“One’s Own Reasoning” by Michael G. Titelbaum on 22 April 2016

Responding to Cappelen and Dever’s claim that there is no distinctive role for perspectivality in epistemology, I will argue that facts about the outcomes of one’s own reasoning processes may have a different evidential significance than facts about the outcomes of others’.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Friday, 22 April 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Michael G. Titelbaum
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Michael G. Titelbaum is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University.  He works on epistemology (especially formal), ethics, metaethics, political philosophy, decision theory, philosophy of science, and the philosophy of logic.  His book Quitting Certainties received an Honourable Mention for the 2015 APA book prize; he is currently writing an introduction to Bayesian Epistemology.

“Grounding manifestation functionalism” by Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding Pedersen on 13 April 2016

According to moderate alethic pluralism there is a single truth property. This property is possessed by any true proposition, but may be so by having different properties across different domains of discourse. In this sense truth is both One and Many. A pressing issue for moderate pluralists is what to say about the relationship between the One and the Many. Manifestation functionalism is a specific form of alethic pluralism that is meant to address this issue. The view has two components. According to its functionalist component, truth is a functional property—a property whose functional role is characterized by a set of core principles. According to its “manifestationalist” component, different properties manifest truth for propositions belonging to different domains of discourse—where a property M manifests property I if and only if it is a priori that the set of I’s conceptually essential features is a subset of M’s features (Lynch 2009, 2013). Thus, the manifestation functionalist commits to a specific view on the nature of the relationship between the One and the Many: it is one of manifestation. In this paper I offer a critical discussion of manifestation functionalism. I first argue that the view leads to a messy metaphysics due to its commitment to the idea that the One-Many relationship is one of manifestation. I then suggest that taking the One-Many relationship to be one of grounding delivers such an alternative.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Wednesday, 13 April 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding Pedersen 
Moderator: A/P Axel Gelfert

About the Speaker:

Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding Pedersen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Underwood International College and Director of the Veritas Research Center, both at Yonsei University. He works on truth, epistemology, and metaphysics. Prof. Pedersen has edited (with Cory D. Wright) New Waves in Truth (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) and Truth and Pluralism: Current Debates (Oxford University Press, 2013). He is currently the principal investigator of a collaborative research project that investigates pluralism about truth, logic, and ontology and is co-editing Epistemic Entitlement (to appear with Oxford University Press) and The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. 

“The Nativity of Politics: Hannah Arendt on Natality, Narrativity, and the Question Concerning Totalitarianism” by Lee Wilson

The spectre of the totalitarian experiments of the preceding century, systematically aimed at the eradication of human plurality and particularity, haunts us still today. It manifests in various forms of enclave politics, such as the proliferation of gated communities, aggressive anti-immigrantism, and social media echo chambers. For Arendt, this is the rise of the social over the political. By banishing plurality and particularity, it forecloses the richness of our fundamental relations to, and within, reality as such—including human, political reality. The notion of human natality plays a key role in Arendt’s rehabilitation of praxis as a mode of anti-totalitarian disclosure, and its involving ‘two births’ grounds the division between the social and the political. But this division is often denigrated as premised on a problematic division between biological life and political life which leaves the latter materially empty. Peg Birmingham argues that this problem can be resolved by reconceptualising natality through Heidegger’s own discussions of natality, embodiment, and the Augenblick. I will argue in this talk, however, that Birmingham’s proposed reconceptualisation fails to achieve disclosure of the political dimension due to its neglect of Arendt’s emphasis on the narrativity of praxis.

Graduate Seminar Series.
Date: Tuesday, 12 Apr 2016
Time: 2 pm – 3.30 pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Lee Wilson
Moderator: David Premsharan

About the Speaker:

LEE Wilson is a first-year MA candidate in philosophy at the National University of Singapore. His interests are as diverse and short-lived as those of his (family’s) dog. Right now, he finds himself chasing stuff on the philosophy of action, the hermeneutics of suspicion, Han Feizi, and St. Søren (the patron saint of people with commitment issues).

Madhyamaka and Hume: A Comparative Appraisal of Sceptical Approaches by David Premsharan

Given its resistance to positive metaphysical assertions, contemporary interpretations of Madhyamaka are prone to casting the enterprise as sceptical. This tendency has given rise to comparative work in which Hume and foremost Madhyamaka figures such as Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti are placed in the same ‘sceptical family’ owing to the commonalities in their sceptical approaches and outcomes. While it is evident that there are ostensible thematic similarities that obtain between Humean scepticism and certain elements present in Madhyamaka, I contend that it is problematic, or at least ill-advised, to characterize Madhyamaka itself as a sceptical enterprise.

This is due primarily to the following: firstly, that there are reliable means of knowledge (pramāṇa) which are both acknowledged and legitimated in the Madhyamaka corpus, which run counter to Hume’s genealogical-sceptical assertions; and secondly, the fact that a Madhyamaka adherent simply does not have the doxastic luxury of exercising Humean scepticism given his or her soteriological commitments. Consequently, the task of tracing a common sceptical filament that runs through Hume and Nāgārjuna or Candrakīrti, should be jettisoned. It is hoped that the ground-clearing task with regards to Madhyamaka vis-à-vis scepticism, will also generate insights regarding Hume’s sceptical project; in particular, the tension and possible reconciliation of both its negative and constructive phases.

Graduate Seminar Series.
Date: Tuesday, 5 Apr 2016
Time: 3.30 pm – 5 pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: David Premsharan
Moderator: Jeremy Huang

About the Speaker:

David is currently pursuing his M.A. in Philosophy at NUS, where he works primarily in Buddhist epistemology, and engages in comparative work involving Madhyamaka thought. His research interests include Indian philosophical traditions more generally, methodological concerns in comparative philosophy, and extend to critical and postcolonial inquiry.

