The Publication Support Group (PSG) is 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 short break, a period of Q&A, and often an informal meeting where discussion can continue after the session. The page below contains abstracts from past presentations as well as the current semester’s schedule. Inquiries about upcoming meetings or about the possibility of scheduling a presentation should be directed to the Publication Support Group organizers at email@example.com. Although alternative dates and times can be arranged, our usual meeting time is between 04:00–06:00 pm on Fridays at Assiniboia Hall.
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.
8 March 2019
Julia Diniz [TBA]
12 April 2019
Mattia Sorgon [TBA]
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 22.214.171.124]. 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”) 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.
 Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, 126.96.36.199.
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.
Fall 2017 Term
1 December 2017
Peter Andes, “Should We Stop Having Children?”
There are many things we might feel obligated to justify to other people, but having a child is not usually one of them. It is difficult to imagine a decision more personal, or more apparently within one’s rights to make. Yet in recent decades a number of thinkers have raised questions and doubts about whether procreation is as morally uncomplicated and unquestionable as might be presumed. These can be roughly broken down into two broad categories. Some concerns focus on how a person is impacted by being brought into existence. Focusing on this side of things means wondering about whether the chance that a person brought into existence will experience bad things in their life might be a reason that counts against bringing them into existence. It also might mean worrying about how we can bring people into existence, and so expose them to harms, without their consent. We can call these sorts of concerns “child-centered concerns”. They involve how an individual who is brought into existence might be wronged by our doing so. Other concerns focus on how other people are impacted when someone is brought into existence. Focusing on this side of things means wondering whether other people might be made worse off by bringing someone into existence, directly or indirectly. We might worry that having more children will increase the burden we place on our planet’s ecosystem, and we might think that this should give us pause in believing that having children requires no justification whatsoever. We might also worry about the amount of money it takes to raise a child in the developed world, money which might have been donated to reliable aid agencies with considerably greater impact, perhaps saving the lives of many children. We can call these “third party concerns”. Both sorts of concerns play a role in developing an approach to understanding the ethical issues surrounding procreation.
When and how can we say that procreation is morally permissible in the face of such challenges? This is the basic problem I wish to address – when and how can we say that procreation is morally justifiable with so many arguments against it? In this talk, I survey the arguments offered in the debate over the ethics of procreation. In the course of reviewing the ongoing debate, I sketch the initial directions of the approach I intend to take toward these issues in my thesis.
24 November 2017
Susannah Mackenzie-Freeman, “Should We Revive the Tasmanian Tiger?”
In this presentation, I will examine the ethical considerations for whether we should revive the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, from extinction. There are many arguments in favour of de-extinction, but the two I find most compelling and relevant to this case are first, an argument based on our duties of reparation, and second, an argument based on ecological restoration. The former is the idea that humans, having hunted the thylacine out of existence, have wronged the thylacine – and this has implications regarding our moral obligations. A difficulty emerges in defending this idea as we cannot have direct duties to the thylacine, since it is extinct, but I will examine possible indirect duties. The latter argument is the idea that ecosystem health is a good thing and to restore damaged ecosystems we may need to bring back extinct species. However, these reasons can be overridden by various potential problems, including those which surround animal welfare and resource adjudication. Overall, my presentation will show the costs and benefits associated with reviving the thylacine and form a conclusion about the IUCN’s guiding principles on de-extinction for conservation benefit.
3 November 2017
Selcuk Kaan Tabakci, “The Abstractionist Conception of Worlds and Grounding”
In this talk grounding as a truthmaking relation will be analyzed with an abstractionist conception of possible worlds. I will try to integrate Jonathan Schaffer's theory of truthmaker monism and his assumptions on the grounding relation to object theory, in which possible worlds are defined as abstract objects, as it is presented in various publications by Edward Zalta. I will show that when we take worlds as truthmakers of propositions and define grounding in object theory with Schaffer's assumptions, one of the important logical properties of grounding – asymmetry – will be lost. Then, I will argue that since asymmetry is one of the most desired properties of grounding relation, some of the metaphysical assumptions about grounding as a truthmaking relation should be dropped, in particular ontological dependence.
