“Understanding the phenomenology of perceptual experience” by Frank Jackson

Featured

Understanding the phenomenology of perceptual experience by Frank Jackson

Abstract:
Seeing something as green is different from seeing something as red. Seeing something as round is different from seeing something as square. These commonplaces remind us (not that we need reminding) that perceptual experiences have a phenomenology. What’s the best way to account for this?

Date: 11 December 2017, Monday
Time: 6pm – 7.30pm
Venue: AS7 Seminar Room B

About the Speaker:
Frank Jackson is Lim Chong Yah visiting professor at The National University of Singapore, and an Emeritus Professor at The Australian National University. His books include From Metaphysics to Ethics, and Language, Names, and Information.

ALL ARE WELCOME

“The Verisimilitude Framework for Inductive Inference” by Olav Vassend

Featured

“The Verisimilitude Framework for Inductive Inference” by Olav Vassend

Abstract:
The “likelihood” of a hypothesis given a piece of evidence is the probability that the hypothesis assigns to the evidence. Both Bayesians and likelihoodists use likelihoods to quantify evidential impact, and likelihoods play an important role in frequentist inference as well. However, I show that the likelihood is not always an appropriate way of measuring evidential impact. I then argue in favor of a “verisimilitude framework” for inductive inference, and I give several examples of verisimilitude-based inference procedures that make use of evidential measures other than the likelihood, including inference procedures appropriate for parsimony evaluations of scientific theories and for phylogenetic inference. Finally, I contrast my proposal with a similar recent proposal grounded in decision theory.

Date: 9 November 2017
Time: 3pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Olav Vassend is an assistant professor of philosophy at Nanyang Technological University. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin—Madison in the spring of 2017. Most of his work is in philosophy of science and formal epistemology, and he is particularly interested in the foundations of statistical inference and inductive inference more generally.

All are welcome

“Holism in Action” by Robert Myers and “Davidson’s Treatment of Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox” by Claudine Verheggen

Featured

Date: 16 November 2017
Time: 2pm to 5pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

2pm to 3.30pm
“Holism in Action” by Robert Myers

Abstract:
Although Davidson always acknowledged that his causal theory of action faces a number of serious difficulties, he maintained throughout his career that they should be regarded as problems of detail, not as problems calling into question his basic idea that reasons for actions are causes of actions and that rationalizing explanations are causal explanations. I argue, first, that these difficulties are actually fatal to Davidson’s view as it is often interpreted and as he himself often presented it in his classic papers on philosophy of action, but, second, that, on a different interpretation, Davidson’s view fares better, and that this different interpretation is closer to his real meaning.

About the speaker:
Robert Myers is Professor of Philosophy at York University, Toronto. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught for twelve years at Barnard College in New York City before joining the department of philosophy at York University in 2001. His research interests are in theoretical ethics, related issues in philosophy of action and epistemology, and political philosophy. He is the author of Self-Governance and Cooperation (Oxford 1999) and the co-author (with Claudine Verheggen) of Donald Davidson’s Triangulation Argument: A Philosophical Inquiry (Routledge 2016).

3.30pm to 5pm
“Davidson’s Treatment of Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox” by Claudine Verheggen

Abstract:
The aim of this paper is first to show that Wittgenstein and Davidson argue for semantic non-reductionism, the rejection of any account of meaning that does not invoke semantic notions, in similar ways, and that consequently they conceive of the use they both take to be essential to meaning in a similar way. Both think that a full account of meaning requires us to consider this use within a semantic context, so that we cannot say what speakers mean by their words, and what words mean, without saying what speakers use their words to mean, and we cannot answer the question what makes it possible for someone to have a language without thinking of her as already having one. However, whereas Wittgenstein makes only very general remarks about the kind of use that is essential to meaning, Davidson has much more to say about the topic and, as a result, provides a significantly richer and more constructive way to address the paradox about meaning and rule-following developed by Wittgenstein.

About the speaker:
Claudine Verheggen is Professor of Philosophy at York University, Toronto. She received a diploma in cinema from the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle, Brussels, an MA in philosophy from the University of Chicago and a PhD in philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley. She taught for ten years at the City University of New York before joining the department of philosophy at York University in 2006.

Verheggen’s research interests are in the philosophy of language and related issues in philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology (including normativity, objectivity, truth, and philosophical skepticism). She is the co-author (with Robert Myers) of Donald Davidson’s Triangulation Argument: A Philosophical Inquiry (Routledge 2016), and the editor of Wittgenstein and Davidson on Language, Thought, and Action (Cambridge 2017). Her current research includes a book project, entitled Minding the World, in which she addresses critiques of what she takes to be Wittgenstein and Davidson’s conception of the relation between thought and reality, and develops and defends the conception of objectivity that can be based upon it.

