from a traditionally egalitarian past or come about in response to settler colonialism, Native social ontologies are aimed at Native liberation. Native ontologies share a common feature often overlooked by Western theorists: the social relations that constitute persons are not limited to human beings. Native theories emphasize the importance of our relationships with animals and plants, ecological systems, geographical features, other kinds of “other than human” entities, and—most centrally—specific places tied to the history of specific groups, often referred to as “the land.” Examining human-nonhuman relationships describes a meaningful component of human experience left out of other theories, and thus enhances relational views of social ontology more generally. It is also central to understanding liberatory claims rooted in the relationship of a group to a place.
Are Normative Truths Deliberatively Indispensable?
Andrew Stewart, University of Southern California
David Enoch (2011) claims that you and I—more broadly, all agents—are engaged in the deliberative project, even if we aren’t deliberating right now. As he characterizes it, this project is a long-term endeavor of deciding what to do when we are faced with choices. Enoch claims that this project (i) is rationally non-optional and (ii) requires the existence of irreducibly normative truths. Relying on these “two desiderata,” Enoch uses his conception of the deliberative project to support an argument from deliberative indispensability for non-naturalist metaethical realism. In this paper, I argue that Enoch’s two desiderata are not both true of the deliberative project. Thus, we ought to reject his conception of the deliberative project, as well as the argument for non-naturalist metaethical realism that depends on it. Building on the way in which Matthew Silverstein (2017) draws the distinction between practical reasoning and normative reasoning, I distinguish practical and normative reason-processes, as well as projects of practical and normative reason. Then, I argue that if the deliberative project is a project of practical reason, then even if it is rationally non-optional, it does not require the existence of irreducibly normative truths. And if it is a project of normative reason, then even if it requires the existence of irreducibly normative truths, it is not rationally non-optional. So either way, the deliberative project lacks a feature that Enoch says it has. I end by considering two potential ways out of this dilemma. The first is to identify a certain practical reason-process that requires normative concepts and truths. The second is to argue that the deliberative project is a project of both practical and normative reason. I argue that while both strategies initially seem plausible, they do not succeed.
Inner Speech, Cognitive Phenomenology, and Conscious Thought
Bronwyn Stippa, University of Texas at Austin
Recently, some philosophers have argued that conscious aspects of thought can be accounted for in terms of inner speech, while others have invoked inner speech to argue for the view that there is an irreducibly conceptual, “cognitive” phenomenology. I argue inner speech has done nothing to illuminate this debate, since its appeal derives from downstream assumptions about the nature of conscious speech comprehension in general. Given this, I suggest linguistic understanding, i.e. the experience of interpreted speech, offers a better path for resolving the debate.
Limited Phenomenal Infallibility and Cognitive Phenomenology
Christopher Michael Stratman, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
In “Phenomenal Epistemology: What Is Consciousness That We May Know It So Well?” (2007), Terry Horgan and Uriah Kriegel defend what they call the Limited Phenomenal Infallibility thesis, which claims that some beliefs can be infallible, if the belief is occurrent, phenomenal in character, and properly bracketed away from other beliefs. Horgan and Kriegel contend that the limited phenomenal infallibility thesis is true and that phenomenal knowledge is therefore superior to other forms of knowledge. But why should we believe that it is true? In this paper I argue that a necessary condition for P to count as a belief is that P must able to persist beyond the initial moment P was acquired. If P lacks this condition, P will not count as a belief. Since occurrent beliefs lack this condition they do not count as genuine beliefs. This is sufficient to reject the Limited Phenomenal Infallibility thesis.
No Foundations without Unity: A Defense of Grounding Infinitism
Jan Swiderski, Syracuse University
I give a new argument for infinitism, the view that the sequence of grounded entities is not well-founded. In Section 1, I argue that a popular argument for infinitism is unsatisfying. In Section 2, I present a principle which motivates infinitism: the Principle of Sufficient Ground (PSG). The PSG, like its spiritual precedent—the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR)—is compelling and worth endorsing. However, the PSG, like the PSR, faces an objection which alleges that it is untenable. In Section 3, I argue that the PSG resists this objection so long as grounding is understood as dis-unified, disjunctive and “small-g.” My primary conclusion is that this is a new reason to think that infinitism is true. My secondary conclusion is that there’s an important and complicated relationship between the question of whether grounding is well-founded and the question of whether it is unified.