29 September 2017
Samantha Wesch, “Foucault’s Kant: (Re)Discovering Perfectionism in the European Philosophical Tradition”
Famously a vehement post-structuralist, and explicitly opposed to many of the intellectual develops in the Enlightenment, French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote the shocking paper “What is Enlightenment?” towards the end of his life, declaring himself a lumiere, and situates his philosophy within the context of the European Enlightenment. About two hundred year earlier, Kant wrote his own “What is Enlightenment?”, exploring the role of philosophy in the advancement of society, and what it means to be a philosopher.
Looking at both Foucault and Kant’s What is Enlightenment?, this paper will argue that moral perfectionism (à la Cavell) is foundational to, and from which both Kant’s moral works and Foucault’s critical project situate their normativity. I argue that Foucault’s change of heart is indicative of his rediscovery of Kant and the other Lumieres engagement with the complexity of morality and interaction with other agents, particularly of acting as “true to oneself”, which Foucault refers to as “resistance”, and Kant calls the “good will”, or free as giving the moral law to oneself, as the basis of normativity. In my reading, Foucault realizes that Enlightenment thinkers (under Kant’s definition of “Enlightenment”) engaged with the same fundamental question as himself and his contemporaries, but within different content and context.
Through Cavell’s language, I argue both philosophers have a kind of normativity rooted in “being true to oneself” and a constant and unending engagement with a “divided self and doubled world” which they use to think about ways of interacting with and reflecting on themselves, the outside world, and their relations with other rational agents.
22 September 2017
Jay Worthy, “Building Tensions Between the Letter and Spirit of the Law: Political Resistance and the Tactic of Irony”
In this presentation, I propose a Derridian account of political resistance by setting it against Arendt’s account of civil disobedience.
I begin with Arendt’s account in “Civil Disobedience” where, building on Montesquieu’s distinction between the letter and spirit of the law, Arendt argues civil disobedience can be justified by appeal to the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. For Arendt, this justification counts on the definition of the ‘spirit’ of the law as a communicative praxis – effectively, a shared agreement between individuals that animates and gives force to any extant polis and legal system. From there, I consider Derrida’s distinction between law and justice in “The Force of Law.” My central claim is that, although Derrida’s notion of justice is in some sense an appeal to an animating “spirit” of the law that can justify acts of civil disobedience, a crucial difference emerges with Derrida’s claim that justice is radically irreducible to the law.
A unique difficulty emerges for the explication of political resistance on Derrida’s terms: Insofar as it consists in a challenge to the very foundations of an extant polis and legal system, political resistance seems to require an ironic recognition – of the letter of the law as something that fails to do justice to those who give the law its animating spirit and force, and of justice as something that can only be ‘done’ only insofar as a resistant abandons the claim to their action as a legal “right”.
15 September 2017
Mattia Sorgon, “The Modal Account of Essence: An Analysis of the Notion of Sparseness”
The modal analysis of essence aims at providing an account of this notion in purely modal terms. Modalism intends indeed to show how each essentialist truth about an object can be rephrased as a refined necessary truth about the very same object without any loss regarding the explanatory power and understanding of its identity. Among different modalist accounts, Nathan Wildman (2013, 2016)’s sparse modalism is the most promising proposal. It indeed avoids any commitment with the notion of essence and provides an effective and extensionally eviqualent modal analysis of essentialist truths. His proposal assumes hence necessity and sparseness as primitives and reduces essence to a derivative notion: each essentialist fact is understood as a particular necessary claim about one object’s sparse property.
This paper aims at providing an analysis of the notion of sparseness in order to identify the most appropriate conception for a modal analysis and to figure out the direct implications of sparse modalism. The development of this issue will then provide a clear view of the consequences of this modalist account concerning its interpretation of essence, the notion of fundamentality, and the relationship between metaphysics and scientific explanations.
Winter 2017 Term
14 April 2017
Ka Ho Lam, “Why “is at”? -- Quine's critique of the Aufbau's radical reductionism in “Two Dogmas””
I shall discuss Quine's critique of Carnap's Aufbau in “Two Dogmas”. I shall argue that although Quine was right in pointing out that the switch to “general principles” did not provide Carnap with the translations needed for the construction of physical objects, he failed to demonstrate, as he claimed, that the Aufbau's reductionist project flounders “in principle”. By disambiguating the notion of “explicit definitions” in the Aufbau, I shall contend that Carnap, in retrospect, equally overlooked the possibility of formulating the “operating rules” Quine complained to be missing.
