Yale-NUS Philosophy Talk: Iakovos Vasiliou (CUNY) on Friday, 12 August, 2:30 p.m

Happy mid-July, Singapore philosophers!

Here’s a brief “save the date” for an event happening early this upcoming semester: Prof. Iakovos Vasiliou (City University of New York) will be giving a talk entitled “Rethinking Eudaimonism.”

When?: Friday, 12 August 2016, 2:30-4:30 p.m. Where?: East Core Board Room (EC-03-08), Yale-NUS College

Here is a link to the Yale-NUS campus map: https://www.yale-nus.edu.sg/about/campus-map/. East Core is highlighted in light purple. To get to the board room, enter through the library and walk up the stairs.

We look forward to seeing you there.

ISPD (2016): Philosophy and Science

4899e4ab-598b-4de9-813c-d50de61a165cFrom data privacy to artificial intelligence, to the ethics of experimentation–today’s scientific and technological advancement confronts core issues about our human identity and values. Against this background, philosophy promises to empower us with clear and critical thinking to make sense of our scientific present and future. That’s why “there’s no better way to spend a Saturday morning!” than to enable teenagers in philosophical discussion about science at the Inter-school Philosophy Dialogue (ISPD), said keynote speaker Assistant Professor Voo Teck Chuan of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics (CBmE), Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

039eb102-dbc2-4711-a208-158b7b8a92b7This year’s ISPD was held at Raffles Girls School (RGS) on July 9. It saw the participation of some 147 students from fourteen secondary schools from across Singapore, joining with scores of facilitators to discuss various topics on philosophy and science. This is the 13th ISPD, and for the first time, the event was jointly organised by the Philosophy Departments of Raffles Girls School and Raffles Institution, with the sponsorship of the Department of Philosophy at NUS.

Continue reading

“Idealizations, Essential Self-Adjointness, and Minimal Model Explanation in the Aharonov-Bohm Effect” by Dr Elay Shech

Two approaches to understanding the idealizations that arise in the Aharonov-Bohm (AB) effect are presented. It is argued that the standard topological approach, which takes the non-simply connected electron configuration space to be an essential element in the explanation and understanding of the effect, is flawed. An alternative approach is outlined. Consequently, it is shown that the existence and uniqueness of self-adjoint extensions of symmetric operators in quantum mechanics have important implications for philosophical issues. Also, the alleged indispensable explanatory role of said idealizations is examined via a minimal model explanatory scheme.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 30 June 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Dr Elay Shech
Moderator: A/P Axel Gelfert

About the Speaker:

Dr Elay Shech is an Assistant Professor at Auburn University, Alabama, and is currently an Isaac Mannaseh Meyer Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at NUS. His work primarily concerns the nature and role of idealizations and representations in the sciences and, more specifically, in condensed matter physics. His work has appeared journals such as Foundations of Physics, Synthese, and Philosophy of Science.

The Philosophy Party 2016

P1220766On 6th of May, the Philosophy Department held its annual commencement party for the fourth year running. Timed for the last day of the exam period, this year’s celebration saw the attendance of around 60 guests, comprising of undergraduates and graduate students, alumni, department staff and their families.

Besides being held earlier than in the past, this year’s party broke the mold in other ways too. For one, the party was not held at the usual function room, but by the Waterway on the ground floor of the Shaw Foundation Alumni House. Tables were set amidst the water features and in the large space, creating a more open atmosphere for the participants involved. For another, this was also the first time Yale-NUS students and staff were invited. New faces and places thus formed the undercurrent of this year’s party.

The festivities officially started at 6pm, with guests streaming in around that time. An opening speech was given by our Head of Department, Associate Professor Michael Pelczar, before the dinner lines were opened. At which point the guests tucked into a variety of dishes, ranging from the caterer Rasel’s signature Shepard’s Pie, to servings of authentic laksa and mock prawn for our vegetarian guests. The meal was accompanied with servings of craft beers and ciders, each carefully picked out by our graduate students Wilson and Jeremy. During this time of feasting and drinking, bridges were built across schools years and even generations, as students, alumni, staff and accompanying family conversed and interacted. The sight of graduate students entertaining some of the professors’ children, of undergraduates networking with alumni and of staff catching up on old times, certainly was something to behold.

Continue reading

“Infectious Normative Uncertainty (Or: Why You Should Open God’s Presents)” by Mr Abelard Podgorski

Philosophers commonly distinguish norms that tell us what to do in light of all the facts, objective norms, from norms that take into account our uncertainty and ignorance, subjective norms. But our uncertainty comes in two kinds. On the one hand, we can be uncertain about matters of descriptive fact, such as the effects of some proposed action or policy. On the other hand, we can be uncertain about fundamentally normative matters – what is valuable or what the right moral principles are. While philosophers are generally happy to accept that there are norms sensitive to descriptive uncertainty, a controversy has recently developed over whether there are any interesting norms sensitive to our distinctly normative uncertainty.

In this talk, I address this controversy by drawing attention to puzzling cases of infectious normative uncertainty, where our uncertainty about the way things are descriptively depends on our uncertainty about the way things are normatively. Many existing views about subjective norms give intuitively absurd recommendations in such cases, and violate minimal constraints on the relationship between objective and subjective norms. Ultimately, I argue that we need subjective norms to be sensitive not just to our descriptive uncertainty, and not just to our descriptive and our normative uncertainty taken separately, but also to the relation between the two.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Monday, 13 June 2016
Time: 11am – 1pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Mr Abelard Podgorski
Moderator: A/P Loy Hui Chieh

About the Speaker:

Mr Abelard Podgorski received his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Mathematics at Michigan State University, and have recently completed his PhD at the University of Southern California. His primary research interests are in ethics, the study of rationality, and epistemology, driven by a general concern with the way idealization plays a role in different normative theories. His work can be found in Mind, Philosophical Studies, and Ergo.

