Research Support Group (RSG)

The PGSG runs the Research Support Group (RSG), which organizes talks, workshops, and other events relevant to U of A philosophy graduate students.

Graduate Speaker Series: The RSG hosts a student-run speaker series for graduate students to present and receive feedback on recent and forthcoming work as they prepare for submission, publication, or conference presentation. Sessions are structured to simulate the environment of an academic conference: presentations are moderated, with an upper limit of 45 minutes, and are followed by a period of Q&A, and often an informal meeting where discussion can continue after the session. The RSG also hosts Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) speakers from outside the department several times a year.

Graduate Workshops: The RSG also holds workshops of interest for graduate students. For example, in the Summer of 2022, the RSG hosted a computer-assisted research in philosophy workshop that included instruction on bibliographical management with Zotero and an introduction to LaTex, a high-quality typesetting system frequently used for journal submissions. While these workshops are often led by department faculty, graduate students are encouraged to host workshops if they have skills they seek to share.

Inquiries about upcoming meetings, scheduling a presentation, or forthcoming workshops should be directed to the RSG organizers at Although alternative dates and times can be arranged, our usual meeting time is 3:30-5:00 pm on Fridays in Assiniboia Hall 2-02A.

Click here for 2022-2023 Research Support Group Events

Previous Events

Winter 2020 Term

17 January 2020

Markéta Jakešová: "From the Concrete to the Abstract: Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Annemarie Mol"

This paper is a part of my larger project to connect Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of body with Actor-Network Theory (ANT). In this case specifically, I aim to delineate, compare and possibly join the basic presuppositions from Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception and Body Multiple, a book by the Dutch scholar Annemarie Mol. Her theoretical approach is based on fieldwork done in a hospital and I want to show that she uses illness in a similar way to Merleau-Ponty's usage of the "case Schn.", namely as an extreme pole of bodily behavior that is at the same time put into contrast with a "normal", that is healthy body. Nevertheless, the conclusions of the two authors are almost opposite, which becomes particularly clear from their different strategies to deal with the subject/object split, the question of agency, and the ontological status of various material and immaterial entities. Thus I will, apart from detailing these divergences, attempt to find a framework that will enable both approaches to make sense at the same time.

Fall 2019 Term

29 November 2019

Ryan Garrett: "Art as the Foundation for Science and Metaphysics in The World as Will and Representation"

In The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer argues that artistic knowledge is the only form of knowledge that can grasp the eternal form of the Ideas. Artistic knowledge can transcend the principle of sufficient reason and reach beyond space, time, and causality to apprehend the Ideas. This claim creates an interesting tension with regards to two other forms of knowledge that he discusses: scientific knowledge and metaphysical knowledge. Scientific knowledge utilizes "universal, original forces" to investigate phenomena by the means of the principle of sufficient reason. These universal, original forces are considered Ideas. Yet, scientific knowledge, he claims, is unable to grasp the eternal form of the Ideas due to its embodiment in the principle of sufficient reason. Similarly, metaphysical knowledge aims to understand the nature of existence. By going beyond experience, metaphysical knowledge develops universal concepts that communicate the wisdom contained in the Ideas about existence. Yet due to the abstract nature of metaphysics, he claims, like science, metaphysical knowledge is unable to apprehend the Ideas contained in the immediacy of perception. Accordingly, in this essay, I aim to argue that, since artistic knowledge is the only form of knowledge that can apprehend the Ideas, artistic knowledge, then, must be the basis for scientific and metaphysical knowledge.