31 March 2017
Yuan-chieh Yang, “Metaphor and Chinese Thinking”
This talk will examine relationships between language and thought and provide some prima facie support for linguistic relativity, i.e. the claim that the structure of a language affects its users' way of thinking. In particular, I will focus on Chinese language and thinking.
Western sinologists and philosophers have been arguing that Chinese thinking may tend to be metaphorical, while Western thinking is more analytical. Traditionally, a popular approach to the metaphorical feature of Chinese thinking is to provide comparative examples to show that classical Chinese thinkers tend to use more metaphor or analogy in their arguments. However, in this paper I will adopt a linguistic approach to the distinctiveness of Chinese thinking. In short, the linguistic approach aims to examine the distinctive structure of the Chinese language and suggests that certain ways of thinking may be framed or limited by the linguistic structure.
The paper will consist of mainly two parts. First, based on Max Black's theory of metaphor and George Lakoff and Mark Johnson's conceptual metaphor theory, I will examine the nature of metaphor and explain in what sense a linguistic structure can be a better medium for metaphorical expression and metaphorical thinking. Second, based on some recent research on the syntactical structure of the Chinese language, classical Chinese in particular, I will examine how the linguistic structure of classical Chinese can be a better medium for metaphorical expression and metaphorical thinking.
24 March 2017
Selcuk Kaan Tabakci, “Existence of Individual Natures and Positive Free Logic in Hale's "Necessary Beings"”
In "Necessary Beings", Bob Hale gives a Neo-Fregean account on metaphysics of essence. In this paper, I will briefly explain his theory and I will argue that Chris Menzel's counterargument to Hale's theory can be avoided, but a similar counterargument can be constructed with individual natures. Then, I will analyze the fundamental premises of his theory to find the root of the problem. Lastly, I will show that Hale can avoid this problem by using positive free logic with dual domains.
17 March 2017
Roxane Noel, “Normative Generics and Constructionism about Social Kinds”
Generic statements are the kind of sentences which express certain generalizations about kinds. They can either express a trait that is widely shared by members of a kind, such as in “Tigers have stripes”, or some kind of striking property possessed by a certain proportion of the member of the kind, however small, such as in “Raccoons transmit rabies”. In this talk, I concentrate on generic statements about social kinds, such as "Boys don't cry" and "Women are emotional". I start from Sarah Jane Leslie's account of the normative function of such statements to show that their function is not merely descriptive. Then, I draw from her work in psychology to show the detrimental effects that stem from our use of generics. Finally, I turn to Sally Haslanger's brand of social constructionism in an attempt to escape the gloomy conclusions reached by Leslie, and argue that any plausible solution to these problems will have to start by acknowledging the ways in which the descriptive and normative contents of generics are intertwined.
17 February 2017
Jay Worthy, “On the Sovereignty of Ontology: Spaces of Resistance”
In this paper I consider the critique of ontology as a totalizing philosophical project, forwarded in different ways by Julia Kristeva, Judith Butler, and Jacques Derrida. Taking the notion of khōra as a common thread, I demonstrate how in each case an appeal is made to a kind of space that cannot be subsumed within the limits of traditional ontological analysis. My central claim will be that what resists ontology in this way does not merely have significance at the level of ontology, but will also have a political and normative upshot: It would not merely be a fact that ontology claims to be complete when it simply cannot grant status to everything and everyone; it would also be our duty to observe the hypocrisy of such a generalizing claim, and to identify the more specific differences it fails to acknowledge.
9 February 2017
Esther Rosario, “Are Feminists Obligated to be Vegetarians? A Contextualist Response”
In this presentation, I argue that feminists may be obligated to be vegetarians or vegans given their social location. If persons who identify as feminists lack geographical, financial, socio-cultural, physical, or accessibility constraints preventing them from practicing vegetarianism or veganism, then they are obligated to refrain from consuming meat and other animal products as much as possible. I contrast two prominent views within the literature: feminist ontological vegetarianism and feminist contextual vegetarianism. I contend that ontological vegetarianism is an approach that unacceptably ignores differences in social locations among feminists, which can lead to the further marginalization of groups including Indigenous feminists, feminists of colour, and feminists with disabilities. I adopt a contextualist view and claim that meat and animal product consumption is a significant matter of feminist concern that must be considered in light of other social and environmental justice issues.
