Hume Workshop (Apr 30)

Hume Workshop Poster

“Bradley, Hume, and Identity-in-Difference” by Donald L. M. Baxter (2.00-3.15pm)

In Appearance and Reality Bradley refers to what he calls “the old dilemma”: that attributions of identity are either so tautologous as to fail to be judgments, or are contradictions. Bradley’s approach is to appeal to identity-in-difference. “It takes two to make the same.” We nowadays will hear such claims in a Fregean way and will hear Bradley as failing to distinguish the truth of an identity statement from its informativeness. I suggest rather that we hear Bradley’s claim in a Humean way. Hume gave a compelling argument for identity-in-difference, though not in those terms. He raises a problem that cannot be understood nor addressed in the Fregean way, that is very like Bradley’s old dilemma. I’ve called it “Hume’s Difficulty concerning Identity.” How can we conceive there to be a single thing, on the one hand, and several distinct things, on the other, that are somehow identical? In a previous discussion of Bradley, I’ve called this same problem the “Problem of Complex-Unities.” Both Bradley and Hume thought a solution that did not conceal some contradiction was impossible. I myself think that Hume’s presentation of the problem suggests a genuine solution along the lines of my theories of Many-One Identity and of Aspects. For now, though, I just want us to hear Bradley’s old dilemma in a Humean way.

“Why Distinctions of Reason are a Real Problem for Hume’s Separability Principle” by Hsueh Ming Qu (3.30-4.45pm)

Commentators such as Kemp Smith (1941, p.256), Mendelbaum (1974, p.246), and Bricke (1980, p.71) have taken the distinctions of reason to pose either a counterexample to or a limitation of scope on the Separability Principle, a suggestion that 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. In the end, 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.

“The Concealed Operations of Custom: Hume’s Treatise From The Inside Out” by Jay Garfield (5.00-5.45pm)

I am about to start work on a book of this title. I want to share with you the guiding principles that motivate my reading of Hume in that book and the way they will inform my interpretation of Hume’s project. This is not even work-in-progress; it is work-in-imagination.  So, I am looking for advice.

About the Speakers:

BaxterDonald L. M. Baxter
is Professor and Department Head in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1984. He works in Metaphysics and Early Modern Western Philosophy. His monograph is Hume’s Difficulty: Time and Identity in the Treatise (Routledge 2008). He recently co-edited with Aaron J. Cotnoir an anthology on the metaphysics of parts and wholes entitled Composition as Identity (Oxford University Press 2014).

Hsueh QuHsueh 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.

Jay GarfieldJay L Garfield is Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Professor of Humanities and Head of Studies in Philosophy at Yale-NUS College, Professor of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore, Recurrent Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Smith College, Professor of Philosophy at Melbourne University and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the Central University of Tibetan Studies.  He earned his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. Garfield’s most recent books are Engaging Buddhism: Why It Matters to Philosophy (2015), Madhyamaka and Yogācāra: Allies or Rivals (with Jan Westerhoff 2015), The Moon Points Back: Buddhism, Logic and Analytic Philosophy (with Yasuo Deguchi, Graham Priest and Koji Tanaka 2015), Moonpaths: Ethics in the Context of Conventional Truth (with the Cowherds 2015) and Western Idealism and its Critics  (2011). His book Examination of the Percept: Dignāga’s Alaṃbanāparikṣā and its Commentaries (with Douglas Duckworth M David Eckel, Yeshes Thabkhas and Sonam Thakchöe) is under review and his book with Nalini Bhushan on Minds Without Fear: Philosophy in the Indian Renaissance is under contract. His next big project is a book on Hume’s Treatise to be called The Concealed Operations of Custom: Hume’s Treatise From The Inside Out.



Workshop on Formal Epistemology (Nov 17-18)


Monday (17 Nov, 14)

1000-1030: Morning tea

1030-1200: Brian Kim (Bowdoin College), A Decision-Theoretic Epistemology: Pragmatic Encroachment and Gettier Cases

1200-1330: Lunch

1330-1500: Pavel Janda (University of Bristol), Accuracy—Difficulty of a Single-Number Credence Representation in Belnap’s Four-Valued Logic

1500-1530: Afternoon tea

1530-1700: Hanti Lin (Australian National University/ UC Davis), Conditionals and Actions: A Pragmatic Argument for Adams’ Logic of Conditionals

Tuesday (18 Nov, 14)

1000-1030: Morning tea

1030-1200: Lina Jansson (Nanyang Technological University), Everettian Quantum Mechanics and Probability: From Decisions to Chances?

