Educator Track Position

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The Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore invites applications for a lecturer appointment on the (non-tenurable) educator track. The successful applicant is expected to teach the department’s formal logic and critical thinking offerings. The teaching load is from 3:3 to 4:4 (the equivalent of three to four courses per semester, totaling six to eight per academic year). Teaching duties begin in August 2019. Applicants with a PhD in Philosophy (or cognate field) and at least a year of relevant teaching experience are encouraged to apply.

Review of applications will begin November 5, 2018. Applicants submit a CV, one sample syllabus for an undergraduate formal logic module, and one for an undergraduate critical thinking module, 3 letters of recommendation, and a teaching statement. Candidates are also encouraged to note any teaching and supervision ability in philosophy of science and philosophy of religion.

Apply through https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo?joblist—2090-12357

“Objective Rights and Epistemic Risks” by Renee Jorgensen Bolinger

Objective Rights and Epistemic Risks

Abstract:
This paper argues that our understanding of objective rights must be sensitive to agents’ epistemic limitations. On one popular understanding (which I call the `full-information fact-relative’ interpretation), considerations about ignorance are relevant only to the `subjective permissibility’ of an act, affecting culpability but not whether an act is a rights-violation. Against this view, I argue that subjective permissibility is not an adequate answer to the problems that agent ignorance poses for the deliberative and distributive roles of moral rights. If rights are to fill the theoretical role assigned to them, they must issue fact-relative permissions that are at least somewhat sensitive to agents’ evidential and epistemic limitations.

Date: 16 October 2018, Tuesday
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Renee Bolinger, (https://www.reneebolinger.com/) Ph.D., USC (2017) is a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Philosophy at Australian National University, and will join Princeton University in September 2019, as an Assistant Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values. Her primary research interests are in moral and political philosophy. Her current work concerns the ethics of risk, just war, moral rights under uncertainty (especially in self-defence), hate speech, and the political import of various informal social norms.


All are welcome

“Rights Enable Agency” by Siegfried Van Duffel

Abstract:
The debate over the nature of rights has become quite sophisticated in the last two decades. Until recently, it was predominantly the territory of adherents of Interest Theory and Will Theory, each defending the merits of their own account and highlighting the shortcomings of rival theories. Many now see the debate as having ended in a stand-off and increasingly philosophers are becoming convinced that the truth about rights must be found elsewhere— perhaps in a hybrid of both theories.

In this talk I will present a new conceptual analysis of rights, and I shall show that it combines the virtues of existing theories while avoiding all of their shortcomings as well as some that have gone largely unnoticed. An additional advantage of my analysis is that it explains why the debate over the nature of rights has taken the form we have been able to witness. I will suggest that rights enable agency and that they do so in two distinct ways.

Date: 11 October 2018, Monday
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Siegfried Van Duffel 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 felt it necessary to leave Europe and continue living and working in a non-Western society. His current 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 international peer-reviewed journals such as The Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, The Journal of Political Philosophy, The Monist, and The European Journal of Philosophy.

All are welcome

“Losing Confidence in Luminosity” by Simon Goldstein and coauthored with Dan Waxman

Abstract:
A mental state is luminous if, whenever an agent is in that state, they are in a position to know that they are. Following Williamson 2000, a wave of recent work has explored whether any interesting mental states are luminous. One powerful argument against luminosity comes from the connection between knowledge and confidence: that if an agent knows p, then p is true in any nearby world where she has a similar level of confidence in p. Unfortunately, the relevant notion of confidence in the principle above is relatively underexplored.

In this paper, we remedy this gap, providing a precise theory of confidence: an agent’s degree of confidence in p is the objective chance they will act in ways that satisfy their desires if p. We use this theory of confidence to propose a variety of interesting constraints on knowledge. We argue that knowledge is not luminous, but for quite different reasons than the existing literature has considered.

Date: 17 September 2018, Monday
Time: 3pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Simon is a philosophy professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. He completed his PhD in philosophy at Rutgers University. His research is about the semantics and logic of modals and conditionals.

All are welcome

ISPD (2018): Knowledge

The Inter-School Philosophy Dialogue (ISPD) is an annual event which the philosophy programs of Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls’ School take turns to organize and host, with the sponsorship of the Department of Philosophy at NUS. Throughout the years, an increasing number of schools have participated in the event. This year, the 15th anniversary of the event, was held at Raffles Institution with 12 schools represented and some 171 secondary level students participating. They were joined by 25 facilitators, many of whom are alumni of the Department of Philosophy at NUS. Our own A/P Loy Hui Chieh gave the keynote address on Plato’s the Ring of Gyges (Republic II).

