the open session
The 90th Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association will be held at the Cardiff University from 8 to 10 July 2016.
The Open Sessions take place during the Saturday and Sunday afternoons of the conference. There are a large number of places available, with no restrictions on the areas of philosophy that may be addressed. The intention is to accommodate all philosophical material that is suitable for presentation, though a more selective procedure may have to be adopted in case the number of suitable submissions exceeds the available places. There are 20 minutes available for each Open Session talk (plus an additional 10 minutes for discussion).
*For further information regarding the Open Session programme, please visit the official 2016 Joint Session website.*
the postgraduate session
The Postgraduate Session occurs on the Saturday afternoon of the conference. All submissions are blind reviewed and a maximum of eight are selected for presentation. The programme is divided into two parallel sessions ('theoretical' and 'normative') of four speakers each. Each talk lasts up to 20 minutes and is followed by an additional 10 minutes for discussion.
Exemplary papers for the Postgraduate Session will be published in next year's Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society.
Saturday, 9 July 2016 at 14.00
Chaired by Guy Longworth (Warwick)
Freedom, Self-Prediction and the Psychology of Time Travel
Alison Fernandes (Columbia)
Alison Fernandes recently received her PhD from Columbia University, where she completed a dissertation on causation and deliberation (A Deliberative Account of Causation). Here she argued that we should make sense of causation by thinking about its relevance for decision-making. In 2016−2017 she’ll be a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. She works primarily in philosophy of science and metaphysics, particularly on temporal asymmetries, causation, explanation and justification. She also has interests in practical deliberation, free will and German Idealism. Abstracts of her research are available at alisonfernandes.net. Alison comes from Australia, and completed a BA (Philosophy), BSc (Physics, Chemistry) and MPhil (Philosophy) at the University of Sydney.
Clear-thinking metaphysicians have argued that agents retain their normal freedom and abilities when they travel back in time (Lewis, Horwich, Sider). Time-travelling- Tim can shoot and kill his young grandfather, his younger self, or whomever he pleases—and so, it seems can reasonably deliberate about whether to do these things. He might not succeed—but he is still just as free as his non-time-travelling counterpart. But what agents can reasonably deliberate on is sensitive to their beliefs. According to a plausible ignorance condition, agents must be uncertain of what they will do if they are to reasonably deliberate. This creates a rational constraint on the time-traveller’s freedom. Tim can’t reasonably deliberate on killing his grandfather, certain that he’ll fail. With this constraint, time-travellers’ abilities to deliberate and decide are significantly curtailed. This constraint help makes sense of our competing intuitions about how to evaluate counterfactuals in such cases. And it shows how the evidential structure of the ordinary world sustains our freedom to deliberate.
Knowledge-How, Abilities, and Questions
Joshua Habgood-Coote (St Andrews)
Joshua Habgood-Coote is a doctoral student in the joint program at the universities of St Andrews and Stirling, affiliated with the Arché research centre. Before coming to St Andrews, he did BA at Bristol, and an MPhilStud at Birkbeck college. He works in Epistemology and Action theory, and is currently writing up his PhD thesis, which is about the epistemology of knowledge-how. This thesis starts out by developing an account of the function of the concept of knowledge-how, and then offers an account of the epistemic norms in which knowledge-how figures, and an account of group know-how.
Knowing-how seems to be a distinctively practical kind of knowledge. Yet according to the standard semantics for knowledge-how ascriptions, to know how to do something is to stand is some relation to a set of propositions about how to do it. How can these points be reconciled? Intellectualists about knowledge-how take their lead from semantic theory, suggesting that knowledge-how is a species of propositional knowledge. As a consequence they have trouble explaining the practical properties of knowledge-how, usually appealing to the somewhat obscure notion of a practical way of thinking. By contrast Anti-Intellectualists take the practical properties of knowledge-how seriously, claiming that knowledge-how is a kind of ability. Since abilities are generally relations to activities rather than propositions, they have the parallel problem in making their view compatible with linguistic theory.
In this paper, I explore a novel compromise between these two views, which I will call the Interrogative Capacity view. According to this view, knowing how to do something is a certain kind of ability to generate answers to the question of how to do it. This view combines the Intellectualist thesis that knowledge-how is a relation to a question, with the Anti-Intellectualist thesis that knowledge-how is a kind of capacity. I argue that this view is uniquely well placed to defuse tension between semantic theory and the practicality of knowledge-how, and that it elucidates the relationship between knowledge-how, propositional knowledge and the ability to do.
