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

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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.

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In defence of an extramission theory of visual cognition, or what’s wrong with Cartesian representationalism by Emeritus Professor Stephen Gaukroger

Abstract:
Theories of visual perception from Descartes onwards treat vision in terms of light entering the eye and being brought to a clear focus, the image formed then being interpreted by the brain. This kind of account is modelled on the optics of the telescope. But this gives rise to the problem that we are aware only of representations of things in the world, not of the things themselves. I argue that there is no philosophical solution to this problem. Rather the answer lies in abandoning the telescope model and adpoting something closer to an extramission theory.

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

About the Speaker:
Stephen Gaukroger received his BA (hons) in philosophy, with congratulatory first class honours, from the University of London in 1974, and his PhD, in history and philosophy of science, from the University of Cambridge in 1977. He was a Research Fellow at Clare Hall Cambridge, and then at the University of Melbourne, before joining the Philosophy Department at Sydney in 1981. In 2011, he moved to the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Corresponding Member of l’Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences. In 2003 he was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for contributions to history of philosophy and history of science. His work has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Serbian.

 

 

All are welcome

 

Can we Build a Consciousness Meter? by Tim Bayne

Can we Build a Consciousness Meter?

Abstract:
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

 

Abstract
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

Abstract:
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

Abstract:
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

Abstract:
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

Abstract:
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