Roaming among the cacophony and pother: Zhuangzi, Liezi, and Eudaimonics by John R. Williams

Roaming among the cacophony and pother: Zhuangzi, Liezi, and Eudaimonics

In this talk, I sketch out an interpretation of Zhuang-Lie assuming neither an overall meaning to life nor a specific religious metaphysics. After the Zhuang-Lie position is presented, I show that Zhuang-Lie not only proposes how to live meaningfully in the absence of a specific religious metaphysics, it also aims to show—à la Susan Wolf and Owen Flanagan—that the question of an overall meaning to life is irrelevant to the question of living meaningfully.

Date: 24 January 2017
Time: 1pm to 2pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room, AS3-05-23

About the Speaker: John is a President’s Graduate Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. His primary research topic is early Daoism, on which he has articles in Philosophy East & West and Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy.


Hume’s Workshop organized by Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

Intersections: On the Conventional and the Sceptical in Hume’s Philosophy
Talk by David Premsharan, Philosophy Student, NUS

In light of the sceptical elements present in 1.4.7 of the Treatise and Hume’s emphasis on the inadequacy of rational justification for our doxastic practices, I will be concerned primarily with the broadly non-rational means by which we arbitrate between beliefs and belief-forming mechanisms. I read Hume as offering an account on which the judgements we make regarding whether a belief is justified or not, bottom out in whether conventional criteria are met. If a belief is in accordance with a social or linguistic convention and that convention has been satisfactorily established, then that belief is justified. I highlight areas of the Treatise and the Enquiries where I believe conventional criteria are active and attempt to reconstruct a viable programme for conventional justification.


“Probable Evidence and Rules of Logic in Hume’s Skepticism with Regard to Reason”
Talk by Don Garrett, Silver Professor of Philosophy, New York University

In Treatise 1.4.1, “Of scepticism with regard to reason,” Hume draws two conclusions: (1) “all knowledge degenerates into probability”; and (2) “in every judgment, which we can form concerning probability … all the rules of logic require a continual diminution and at last a total extinction of belief and evidence.” Yet he also intends to provide a “compleat system of the sciences” on a new and “secure” foundation, and he repeatedly states that some things are much more probable than others. Many readers have found this to be inconsistent. I will first examine (i) what Hume means by the key terms of his conclusions; (ii) what the significance is of his claim in T 1.4.1 and elsewhere that belief and probable reasoning are “sensitive”; (iii) what “all the rules of logic” are for him; and (iv) what arguments he gives for the two conclusions. I will then use the results of these examinations to explain how Hume’s two conclusions are compatible with his scientific intentions and differential probabilism.


Date: Thursday, 12 Jan 2017
Time: 2pm – 5.30pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room, AS3 #05-23


All are welcome !!!

Exploratory Modes of Inquiry Workshop

Exploratory Modes of Inquiry Workshop

Department of Philosophy
NUS, 3 Arts Link, AS3 #05-23

12 December 2016


Axel Gelfert: “Is There Such a Thing as Exploratory Knowledge?”
Yuichi Amitani: “Doing Science without Theoretical Commitment: Exploratory Research and the Structure of the Concept of Species”

Lunch Break

14:00-16:30 (with coffee break in between)
Grant Fisher: “Exploration in Chemical Reasoning” (TBC)
Bennett Holman: “On the Preservation of Favored Professors in the Struggle for Tenure”


Epistemic Corruption Workshop

All welcome — please send an email to the organiser, Axel Gelfert ( if you would like to register for this workshop (please mention the session you plan to attend, e.g. ‘Sat 10:30-12:30’, if applicable).

