Can we Build a Consciousness Meter? by Tim Bayne


Can we Build a Consciousness Meter?

One of the central challenges facing the science of consciousness is that of identifying ways of measuring consciousness. Can we go beyond our pre-theoretical ways of detecting consciousness and develop measures that are independently validated? Some theorists think not, and argue that we are necessarily restricted to the pre-theoretical markers of consciousness with which we begin. Other theorists are more optimistic, and think that we will be able to develop independent measures of consciousness. In this talk I critically examine one proposal for how to identify measures of consciousness—the natural kind approach—and ask whether it can be reconciled with various widely-held commitments in the philosophy of mind.

Date: 4 May 2017
Time: 2pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Tim Bayne is a philosopher of mind and cognitive science, with a particular interest in the nature of consciousness. He completed an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Otago (New Zealand), and a Ph.D in Philosophy at the University of Arizona. He has taught at Macquarie University, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford.  He is currently Professor of Philosophy at Monash University in Melbourne Australia. He is an editor of the Oxford Companion to Consciousness and the author of The Unity of Consciousness (OUP, 2010), Thought: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2013) and A Very Short Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (OUP, 2017).


All are welcome

“Modernity and Cosmopolitanism” by Saranindra Nath Tagore

Modernity and Cosmopolitanism

Saranindra Nath Tagore

(Philosophy, National University of Singapore)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

East Core Board Room (EC 03-08)

1:30-3:00 p.m.

Yale-NUS College


The postmodern literature in general and Jean-François Lyotard in particular observes correctly that plurality needs to be protected from the threat of totality.  However, the Lyotardian-postmodern argument for this position summons a critique of modernity (constellation of grand narratives) that champions the cause of incommensurable fragments (little narratives), thereby undermining the possibility of cosmopolitan exchange between cultural orders globally conceived.  In my remarks, I will argue on behalf of a cosmopolitan account of modernity which can withstand the postmodern trajectory of equating the modern with subversion of the plural.  I will consider resources available in modern Indian thinking to facilitate my task. This talk is sourced from a larger project and is exploratory in nature. It is also interdisciplinary ranging across Philosophy and Indian Studies.


About the Speaker
Saranindra Nath Tagore is Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department, National University of Singapore.  His main teaching and research interests are in the general areas of twentieth century Continental-European Philosophy (mainly the French and German traditions) and Indian Philosophy, especially the modern tradition.  He has been a visiting scholar at the Munk Center of International Studies at the University of Toronto and at the Harvard Yenching Institute and was appointed an Affiliate Fellow, South Asia Initiative, Harvard University (2009-2010). He was conferred an honorary professorship by Zhejiang Yuexiu University of Foreign Languages (China, 2016). He will be soon starting as one of the Editors-in-Chief of Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Tradition (Springer).  He is a literary translator:  Rabindranath Tagore: Final Poems (New York).  His most recent philosophy paper is forthcoming in the next issue of Philosophy East and West.

A Symposium on Steven Smith’s Modernity and its Discontents

A Symposium on Steven Smith’s Modernity and its Discontents

Date: 11 April 2017
Venue: Yale-NUS, Global Learning Room 1, East Core

8:30-8:45 Coffee

8:45 – 9:15 Welcome and Introduction (Lazar / Smith)

9:15 – 10:30 Modernity’s Place in Time

Taran Kang, Asst. Professor (History), Yale-NUS College
Modernity and the Problem of Beginnings

John Kane, Professor (Politics), Griffith University
A ‘third way’ for modernity: Solving the Kantian dilemma of moral idealism and political realism

10:30-10:45 Break

10:45 – 12:00 The Discontented Self in the Modern State

Sandra Field, Asst. Professor (Philosophy), Yale-NUS College
Modernity and the Natural History of Religion

Benjamin Schupmann, Lecturer (Politics), Yale-NUS College
The Artificial Nature of Autonomy and Its Effects

12:00 – 1:15 Lunch

1:15 – 2:30 Varieties of Discontent

Jiang Yi-Huah, Professor (Politics), City University of Hong Kong
Confucianism’s Painful Engagement with the Western Modernity

Rajeev Patke, Professor (Literature), Yale-NUS College
Modernity and Literary Modernism

2:30- 2:45 Break

2:45-4:00 Conservatism in Modernity

Martin Beckstein, Fellow (Philosophy), Columbia University
Tancredi’s paradox: Is there a place for non-emancipatory politics in liberal democracy?