All are welcome

The Mysticism of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and “the Meaning of Life” by Richard McDonough (2 Nov 2017)

The Mysticism of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and “the Meaning of Life” by Richard McDonough

Abstract:
Wittgenstein’s Tractatus defines the “mystical” as that which can be “shown” but cannot be “said.” It is argued that there are two distinct notions of “showing” in the Tractatus, that which is “shown [zeigt]” by propositional symbols, and that which “shows itself [zeigt sich]”. This distinction is essential to understanding the mysticism of the Tractatus. Although the former notion has received the most attention, it is argued that the latter is more fundamental. The paper argues that the various species of the mystical in the Tractatus can, in a sense, be “said” after all. A sketch of the sense in which one can say “mystical” things is provided and distinguished from the sense in which one can “say” “genuine” (factual) propositions. The former resembles a “warranted assertibility” theory of meaning while the latter resembles a more traditional “truth conditions” theory of meaning. It is argued that the neglected Tractatus’ view that life and the world are one [sind Eins]” anticipates Husserl’s notion of the “life-world” some 16 years before Husserl announced that notion. The Tractatus life-world is my life-world (for any me). It is argued that the “mystical” in the Tractatus refers primarily to those aspects of the life-world that cannot be expressed in genuine propositions. Thus, although the Tractatus is best known for defending a seminal version of “logical atomism,” it actually holds that the organic unity of the life-world is lost in the process of analysis. It is shown how the present interpretation differs both from the “traditional” and the “resolute” interpretations of the Tractatus. Finally, the paper provides a taxonomy of the various species of Tractatus mysticism that illustrates these points.

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

About the Speaker:

Richard McDonough received his BA in philosophy, with minors in mathematics and chemistry, summa cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971, his MA in philosophy from Cornell University in 1974, and his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1975. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow 1971-71 and a National Science Foundation Fellow 1971-74. He is the author of two books, over 80 articles in internationally referred journals, 5 encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and 11 book reviews. He has acted as a guest editor of an issue of Idealistic Studies titled Wittgenstein and Cognitive Science. He has taught at Bates College, the National University of Singapore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, general humanities and writing courses. He is currently working on a book on Plato and a book on the development of Wittgenstein’s philosophy from the early Tractatus to his “later philosophy”

All are welcome

“Sosa’s Safety, Halloween Party and the Backward Clock” & “Moore’s Paradox for God” by John Williams

Sosa’s Safety, Halloween Party and the Backward Clock

Abstract:
I first review various early safety conditions originating with Sosa, showing that each is unsatisfactory. Next I show that that contrary to Comesaña and McBride, Halloween Party is not a counterexample to Sosa’s disjunctive safety condition. However Backward Clock shows that this condition is too weak. It also shows that McBride’s modification to Sosa’s disjunctive safety condition is too weak. Then I examine ways of supplementing or modifying safety conditions, showing that these are dead ends. I conclude that an analysis of knowledge in terms of safety conditions appears unpromising. I end by analysing Halloween Party as a case of lucky knowledge, that is, knowledge that one could easily have not had, rather than an easily false belief.

Moore’s Paradox for God

Abstract:
I argue that ‘Moore’s paradox for God’, I do not believe this proposition shows that nobody can be both omniscient and rational in all her beliefs. I then anticipate and rebut three objections to my argument.

Keywords:
Omniscience, rationality, self-reference, Moore’s paradox, belief, knowledge

Date: 19 October 2017
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
John N. Williams is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at the School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University. He received his Ph.D. from Hull University, UK. His research interests include paradoxes, theory of knowledge, philosophy of religion and applied ethics. His research has been published in Acta Analytica, American Philosophical Quarterly, Analysis, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Philosophical Research, Logos and Episteme, Mind, Philosophia, Philosophy East and West, Philosophy Compass, Philosophical Studies, Religious Studies, Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, Synthese, and Theoria. He is a co-editor of Moore’s Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality and the First Person, Oxford University Press 2007.

All are welcome

Deontological Decision Theory and the Grounds of Subjective Permissibility by Seth Lazar

Deontological Decision Theory and the Grounds of Subjective Permissibility

Abstract:
What grounds deontological judgements of subjective permissibility? In virtue of what is an act subjectively permissible or impermissible? I will consider two possibilities: verdicts of objective permissibility; and objective moral reasons. On the first approach, subjective permissibility aims to optimally satisfy objective permissibility, given our uncertainty. On the second approach, subjective permissibility aims to optimally satisfy our objective moral reasons, given our uncertainty. An account of subjective permissibility adopts the verdicts approach if it takes objective verdicts as inputs. One example: ‘minimise expected objective wrongness’ (Graham [2010]; Olsen [2017]). The reasons approach is naturally associated with: ‘maximise expected objective deontic value’ (Colyvan et al. [2010]; Oddie and Milne [1991]). I will argue that the reasons approach is right, but that we have to put more of the ‘deontological’ into ‘deontological decision theory’, and rely less on the model of orthodox rational decision theory.

