“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

Join us @ Singapore Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

Hi all!

The Singapore Undergraduate Philosophy Conference (SUPC) is happening this Saturday 25 Feb 2017! It is a joint academic conference for undergraduate Philosophy majors based in Singapore. The Philosophy Sub-Club intends to create a discursive space through collaboration between philosophy majors by holding an annual undergraduate conference. The SUPC 2017 centres on the theme of Ethics. A couple of undergraduate speakers from each university (NTU, NUS and Yale-NUS) will represent their respective universities.

This conference hopes to provide a platform for undergraduates to showcase and present their philosophical work as well as to learn more about Ethics from other students from various institutions. SUPC 2017 provides an opportunity for participants to network with other philosophers from other institutions. Philosophers cannot thrive in isolation and we hope that the discussions that arise during the conference will help in the intellectual development of the undergraduates.

Do join us this Saturday, see you there!

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 (phigah@nus.edu.sg) 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”