“A moderate-grain theory of states of affairs” by Daniel Graham Marshall

Abstract:
A state of affairs is either a way things are or a way things aren’t. The two most popular theories of states of affairs are the coarse-grain theory, according to which states of affairs are identical if and only if they are necessarily equivalent (that is, if and only if, necessarily, they either both obtain or they both fail to obtain), and the structure theory, according to which states of affairs are structured in the same kind of way sentences are structured. Despite their popularity, both these theories have serious problems. This paper proposes a new moderate-grain theory of states of affairs that avoids these problems by individuating states of affairs more finely than the coarse-grain theory and more coarsely than the structure theory. According to the proposed theory, two states of affairs are identical if and only if they are necessarily equivalent and necessarily about the same things. In addition to arguing that this proposed theory is superior to both the coarse-grain theory and the structure theory, the paper argues that the proposed theory is superior to other existing moderate-grain theories of states of affairs.

Date: 7 November 2019
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Dan Marshall primarily works in metaphysics and in related areas in logic, philosophy of language and the philosophy of science.  He has a MSc in mathematics from the University of Melbourne and a PhD in philosophy from the Australian National University. He completed his PhD in 2011 and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Lingnan University in Hong Kong.

 

All are welcome

“How much should we matter to an Ethical AI?” by Cansu Canca

Abstract:
When we try to navigate potential impacts of artificial intelligence (AI), we invariably ask: Is AI for the good? Often, implicit in the question is: Is AI good for humans and humanity? This vagueness is captured by the interchangeable use of “ethical AI” and “human-centered AI”. But those two AI systems—and those two questions posed above—might differ significantly. While an ethical AI is, by definition, for the good, it might not necessarily be good for humans and humanity in all circumstances. Put differently, a human-centered AI might not be an ethical AI.
As we design complex AI systems that assist us in our tasks and decision-making, we have to face the daunting task of integrating value trade-offs into these systems. Going forward, as AI systems grow more robust making more complex or autonomous decisions, these value trade-offs will increasingly matter in how AI systems weigh various competing demands. More specifically, AI systems will have to weigh the value of human well-being against the value of other beings (including the well-being of AI agents if and when AI systems acquire moral status). How then should we design AI systems that accurately take into account the value of ourselves and other beings?

Date: 6 November 2019, Wednesday
Time: 3pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Cansu Canca is a philosopher and the founder/director of the AI Ethics Lab, an initiative facilitating interdisciplinary research and providing guidance to researchers and practitioners. She has a Ph.D. (NUS, 2012) in philosophy specializing in applied ethics. She primarily works on ethics of technology and on ethics and health. Prior to the AI Ethics Lab, she was a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, and a researcher at the Harvard Law School, Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, Osaka University, and the World Health Organization.

All are welcome

Talks by Anik Waldow and Deborah Brown

Date: 17 October 2019
Time: 2pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

2pm – 3.30pm
Condillac on Being Human: Control and Reflection Reconsidered by Anik Waldow

Abstract:
Why do humans have reason, while animals do not? This question has long been answered by claiming that humans have rational souls, and because of this, an innate faculty of reason. Condillac breaks with this tradition by arguing that humans start to develop reason at precisely the moment at which they discover signs and learn to control their thoughts. Commentators like Hans Aarsleff and Charles Taylor believe that the discovery of signs is enabled through the presence of a special human capacity: the capacity to reflectively relate to what is given in experience. The problem with this interpretation is that it returns Condillac to a form of innatism from which he was keen to escape, for it assumes that human minds are reflective as a consequence of their original endowments. This paper sets out to offer an alternative interpretation that does not fall prey to the charge of innatism. It argues that for Condillac the capacity to reflect is not simply given, but arises as a result of contingent circumstances encountered in one’s experiences with others. This interpretation not only does justice to Condillac’s sustained effort to conceive of humans from the point of view of their embodied existence that, like in the case of other animals, is shaped by their interactions with the world. It also explains why many French enlightenment authors, who were inspired by Condillac, defended the claim that the cultivation of reason requires a Lockean programme of experiential learning.

About the Speaker:
Anik Waldow is Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Sydney. She mainly works in early modern philosophy and has published articles on the moral and cognitive function of sympathy, early modern theories of personal identity and the role of affect in the formation of the self, skepticism and associationist theories of thought and language. She is the author of Hume and the Problem of Other Minds (Continuum 2009) and Experience Embodied: Early Modern Accounts of the Human Place in Nature (OUP 2020).