A Dilemma for Higher-Level Suspension
Eyal Tal, University of Cologne
Is it ever rational to suspend judgment about whether a particular belief of ours is rational? An agent who suspends about whether she believes prationally has serious doubts that she does. How could such an agent justify, to herself, maintaining the attitude that she has over other possible attitudes? The agent could not maintain her attitude on grounds that that it is more likely to be justified than any other attitude. For that would imply that the agent thinks that rationality permits having the attitude that is most likely justified. If the agent believes that rationality requires having the attitude that is most likely justified, then the agent should not suspend about whether her belief is rational—she should believe that it is. The same goes for any other story that an agent might have for maintaining her chosen attitude. Providing any story about why rationality permits our attitude while also being uncertain about whether rationality permits our attitude robs us of our uncertainty.
Maximizing Expected Choiceworthiness: A Guide for Bounded Agents
Christian Tarsney, University of Oxford
If rationality requires agents faced with uncertainty to maximize expected choiceworthiness, we have a problem: an expectation is the value of a formula that, fully expanded, is far too large for agents like us to compute. Using heuristic methods to approximate the value of these formulae leads to a vicious regress: We must use the best heuristics, so we need “second-order” heuristics for choosing among “first-order” heuristics, and so on. I propose a solution to these problems that explains in what sense bounded agents can be rationally required to maximize expected choiceworthiness.
Joshua Turkewitz, Florida State University
Most theorists of vagueness hold that vagueness is mind-dependent, that vagueness is due either to imprecise representation of a precise world or ignorance of representational (and worldly) precision. Recently Trenton Merricks (2001 and 2017) has launched two offensives against the cluster of views that he dubs the orthodoxy. He argues that (2001) if there is linguistic vagueness it is either epistemic or a species of metaphysical vagueness and that (2017) there are mind-independent examples of vagueness— vagueness that is due neither to representational imprecision or ignorance. This paper defends the orthodoxy from Merricks’ arguments. I contend that his (2001) argument conflates garden-variety ambiguity with vagueness, and so can be met by the standard supervaluationist approach to vagueness, and that his (2017) argument implicitly relies on the claim that for every predicate there is a corresponding property, which is both implausible and must already be rejected by those who believe that vagueness is mind-dependent.
Kant’s Two Conceptions of the Highest Good: Secular and Theological
Saniye Vatansever, Bilkent University
In the second Critique, Kant argues that for the highest good to be possible we need to postulate the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. In his other writings, however, he suggests that the highest good is attainable in the phenomenal world through mere human agency. Andrews Reath, following Rawls, argues that Kant's texts reveal two competing conceptions of the highest good, namely a secular and a theological conception. Both Rawls and Reath argue that the secular conception of the highest good fits much better in Kant's overall project. Contra the secularists, others argue that the theological conception is central to Kant’s account of the highest good. In the face of apparently in coherent texts, the common strategy of these two camps involves attributing two different and competing notions of the highest good to Kant, namely a secular conception and a theological conception. Both of these camps favor one conception over the other by arguing that one is more important to Kant’s ethics than the other. I call this reading ‘the double sense account’ of the highest good. In this paper, I argue against the ‘double sense account’ and offer a unified account of Kant’s conception of the highest good.
On the Location of Kant’s Refutation of Idealism
Kuizhi (Lewis) Wang, University of Oxford
In the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant adds a short section between the Elucidation of the Second and the Third Postulate titled Refutation of. In this essay, I focus on the question why Kant places the Refutation after the Second Postulate. I will argue that Kant’s reason is that he intends the Refutation to be a reply to an objection made by skeptical idealism against using the mediate part of the Second Postulate as the criterion for distinguishing between perceptions that do and do not correspond to actual objects. The objection, simply put, is that there is a possibility that nothing we perceive actually exists, and in that circumstance this criterion would fail its task. To argue for this, I will combine both a reading of the general project of the Refutation and a discussion of the Fourth Paralogism in the A-edition.
Consent, Feminist Critique, and Responsibility to a Sexual Partner
Caleb Ward, Stony Brook University
The ethical norm of sexual consent originally developed from a basic feminist commitment that women ought to have agency in sexual encounters. Analyses of consent in contemporary moral theory, however, tend to foreground universal values of equality and autonomy, while distancing themselves from explicitly feminist presuppositions. Against both popular feminist and mainstream liberal views, critical theorists like Pateman and Alcoff have argued that the effects of social structures that constrain women’s choices doom the concept of consent to fail irrecoverably in the goal of supporting women’s agency. This paper maps the contested normative landscape of sexual consent, before arguing that the moral relevance people attribute to their own consent indicates that practices of consent and the influences of structural context are both constitutive factors for responsibility in sexual encounters. To account for both factors, I propose a conception of responsibility to a sexual partner that includes how one responds to a partner’s consent, particularly whether one’s actions acknowledge the value of a consenting partner’s will and experience. I identify several theoretical and practical implications of this view, including how it extends sexual ethics and offers new directions for feminist political efforts.