Luke O’Sullivan, Professor (Politics), National University of Singapore
Dreaming between the Lines: The strange afterlife of Straussian Romanticism

4:00- 4:15 Summary and Conclusions

                                                         All are welcome


Superintelligence, Simulations and Moral Status by Abhishek Mishra

Superintelligence, Simulations and Moral Status

Artificial superintelligence (technological singularity) is expected by many experts to arrive before the turn of the century. The problem of how to negotiate such an occurrence (solve the AI-safety problem) is of enormous importance.  One relevant problem that has been raised is that of simulations run by such a superintelligence – what will be the moral status of such simulations? I approach this question by first situating it within the broader context of the AI-safety problem, and then outlining what will be needed to address it. I then consider how this affects the way we formulate broader solutions to the AI-safety problem.

Date: 13 April 2017
Time: 2pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Abhishek is a Master’s student at the NUS Department of Philosophy. His current research interests include the technological singularity and issues concerning how we may negotiate it. His broader interests include moral and political philosophy, philosophy of mind and epistemology.

                                                          All are welcome

On Self-Deception: Contradictory and Spectral Beliefs by Jane Lee Chin Lok

On Self-Deception: Contradictory and Spectral Beliefs

It is argued that self-deception can be modeled on interpersonal deception. However, attempting to explain self-deception in terms of interpersonal deception implies that the deception specific to interpersonal deception is similar, and therefore comparable, to that of self-deception. The ineffectiveness of explaining the latter in terms of the former becomes evident when the respective roles of the deceiver and deceived in interpersonal deception fail to consistently cohere with the self-deceiving individual’s responsibility to hold both roles. On the grounds that the two types of deception are dissimilar and therefore cannot be explained in terms of one another, an alternative theory of self-deception is introduced, one that escapes the inconsistencies faced by the majority of theories modeled on interpersonal deception. This theory argues that self-deception occurs in two fundamental forms: transitional self-deception, where the self-deceiver undergoes a transition of beliefs from one to another, and resistance self-deception, where the self-deceiver consciously avoids coming to terms with the truth of the new belief.

Date: 4 April 2017
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Jane holds a B.A. (Hons) in Philosophy and History from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Her main areas of interest include epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and Kant’s conditions for knowledge. Her honors thesis proposes an alternative theory of self-deception, which escapes both the static and dynamic paradoxes posed by the traditional view common within the self-deception literature. During her free time, she enjoys reading, ballet, and traveling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            All are welcome

“Type Distinctions of Reason and Hume’s Separability Principle” by Dr Hsueh Qu and “Logic, Scepticism, and Egoism: Why Hume Disowned the Treatise of Human Nature” by Professor Peter Millican

Date: 23 March 2017
Timing: 2pm to 5pm
Venue: AS4-03-35


2pm to 3.10pm – “Type Distinctions of Reason and Hume’s Separability Principle” by Dr Hsueh Qu

Commentators such as Kemp Smith (1941), Mendelbaum (1974), and Bricke (1980) have taken the distinctions of reason to pose either a counterexample to or a limitation of scope on the Separability Principle. This has been convincingly addressed by various accounts such as Garrett (1997), Hoffman (2011), and Baxter (2011). However, I argue in this paper that there are two notions of ‘distinction of reason’, one between particular instantiations (token distinctions of reason) and one between general ideas (type distinctions of reason). Discussion of the distinctions of reason in the secondary literature has without fail focused on token distinctions of reason, but I will argue that type distinctions of reason prove problematic for Hume’s Separability Principle. I find a way around this problem that is consonant with Hume’s account of general ideas, but which can hardly be said to be an account which he explicitly or even implicitly endorsed.

About the speaker:
Hsueh Qu joined the Philosophy Department at NUS in 2015. Previously, he received his Ph.D. from New York University, and completed his undergraduate and B.Phil. at Oxford University. He is originally from Malaysia. His research interest is Early Modern, primarily the scholarship of David Hume; he also has interests in Kant, Ethics, and Metaphysics. In this, as in all his other endeavors, he asks you to forgive him his failings, for he is only Humean after all.

3.15pm to 5pm – “Logic, Scepticism, and Egoism: Why Hume Disowned the Treatise of Human Nature” by Professor Peter Millican

David Hume (1711-76) is today the most celebrated philosopher of the early modern period, and the Treatise of Human Nature of 1739-40 is considered by most scholars to be his masterpiece, even though Hume himself, shortly before he died, described it as a “juvenile work” and apparently disowned it.  This lecture – which draws on three forthcoming papers by Professor Millican – highlights a number of serious philosophical difficulties which, he argues, probably contributed to Hume’s negative judgement on the Treatise.  It thus opposes the scholarly consensus that takes Hume’s later views to be essentially unchanged, and if correct, has significant implications for our understanding of the development and implications of Hume’s philosophy.