Fall 2016 Term
25 November 2016
Peter Andes, “Sidgwick’s Dualism of Practical Reason, Evolutionary Debunking, and Moral Psychology”
In “The Point of View of the Universe” Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek and Peter Singer offer an articulation and defense of Henry Sidgwick’s ideas about ethics. They seek to demonstrate a number of ways in which his work can inform contemporary debates in the field. Sidgwick’s seminal text “The Methods of Ethics” left off with an unresolved problem that Sidgwick referred to as the dualism of practical reason. The problem is that employing Sidgwick’s methodology of rational intuitionism appears to show that there are both reasons for egoism and utilitarianism – reasons to adopt both Sidgwick’s principle of rational prudence and his principle of rational benevolence – such that reason alone cannot decide what we ought to do when these two principles conflict.
Lazari-Radek and Singer offer a solution in the form of an evolutionary debunking argument: the appeal of egoism is explainable in terms of evolutionary theory. We can provide an evolutionary explanation for why it would be beneficial that we care about our own interests, and thus why thoughts like those expressed in the formulation of Sidgwick’s principle of rational prudence would appeal to us. This is not the case, Lazari-Radek and Singer allege, for rational benevolence. If this solution succeeds, it undermines egoism, leaving utilitarianism standing as the correct theory of normative ethics and resolving Sidgwick’s dualism of practical reason.
In this paper I explore the success of this treatment of Sidgwick’s dualism. I begin by outlining Sidgwick’s approach before turning to Lazari-Radek and Singer’s debunking solution. I then consider whether we can offer similar debunking arguments for rational benevolence. Ultimately, I argue that like rational prudence, rational benevolence is subject to debunking arguments and so problematic, but also – and more importantly – that debunking arguments are irrelevant in the debate over the dualism of practical reason on the view of reason and rational intuitionism that Lazari-Radek and Singer embrace. I pose a dilemma for their position such that either rational benevolence is exposed to debunking arguments, or it is insulated from them completely, with this latter state of affairs being irreconcilable with their own debunking solution that attempts to eliminate rational prudence. Either both rational prudence and rational benevolence are subject to debunking arguments, or neither are. If I am right, this dilemma presents a serious obstacle for Lazari-Radek and Singer’s solution to the dualism of practical reason.
14 October 2016
Octavian Ion, “Interpreting Metaphors”
The paper unpacks and assesses some of the views one might take with respect to how metaphorical language functions. Emphasis is largely on whether one must take metaphorical sentences to be literally meaningful.
23 September 2016
Jay Worthy, “Of Ontology and Alterity: Rereading Merleau-Ponty after Fanon and the ‘Flaw that Outlaws any Ontological Explanation’”
In this presentation, I explore how Frantz Fanon’s criticisms of ontology as a universalizing philosophical practice provide useful context for Merleau-Ponty’s transition from his earlier notion of the “body proper” to his later account of “the flesh”. My principal claim is that what the former denies, and what the latter allows, is an account of the experience of alterity as an experience of the alienation of one’s capacity for self-determination.
Beginning with Merleau-Ponty’s understanding of the body proper in the “Phenomenology of Perception”, I show how this model invokes a dialectics of self and world which always already tends toward synthesis and identity, such that there can be no experience of an “other” that would not ultimately be revelatory of my body as something universal, “placed at the origin of everything” (Merleau-Ponty, “Phenomenology of Perception”, p. 264). By contrast, I highlight Merleau-Ponty’s later appeal to the “flesh” a model that, while still essentially dialectical, fundamentally rejects the possibility of synthesis, such that the slightest revelation of “my” body would intrinsically depend on its exposure to what is irrevocably other than it – an experience that in this sense must be refused the universality of a “place at the origin of everything”, without being denied access to its own being altogether.
In this way Merleau-Ponty in his later work refuses the sort of universalizing move that Fanon critiques, while apparently retaining an ontological account of the experience of alterity Fanon describes. By way of conclusion, then, I provisionally consider the implications of Merleau-Ponty’s account as suggesting a radically “plural” ontology.