1200-1330: Lunch

1330-1500: Weng Hong Tang (National University of Singapore), Reliabilism and Imprecise Credences

1500-1530: Afternoon tea

“Finality Revived: Powers and Intentionality” by David Oderberg (Sep 16)

Proponents of physical intentionality argue that the classic hallmarks of intentionality highlighted by Brentano are also found in purely physical powers. Critics worry that this idea is metaphysically obscure at best, and at worst leads to panpsychism or animism. I examine the debate in detail, finding both confusion and illumination in the physical intentionalist thesis. Analysing a number of the canonical features of intentionality, I show that they all point to one overarching phenomenon of which both the mental and the physical are kinds, namely finality. This is the finality of ‘final causes’, the long-discarded idea of universal action for an end to which recent proponents of physical intentionality are in fact pointing whether or not they realise it. I explain finality in terms of the concept of specific indifference, arguing that in the case of the mental, specific indifference is realised by the process of abstraction, which has no correlate in the case of physical powers. This analysis, I conclude, reveals both the strengths and weaknesses of rational creatures such as us, as well as only partly demystifying the way in which powers work.

Philosophy Department Seminar
Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014
Time: 3.30pm – 5.30pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: David Oderberg, University of Reading
Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

About the Speaker:

davidoderbergDavid S. Oderberg is Professor of Philosophy, University of Reading. His chief interest is metaphysics, but he also has a major interest in moral philosophy and has published in a number of areas, including philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, and philosophical logic. His most recent book is Real Essentialism (Routledge, 2007, reprinted 2009). He is currently writing a book on the metaphysics of good and evil.

“Medicalization, ‘Normal Function’, and the Definition of Health” by Rebecca Kukla (Sep 9)

The concept of health is surprisingly difficult to define in a rigorous and satisfying way. I argue that biologically based ‘normal function’ accounts and thoroughgoing social constructionist accounts of health are both deeply unsatisfying, particularly if we want the concept of health to play a substantial role in policy and social justice projects. I propose what I call an ‘institutional’ definition of health, and argue that it retains the objectivity that is appealing in biological accounts, along with the social constructionists’ important insight that health and disease are partially constituted by social context and by contingent, historical processes of medicalization.

Philosophy Department Seminar
Date: Tuesday, 9 Sep 2014
Time: 3.30pm – 5.30pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Rebecca Kukla, Georgetown University
Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

About the Speaker:

20110112 Rebecca Kukla_0002Rebecca Kukla is Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown University.  Her research interests include social epistemology (including the epistemology and methodology of medical research), philosophy of language, feminist philosophy, metaethics, reproductive ethics and the culture of pregnancy and motherhood, and research ethics. Much of her research bridges ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of language. She also has serious interests in eighteenth century philosophy, especially the work of Rousseau and Kant. She received her B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1990 and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh in 1996.  Her publications include R.Kukla and M. Lance, ‘Yo!’ and ‘Lo!’:  The Pragmatic Topography of the Space of Reasons (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press 2009)

“How Predictive Brains Might Distinguish Between Appearance and Reality” by Malcolm Forster (Aug 14)

In philosophy, the problem of appearance and reality is the problem of saying why the appearance of an object to us gives us information about the way the object really is, even though the same object appears different to different people at different times.  A parallel can be drawn between that problem and a hotly debated topic in neuroscience, about which features of neural activities inside the brain (the “appearances”) carry information about the external world (the “reality”).  The problem of explicating a semantic notion of “carrying information” has also been tackled by philosophers in the past (Fred Dretske, Denny Stampe, Jerry Fodor, and more recently, Brian Skyrms, 2010, Signals).  This talk will argue that the general approach to this problem taken by neuroscientists and these philosophers is fundamentally wrong.  The argument is premised on recent work on causality known as Bayesian causal networks (e.g., Judea Pearl, 2000, 2009).  Once neural networks are re-described as Bayes nets, there is a sharp distinction between internal probabilistic dependencies that can be explained by internal causal connections and those that cannot.  Only those that cannot be explained internally carry information about the external world. The talk will end with a discussion about how this version of naturalistic semantics, Wisconsin style, bears on the philosophical problem of appearance and reality.

