The Philosophy Commencement and Alumni Gathering Party 2013

The Department of Philosophy held its combined Commencement and Alumni Gathering Party on Friday, 28 June 2013 at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House. This is the first time the department has organised a combined event, and it proved to be a huge success, with a total turnout of about 40 people: a colourful mix of graduating students, alumni, and faculty members.

It was an evening of food, philosophy, and fun, as our alumni got to meet up with old friends while graduating students got a chance to interact with their seniors and forge new bonds of friendship. The event was filled with an abundance of delicious food, as well as unique craft beers courtesy of several faculty members of the department. The air was filled with endless rounds of laughter thanks to the numerous jokes and hilarious experiences as shared by all present – including faculty members! And as if that’s not all, there were logic puzzles and insightful food for thought for those present to satisfy their thirst for a good intellectual challenge.

To commemorate this event, each attendee received a Philosophy mug specially designed by A/P John Holbo. And thanks to the Office of Alumni Relations, the graduating students also received a Linus soft toy with a badge saying, “Class of 2013.” (OAR also generously sponsored the rent for the venue.)

Apart from celebrating the beginning of a new life for the graduating students, the students and faculty also paid tribute to A/P Tan Sor Hoon for her six years of hard work as our outgoing Head of Department. In gratitude for her long service in the department, A/P Michael Pelczar presented A/P Tan with a gift on behalf of all the faculty members, and delivered a short note of gratitude for all the work that she has done.

In addition, Lai Weijie, a film producer and an alumnus of the Department, gave a short sharing of his life after graduation. He shared about how A/P John Holbo helped him move into his career in film and what he accomplished since his graduation.

Since this event proved to be a huge success, the Department will be organising a similar event again next year. At the end of the evening, A/P Loy Hui-chieh closed the event with some paradoxical words for everyone to ponder: “If you like the party, the one next year will be just like it; If you don’t like the party, the one next year will be nothing like it; and no, that wasn’t a contradiction.”

Programme for the 2013 Joint Meeting of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (SACP) and the Australasian Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (ASACP)

The Department of Philosophy is pleased to announce the programme for the 2013 Joint Meeting of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (SACP) and the Australasian Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy (ASACP).

You may view the programme and other additional details at

Philosophy Commencement and Alumni Gathering Party 2013

Our dearest alumni,
In celebration of the upcoming commencement ceremony for the Class of 2013, the NUS Philosophy Department will be hosting a Commencement and Alumni Gathering party on Friday, 28 June 2013, at the Shaw Foundation Alumni House from 6pm to 9pm.

We would like to extend our warmest invitation to you.

Other than a sumptuous buffet dinner and an evening of fun, it will be an excellent opportunity to catch up with old friends (and make new ones as well)!

Please RSVP by 10 June 2013 on our Google Docs form: Even if you are unable to join us, we hope that you will fill in the Google Docs form with your contact information so that we can keep in touch with you and notify you of future alumni events.

We look forward to meeting you soon!

PS: Please help us to spread the word by sharing this event with them. Thank you!

The Philosophy of Pictures Workshop (5 Jun – 6 Jun)

Click here to enlarge poster.

The NUS Department of Philosophy will be hosting a 2-day workshop on the Philosophy of Pictures.

Title of Workshop: Easing Off The Easel: Pictoriality and Paradigms of Pictures.

Abstract: In contemporary Anglo-American philosophy, the study of pictures—pictoriality, depiction—is typically treated, presumptively, as a branch of aesthetics. This is like making philosophy of language a branch of aesthetics because Hamlet is written in English. The error is so obvious no one can be making it, in a considered way. Nevertheless, to see what we can see, it seems worthwhile wrenching ourselves out of this rut, even if it is only due to path dependence in modes and manners of framing the topic. Pictures are tools—technology. What implications of this truistic thought are obscured by favoritism for artistic examples and insights? by consistent choice of artifacts that are paradigm museum pieces, as if this made them paradigms of pictoriality?