The Epistemology of Looks
Mason Westfall, University of Toronto
We routinely know about things on the basis of how they look. We also know what things look like. Plausibly, these two facts are not a coincidence. But what, exactly, is the connection between them? In a provocative recent paper, Matthew McGrath argues that our perception based knowledge of kinds is always mediated by our knowledge of how things look. So perception can only immediately support our beliefs about appearances. I argue that virtue epistemology about perceptual knowledge, and an anti-intellectualist account of know-how enables us to give an elegant response to McGrath's argument. Given the force of McGrath's argument, and its unpalatable conclusion, this presents a strong novel motivation for this package of views.
Moral Deference, Ground Projects, and the Moral Web of Belief
Logan Wigglesworth, Rice University
Sarah McGrath has pressed moral realism for its difficulty in accounting for this problematic nature of moral deference. In this paper, I examine her proffered explanation and offer a better explanation on behalf of the realist. My explanation points to the structure of moral judgments borrowing the ‘web of belief’ analogy used by Quine as well as their close connection to ground projects. I argue that the reason we find moral deference problematic is that it indicates that the person might not have any moral beliefs of their own, from which we will begin to suspect that they lack ground projects, have very abnormal ones, or worry that they are ill-equipped to carry them out. I conclude by pointing to the problematic nature of adults deferring to their parents on moral issues and the unproblematic nature of children deferring to their parents as a puzzle for the other metaethical views.
Centering the Principal Principle
Isaac Wilhelm, Rutgers University
I argue that centered propositions pose a problem for various versions of Lewis's Principal Principle. The problem, put roughly, is that in scenarios like Elga’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ case, those principles imply that rational agents ought to have irrational credences. To solve the problem, I propose a centered version of the Principal Principle. My version allows centered propositions to be objectively chancy.
High-Fidelity Virtues, Situationism, and the Measurement of Virtue
Matthew Wilson, Harvard University
This paper concerns the possibility of empirically testing for virtues in human beings. It considers a distinction put forth by Mark Alfano (2013) between “high-fidelity” and “low-fidelity” virtues, which purports to show that some virtues are more susceptible to empirical disconfirmation than others. In Part I, I explain the rationale for Alfano’s distinction as a part of the ongoing “situationist” debate in moral philosophy, and I show why the distinction would be significant for the empirical testing of virtue. In Part II, I argue that Alfano’s distinction is, unfortunately, a distinction without a difference. The distinction is invalid or unreal. Although it purports to tell us something about the nature of virtues, it tells us only something about the nature of behaviors, or the experiments that test for those behaviors.
Critical Reasoning and the Transparency Method
Benjamin Winokur, York University
Many philosophers have thought that there is a deep connection between one’s rational agency and one’s self-knowledge of one’s reasons-sensitive attitudes. According to Burge (1996, 2013c), the connection concerns the role of self-knowledge in critical reasoning. Critical reasoning is reasoning about reasoning, and about the reasonability of one’s own propositional attitudes specifically. Critical reasoning requires self-knowledge, then, since one cannot evaluate the reasonability of one’s propositional attitudes from a position of self-ignorance. Thus, as critical reasoners, we must have self-knowledge of our propositional attitudes. If sound, this argument says that but not how we have such knowledge. Some have thought that this ‘how’ question can be answered by arguing that critical reasoners use a transparency method for obtaining self-knowledge. In this paper I examine three versions of the transparency method and argue that none of them provide us with the self-knowledge we require for critical reasoning.
On Activists and Allies: Solidarity and Good Faith Across Disagreement and Difference
Robin Zheng, Yale-NUS College
I examine three recurring conversational scenarios between (at least potentially) allied social groups. In such cases, respective parties are often unaware of the social meanings of their actions, which leads to conversational breakdowns that undermine the possibility for political solidarity. I expose the ideological assumptions that generate these scenarios, elucidating these social meanings from both perspectives: “The Activist” and “The Ally.” I conclude that all parties—given the exigencies of political solidarity—must make and reciprocate efforts to preserve good faith, but that the greater share of the burdens associated with doing so must fall on the Ally.