Marko J. Fuchs (Bamberg) on Spinoza – Yale-NUS – Monday, 15 February, 3-5 p.m.

Metaphysics and Epistemology as Ethics in Spinoza:

Ethics as a Monistic Philosophical System

Marko J. Fuchs (Otto-Friedrich University Bamberg)

 

Time/Location

Monday, 15 February 2016

3:00-5:00 p.m.

Yale-NUS College

Elm College Office Conference Room (RC2-01-07C)

Campus Map (https://www.yale-nus.edu.sg/about/campus-map/)

 

Abstract:

Spinoza’s Ethics where he ingeniously develops his monistic and deterministic philosophy is acknowledged to be one of the most innovative and influential contributions to modern rationalism. Furthermore, this work is also appreciated as a treasure chest of interesting responses to many systematical questions that are still or again relevant in today’s philosophical discussions, e.g. the mind-body-dualism, the problem of the influence of emotion on cognition, and the foundation of social and political structures—to name just a few. This approach, however, tends to ignore that Spinoza’s major concern within the Ethics is genuinely ethical, that is, that the overall topic of Spinoza’s Ethics as a whole, not just of its last two books, is the question how finite rational beings, i.e. we, are able to pursue and achieve a succeeding and felicitous life. Furthermore, Spinoza is convinced that beatitude does not consist in some kind of activity outside philosophy, but that it is nothing else than philosophical cognition (as an activity) of the world and its principles, a cognition which finds its specific and adequate expression in a closed rational system. Thus, Spinoza’s metaphysics which he develops right at the beginning of his Ethics (in book I) and his epistemology in books II and III are not outside of Spinoza’s ethics but rather essential parts of it. In other words, metaphysics and epistemology according to Spinoza are ethics. In my talk I will try to explain this thesis by developing some of Spinoza’s arguments from the Ethics and discuss the question whether Spinoza’s conception of ethics as a closed rational philosophical system that involves metaphysics and epistemology as integral parts is systematically convincing.

About the speaker:
Dr. Marko J. Fuchs (Otto-Friedrich University Bamberg) works on theories of justice in antiquity and the Middle Ages; ethics and practical philosophy in late Scholastic and early modern European philosophy; theories of selfhood; and theories of friendship.

Justification as Faultlessness by Bob Beddor

According to deontological approaches to justification, we can analyze justification in deontic terms. In this paper, I try to advance the discussion of deontological approaches by applying recent insights in the semantics of deontic modals. Specifically, I use the distinction between weak necessity modals (“ought”, “should”) and strong necessity modals (“must”, “have to”) to develop and defend a new version of the deontological approach. According to the view I defend, “justified” expresses a deontic status that I call “faultlessness”, which is defined as the dual of weak necessity modals. After unpacking this status, I explain how the Faultlessness View avoids the problems facing rival deontological theories.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 11 February 2016
Time: 3pm – 5pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Bob Beddor
Moderator: Prof Neiladri Sinhababu

About the Speaker:

Bob Beddor is a PhD candidate at Rutgers University. Most of his work is in epistemology, with close connections to philosophy of language and metaethics.

Measuring the Beliefs of the Frequently Irrational by Edward Elliot

The standard representation theorem for expected utility theory says roughly that if a subject’s preferences conform to certain  conditions, then she can be represented as maximising her expected utility given a particular set of credences and utilities—and, moreover, that having those credences and utilities is the only way that she could be an expected utility maximiser, given the facts about her preferences. These theorems are widely taken to provide the mathematical, normative, and (in some cases) conceptual basis for contemporary decision theory in a wide range of disciplines. However, the kinds of agents that the theorems seem apt to tell us anything about are highly idealised, being (amongst other things) always probabilistically coherent with infinitely precise degrees of belief and full knowledge of all epistemically necessary truths. Ordinary agents do not look very rational when compared to the angels usually talked about in decision theory. In this paper, I will outline a theorem aimed at the representation of those who are not probabilistically coherent, logically omniscient, or even very good decision-makers—i.e., agents who arefrequently irrational. The agents in question may have highly incoherent credences, limited representational capacities, and are only assumed to (i) be deductively competent with respect to obvious implications, and (ii) maximise expected utility with respect to a restricted class of relatively simple gambles.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 4 February 2016
Time: 3pm – 5pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Edward Elliot
Moderator: Prof Neiladri Sinhababu