Workshop on 10th December 2016

Department of Philosophy
3 Arts Link, AS3 #05-23,



Ian James Kidd (Nottingham): “Epistemic Corruption in Climate Science”

Cornelis Menke (Bielefeld): “Crises in Statistical Reasoning”

Lunch break

14:00-17:30 (with coffee break in between)

Zohar Lederman (NUS): “Psychiatry in the Hands of Torturers: Force Feeding and Mental Competence”

Bennett Holman (Yonsei): “Asymmetric Epistemic Arms Races”

Axel Gelfert (NUS): “Edward Teller’s Epistemic Corruption, or, Dr Strangelove and How He Learned to Love Climate Change”

“How Egalitarian is Deliberative Democracy?” by Elena Ziliotti

In this talk, I will assess the value of public deliberation from an egalitarian standpoint. Contrary to the recent claims of several deliberative theorists and egalitarians, I will argue that there is an incommensurable tension between egalitarianism and the ideal of public deliberation, which is common to many contemporary deliberative theories of democracy. Such tension excludes any kind of non-instrumental value of public deliberation from an egalitarian standpoint.

Early Modern Panel

This 2-day workshop, “Early Modern Panel” organized by A/P Cecilia Lim on 15 – 16 November 2016 at the Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23). The panelists are Dr. Andrea Christofidou from University of Oxford, A/P Cecilia Lim and Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming.

Descartes on Mind-Body Relation: A Solution?
Date: 15 November 2016
Time: 10am to 12pm
Venue: AS3-05-23
Speaker: Dr Andrea Christofidou

Material Falsity
Date: 15 November 2016
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: AS3-05-23
Speaker: A/P Cecilia Lim

The Deontological Threshold (and Beyond) in THN 1.4.7
Date: 16 November 2016
Time: 10am to 12pm
Venue: AS3-05-23
Speaker: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming


Absences, Many Absences and Causation

In this paper I offer a partial defense of absence causation in response to two related issues: (i) the problem of many absences, and (ii) Beebee’s claim that there is no metaphysically respectable, principled criterion that the friend of absence causation can appeal to in response to (i). I argue that holes provide a counterexample to Beebee’s claim, and I articulate the response to the many absences problem suggested by this case. In the final section I suggest ways this response can be developed to account for common-sense judgments about the causal relevance of other cases of absences.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 17 November 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Dr Phillip Meadows
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Dr Phillip Meadows is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UAE University, and have taught previously at Manchester, Keele and UWE, Bristol. His research covers topics in metaphysics and the philosophy of perception, having published on direct realism, spatial perception, audition, and holes. His present research project is to provide a coherent account of the nature of sound, silence and auditory perceptual experience.



“Justice as a Virtue, Justice according to Virtues, and/or Justice of Virtues: A Confucian Amendment to Michael Sandel’s Idea of Justice ” by Prof Huang Yong

In his Justice: What’s the Right Thing To Do?, Michael J. Sandel examines three approaches to justice: the utilitarian idea of justice as maximizing welfare or happiness, the freedom based idea of justice as respecting freedom and human dignity, and the Aristotelian idea of justice as recognizing, honoring, and rewarding virtues. In his view, the first two are inadequate, and he himself aims to develop a version of the third approach. Two central features of this approach can be summarized as justice as a virtue and justice according to virtues. In discussing the first feature, my main concern is the relationship between justice as a virtue of an individual person and justice as a virtue of a social institution and the Confucian contribution on this issue. In discussing the second feature, I shall develop the Confucian idea of justice of virtues as an amendment or alternative.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 27 October 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Prof Huang Yong
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Yong Huang, Ph.D. (Fudan) and Th.D. (Harvard), is a professor of philosophy at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He is the editor of Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy and Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy (a book series), both by Springer. His research interests include ethics, political philosophy, and Chinese and comparative philosophy. Author of Religious Goodness and Political Rightness: Beyond the Liberal and Communitarian Debate (2001), Confucius: A Guide for the Perplexed (2012), and Why Be Moral: Learning from the Neo-Confucian Cheng Brothers (2014), as well as three volumes of essays in Chinese, Ethics in a Global Age, Politics in a Global Age, and Religion in a Global Age (all in 2010), Huang has also published about 70 journal articles and book chapters each in English and Chinese.