Winter 2016 Term
8 April 2016
Yuan-chieh, “Collingwood, Kitsch, and Sentimentality”
One of the most popular criticisms of kitsch is to condemn it as involving sentimentality and distorted emotion. In this paper, I will focus on this particular category of kitsch, which I will name sentimental kitsch, and argue that previous theorists generally do not provide satisfactory explanation of sentimental kitsch because they fail to explain clearly why and how sentimental kitsch leads to distorted emotion and aesthetic inadequacy. I will then introduce R. G. Collingwood's theory of expression and his conception of emotion in order to provide a more in-depth explanation of sentimental kitsch. This theory could equip us to properly explain what it means to elicit distorted emotion, such as simplified, superficial, or easy emotion, in an artwork, and why philosophers usually think that kitsch elicits distorted emotion. Moreover, based on Collingwood's insights, I will argue against the common view that sentimental kitsch implies moral corruption.
1 April 2016
Sina Azizi, “Epistemic Capability and the Problem of Divine Hiddenness”
If God exists, why do people fail to recognize him? This question has sparked a substantial debate in philosophy of religion as to whether the existence of a “perfectly loving God” is compatible with the existence of nonbelievers, especially when such people are not resisting God and are capable of recognizing him and believing in his existence. This issue has turned into an argument for atheism, which is known in the literature as the problem of divine hiddenness.
In this paper, I bring into play the epistemology of unobservable entities from philosophy of science as well as the epistemology of certainty from Quran, and try to demonstrate how this affects the argument from hiddenness formulated by Schellenberg.
18 March 2016
Octavian Ion, “Moral Inferentialism & Expressivism: Or How I learned to stop worrying and changed the subject”
I discuss some of the problems constituting Metaethical Expressivism's semantic crisis, whether Inferentialism has the credentials to replace it as the leading non-cognitivist metaethical position, and more.
11 March 2016
Danielle Brown, “Moral Defect and Aesthetic Deformity: Moralism in Hume's ‘Standard of Taste’”
In this paper, I examine two related puzzles in Hume's essay “Of The Standard of Taste” (1757). The first puzzle is that Hume identifies the aesthetic merit of a work of art with the consensus of expert judges, whose opinions are to be relied on, in part, for their absence of prejudice, particularly when it comes to evaluating works of different ages of cultures. However, Hume also says that artworks of this sort that exhibit incompatible moral values ought to be exempt from this requirement, and that an expert judge is at no fault for taking moral defects in a work of art to be aesthetic flaw. The second puzzle is that on the one hand, Hume expresses doubt that anyone, even an expert judge, could legitimately enter into the sentiments of artworks exhibiting incompatible moral values. On the other hand, Hume recommends against the very attempt to do so on the basis that the judge risks some degree of moral corruption from engaging with immoral artworks. In this paper, I argue against a reading of Hume that emphasizes the inability of the expert judge to engage with immoral artworks, and suggest that Hume is more concerned with the effects such artworks may have on the judge's sentimental disposition.
4 March 2016
Charles Rodger, “The Aporia of our Time: Materialism and Phenomenology”
This paper is a portion of a larger essay entitled “the Copernican Turn of Intentional Being”, a submission for a volume on Jeff Mitscherling's “Aesthetic Genesis” under publication review. In this portion of the essay, I argue that philosophy in our age has reached an aporia. This aporia is articulated in terms of a critique of scientistic materialism on the one hand and the phenomenological movement on the other. I will conclude by briefly suggesting how this aporia might be overcome by way of a new “Copernican turn” in phenomenology
Fall 2015 Term
20 November 2015
Yuan-chieh Yang, “Emotion Reconsidered: an Aesthetic Approach”
Most contemporary philosophical theories of emotion adopt a functional approach to emotion. This approach primarily aims to explain emotion in terms of its functional role in human reactions to external worlds. For example, cognitivist theories of emotion aim to argue that propositional attitudes which link our internally emotional states to external objects are constitutive of human emotions. However, by merely focusing on functional aspects of emotion, theorists may overlook the phenomenology of emotion, i.e. the qualitative experience or “what it is like” experience of emotion. Peter Goldie (2009) has criticized that theorists who adopt the functional approach usually presupposes fundamental separation between the cognitive intentional state and the feeling state (the phenomenological state), and adds them on later without doing justice to the phenomenology of emotion.