Panelists are not just reading the same papers in two venues on two consecutive days. They have agreed to read their papers in two parts. Part 1 on Day 1, Part 2 on Day 2.

Day 1 will involve a more formal presentation, and Day 2 will involve a more workshop-style informal discussion between the panelists and the audience.

Day 1 (Wed, 5 June 2013)

Venue: Tembusu College, Education Resource Center, SR-2

[2pm – 2.30pm]
Frames Foster Function (Part 1) by John Holbo (National University of Singapore, Philosophy)

[2.45pm – 3.15pm]
Is ‘depicts’ semantically ambiguous? (Part 1) by Rafael de Clercq (Lingnan University, Visual Studies)

[3.30pm – 4pm]
Interpreting Images (Part 1) by Ben Blumson (National University of Singapore, Philosophy)

[4.15pm – 4.45pm]
Pictorial Kitsch (Part 1) by Michael Newall (University of Kent, School of Arts)

Day 2 (Thu, 6 June 2013)

Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

[2pm – 2.30pm]
Frames Foster Function (Part 2) by John Holbo (National University of Singapore, Philosophy)

[2.45pm – 3.15pm]
Is ‘depicts’ semantically ambiguous? (Part 2) by Rafael de Clercq (Lingnan University, Visual Studies)

[3.30pm – 4pm]
Interpreting Images (Part 2) by Ben Blumson (National University of Singapore, Philosophy)

[4.15pm – 4.45pm]
Pictorial Kitsch (Part 2) by Michael Newall (University of Kent, School of Arts)

“Three Puzzles about Spatial Experience” by David Chalmers (6 May)

Is it possible that everything that seems to be on your left is actually on your right?  Is it possible that everything in the world is twice as big as it seems to be?  Is it possible that everything that seems square is actually an extended rectangle?  Through reflection on these and related puzzles I will address some central issues regarding the content of spatial experience.  I will use this analysis to shed light on puzzles about skepticism concerning the external world.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Monday, 6 May 2013 (Please note that this talk isn’t following our regular day/time for talks)
Time: 10am – 12pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: David Chalmers, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness, Australian National University.
Moderator: Dr. Michael Pelczar

About the Speaker: David Chalmers is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University.  He is also Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at New York University.  His books include “The Conscious Mind,” “The Character of Consciousness,” and “Constructing the World.”

Time Workshop (23 Apr)

The NUS Department of Philosophy will be hosting a workshop on time on Tuesday, 23 April 2013, from 2pm to 5.30pm at the Philosophy Resource Room (AS-05-23) in NUS. (More details below)

Retrocausality – What Would It Take? (2pm – 3.10pm)

by Huw Price, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Abstract: Some writers argue that retrocausality offers an attractive loophole in Bell’s Theorem in QM, allowing an explanation of EPR-Bell correlations without “spooky action-at-a-distance.” This idea originated more than a decade before Bell’s famous result, when de Broglie’s student, Olivier Costa de Beauregard, first proposed that retrocausality plays a role in EPR contexts. The proposal is difficult to assess, because there has been little work on the general question of what a world with retrocausality would “look like” — what kinds of considerations, if any, would properly lead to the conclusion that we do live in such a world. In this talk I discuss these general issues, with the aim of bringing the more specific question as to whether quantum theory implies retrocausality into sharper focus than has hitherto been possible.

About the Speaker: Huw Price is Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy and a Fellow of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge.  He was previously ARC Federation Fellow and Challis Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney, where from 2002—2012 he was Founding Director of the Centre for Time. In Cambridge he is co-founder, with Martin Rees and Jaan Tallinn, of a project to establish a Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.