“What use is conceptual possibility?” by Peter Kung

Sometimes philosophers claim that we can learn philosophically valuable results from a proposition’s conceptual possibility. In this paper, I will examine this notion of conceptual possibility. I will be interested in two claims about conceptual possibility. First, several authors have advanced the view that conceptual possibility properly constrained provides us with evidence for metaphysical possibility: conceptual possibility is a guide to metaphysical possibility. Second, philosophers sometimes argue that the conceptual possibility of a proposition can be philosophically informative in the absence of evidence for the proposition’s metaphysical possibility. I argue against both claims.

Suppose we have a concept of X and we are curious what being X entails. Our concept of X might leave it open whether x is F. That can certainly happen when the proposition <x is F> is a posteriori. However when <x is F> is agreed on all sides to be an a priori matter, can we can make any sense of the claim that our concept of X leaves it open whether X is F while, at the same time, the conceptual possibility of X being F is a significant result? There are two situations to consider: first, that we have definitively concluded that X being F entails no contradiction, and second, that we are just so far unable to see any contradiction in X being F. In the first situation, we would be in a position to conclude that X being F is metaphysically possible after all, making the appeal to conceptual possibility gratuitous. The second case is the interesting one: we often appeal to conceptual possibility in just those cases where we are not in a position to draw out all the entailments of our concepts. The question in the second case is how worried we should be that our finding a proposition conceptually possible is driven by our less-than-ideal epistemic situation, raising the concern that we simply have not reflected carefully enough on whether the proposition is in fact coherent. I argue that this worry should be given much more credence than conceptual possibility’s defenders have allowed.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 20 October 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: A/P Peter Kung
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Peter Kung is Associate Professor of Philosophy and former Department Chair at Pomona College in Claremont, California. His research centers on two areas: the philosophy of mind, in particular imagination and thought experiments; and epistemology, where he focuses on the limits of skeptical challenges and the proper treatment of probabilistic reasoning. He has published a number of articles in leading peer-reviewed journals, and recently co-edited Knowledge Through Imagination (2016, Oxford University Press) with Amy Kind.

“Torture and Imprisonment” by Owen Schaefer

In most legal regimes, imprisonment is the primary means of criminal sanction, while punitive torture is prohibited.  However, I argue that the same moral reasons that ground prohibitions on torture are also reasons to oppose punitive imprisonment.  Prison, especially long sentences, can involve as much or more suffering as torture. Moreover, both involve intentional degradation, dehumanization and a cruel use of the threat of suffering to induce compliance.  Some have used this line of reasoning to argue for the permissibility of mild forms of torture (i.e., corporal punishment) in the criminal justice system.  I propose that we should instead accept the arguments against torture as sound; punitive imprisonment is, like torture, inhumane and therefore impermissible.  This implies the need for significant reforms to criminal justice systems, and we need to urgently investigate alternatives to imprisonment such as reconciliation models of justice.  Some non-punitive use of imprisonment (such as sequestration of acutely dangerous individuals, where inducement of suffering is not intended) may still be justifiable, but still prisons would have to be significantly reformed – perhaps along the public health model of quarantine.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 25 August 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Owen Schaefer
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Owen Schaefer is a Research Fellow at NUS’s Centre for Biomedical Ethics under the MOH-funded initiative, Clinical Ethics Network + Research Ethics Support (CENTRES).  He first began working in applied ethics as a ‘pre-doctoral’ fellow at the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health in the US.  He received his DPhil degree in philosophy at Oxford in 2014, writing a dissertation on moral enhancement.  Immediately prior to joining CBmE, he spent a year as a post-doc at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics researching the implications of various novel biotechnologies.  His research interests cover a wide array of topics in applied ethics, including research ethics, enhancement, punishment, neuroethics, stem cell studies, synthetic meat, and assisted reproduction.