28 November 2019

Workshop: Stephen Yablo's "Omniscience and Aboutness" (group discussion for upcoming colloquium)
Discussion leader: Paolo Verdini

8 November 2019

Jay Worthy: "Feelings of Adversity: Towards a Critical Humanism"

In this paper, I undertake a reading of Merleau-Ponty's "Man and Adversity" that offers a hyperdialectical basis for the notion of the human, which as a result requires what I call a "critical humanism." I develop the hyperdialectical account of the human by focusing on a brief appeal to flesh as animate (human) body in "Man and Adversity," which as I argue suggests an important continuity between (i) Merleau-Ponty's early interpretation of human intercorporeity in terms of a generalizable Freudian sexual 'instinct', and (ii) Merleau-Ponty's later understanding of flesh as hyperdialectical intercorporeity in The Visible and the Visible. The resulting notion of a critical humanism deploys this hyperdialectical notion of humanity in order to rethink the political requirement of recognition. As I argue, critical humanism reveals a form of recognition that cannot be the political overcoming of conditions of adversity, but which is instead a way of observing that and how adversity is itself constitutive of humanity as political.

Winter 2019 Term

12 April 2019

Mattia Sorgon: "Two Solutions to the Problem of Temporary Intrinsics"

The problem of temporary intrinsics (Lewis 1986) presents an argument in favour of perdurance theory against endurance theory. Lewis rejects indeed endurantism in favour of perdurantism due to its failure to account for an object's change of intrinsic properties through time.
Endurance theory may however offer a reply to Lewis' argument, providing two solutions to the problem that develop precisely from his objections. Adverbialism and Merricks (1994)'s presentist view present indeed two alternative endurantist replies to the problem of temporary intrinsics.

8 March 2019

Júlia Diniz e Carvalho: "Touching Bodies: Reading Jean-Luc Nancy alongside Husserl"

In this presentation I propose reading Jean-Luc Nancy's notion of toucher alongside the role of tactile experience presented in Husserl's Ideas II. Even though Nancy's emphasis on toucher can be, to a certain extent, traced back to some phenomenological concerns about the body, the consequences that it brings as an account of the body are incompatible with Nancy's. I aim to show how Nancy radicalizes Husserl's thinking about the "foreign medium" in a way that replaces phenomenological intentionality for a correlation between appearing bodies.

1 February 2019

Dr. Marie-Eve Morin: "A Derridian Ethics of Hospitality"

When discussing our Western concept of hospitality, Derrida always starts by distinguishing between two types: conditional and unconditional hospitality. On the one hand, hospitality is always linked to rules: hospitality is only granted to those who fulfill certain pre-established conditions. On the other hand, being hospitable demands that we do more than welcome those who have the right papers. It requires that one do more than merely apply the rules. What is the relation between these two laws of hospitality? Are they similar to Kant's distinction between hypothetical and categorical imperatives? Is unconditional hospitality better than conditional hospitality? In this presentation, I show how, for Derrida, we must understand the relation between the two forms of hospitality as truly aporetic, as offering no way out. But then, doesn't that inevitably lead to inaction and passivity? What kind of "imperative" does a deconstructive ethics leave us with? No prior knowledge of Derrida is required.

Fall 2018 Term

7 December 2018

Ali Mesbahian: "Undermining the Foundational Role of Kant's Apperceptive Subject"

This paper seeks to provide a critical analysis of the foundational role of the apperceptive I in the Critique of Pure Reason and its relation to another essential aspect of the same work, namely the verifiability of metaphysics in the "touchstone" of experience. I argue that the manner in which Kant presents these aspects are incompatible with one another, thereby compelling the reader to maintain one at the expense of the other. By way of reference to Heidegger's interpretation of Kant, I advocate for a reading that undermines the foundational character of the apperceptive subject, without however, altogether doing away with such foundation. This, I argue, is necessary if metaphysics is not to be relegated to a "battlefield" where arbitrary assertions are made against one another: a groundless "groping around mere concepts" (B xv).

30 November 2018

Taro Okamura: "Does the Vivacity of Belief Aim at Truth?"

In the Treatise of Human Nature, David Hume states, 'reason alone can never produce any action' [T]. This claim has often been understood as the basis of the so-called Humean Theory of Motivation according to which belief alone is insufficient to motivate actions, and motivation requires both desire and belief [e.g. Smith 1994 and Sinhababu 2017]. However, many recent scholars argue that this is not Hume's own view on the grounds that Hume himself claims that belief alone can motivate actions while reason is inert (e.g. Cohon 2008).