Philosophy Department Seminar
Date: Thursday, 14 Aug 2014
Time: 3.30pm – 5.30pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Malcolm Forster, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

About the Speaker:

forsterProfessor Malcolm R. Forster is Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin at Madison. His research has focused on issues in the methodology of science, particularly the role of simplicity and unification in confirmation and in statistics, as well as William Whewell’s methodology of science applied to planetary astronomy (the latest publication being M. Forster (2011) “The Debate between Whewell and Mill on the Nature of Scientific Induction”, in Stephan Hartmann (ed.), The Handbook of the History of Logic, Volume 10: Inductive Logic (Elsevier Science, pp. 91-113.). In 2010, he also applied Whewell’s consilience of inductions to quantum physics (“The Miraculous Consilience of Quantum Mechanics”, in Ellery Eells and James Fetzer (eds.), 2010, Probability and Science), and he is now expanding and developing an earlier project applying the method of Bayes Causal Nets to understanding various results in the foundations of quantum mechanics.

The Daoist Yin-Yang Cosmology and Deleuze’s Ecological Ethics (3 Apr)

This lecture proposes to delve into the Daoist yin-yang cosmology by referring to the etymological make-up of a number of compound-nouns, i.e. 经验 (experience), 关系 (relation) and 体会 (bodily-recognition), etc. in the Chinese language. Through an analysis of these pairings which emulate certain foldings or overlapping of 虚 (empty) / 实 (solid), and finally summated into the Deleuzian transcendent/ empiricism, this lecture aims at a bringing together the concept of yin-yang and Deleuze’s philosophy of becomings within the context of human/ nature relation. Meanwhile, the lecture will follow Deleuze’s dic-tum to “connect, conjugate and differentiate” in detailing how a new materialism under the banner of posthumanism can be used to orchestrate a harmonic duet with Daoism, particularly in terms of how eco-logical aesthetics moves into ecoethics.

Chair : A/P Yung Sai-Shing (Department of Chinese Studies)
Date : Thursday, 3 April, 2014
Time : 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Venue : AS7/03-30 (Chinese Studies Meeting Room)

About the Speaker:

Prof. Wong Kin Yuen is the Head and Professor of English Department at Hong Kong Shue Yan Universi-ty. He is also the Director of the Technoscience Culture Research and Development Centre at SYU. Be-fore coming back to Hong Kong, Prof. Wong taught in Comparative Literature Department at University of California, San Diego and Foreign Language and Literature Department at National University of Taiwan. Prof. Wong taught in the English Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong for 20 years and later founded the Modern Languages and Cultural Studies Department. He has also taught literature, East-West comparative poetics, cultural studies, science fiction, ecological ethics, technoscience culture, film studies and visual arts at various Hong Kong universities. Topics of his published works include Posthu-man culture, cyberculture, aesthetics, hermenuetics, film theory as well as Deleuze studies.

Applied Philosophy Workshop (Feb 19)

Wednesday, 19 February 2014
AS3 05-23 (Philosophy Resource Room), Dept of Philosophy
National University of Singapore



14:00 – Welcome / Tea and Coffee

14:15-14:45 – Dr. Satoshi KODAMA (Kyoto University): “Tsunami-tendenko and Morality in Disasters”

14:45-15:15 – Prof. Nobutsugu KANZAKI (Shiga University): “Research(er) Ethics for Conservation”

15:15-15:45 – Prof. Yasuo DEGUCHI (Kyoto University): “Evidence in Clinical Trial?”

15:45-16:00 – Break / Tea and Coffee

16:00-16:30 – Prof. Masahiko MIZUTANI (Kyoto University): “Information-sharing technology: EBM and its problems”

16:30-17:00 – A/P Axel GELFERT (National University of Singapore): “Gossip, the Public/Private Distinction, and the Principle of Disattendability”

17:00-17:30 – Minao KUKITA (Kobe University): “A Teleosemantic Approach to the Symbol Grounding Problem”



1) Tsunami-tendenko and Morality in Disasters    Prof. Satoshi KODAMA (Kyoto University)

Disaster planning challenges our morality. Everyday rules of action may need to be suspended during large-scale disasters in favor of maxims that that may make prudential or practical sense and may even be morally preferable but emotionally hard to accept, such as tsunami-tendenko. This maxim dictates that the individual not stay and help others but run and preserve his or her life instead. Tsunami-tendenko became well known after the great East Japan earthquake on 11 March 2011, when almost all the elementary and junior high school students in one city survived the tsunami because they acted on this maxim that had been taught for several years. While tsunami-tendenko has been praised, two criticisms of it merit careful consideration: one, that the maxim is selfish and immoral; and two, that it goes against the natural tendency to try to save others in dire need. In this paper, I will explain the concept of tsunami-tendenko and then respond to these criticisms. Such ethical analysis is essential for dispelling confusion and doubts about evacuation policies in a disaster.