About the speaker:
Peter Millican is Gilbert Ryle Fellow and Professor of Philosophy at Hertford College in the University of Oxford.  He is one of the foremost scholars of David Hume, noted especially for his detailed analyses of Hume’s arguments concerning induction, causation, free-will, and miracles.  For over two decades, he has championed the claim that Hume’s later works – notably the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding of 1748 – represent a significant philosophical advance beyond the 1739 Treatise, and his forceful arguments have played a major role in bringing this (once heretical) view to general prominence.  Millican’s philosophical interests are very broad, covering not only Humean topics such as epistemology, metaphysics, moral philosophy and philosophy of religion, but also logic, artificial intelligence, and the philosophical boundaries of computer science.  He created the Oxford degree programme in Computer Science and Philosophy, is a keen developer of educational software, and an International Grandmaster of correspondence chess.


All are welcome

“The problem of political order in Classical Confucian thought” by Assistant Professor Loubna El Amine

The problem of political order in Classical Confucian thought

Confucian political thought has typically been interpreted through the lens of ethics: since Confucian ethics aims at the development of virtue in the individual, Confucian government, it is usually thought, aims at the development of virtue in the people. In this talk, based on my recently published book Classical Confucian Political Thought, I show the problems with this interpretation and argue that it is order, not virtue, that is the central motivating concern of Confucian political thought. I then explicate the Confucian conception of political order: what it consists of, how it is to be achieved, and why it matters.

Date: 23 March 2017
Time: 2pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Loubna El Amine is Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at Northwestern University. Her research is in political theory, with a particular focus on early Chinese political thought. Her book, Classical Confucian Political Thought: A New Interpretation, was published in 2015 by Princeton University Press. Before coming to Northwestern, she taught at Georgetown University and was Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University. She holds a PhD in Politics from Princeton University and a BA in Political Studies from the American University of Beirut.

All are welcome


Grounding the Independence Principle: The Case of Self-Evidencing Explanations by Bernadette Chin Siew Hui

Grounding the Independence Principle: The Case of Self-Evidencing Explanations

The Independence Principle plays a crucial role in the Equal Weight View: if we have independent grounds for believing the best explanation of a disagreement is that our peer has erred, then we are not required to give their beliefs equal weight. Similar independence requirements appear elsewhere: for instance, in the literature on irrational influences. But what grounds the Independence Principle? Christensen argues for the Independence Principle on the grounds that it would be circular to appeal to the mere fact of disagreement to discount a peer’s beliefs. In this paper, I draw on the case of self-evidencing explanations in the philosophy of science to argue that while such argumentative moves are circular, they do not seem to be problematically circular. But how then can we account for the intuitive appeal and effectiveness of independence requirements? I argue that an illuminating parallel can be drawn with the philosophy of science: the case of the experimenter’s regress seems to highlight that what really grounds independence requirements is an appeal to robustness. The Independence Principle itself does no substantive work.

Date: 14 March 2017
Time: 2pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room AS3-05-23

About the speaker:
Bernadette is currently working towards a MA in Philosophy. Although her thesis pertains to the philosophy of science, her research interests include epistemology, the philosophy of cognitive science, and the philosophy of technology.


All are welcome

“Is There a Social Justice Dimension in Li (禮)?” By Jonathan Sim

Is There a Social Justice Dimension in Li (禮)?

In the book, Confucian Perfection: A Political Philosophy for Modern Times, Joseph Chan argues for a Confucian perspective on social justice, based on his study on early Confucian writings. While the notion of social justice did not exist in that period, the early Confucian thinkers nonetheless approached and attempted to address issues closely linked to our modern understanding of social justice, such as the problems of inequality, poverty, and the redistribution of material goods. Through this approach, Chan arrives at three principles to a Confucian perspective on social justice: (1) sufficiency for all; (2) priority to the badly off; and (3) merit and contribution (pp. 175-176).

Yet, what is interesting about Chan’s conclusion is that these principles are regarded as rituals, li (禮) in early Confucian texts, as well as in the Liji (禮記 The Book of Rites). In this paper, I will investigate the relation of social justice and li, by examining the early Confucian texts, and I attempt to determine whether there is a social justice dimension inherent to the concept of li.

Date: 28 February 2017, Tuesday
Time: 2pm to 3pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the speaker:
Jonathan Sim graduated in 2013 from NUS with a B.A. (First Class Honours) in Philosophy, and has since been invited to speak on various philosophical issues for the Financial Times, Channel News Asia, and the Institute for Asian Consumer Insight. His research interests include early Chinese philosophy, comparative philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of technology.

All are welcom