In this talk, I point out that 'belief' in Hume's own use and the one in contemporary Humeanism do not refer to the same thing, and argue that they actually share what I call the 'truth-inert view'. Humeans often distinguish belief from other mental states appealing to the 'truth-norm' or 'direction of fit' of belief, and argue that such mental attitudes under the norm are inert. I point out that strictly speaking, the seemingly motivational power of belief in Hume is not under the truth-norm. Upon a closer look, we see that Hume also believes that mental attitudes governed only by the truth-norm are inert.

23 November 2018

Courteney Crump: "Hume and the Suspension of Judgement"

What does it mean to call Hume a sceptic (with regard to the external world)? Does Hume use scepticism as a tool like Descartes, or does he understand scepticism differently? In Ancient Greek philosophy, there were two different types of scepticism: Academic and Pyrrhonian. Academic Scepticism is what we might think of as Descartes' Method of Doubt or Socrates' famous exclamation that he knows nothing except for one thing, that he knows nothing. Pyrrhonian Scepticism restricts itself to agnosticism, the suspension of judgement. If you are going to call Hume a sceptic (with regard to the external world), you need to clarify whether you are calling him an Academic Sceptic or a Pyrrhonian Sceptic, and justify why you think this. In this paper, I argue that Hume is a Pyrrhonian Sceptic (with regard to the external word), despite his seemingly poor understanding of Pyrrhonian Scepticism. His criticism of the position philosophers of his time often took in trying to explain things beyond their ability to know combined with his own position with regard to perceptions (that "nothing is ever present to the mind but perceptions"[1]) lean towards a reading of Hume as a Pyrrhonian Sceptic-the kind of sceptic who thinks that one should suspend judgement when it comes to the ontologically 'Real', external world.

[1] Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature,

26 October 2018

Julia Diniz: "Rereading Ideas II in the Shadow of Deconstruction: Jean-Luc Nancy and Husserl"

Since the publication of Derrida's book Le Toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy (2000), the relationship between phenomenology and Jean-Luc Nancy's thinking on the body became more evident. In Derrida's book, Husserl's Ideas II is taken as a 'guiding work' to read this relationship, since deconstruction would be distinguished from the French reception of phenomenology, therefore requiring the reconstruction of the context taking the foundational work on phenomenology of the body as a staring point. Nevertheless, eighteen years later, researches on the relationship between Nancy's and Husserl's thinking on the body are still presented as just an indication of a philosophically fertile ground. In face of this picture, the present text proposes to: 1) reconstruct the phenomenology of the body presented in Ideas II, giving special attention to the distinction between Körper and Leib, and the role of tactile experience in that distinction; 2) show how and in which sense Nancy deconstructs some aspects of Husserlian phenomenology of the body, while also bringing some phenomenological concerns to bear on the deconstructive approach.

19 October 2018

Mattia Sorgon & Nicholas Ferenz, LaTeX tutorial

LaTeX is a powerful, flexible open-source typesetting program commonly used in academia and esteemed for its formatting capability in efficiently producing publication-ready works. It's also the standard typesetting program in logic, mathematics, computer science and other scientific fields. Using LaTeX confers a plethora of advantages, such as:
Unrestricted and automatic formatting for bibliographies, appendices, figures and tables, etc.
Unrestricted and automatic template design for papers, chapters, letters, etc.
Arbitrarily flexible organization of lists (numbered, bulleted, etc.)
Complete support for nonstandard symbols (e.g. Greek letters, multi-lingual typesetting)
Dynamic formatting for realistic typesetting of mathematical equations
Directory-based insertion of images
Support for advanced slideshow design (no need to switch between applications!)
... and more!
And above all, LaTeX is completely free and open-source. This means that an endless variety of extra functionality can be added to LaTeX to augment your typesetting power at absolutely no cost: If there's a specialized capability you need, the LaTeX community has likely already shared it with others like yourself!