About the Speaker:

Edward Elliot presently works mainly on issues to do with the conceptual foundations of decision theory and formal epistemology, with a special interest in the nature and content of degrees of belief. His long-term research project is to understand representational phenomena of all kinds (mental, linguistic, scientific), and to situate them within the natural world. He was awarded his PhD in November 2015, from the Australian National University. His thesis was on the topic of decision-theoretic representation theorems and their connection to the characterisation and naturalisation of degrees of belief and utilities.

“Imprecise Credences and Imprecise Epistemic Value” by Ben Levinstein

Sometimes, it seems the proper response to evidence is to adopt an imprecise credence. Recently, a number of arguments purport to show that imprecise credences conflict with alethic monism. I claim that, on the contrary, imprecise credences, once properly understood, are compatible with alethic monism. Furthermore, this understanding reveals some important relationships between epistemic value and epistemic behaviour.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 28 January 2016
Time: 3pm – 5pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Ben Levinstein
Moderator: Prof Neiladri Sinhababu

About the Speaker:

Ben Levinstein is currently a James Martin Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford. Before that, he was a post-doc at Bristol University working on epistemic utility theory. His current interests include epistemology, decision theory, and ethics. He received a PhD from Rutgers in 2013.

All The Way Up or All The Way Down? Some Historical Reflections on Psychological Continuity by John D. Greenwood

In this paper I chart the history of the development of theories of psychological continuity in the modern period. In providing the logical geography of competing positions, I distinguish between two forms of strong psychological continuity and discontinuity, between theories of strong continuity and discontinuity between cognitive and associative processes and between theories of strong continuity and discontinuity between human and animal psychology and behavior. I note that both forms of strong continuity and discontinuity have tended to be affirmed or denied together, and have only rarely and recently been decoupled, opening up new theoretical positions in the debate. While the historical trend in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was to extend explanations in terms of association “all the way up” to the highest human cognitive processes, some contemporary theorists have tried to extend cognitive explanations “all the way down” to encompass associative processes. I draw some tentative conclusions about the theoretical options in contemporary research on psychological continuity.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 21 January 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: John D. Greenwood, City University of New York
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

John D. Greenwood was educated at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, and teaches in the PhD Programs in Philosophy and Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His main interests are in the history and philosophy of social and psychological science. He is the author of Explanation and Experiment in Social Psychological Science (1989), Relations and Representations (1989), Realism, Identity and Emotion (1994), The Disappearance of the Social in American Social Psychology (2004) and A Conceptual History of Psychology: Exploring the Tangled Web (2014, 2nd ed.)

A Posteriori Ethical Intuitionism and the Problem of Cognitive Penetrability by Preston Werner

According to a posteriori ethical intuitionism (AEI), perceptual experiences can provide non-inferential justification for at least some moral beliefs. Moral epistemology, for the defender of AEI, is less like the epistemology of math and more like the epistemology of tables and chairs. One serious threat to AEI comes from the phenomenon of cognitive penetration. The worry is that even if evaluative properties could figure in the contents of experience, they would only be able to do so if prior cognitive states influence perceptual experience. Such influences would undermine the non-inferential, foundationalist credentials of AEI. In this paper, I defend AEI against this objection. Rather than deny that cognitive penetration exists, I argue that some types of cognitive penetrability are actually compatible with AEI’s foundationalist structure. This involves teasing apart the question of whether some particular perceptual process has justification conferring features from the question of how it came to have those features in the first place. Once this distinction is made, it becomes clear that some kinds of cognitive penetration are compatible with the non-inferential status of moral perceptual experiences as the proponent of AEI claims.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Monday, 18 January 2016
Time: 3pm – 5pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Preston J. Werner, Syracuse University
Moderator: A/P Neiladri Sinhababu

About the Speaker:

Preston J. Werner is a PhD candidate in philosophy at Syracuse University. His research interests are in metaethics (especially moral epistemology), philosophy of mind, and metaphysics.