2) Research(er) Ethics for Conservation    Prof. Nobutsugu KANZAKI (Shiga University)

Conservation is a value-laden research/practice.  This means researchers in the area are stakeholders who have their own interests and are not impartial.  And their research/practice can go against the interests of some groups of local stakeholders. In this talk, I will examine ethical issues in conservation research/practice.

3) Evidence in Clinical Trial? Prof. Yasuo Deguchi (Kyoto University)

EBM is becoming the world standard for clinical practices. It incorporates a hierarchal criteria of strength or quality of evidence, or levels of evidence.  This talk examines the idea of evidence that underlies the levels of evidence, points out that it is too narrow to be adopted in the clinical context, and proposes a more pluralistic approach to evidence that are obtained from various sorts of clinical trials

4) Information sharing technology: EBM and its problems? Prof. Masahiko MIZUTANI (Kyoto University)

EBM is a movement which has recently begun to receive attention in the field of medicine. Despite the possibilities and advantages EBM has, it has been pointed out that EBM has several problems. Supporters of EBM claimed that these problems sound plausible only when we completely misunderstand EBM. However, they will have to face with and resolve another remaining problems before they can carry out the idea of improving the degree of scientific evidence in medicine by Information sharing technology.

5) Gossip, the Public/Private Distinction, and the Principle of Disattendability    Dr. Axel Gelfert (NUS)

What liittle philosophical discussion there has been about so-called ‘pathologies of testimony’ has traditionally focussed on the moral issues associated with them. This applies especially to the case of gossip, which typically concerns the – often (though not always) private – conduct of individuals and their morally significant doings. Yet, apart from such moral considerations concerning duties on the part of the hearer, there are also relevant epistemic differences between the various kinds of testimonial pathologies. The issue of privacy enters at different levels, for example at the level of the intended audience (which, in the case of gossip, may be defined negatively: as necessarily excluding the party who is being gossiped about); at the level of content (for example when certain – morally neutral – behaviours of public figures are deemed to be private affairs, as opposed to matters of public interest); and at the level of justification (for example when information lacks official – public – credentials). Once moral considerations are temporarily bracketed, it is much less clear why, say, gossip should primarily be thought of as a violation of (someone’s right to) privacy, when in fact it can be argued that engaging in gossip may be fruitfully considered a form of inquiry (Ayim 1994). For an epistemic discussion of testimonial pathologies such as gossip to be possible without sliding into ‘moralising’ discourse, an epistemically motivated and principled public/private distinction is necessary. One candidate for such a (morally neutral) demarcation criterion is the ‘principle of disattendability’ (Geuss 2003), according to which public (as opposed to private) contexts allow individuals to disattend to each other’s actions and behaviours. Disattendability, thus, is a cognitive, not an ethical notion. The present paper develops this theoretical suggestion in an attempt to arrive at an epistemically motivated assessment of the place of gossip among the taxonomy of testimonial pathologies.

6) A Teleosemantic Approach to the Symbol Grounding Problem   Dr. Minao KUKITA (Kobe University)

In 1990, Harnad, in response to Searle’s Chinese room argument, tackled the problem of how an artificial system associate the symbols they manipulate to the things in the real world and proposed a guideline for it. He called it “the symbol grounding problem” and since then, many AI researchers and roboticists have been attempting various approaches to it. In evaluating these approaches, researchers must assume some kind of theory of meaning in advance, but it is often unclear what kind of theory of meaning they are adopting. In this talk, we explore the possibility of applying teleosemantics as proposed by Millikan to the evaluation of the language game model by Vogt and others. By associating teleosemantics and the language game model, we show how good the model is from the teleosemantic point of view, and at the same time argue for teleosemantics as a theory of meaning due to its applicability to the language game model.