5 October 2018

Mattia Sorgon, "The Mereological and the Anti-Mereological View of the Matter-Form Compound. Two Readings of the Regress Argument"

The Regress Argument, discussed by Aristotle's Metaphysics Z.17, provides the solution to the problem of unity of a matter-form compound. Focusing on composite things, wholes and heaps are indeed distinguished in virtue of a principle of unity which is present in the formers and absent in the latters. Among what can be neutrally called totalities, Aristotle distinguishes indeed between wholes, which show a oneness, such as his examples of the flesh and the syllable BA, and heaps, totalities of elements which lack any sort of unifying principle, such as a heap of sand.
Being metaphysically different from the basic elements composing both wholes and heaps, the principle of unity is understood as corresponding to the form of the compound. The Aristotelian argument aims basically at avoiding any consideration of a material principle of unity, which, leading to an infinite regress, would result unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, the argument still permits two opposite readings of the compositional relationship between the elements which characterizes the principle of unity. Once analysed and developed, these two readings would provide two corresponding divergent views of the relationship between form and matter within a compound. On one hand, the mereological view (Koslicki 2006, 2007) defines a unique parthood relation and considers a whole as having both vertical and horizontal parts. On the other hand, the anti-mereological view (Harte 2002) defines two different relations, one concerning the mereological composition of whole and elements and another regarding the metaphysical constitution of form and matter.
Confronting these two views with the Aristotelian lexicon in Met. ∆.25 and ∆.26, each reading will be then considered in its limits and virtues. The mereological reading of the regress argument will then finally result the only interpretation able to support the analysis of the Aristotelian text.

Winter 2018 Term

20 April 2018

Luis Eduardo Melo de Andrade Lima, "Liberal Governmentality and the Government of Passions in Adam Smith"

The notion of a Liberal Governmentality appears in the lectures that Michel Foucault gave at the Collège de France between 1978 and 1979. In the eighteenth century, according to Foucault, a liberal art of government rises from the crisis of Raison d'État and works by respecting certain natural processes and mechanisms. These processes are the object of a knowledge that emerges in the same period: political economy. In this period, governing with the aid of economic knowledge became imperative. Moreover, it is within this knowledge that a subject appears and is deemed to have self-interest as his only principle of action. However, alongside economic science a whole body of knowledge emerges in the Eighteenth Century about man and his nature. Moral science proposes to analyze the passionate matrix of men in order to understand their actions. Therefore how to ignore a science that is thought in proximity to economy, in many ways preceding it, and is about the nature of this subject of interest? What, then, would be the role of passions in Liberal Governmentality? The present work proposes a reading of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments in order to understand the part passions and their government play in what Foucault called a Liberal Governmentality.

13 April 2018

Jackson Sawatzky, "Demonstrability in Hobbesian Civil Science"

In Leviathan Hobbes writes that geometry is "the only science it hath pleased God hitherto to bestow on mankind", and suggests that its focus on clarity, definitions, and an orderly way of proceeding is what imparts to geometry its certainty (IV, 12). Since all geometry does is work out the consequences of stipulative propositions (or, according to Hobbes, indubitable and self-evident definitions), the resulting propositions can be proven beyond doubt. On the grounds that our reasoning about the commonwealth can use the same method, Hobbes believes that a fully demonstrable 'civil science' is possible. While geometry is the model for all science and not civil science alone, Hobbes makes the further claim that only politics and geometry are capable of demonstrable certainty, of demonstration 'as it ought to be', because they are subjects that 'we make for ourselves' (E.W. VII, 184). By examining the infrequent comments on method made in Leviathan, supplemented by remarks dated from earlier or around the same time as its publication, this presentation will seek to dispel misconceptions regarding the 'definitional' nature of Hobbes' method by clarifying the relationship of civil science to geometry and highlighting the conventional or 'artificial' character of the Hobbesian commonwealth.