His publications include Facts and the Function of Truth (Blackwell, 1988; 2nd. edn. OUP, forthcoming), Time’s Arrow and Archimedes’ Point (OUP, 1996), Naturalism Without Mirrors (OUP, 2011) and a range of articles in journals such as Nature, Journal of Philosophy, Mind and British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. He is also co-editor (with Richard Corry) of Causation, Physics, and the Constitution of Reality: Russell’s Republic Revisited (OUP, 2007). His René Descartes Lectures (Tilburg, 2008) will shortly appear as Expressivism, Pragmatism and Representationalism (CUP, 2013), with commentary essays by Simon Blackburn, Robert Brandom, Paul Horwich and Michael Williams.

He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow and former Member of Council of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and a Past President of the Australasian Association of Philosophy. He was consulting editor for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy from 1995–2006, and is an associate editor of The Australasian Journal of Philosophy and a member of the editorial boards of Contemporary Pragmatism, Logic and Philosophy of Science, the Routledge International Library of Philosophy, and the European Journal for Philosophy of Science.

The Modal Argument Against Temporal Parts (3.15pm – 4.20pm)

by Kenneth Chong, M.A. Student, Department of Philosophy, National University of Singapore

Abstract: One version of the modal argument against temporal parts works in the following way. Assume there are temporal parts. Let ‘D’ be a proper temporal part of ‘Descartes’. Then we have the following inconsistent triad: i) D ≠ Descartes; ii) □ (D ≠ Descartes)    (this follows from i) and the principle of the necessity of distinctness); and iii) ◊ (D = Descartes).

Friends of temporal parts have generally been supportive of counterpart theory in dealing with the modal argument against temporal parts. In this paper, I will argue that the counterpart-theoretic solution as advanced by Sider in his book Four-Dimensionalism does not work. Sider’s proposed solution seeks to undermine an argument for ii) above. I will argue, however, that given the flexible nature of counterpart theory, his argument against ii) does not work. Consequently we can still derive a contradiction by assuming that there are temporal parts. Counterpart theorists who are also perdurantists need not fret too much, however. In the course of this paper I will briefly mention one other counterpart-theoretic response. If it is a workable response, then a corollary that falls out from this paper is that counterpart theorists who seek to defend the idea of temporal parts against the modal argument would do well to refocus their attention from Sider’s proposed counterpart-theoretic response to this other counterpart-theoretic response.

About the Speaker: Kenneth is currently pursuing his MA at NUS, where he is receiving some pressure not to be a physicalist under the supervision of his supervisor. In his free time, Kenneth enjoys playing all sorts of games, which might help explain his interest in Philosophy. He also enjoys writing plays, and has recently been published in Voices Clear and True (Vol. 1), a collection of new Singaporean plays.

Relativity and Experience (4.25pm – 5.30pm)

by Michael Pelczar, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, National University of Singapore

Abstract: Human experience is atomic, in the sense that it ultimately consists of experiences that do not themselves consist of further experiences. Like all conscious experiences, atomic experiences exist absolutely: if any complete and accurate description of the world describes it as including some conscious experience, then every complete and accurate description of the world describes it as including that experience. I argue that these considerations place severe constraints on how our atomic experiences can occur in relativistic spacetime. Specifically, I argue that an atomic experience can occur in relativistic spacetime only as a momentary and unextended point-event. This is bad news for physicalists, but good news for phenomenalists.

About the Speaker: Michael Pelczar is an Associate Professor who joined the Philosophy Department at NUS in 2001. He previously taught at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He received his PhD from the University of Virginia. He is originally from Chestertown, Maryland.