3.30pm – 5pm
DESCARTES, HOBBES, AGENCY, FORCE by Deborah Brown

Abstract:
There is a common misconception that Descartes denies all agency of bodies—a conflation of the inertial and the inert—relegating all agency in the universe either to God alone (as occasionalists suppose) or to God and minds. Textually and conceptually, this is incorrect. Here, we will explore the kind of agency Descartes ascribes to bodies and how it sits with other core notions of his physics, such as that of motion, rest and force (conatus). The indirect exchange between Descartes and Hobbes over the nature of force reveals much about the kind of reductionist program in which each is engaged. It will be argued that if Descartes’ notion is unsatisfying for being primitive, Hobbes’ rests on the problematic idea of an infinitesimal motion, which would struggle to make sense of what happens when the contest of forces reaches stalemate.

About the Speaker:
Deborah Brown is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the UQ Critical Thinking Project at the University of Queensland. She is the author of Descartes and the Passionate Mind (Cambridge, 2006) and co-author of Descartes and the Ontology of Everyday Life (Oxford, 2019), as well as numerous articles on figures in Early Modern Philosophy.

 

 

All are welcome

“Truth Pluralism: a lesson from Many-Valued Logic” by Andrea Strollo

Abstract:
According to truth pluralism there is not a single property of truth but many: propositions from different areas of discourse are true in different ways. This position has been challenged to make sense of validity, understood as necessary truth preservation, when inferences involving propositions from different areas (and different truth properties as well) are involved.
To solve this problem, a natural temptation is that of replicating the standard practice in many valued logic, thus appealing to the notion of designated values. Validity would just be preservation of designation.
Such a simple approach, however, is usually considered a non starter, since, in this context, ‘designation’ seems to embody nothing but a notion of generic truth, namely what truth pluralists abhor.
In my talk, I show how to defend such a simple solution relying on designation by exploring the analogy with Many-Valued Logic even further. I argue that truth pluralism can be coherently formulated in a many valued setting, and that a suitable version of it is already available.

Date: 21 November 2019
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Andrea Strollo is currently Assistant Professor at Nanjing University (China). He received his PhD from Turin University (Italy) and got research positions at the University of Helsinki (Finland) and Scuola Normale Superiore (Italy). He works mainly on the notion of truth, trying to keep philosophical and formal approaches together. He also has research interests in Philosophy of Language and Logic in general.
More information and contact details can be found at his personal website: https://sites.google.com/site/andreastrollophilosophy/home

 

 

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“The Emergence of Will and Morality in Late Antiquity” by Siegfried Van Duffel

Abstract:
Freewill is a perennial topic in Western philosophy. Many historians, however, date the origin of the concept in late antiquity (often either the Stoics or Augustine). If they are right, it would seem that the topic was not felt to be crucial to ethics in antiquity. Some seminal writings on the topic indicate that the concept of freewill was largely absent from Chinese thought before the nineteenth century and from Indian traditions. I suggest that the reason why freewill appears to have been considered a problem only in the post-classical West may have to do with the ethical outlook that emerged in the era. Characteristic of this outlook is the centrality of moral obligation. That would mean that the emergence of the “problem of freewill” is a result of the introduction of a law-like ethics and it would suggest that the problem may not be felt in other cultures because of the absence of a law-like ethics.

Date: 10 October 2019, Thursday
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the speaker:
Siegfried Van Duffel is an associate professor and department chair at Nazarbayev University. He was trained as a philosopher and completed a Ph.D. in law at Ghent University (Belgium). Before coming to Nazarbayev University, he taught ethics and Political Theory at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) and the University of Hong Kong. He also held post-doc positions at the National University of Singapore and the Center of Excellence in Philosophical Psychology, Morality and Politics of the University of Helsinki and was visiting associate professor at Huafan University and National Taiwan University.

Siegfried’s main research interest is cultural differences, which is why he left Europe and continue living and working in a non-Western society. His project is to complete a book on human rights and cultural differences. The aim of this book is to describe human rights theories as an aspect of the culture in which they were developed. He also hopes to do comparative empirical research on intuitions related to human rights.

His work was published in journals such as The Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, The Journal of Political Philosophy, The Monist, and The European Journal of Philosophy.