“How Modal Variance in Match Affects Worth” by Dr Nathaniel Sharadin

Normative reasons are considerations that justify action and belief. Motivating reasons are considerations for which an agent acts and believes. Sometimes, an agent’s motivating reasons match the normative reasons. When this happens, the agent’s actions and beliefs are creditworthy. Actual cases of match have a modal profile: that match can either obtain, or not, in certain counterfactual scenarios. Does the modal profile of a case of match affect its creditworthiness in any way? I consider and reject two possible answers. The failure of these answers naturally yields a third, hybrid, view, which I describe. I articulate two principles any hybrid view should respect.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 9 June 2016
Time: 11am – 1pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Dr Nathaniel Sharadin
Moderator: A/P Loy Hui Chieh

About the Speaker:

Dr Nathaniel Sharadin received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014. In 2014-2015 he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University and is now the Allan and Anita Sutton Distinguished Faculty Fellow at Syracuse University. He works on normative and metanormative issues in ethics and epistemology.

 

“A Trilemma for Deontology” by Mr Matthew Hammerton

All deontological moral theories endorse agent-centered constraints. They hold that in certain circumstances an agent must not perform an act of a certain type even if doing so is the only way to prevent more instances of that act being performed by others. In this paper I argue that agent-centered constraints, as standardly formulated, are ambiguous and have three distinct interpretations. Thus, a deontologist must clarify which of these three interpretations her theory endorses. However, I argue that once we sift through the various options we discover a trilemma for deontology. The deontologist must either accept that: (i) deontological constraints are maximizing-state rules, or (ii) deontological constraints give no moral advice in cases where commonsense morality expects moral advice, or (iii) deontology adopts a counterintuitive anti-aggregation rule. I argue that each of these options is a tough bullet to bite.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Monday, 6 June 2016
Time: 11am – 1pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Mr Matthew Hammerton
Moderator: A/P Loy Hui Chieh

About the Speaker:

Matthew Hammerton is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University. His research is primarily focused on foundational issues in normative ethics. In particular, he is interested in the debate between consequentialism and deontology and the role that agent-relativity and time-relativity play in this debate. He also has ongoing research projects on analogical reasoning in ethics, virtue theory, and Buddhist ethics.

“Rethinking Political Realism: Carl Schmitt, the Autonomy of Politics, and “Political” Liberalism” by Dr. Benjamin A. Schupmann

In this talk, I critically engage with the “political realist” movement developed by Bernard Williams. Although I sympathize with the realist intuition that politics is distinct from moral philosophy or applied morality, a concern realists raise against recent trends in political philosophy, I challenge the sharp conceptual barrier realists erect between, on the one hand, politics and realism and, on the other, moralism and liberalism. Drawing on Carl Schmitt’s state theory, I clarify this realist intuition while avoiding some conceptual problems realism currently runs into. I draw conclusions from my analysis by arguing that – pace both Williams and Schmitt – politics and liberalism are compatible. I sketch the framework for a political liberalism and connect its normative arguments to constrained democracy, a constitutional mechanism that prioritizes a liberal basic structure over democratic procedures.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 2 June 2016
Time: 11am – 1pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Dr. Benjamin A. Schupmann
Moderator: A/P Loy Hui Chieh

About the Speaker:

Dr. Schupmann is a Post Doctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore. He is currently finalizing his book manuscript Carl Schmitt’s State and Constitutional Theory: A Critical Analysis, which is under contract with Oxford University Press for its Oxford Constitutional Theory Series. He received his PhD from Columbia University in the City of New York in February 2015, following the successful defense of his dissertation.

“Situationism, Manipulation, and Objective Self-Awareness” by Associate Professor Hagop Sarkissian

Situationism is a view arising out of experimental psychology, suggesting that human cognition and behavior are far more susceptible to the influence of immediate variables in a person’s environment than is otherwise acknowledged. Among philosophers taking the implications of situationism seriously, some have suggested we exploit this tendency to be shaped by situational variables toward desirable ends; if experimental studies produce reliable, probabilistic predictions about the effects of situational variables on behavior—for example, how people react to the presence or absence of various sounds, objects, and their placement—then we should deploy those variables that promote prosocial behavior, while avoiding those that don’t. Put another way, some have suggested that we tweak situations to nudge people toward the good. A question arises: Isn’t this manipulative? In this presentation, I describe some existing proposals and consider the manipulation worry. I conclude by claiming that, when all is considered, it is chimerical to think we can decide whether to manipulate others or not. We must rather accept that manipulation is part of social existence. Once we do, the only remaining question is how to manipulate. I suggest that this should make us conceive ourselves in an ‘object-ive’ fashion.

Read more about our visitor at http://www.hagopsarkissian.com/

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 19 May 2016
Time: 2pm – 5pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Associate Professor Hagop Sarkissian
Moderator: A/P Tan Sor Hoon

About the Speaker:

Hagop Sarkissian is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Baruch College, City University of New York, where he teaches classes in ethics, moral psychology, Chinese philosophy, philosophy of religion, and experimental philosophy. Most of his research is in moral psychology, broadly construed. He is a methodological pluralist, and use resources from other relevant disciplines to inform his work, such as evolutionary biology and experimental psychology. He also draw extensively from the history of Chinese philosophy, especially the classical period (ca. 6th to 2nd century BCE).He is a faculty advisor to the Metro Experimental Research Group, co-chair of the Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy, and Core Project Member of the Oneness in Philosophy and Psychology project.