“Intellectual Autonomy” by Allan Hazlett (18 Apr)

Is it good to be intellectually autonomous?  If it is, in what way is it good?  In this talk I defend the value of intellectual autonomy by appeal to the value of non-testimonial knowledge.  I criticize some accounts of the value of non-testimonial belief (namely, those that reject the possibility of reliable belief, knowledge, certainty, and understanding on the basis of testimony), and defend the value of non-testimonial knowledge by appeal to the value of acquaintance (and the propositional knowledge that comes with it), individual achievement, collective risk-mitigation, and democratic legitimacy.  Non-testimonial knowledge entails acquaintance (which typically comes with a wealth of propositional knowledge), is always an individual achievement, and has social value in virtue of its connection with mitigating the collective risk of error  and with democratic legitimacy.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 18 April 2013
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Allan Hazlett, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Edinburgh
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

Allan Hazlett (PhD, Brown University, 2006) is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, having worked previously at Texas Tech and Fordham Universities.  He is the author of Luxury of the Understanding: On the Value of True Belief (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), and was the winner of the 2007 Rutgers Epistemology Conference Young Epistemologist Prize.  Since 2012 he has served as the Secretary of the Scots Philosophical Association.  He is currently working on the nature and value of the (so-called) intellectual virtues.

“Seeing, Visualizing, and Believing” by John Zeimbekis (11 Apr)

I begin with an account of how visual processes construct the nonconceptual contents caused by picture perceptions, and then ask how those contents survive into doxastic, personal-level awareness. The account suggests that subjects have a degree of personal-level control over some of the visual processes that yield visual experiences, phenomenal characters, and nonconceptual contents as outputs. The cognitive penetrability of relatively early visual processes potentially conflicts with the use of perception to justify beliefs. I argue that this form of penetrability should be admitted, but that it does not have the pernicious epistemological consequences usually expected of cognitive penetrability because picture-perceptions do not cause beliefs. The account put forward secures a key point for understanding pictures as a form of representation. It shows that the mental states caused by pictures do not form the contents of attitudes or psychological modes (eg illusion, belief or perceptual belief with those contents), but are representations toward which we can subsequently adopt a number of different attitudes depending on the use of the picture. If there is time, I shall place this conclusion in the context of my (2010) proposal that pictures are always used to perform type (as opposed to token) demonstrations.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 11 April 2013
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: John Zeimbekis, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Patras
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

John Zeimbekis is assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Patras and maître de conférences on leave from the University of Grenoble. He has held fellowships at the Institut Jean Nicod, Paris, and the University of Pennsylvania. He works on vagueness and appearance properties, pictorial representation, fiction and mind reading, aesthetic value, indexical thought, the contents of perception, and cognitive penetrability. Publications include articles in the BJA, JAAC, Noûs and Philosophical Studies, several articles and book chapters on aesthetics in French and in Greek, and a book on aesthetic judgment (Qu’est-ce qu’un jugement esthétique, Paris: Vrin, 2006). He recently completed a monograph, Pictures, Perception and Meaning, which is under review, and is co-editing (with A. Raftopoulos) a volume entitled Cognitive Penetrability. He is currently treasurer of the European Society for Aesthetics.

“Just Knowers: Towards a Virtue Epistemology in the Mahãbhãrata” by Vrinda Dalmiya (28 Mar)

Adopting the framework of Anglo Analytic Virtue Epistemology, I ask of the Sanskrit epic, the Mahābhārata, the question: What sort of character or intellectual virtues must a good knower have? Then, motivated by broadly feminist sensibilities, I raise the concern whether motivations for knowing the world can be associated with motivations to rectify injustices in that world – whether, in other words, a good knower is also a ‘just knower.’ I go on to explore the structure of humility and shame as “virtues of truth” in the epic to see whether they can establish a connection between knowing and justice.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 28 March 2013
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Vrinda Dalmiya, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Hawai’i at Manoa
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

Professor Dalmiya is a feminist epistemologist who did her doctoral studies at Brown University. She has taught at Montana State University, Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, and is currently Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Her research has expanded into the area of Ethics and she has published on a wide range of topics, ranging from truth and interpretation, Feminism and naturalized epistemology, epistemic humility, to wisdom and love, and care ethics. The Royal Institute of London recently invited her to give a lecture, “From Good Knowers to Just Knowers in the Mahābhārata: Towards a Comparative Virtue Epistemology.”