 

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“Has Cognitive Psychology Solved the Generality Problem for Reliabilism?” by Erik J. Olsson

Abstract:
We address the generality problem for process reliabilism, i.e. the view that a subject knows the proposition p just in case p is true, the subject believes that p and, characteristically, the subject’s belief was acquired through a reliable process. The generality problem is that of classifying the type of process that was actually operative in belief acquisition. If no recipe for classification is given, reliabilism is an empty theory, or so the objectors claim. Our target is the account of the generality problem advanced in the influential work of Conee and Feldman. Specifically, we address their paradigm example of someone, Smith, seeing a maple tree from the window. We show that what we call basic level reliabilism, a reliabilism that relies on the basic level theory of (core) visual object recognition in cognitive psychology for fixing the process types in situations like that of Smith’s, satisfies Conee and Feldman’s own desiderata for an acceptable theory. We conclude that while Conee and Feldman may have succeeded in rebutting several other purported solutions to the generality problem in the paradigm case of visual object recognition, they have not produced anything that would present a challenge to basic level reliabilism.

Date: 19 September 2019
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Erik J. Olsson is Professor and Chair in Theoretical Philosophy at Lund University, Sweden. His areas of research include epistemology, philosophical logic, pragmatism, and, more recently, epistemological aspects of social networks and search engines like Google. His books include Against Coherence: Truth, Probability, and Justification (Oxford University Press, 2005, paperback 2008), Knowledge and Inquiry: Essays on the Pragmatism of Isaac Levi (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and Belief Revision Meets Philosophy of Science (Springer, 2011). Olsson har written extensively on the reliabilist theory of knowledge, which he has defended against various objections. He is presently leading a research project funded by The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences investigating Google from the perspective of personalized search, filter bubbles and polarization.

 

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Honours Thesis (HT) Presentations by Mr Goh Zhao Qi

Date: 12 September 2019
Time: 2pm -2.45pm
Venue: AS3-05-23

Presentation by Goh Zhao Qi
Title
Gamer’s Dilemma: What can moral feelings inform us about it?

Abstract
Luck (2009) introduced the gamer’s dilemma; if one is willing to grant that virtual murder is permissible because it does not constitute any actual harm, one should also grant that virtual pedophilia is permissible on the same basis that it does not constitute any harm. However, our intuitions tend to approve virtual murder but reject virtual pedophilia as permissible. As such, my thesis seeks to understand why we have differing intuitions which result in differing moral judgments about virtual murder and virtual pedophilia. To achieve this, I will utilize Neil Sinhababu’s (2017) meta-ethical theory, Emotional Perception Model (EPM), to analyze our moral judgments about videogames.

All are welcome

 

 

“Will we ever run out of work to do?” by Alexander Dietz

Abstract:
Will we ever reach a point where there is no more useful work for us to do? Where we can all just relax, and lead lives of leisure, until the end of time? In this talk, I will discuss three ways in which we might think we could run out of work to do. I will then discuss whether running out of work to do would be so bad, whether we should take steps to make sure we will not run out of work to do, and some other possible philosophical and practical implications.

Date: 5 September 2019
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Alexander Dietz is a Lecturer in Philosophy at Cardiff University. His research interests are in normative ethics and moral psychology. To learn more, see his personal website: http://www.alexdietz.com.

 

 

All are welcome

 

“What is Descartes Meditations?” by Jorge Secada

Abstract:
In it I propose that the Meditations is not an essay and that its order and unity are revealed when seen as a manual for meditation on God and self. Placing Descartes in relation to the Aristotelian and Platonic traditions, as well as the tradition of Christian meditational spirituality, and bringing to light the actual structure of the text, I articulate the philosophical import of Cartesian meditation as providing the starting points for metaphysical argument. I also explore briefly the connection between the literary genre used to write philosophy and the underlying conception of the subject.

 

Date: 15 August 2019
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

 

About the Speaker:
He is currently a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia, and have been Fellow of St Johns College at the University of Cambridge. He has been a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia in 1990, at the American University in Beirut in 2004, and was NEH Distinguished Visiting Professor at SUNY College at Potsdam in 1998 and 2014. Currently, he is also professor of philosophy at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima. He is the author of Cartesian Metaphysics (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and of Meditaciones sobre el Perú (Biblioteca Abraham Valdelomar, Huacachina, 2019). And he is ehe editor of the forthcoming volume The Cartesian Mind, Routledge, 2020, as well as the author of several papers on early modern philosophy.

 

 

 

All are welcome