“Fregean content and hyperintensional semantics” by Jens Christian Bjerring

In this talk, I propose a new semantic framework for reasoning about a notion of content that inherits two important features of the Fregean notion of sense. First, it inherits the hyperintensional structure of Fregean senses. Senses are hyperintensional because some necessarily equivalent sentences have distinct senses. Second, it inherits the non-trivial structure of Fregean senses. Senses are non-trivial because some necessarily equivalent sentences have the same sense. So, while cut very finely, sense it is not an “everything goes” view on content: there are non-trivial constraints on how finely individuated Fregean senses should be. By developing a semantics in which we can capture such Fregean-inspired distinctions among contents, I argue that we can develop a semantics for a non-trivial, hyperintensional notion of content. A core feature of the semantics is that it can represent a whole spectrum of notions of content: ranging from extremely fine-grained content—and potentially trivial content—to content that is individuated up to logical equivalence. The resulting semantic flexibility, I argue, is desirable when it comes to accounting for hyperintensional content.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 14 January 2016
Time: 3pm – 5pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Jens Christian Bjerring, Aarhus University
Moderator: A/P Neiladri Sinhababu

About the Speaker:

Dr. Bjerring was awarded the PhD degree in philosophy from the Australian National University in November 2010. Currently, he is lecturing at Aarhus University (Denmark). He is particularly interested in issues in epistemology, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, and mind.

Workshop ‘Epistemology of Disagreement and the Philosophy of Education’ (12 Jan 2016, 1pm -5 .30pm

Phil-of-Education-Poster

 

SCHEDULE:

1:00-2:00pm – Dr Lani Watson (University of Edinburgh): “Educating for Inquisitiveness”

2:00-3:00pm – A/P Axel Gelfert (NUS): “Epistemic Peerhood and the Philosophy of Education”

3:00-3:15pm – Coffee break

3:15-4:15pm: A/P Nikolaj Pedersen (Yonsei University, Seoul): “Non-Rational Action in the Face of Disagreement”

4:15-5:15pm: Dr Eric Kerr (NUS): “Educating Cyborgs: Outsourcing Memory and the Epistemic Aims of Education”

VENUE: Philosophy Seminar Room, AS3 #05-23

MODERATOR: A/P Axel Gelfert

 

 

“Consent and Legitimate Coercion” by Hallie Liberto

Coercion has the power to undermine morally valid consent. We think that this is true in business, in medical research, and in sexual relations. However, the most popular account of what grounds consent in the moral realm – the waiving of rights – has a hard time explaining the relationship between coercion and consent. I examine a problem often referred to as “The Paradox of Blackmail” and suggest that there is a more difficult but related “Paradox of Rape.” The paradox emerges from the combination of two theses about sexual consent that are almost entirely uncontested, with a similarly uncontested but incompatible thesis about coercion.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 7 January 2016
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Hallie Liberto, University of Connecticut
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Liberto-Sized-Down-from-UCHV-PictureHallie Liberto is an assistant professor of philosophy at UConn. She joined the faculty in the fall of 2011 after completing her dissertation at the University of Wisconsin – Madison under the advisorship of Daniel Hausman. She works in moral and social philosophy. Lately she has been writing on these topics: promises, exploitation, sexual consent, and the nature and transfers of rights.

She is spending the 2014-2015 academic year at Princeton University as a Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow.

“A Capacity Account of Memory” by Mary Salvaggio

In this talk, I motivate understanding memory as a cognitive capacity with memory beliefs as the results of exercising this capacity. Memory beliefs have traditionally been understood as either stored and retrieved content with a certain causal history or content with a particular phenomenal character. First, I show that these conceptions are not extensionally equivalent and they disagree on cases of special interest to epistemologists. Then, I argue that the capacity conception can best accommodate the psychological discovery that memory is radically constructive, focusing on cases of false memory.

Finally, I claim that Michaelian’s attempt to capture constructive memory with a causal account does not go far enough to include central cases of interest.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Monday, 23 Nov 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Mary Salvaggio, Rutgers University
Moderator: Dr Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Mary Salvaggio is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Rutgers University. Her dissertation is focused on updating epistemological views of memory in light of the contemporary psychological understanding of human memory as an active, constructive process. She is currently a graduate tutor at Nanyang Technological University.