The theme this year is “Knowledge”, a theme that expresses the aims and ideals of the ISPD – to encourage students from schools all over Singapore to think more deeply about real and current issues we face in Singapore society as well as universal concepts such as fairness and truth. While participants may come away with more questions than answers to the scenarios posed to them, sparking an interest in the issues as well as introducing better ways to navigate difficult topics are definite take-aways that students bring back with them. At the end of the day’s event, 15 students—chosen for the maturity of thought, creativity, metacognitive awareness, and conversational virtues they exhibited during the discussions—were presented with the Gadfly Awards (named in honor of Socrates).

Photos from the event can be seen here.

“Confirmation and Aboutness” by Dr Richard Dietz

Confirmation and Aboutness

Abstract:
Stephen Yablo (2014) makes a case for a revisionist version of confirmation theory. Like in earlier proposals in this spirit (Fred Dretske (1972), Peter Achinstein (1983, 2001)), it is suggested that facts of evidential support are sensitive to what hypotheses are about. In this talk, it will be argued that the Dretske-Achinstein-Yablo line misfires on two accounts. It goes wrong in misdescribing the extent to which judgements of confirmation are sensitive to subject matter. And it goes wrong in aiming to explain subject-matter-sensitivity effects as a feature of confirmation itself, and not merely of linguistic ways of framing judgements of confirmation.

Date: 30 August 2018
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Dr Richard Dietz obtained his doctoral degree in Philosophy from the University of Oxford in 2005. He is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the recently launched International College of Liberal Arts at Yamanashi Gakuin University. Beforehand, he held positions as postdoctoral researcher at the University of St Andrews, UNAM, and KU Leuven, and as a Lecturer at the University of Tokyo. Currently, he is also on a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers, which is hosted by the University of Hamburg. His current projects all focus on problems on the interface between formal epistemology and the philosophy of language & cognition broadly conceived.

All are welcome

Surviving, to Some Degree by Kristie Miller

“Surviving, to Some Degree”
(jointly authored with David Braddon-Mitchell)

Abstract:
In this paper we argue that reflection on the patterns of practical concern that agents like us exhibit strongly suggests that the same person relation (SP-relation) comes in continuous degrees than being an all or nothing matter. We call this the SP-degree thesis. Though we argue that the SP-degree thesis is consistent with a range of views about personal-identity, we suggest that combining desire-first approaches to personal-identity with the SP-degree thesis better explains our patterns of practical concern. We then argue that the combination of the SP-degree thesis and the desire-first approach are best modelled by a stage-theoretic view of persistence according to which temporal counterpart relations are non-symmetric relations that come in continuous degrees.

Date: 27 June 2018, Wednesday
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Associate Professor Kristie Miller is joint director of the Centre for Time at the University of Sydney, and is currently an ARC Future Fellow. She works predominantly in metaphysics, on the nature of time and persistence.

All are welcome

Workshop In Honour of John Williams: To Celebrate His Retirement From SMU

Workshop In Honour of John Williams:To Celebrate His Retirement From SMU

Date: 30 May 2018, Wednesday
Time: 10am to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

10am to 11.30am : John Williams, SMU, “Once You Think You’re Wrong, You Must Be Right: New Versions of the Preface Paradox”

Some take the view that the so-called ‘preface paradox’ shows that rationality may allow you to have inconsistent beliefs, in contradiction of orthodox views of justification. Here argue for the conclusion that rationality may require you, as a real human thinker, to have inconsistent beliefs, even when you recognize the inconsistency. Perhaps the most vigorous opposition to my conclusion comes from classical and insightful objections by Doris Olin. After preliminary clarification, I first discuss three versions of the paradox. These are Makinson’s Original Version, my World Capitals and Olin’s Fallibility. For each version, I consider objections that my conclusion does not get established. None of the three versions is entirely free from objection. I show that there is an important mistake in Makinson’s logic that seems to have long gone unnoticed, with the result that his original case is one in which your beliefs are not inconsistent. The case may be modified to evade this difficulty but then it is doubtful that it is realistic. World Capitals avoids this difficulty but is vulnerable to Olin’s objection—one that she makes against her own version, Fallibility—that accepting the possibility of justified inconsistent beliefs saddles you with a pair of justified beliefs that are in explicit contradiction. However I present Modesty, a version that supposes that you believe that at least one of your beliefs (excluding this) is false. I argue that this version escapes all the objections that could trouble the other versions as well as some interesting general objections that Olin makes. I conclude that this is a living and everyday case in which rationality requires you to have inconsistent beliefs even while you recognize that your beliefs are inconsistent. I also argue more tentatively for the same verdict for Modesty*, a version that supposes that you believe that at least one of your beliefs (including this) is false.