23 March 2018

Tuğba Yoldaş, "Problems of Self-Knowledge"

Self-knowledge regarding sincere attributions about mental states, bodily sensations, perceptions, and the phenomenal character of experiences seem direct and true. However, the questions of how we acquire such knowledge and whether it is always reliable are significant in understanding more about ourselves. This talk revolves around the notions of consciousness, awareness, perception, introspection and the phenomenal character of one's own experiences. It is an attempt to present some important questions about self-knowledge. I will start with an inquiry on Fred Dretske's question of how we know that we are not zombies and that will lead to an exposition and evaluation of two models of introspection called the displaced perception model and the inner-sense model. It follows with an attempt to understand the notion of phenomenal character of experience by evaluating two accounts held by Thomas Nagel and Peter Hacker. At the end, I will conclude that although there are problems with the accounts of self-knowledge presented throughout the talk, knowledge of our own mental states, physical sensations, and the phenomenal character of experience seems to be a cognitive achievement.

2 March 2018

Jay Worthy, "Resistance without Revolution: Merleau-Ponty's Hyperdialectical Materialism"

In this paper I outline the notion of a 'hyperdialectical materialism' - a position that follows from Merleau-Ponty's later ontology of the flesh in the Visible and the Invisible. I contrast this hyperdialectical approach with the 'synthetic materialism' at stake in the analysis of Marxism that Merleau-Ponty offers in Humanism and Terror and Phenomenology of Perception. As I argue, the shortcomings of a synthetic dialectics consist in an unavoidably anthropocentric grasp of historical materiality in terms of a 'body proper' that, though evidently alienable, is also from the outset there for us to reappropriate. By contrast, a hyperdialectics avoids this anthropocentrism, while still allowing for meaningful interrogation, critique, and change of given historical-material situations.

9 February 2018

Ceren Yildiz, "Mind as a Spacetime Worm: How to Reconcile Identity and Psychological Continuity"

Derek Parfit (1984) challenges the idea that identity matters for ordinary survival and argues that what matters is not identity but psychological continuity. Parfit offers a thought experiment; each half of someone's brain is transplanted into two distinct bodies and both of these post-fission persons are psychologically continuous with the pre-fission person. Some philosophers (e.g., David Lewis and Ted Sider) try to reconcile identity and psychological continuity by coming up with explanations for how both post-fission persons can be identical to the pre-fission person. I will argue that these solutions do not work. I will offer a novel solution; mind is distributed across the space-time worm like a non-uniform distributional property. In the case of fission, there is a Y-shaped space-time worm instead of an I-shaped space-time worm and the psychological continuity of the post-fission person stages can be explained in virtue of the mind which is attributed to the whole. I will show that psychological continuity is not enough for ordinary survival since current views of psychological continuity cannot explain the gaps between mental states such as sleep, coma, and memory loss while my view can accommodate these gaps.

2 February 2018

Ataollah Hashemi, "Towards a Primitivist Approach to the Grounding Problem"

Many metaphysicians believe in the occurrence of numerically distinct, spatiotemporally coincident objects which nevertheless differ in their modal and sortal properties. This view has been seriously challenged by the grounding problem which questions what grounds the alleged differences between coincident objects. In this presentation, I first attempt to show that the grounding problem does not threaten the possibility and plausibility of the occurrence of numerically distinct spatiotemporally coincident objects. I also argue that proponents of coincident objects can plausibly appeal to a kind of primitivist solution to ground apparent modal and sortal differences between coincident objects. I explore one of the primitivist approaches proposed by Karen Bennett (modal plenitude primitivism) and argue why it is not a winning strategy to deal with the grounding problem. Finally, I put forward a new account of the primitivist solution to the grounding problem based on the Aristotelian notion of essence which I call 'essential primitivism'. I argue that the primitive essences of coincident objects can properly ground the modal and sortal properties which make these objects distinct.