Date: 18 September 2017
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Malay Studies Conference Room (AS8-06-46)

About the Speaker:
Seth Lazar is an Associate Professor, and Head of the School of Philosophy, in the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University. He writes on topics in political philosophy, and normative and applied ethics. In his last book, Sparing Civilians (Oxford, 2015), he defended the protection of civilians in war against political and philosophical threats that have arisen in recent years. He is editor of the Oxford Handbook of Ethics of War (Oxford, 2016), and The Morality of Defensive War (Oxford, 2014). His papers have appeared in Ethics (2009, 2015, 2017), Philosophy & Public Affairs (2010, 2012), Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2015), Nous (2017), Philosophical Studies (2017), and other leading philosophy and political science journals. His current project focuses on how deontologists can make decisions under risk and uncertainty. He is working on a book, provisionally called ‘Duty Under Doubt: Deontological Decision-Making with Imperfect Information’.

All are welcome

“Two Sides of Positional Goods” by Daniel Halliday

Featured

Two Sides of Positional Goods

Abstract:
Positional goods typically serve to ration access to some distinct good whose supply cannot easily be increased. A standard example is the rationing of educational credentials as a means of allocating competitive advantage in the labor market. Political philosophy tends to recognize that positional goods gain their instrumental value from certain facts about how relevant scarce goods are made accessible. Our contention is that the significance of this fact has been insufficiently explored, particularly with respect to education. In general, the focus of philosophers has been somewhat one sided: Much has been said about the role of children and their parents where educational competition is concerned, with little said about the role of players on the ‘other side’, principally employers and educational institutions. Our aim in this paper is to develop a more sophisticated understanding of positional competition that is more balanced with respect to the role of players on both sides. We use the analysis developed to evaluate some influential claims about justice in the distribution of educational resources.

Date: 26 October 2017
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Daniel Halliday works mainly on topics at the intersection of political philosophy and economics, with a special focus on markets, taxation, and inequality. His monograph The Inheritance of Wealth: Justice, Equality, and the Right to Bequeath is currently forthcoming with Oxford University Press. Dan is also working on a co-authored textbook about the moral foundations of capitalism. He has a PhD in philosophy from Stanford University, and has been teaching at Melbourne University since completing graduate school in 2011.

All are welcome

‘Lewis, Holton, de se belief and Twin Earth’ by Frank Jackson

Lewis, Holton, de se belief and Twin Earth

Abstract:
The talk is about how to understand the central idea in David Lewis’s well-known paper “Attitudes De Dicto and De Se”. When so understood, we can see why the concerns raised (understandably) by Richard Holton in ‘Primitive Self-Ascription: Lewis on the De Se’, In Loewer, B and Schaffer J (eds) 2015 A Companion to David Lewis. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 399-412 are mistaken. I will conclude with comments on implications for Twin Earth. I will not presume familiarity with either paper.

Date: 31 August 2017
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Frank Jackson is Lim Chong Yah visiting professor at The National University of Singapore, and an Emeritus Professor at The Australian National University. His books include From Metaphysics to Ethics, and Language, Names, and Information.

All are welcome

“Hume’s Imagistic Theory of Ideas” by Jonathan Cottrell

Superintelligence, Simulations and Moral Status

Abstract:
Many early modern philosophers hold that thinking involves having “ideas” that represent the objects of one’s thoughts. Some of these philosophers also hold that we have two intrinsically different kinds of ideas, deriving from two different mental faculties: ideas formed through the “imagination,” and ideas formed through the “pure understanding” or “pure intellect.” Hume accepts the first of these claims, but rejects the second. In his view, thinking involves having representational ideas. But we have no ideas of the kind that were attributed to the supposed faculty of pure understanding or intellect. Instead, all of our ideas are of the same intrinsic kind: they are all imagistic, in that they qualitatively resemble and ultimately derive from impressions—the materials of our sensory and emotional experiences—and their impression-like qualitative character plays a role in determining, and constraining, what they represent. This imagistic theory of ideas plays a crucial role in Hume’s philosophy. So, it is important to ask what reasons he has for adopting it. His official arguments for it seem disappointing: they have premises that seem easy for his philosophical opponents to reject. In this paper, I aim to show that the Treatise contains the premises of a more interesting and challenging argument for Hume’s imagistic theory of ideas, which is based partly on his naturalistic view of representation, and partly on his views about introspection.

Date: 17 August 2017
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Jonny Cottrell is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Wayne State University. He specializes in early modern philosophy, especially British philosophy. His work has appeared in The Philosophical Review and the Journal of the History of Philosophy. He has a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Balliol College, Oxford, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from New York University.

                                                         All are welcome

The Philosophy Party 2017

NUS Philosophy held its fifth annual departmental party–The Philosophy Party–on 5th May 2017. Following last year’s precedence, the event was scheduled for the last day of the exam period. this year’s celebration saw the attendance of around 50 guests including undergraduates and graduate students, alumni, and department staff.

The festivities started with an opening speech filled with personal anecdotes by A/P John Holbo, who spoke of his own philosophical journey and his time in NUS. Dinner lines were opened shortly after, and as with all of our parties, a variety of mouthwatering dishes were provided. This year’s party saw a change in caterer: the party committee went for Peranakan cuisine from Chilli padi. Ranging from servings of authentic laska to kueh dada, each dish was carefully picked out to suit the needs of all our guests.

Continue reading