About the Speaker:
John N. Williams (PhD Hull) works primarily in epistemology. He also works in philosophy of language and applied ethics. He has published in Mind, Analysis, the Journal of Philosophy, the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Synthese, Philosophical Studies, Acta Analytica, Philosophia, Philosophy East and West, American Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy, Philosophy Compass, the Journal of Philosophical Research, Religious Studies, Theoria, Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective and Logos and Episteme. He is co-editor of Moore’s Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality and the First Person, Oxford University Press together with Mitchell Green. He researches and teaches in the School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University and before that taught in the Philosophy Department at the National University of Singapore and was Head of the Unit of Philosophy at the University of the West Indies. In August he will take up a Professorship in Philosophy at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan.

11.30am to 12.30pm : Robert Beddor, NUS, “Modal Conditions on Knowledge and Skilled Performance”

In the talk I examine two prominent analyses of knowledge in the current literature. One is a modal analysis, which identifies knowledge with safe belief. The other is a virtue epistemological analysis, which identifies knowledge with a type of apt performance. These two approaches are usually viewed as rivals; this talk offers a path to reconciliation. I outline a new form of virtue epistemology, which combines an analysis of knowledge as skillful performance with a modal analysis of skillfulness. I argue that the resulting view – “Modal Virtue Epistemology” – preserves the main benefits of both analyses.

2pm to 3pm : Tang Weng Hong, NUS, “Moore’s Paradox and Degrees of Belief”

It is absurd to assert or to believe the following:
(1) It’s raining, and I do not believe that it’s raining.
(2) It’s raining, and I believe that it’s not raining.
But is merely assigning a degree of belief greater than 0.5 to (1) or to (2) absurd? I maintain, along with Adler and Armour-Garb (2007), that (a) assigning a degree of belief greater than 0.5 to (1) need not be absurd. But I also maintain that (b) assigning a degree of belief greater than 0.5 to (2) is indeed absurd. What explains this discrepancy? Adler and Armour-Garb think that (a) can be explained by their view that full beliefs are transparent whereas partial beliefs are not. But such a view does not explain (b). In my talk, I consider John’s account of why it is absurd to believe (1) and to believe (2). (See, in particular, ‘Moore’s Paradoxes, Evans’s Principle and Self Knowledge’.) I also consider how John’s account may be supplemented to help us account for the aforementioned discrepancy.


3pm to 4pm : Ben Blumson, NUS, “Knowability and Believability”

Moore’s paradox in belief and Fitch’s paradox of knowability are very closely related – whereas the first concerns whether when truths of the form “p and I don’t believe p” are believable (without absurdity), the second concerns whether truths of the form “p and it’s not known that p” are knowable. In this paper, I consider how and whether responses to Moore’s paradox constrain the correct response to Fitch’s paradox, and vice versa. Finally, I discuss implications for metaphysical anti-realism.

All are welcome

On A Theory of a Better Morality by Geoffrey Sayre-McCord

On A Theory of a Better Morality

Abstract:
Normally, there is a sharp distinction between a better theory of X and a theory of a better X. That the theory of a better X is a theory according to which things are different from the way one’s (so far) best theory says they are is (normally) no reason whatsoever to think one’s (so far) best theory is wrong, just reason to wish X were different (and, if it is possible, reason to work to change X). That it would be better if all everyone were treated as equals is no reason whatsoever to think that they are; that it would be better that death came quickly, painlessly, and late in life is no reason whatsoever to think it does; that it would be better if we could fly is no reason whatsoever to think that we can…
In contrast (I maintain) when the subject matter is normative, this normally sharp distinction is elided and the difference between one’s theory of the best X (the best morality, the best standards of inference, the best rules of justification…) and one’s (so far) best theory of X necessarily provides a reason (though perhaps not a decisive reason) to think one’s (so far) best theory is wrong.
The elision plays an essential role in a range of arguments concerning morality, practical rationality, and theoretical rationality, a few of which I discuss. Yet it smacks of depending crucially and unacceptably on wishful thinking – on supposing that the fact that things would be better if only they were a certain way provides some reason to think they are that way. As a result, it invites invocation of a restricted defense of “Wouldn’t it be nice that p, therefore p” reasoning. I think that the invitation should be resisted. The elision is to be defended, I argue, as a reflection of a constraint on acceptable normative theories that is itself explained by a distinctive characteristic of normative concepts that sets them all apart from descriptive concepts.

Date: 28 May 2018, Monday
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Geoffrey Sayre-McCord works at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is the Morehead-Cain Alumni Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the University’s Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program. Professor Sayre-McCord works primarily in metaethics, moral theory, and the history of moral philosophy.

All are welcome