In this paper, I will suggest that to explore the phenomenology of emotion, we can benefit from R. G. Collingwood's aesthetic discussion of emotion: his theory of expression and his conception of emotion in his mature work of aesthetics “The Principles of Art”. I will argue that Collingwood's insights into emotion in his theory of expression are valuable for us to develop a more satisfactory theory of emotion which is faithful to the phenomenology of emotion. Through the explication of Collingwood's theory, I will also introduce theories of metaphor in order to fully explain how Collingwood's account of “expression” (i.e. the process in which one can individualize and articulate the phenomenological peculiarities of a certain emotion) can really work.
6 November 2015
Luke McNulty, “Wittgenstein, Humility, and the Other”
On ‘orthodox’ readings, Wittgenstein’s therapeutic philosophical method involves trying to refute a confused interlocutor (usually someone called ‘the metaphysician’). This attempt at refutation involves demonstrating to the interlocutor that her use of words violates the rules that regulate the use of those words in ordinary language. It does not occur to the Wittgenstein of this orthodox reading that his own sense of what the rules of ordinary language will and will not permit might be mistaken, and that his interlocutor’s apparently unruly use of terms might not be so unruly after all. Accordingly, this Wittgenstein places the blame for his failure to understand his interlocutor squarely upon her, overlooking his own possible contribution to that failure.
On the alternative, ‘austere’, reading of the therapeutic method there is no attempt to refute the interlocutor in the above, orthodox, way. I argue that this reading recommends a compelling view of Wittgenstein’s method as being informed by a greater humility both in his relation to the rules of language and in his relation to the interlocutor whose ways with words he finds hopelessly strange. I urge that austere readers should embrace this consequence of their reading more directly than they typically do.
9 October 2015
Octavian Ion, “Structured propositions, unity, and the sense-nonsense distinction”
Back in the Good Old Days of Logical Positivism, theories of meaning were part of a normative project that sought not merely to describe the features of language and its use, but so to speak to separate the wheat from the chaff. In this paper I side with Herman Cappelen (2013) in thinking that we need to rethink and reintroduce the important distinction between sense and nonsense that was ditched along with other normative aspirations during Logical Positivism's Spectacular Demise. Like Cappelen, I believe that sentences containing terms which lack content are nonsense, however my goal in the present paper is to argue that a more controversial set of sentences (category mistakes) also fit the bill. To this end I provide an account of nonsense that covers both cases and address some of the challenges raised for such an account.
25 September 2015
Brad Fehr, “The Role of Culture in Art Criticism”
This paper synthesizes Noel Carroll's evaluative criticism, as outlined in his book “On Criticism”, with Arthur Danto's non-evaluative criticism, as described in his paper “Fly in the Fly Bottle: The Explanation of Critical Judgement of Works of Art”. This synthesis gives grounds to challenge the objectivity within Carroll's model of art criticism by highlighting one aspect of his theory in particular, that the art critic can ultimately serve a social function.
Jay Worthy, “The Space of the Flesh: On the Dialectics of Orientation and the Absurdity of the Origin”
In this paper I explore Derrida’s reading of khōra as a way into what I provisionally term a “normative politics” at stake in the notion of the democracy to come. This normativity, I claim, could be expounded through Derrida’s notion of the “right to irony in public space,” which suggests a pre- or non-legal “right” that functions as a normative unconditioned, amd which would ultimately trouble the authority any one normativity. I expound both the possible risks and rewards implicit in the right to irony by briefly considering a reading it allows with respect to prevailing government narratives surrounding the events of the Québec student protest movements of 2012 and 2015. The right to irony in public space, I ultimately argue, must imply a certain need to resist narrative closure in public space: A normativity that would therefore take place “within and against” normativity itself.
11 September 2015
Thomas Mathieu, “Cognitive Merits and Aesthetic Value”
In this paper my aim is to present a defense of aesthetic cognitivism against the objection that cognitive merits of artworks are often so banal as to be devoid of value. While agreeing with Gaut’s response to this objection, which claims that cognitive merits lie in descriptions of particulars instead of general statements, I further his response by elucidating this process using a modified version of Wollheim’s idea of thematizing activity.