Master Hanfei Disapproves (of Confucian Meritocracy) by Jeremy Huang

Confucian Meritocracy is a specific form of political meritocracy proposed by scholars of Chinese political philosophy. Proponents of Confucian Meritocracy aim to establish a system that selects and promotes Confucian Moral Exemplars (Junzi) to positions of political power. In this paper, I formulate three arguments against Confucian Meritocracy using conceptual resources in the Legalist (Fa Jia) text, Hanfeizi, especially from parts of the text that were presented, overtly or otherwise, as polemic against Confucianism. First, Hanfeizi argues that we ought to be suspicious of claims that governance and political leadership require moral virtues; I call this The Moral Cynic Argument. Second, Hanfeizi argues that a political system designed to rely heavily on the virtues and competency of individuals is both unreliable and unsustainable; I call this The Stump-Watcher Argument. Finally, Hanfeizi argues that those skilled in rhetoric and persuasion can easily game any system that attempts to select and promote government officials on the basis of merit or virtue; I call this The Skilled Persuader Argument.

Graduate Seminar Series.
Date: Tuesday, 5 Apr 2016
Time: 2 pm – 3.30 pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Jeremy Huang
Moderator: Lee Wilson

About the Speaker:


Jeremy has left his BA in History behind and is now pursuing his MA in Philosophy. His primary research interest is Pre-Qin Chinese Philosophy, but he is also interested in Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism, Modern Chinese Philosophy and History of Philosophy.

Yale-NUS philosophy research seminar: “Socrates’ Final Symposium” by Matt Walker

Dear all,

Matt Walker will be presenting his paper “Socrates’ Final Symposium” this Wednesday, 30 March from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM (abstract below). We will meet as usual in RC2-01-09F.

Directions to the seminar: On the campus map that I have attached, the Oculus is the circular area with a taxi icon, right next to College Avenue West. The room (RC2-01-09F) is directly south of the Oculus, in the area labeled “EC1” on the map. Simply enter the building from the Oculus and take the elevator to the top floor.

Campus map - overhead

Abstract: I briefly sketch the outline of a revisionary reading of Plato’s Phaedo. On traditional readings, the dialogue gives us Socrates’ defense of the soul’s unqualified immortality, i.e., the soul’s capacity for eternal and individual existence in separation from the body. On such readings, Socrates aims to meet Cebes’ demand that he show “that the soul still exists after a man has died and that it still possesses some capability and intelligence” (70b). I agree that the Phaedo, through the figure of Socrates, accepts that we are immortal. But the sort of immortality that Socrates accepts in the Phaedo, I propose, is only the qualified immortality that he endorses in the Symposium. Reading the Phaedo through the lens of the Symposium, I suggest, brings to light nuances of the Phaedo that commentators have overlooked. It also pays other interpretive dividends.



Neil Mehta

Assistant professor of philosophy

Yale-NUS College


Calling for Facilitators for Inter-School Philosophy Dialogue (ISPD) 2016

Hello everyone!
This year, ISPD will be held on 9th July (Saturday), from 0800h to 1300h, in Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary).

The theme for this year’s ISPD is Philosophy and Science, an exciting theme which allows us to explore philosophical issues related to science as a discipline, scientific discoveries, technological advancements and breakthroughs.

​The success of ISPD depends on our very helpful facilitators who are able to engage our participants in collaborative rational inquiry. To kick-start our prep for ISPD 2016, please take a minute register yourselves at this link by 8th April to let us know that you will be joining us:
More information will be sent closer to the date of the event.

Lastly, if you know of anyone who is Philosophy-trained and is an experienced facilitator, and would like to join us for ISPD 2016, please feel free to forward the above link to them

Looking forward to meeting all of you at our annual gathering at ISPD 2016.


Model(ing) Controversies in Science

Thursday, 17 March – Venue: Department of Philosophy, NUS, Seminar Room, AS3-05-23

1-2pm:   Dunja Šešelja (Bochum) and Christian Straßer (Bochum): “Scientific Controversies and Interaction Among Scientists”

2-3pm:   Teru Miyake (NTU): “On Models and Representations in Seismology: The Double Couple”

3:30-4:30pm:  Ann-Sophie Barwich (New York): “Imagine There is a Controversy and No one Participates: Philosophical Failures in Science Narratives”

In order to register, please send an email to the organiser, A/P Axel Gelfert (phigah@nus.edu.sg); please mention which day(s) you plan to attend.

“Praise, Blame, and Demandingness” by Rick Morris

Consequentialism has been challenged on the grounds that it is too demanding. I will respond to the problem of demandingness differently from previous accounts. In the first part of the paper, I argue that consequentialism requires us to distinguish the justification of an act ϕ from the justification of an act ψ, where ψ is an act of praise or blame.

In the second part of the paper, I confront the problem of demandingness.   I do not attempt to rule out the objection; instead, I argue that if certain plausible empirical claims about moral motivation are true, we morally ought not to blame people for failing to meet certain very demanding obligations. With this theory, we create a space in consequentialism for intuitions questioning the plausibility of demanding obligations.

I conclude the paper by showing that separate justifications for ϕ and ψ may also give us a theoretical niche for intuitions about supererogation.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 24 March 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Rick Morris
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Rick Morris did his undergraduate work in philosophy at American Military University while serving in the U.S. military. After leaving active service, he did an MA at San Jose State. Rick is currently in his third year in the philosophy PhD program at University of California, Davis, where he is specializing in the philosophy of biology. He also maintains interests in moral philosophy and the philosophy of religion.