Aesthetics Workshop (28 Jan)

Robert Stecker, “Film Narration, Imagined Seeing, and Seeing-In” (1pm – 2pm)

This talk initially addresses the debate about whether we imagine seeing characters and their actions in films. There are several different imagined seeing theses that have been advanced. What I shall call the general thesis is simply that we imagine, in some manner or other, seeing characters in films. I bypass the standard objections that have already advanced against this thesis, to argue that the concept of seeing-in can be used to develop an alternative account of our experience of fictional films that has all of the advantages of the general imagined seeing thesis, but none of the purported problems.
I then turn to another, more controversial imagined seeing thesis which asserts that in engaging with mainstream narrative films, we do not imagine seeing characters directly, but through a motion-picture-like medium. Call this the mediated version. This version is important because it is a crucial step in arguing that mainstream films typically have narrators. I offer three objections to this thesis and show that an argument for the thesis offered by George Wilson can be undercut if we adopt the seeing-in account.
Finally, I ask about the actual contribution of the imagination in the reception of narrative films. It is plausible that our emotional involvement with a film-fiction requires at least propositional imagining The seeing-in view is compatible with the idea that there are many aspect of a fiction that we propositionally imagine. I distinguish three kinds or degrees of imaginative involvement in a fiction world, and, based on this distinction, try to resolve a debate about the nature of emotional responses to fiction.

Ben Blumson, “Simile and Metaphor” (2pm – 3pm)

Not every metaphor can be literally paraphrased by a corresponding simile – the metaphorical meaning of ‘Juliet is the sun’, for example, is not the literal meaning of ‘Juliet is like the sun’. But every metaphor can be literally paraphrased, since if ‘metaphorically’ is prefixed to a metaphor, the result says literally what the metaphor says figuratively – the metaphorical meaning of ‘Juliet is the sun’, for example, is the literal meaning of ‘metaphorically, Juliet is the sun’.

John Holbo, “Pictoriality as Pandemonium” (3pm – 4pm)

In “Pictorial Diversity”, John Kulvicki argues that the lack of a certain sort of interpretive diversity, in practice, needs explanation, and some theories are better situated, others worse, to provide it. This paper argues that the shoe is on the other foot. The diversity Kulvicki finds peculiarly absent is exceedingly common. We habitually apply competing schemes, of the sort he says we do not, without noticing we are doing so, or how. A puzzle: why can’t we say what shape Charlie Brown’s head is? How long is the long-necked Madonna’s neck? And a hypothesis: recognitional pandemonium? Even if the hypothesis is too speculative, the diversity it seeks to explain is real.

Date: Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)

“Envy, Competition, Markets and Morals” by Arindam Chakrabati (22 Mar)

Inequality generates envy. Even a perfectly happy contented person or community can suddenly be made to feel poorer and unhappier in comparison if they are bombarded with vivid information of the over-achievement, opulence and overconsumption by a neighbor or a neighboring community. Envy is not only a form of suffering, it is a poisonous sentiment which, Adam Smith claims, human beings are naturally ashamed of. It makes them feel doubly small, first because they are objectively less successful and secondly because they are unable to celebrate others’ flourishing. Yet inequality and envy, its emotional counterpart, however morally jarring, appear to be the motivating factors of competition, economic, cultural or intellectual. How can competitiveness, which goads economic growth in a free market, lack of which was supposed to be the bane of socialist regimes, be rooted in such a morally deplorable sentiment as envy? Or is some form of emulative envy a virtue?

In this paper, the complex and obscure relationship between different varieties of envy and their distinction from jealousy and schadenfreude will be discussed. The moral psychology of envy will then be explored, primarily on the basis of the paradoxical relationships between equality, inequality and individual or communal competition.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Friday, 22 March 2013
Time: 2.30pm – 4.30pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Arindam Chakrabarti, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

About the Speaker:

Professor Arindam Chakrabarti, having done his M.A. in Philosophy and Mathematical Logic, from Presidency College Kolkata University, earned his D.Phil from Oxford University in 1982, working under Peter Strawson and Michael Dummett. He taught at Calcutta University and at University College London, Seattle and Delhi University, and for the last 15 years, at the University of Hawaii Manoa. After being trained as an analytic philosopher of language at Oxford, Professor Chakrabarti has spent several years receiving traditional training in Indian logic (Navya Nyaya). Prof Chakrabarti has edited or authored six books, in English, Sanskrit, and Bengali, including Denying Existence, Knowing from Words (with B.K. Matilal)Universals, Concepts and Qualities (with Peter Strawson) and has published more than eighty papers and reviews. He is currently working on a book on moral psychology of the emotions and another monograph on the Isha Upanishad.