Frege's Unthinkable Thoughts
Lukas Skiba (Cambridge)
Lukas Skiba is a PhD student at the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Prior to his PhD studies he obtained an MPhil from the University of Cambridge and a BA from Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. His main research interests lie in the philosophy of language and metaphysics as well as in early analytic philosophy. His (recently submitted) PhD thesis examines Fregean views concerning propositional attitude ascriptions and indexicals.
In a famous passage from The Thought Frege endorses the existence of both private senses and private thoughts. There are two common reactions to this. Intersubjectivists reject both private senses and thoughts as incom- patible with Frege’s conception of senses as the vehicles of communication. Privatists accept both private senses and thoughts as the natural upshot of a Fregean account of personal pronouns. What is striking about the dispute is that both sides agree on a pair of tacit assumptions: (1) Private senses automatically give rise to private thoughts. (2) Private thoughts are the most problematic entities to which private senses give rise. The aim of this paper is to show that both assumptions are mistaken. As for (2), I argue that in so far as private senses give rise to private thoughts they also give rise to entities which Frege definitely couldn’t have accepted, namely unthinkable thoughts, i.e. thoughts which cannot be grasped by anyone. As for (1), I argue that a conception of Fregean thoughts as intrinsically unstructured entities can coherently accept private senses without having to accept private thoughts. This motivates a so far neglected, reconciliatory position between intersubjec- tivism and privatism according to which all thoughts are public while some senses are private.
Stage Theory about Objects and Predicativism about Names: A Match Made In Heaven
Matthew McKeever (St Andrews)
Matthew McKeever is a PhD student at Arché, St Andrews, although he's spent about nine months as a visiting scholar at the University of Texas in Austin, and three at CMSN in Oslo. Prior to coming to St Andrews he did an MPhil at Selwyn College, Cambridge, and prior to that, he studied at Trinity College Dublin.
He is due to submit his PhD this summer, which concerns reference. In particular, it argues against the importance of the semantic category of e-type expressions, those whose function is simply to stand for an object. It does so by presenting new accounts of expressions which might be thought to require such a category, such as names and expressions in de re attitude reports.
In this paper, I’ll argue that combining predicativism about names with stage theory about objects leads us to a neat package, which can overcome some of the problems for the two views to be found in the literature. I’ll also suggest doing so sheds light on the vexed question of whether there is an acquaintance constraint for singular thought and reference. My strategy will be to introduce the two views, present a problem for each of them, and then show how combining them can resolve these problems, before showing the interesting consequences this has for acquaintance. I’ll start with stage theory.
Chaired by Rory Madden (UCL)
Can There Be Moral Progress Without Moral Realism?
Michael Lyons (Trinity College Dublin)
Michael Lyons is a PhD Candidate in Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin. He studied philosophy at the University of Bristol, where he earned his BA, and at King’s College London, where he earned is MA. Michael has also been a visiting research student this year at the University of Edinburgh. His work is primarily in metaethics and normative ethics, and specifically in his doctoral dissertation he is trying to use Kant’s moral theory to provide a reconciliation of moral supervenience and moral realism. He is also currently organising this year’s Dublin Graduate Philosophy Conference, the theme of which is ‘Kant, Metaethics and Value’.
Moral realists have been treated as having the upper hand over moral anti-realists in explaining moral progress. In spite of this treatment, Catherine Wilson (2010) not only claims that moral anti-realists can adequately explain moral truth and moral progress, but also that their account could be preferable to those available to the moral realist. In doing so she argues that in fact it is the moral anti-realist who has the upper hand over realists here.
First of all, she defends the treatment of moral claims as theoretical conjectures, analogising between moral beliefs and scientific beliefs, in order to explain moral truth as a postulated endpoint of the theoretical development of collective morals. Wilson then in turn explains moral progress in terms of the generating and dissipating of collective narratives that can ratify a change in collective moral beliefs as being a progression or deterioration. So moral truths are simply moral claims that will survive scrutiny.
Wilson then argues that the anti-realist realist account is preferable because it avoids commitment to the following: that moral truths are independent of perspectives, that there are some that cannot be known, and that in every moral dispute, someone must hold a false moral belief. In this paper, I will: 1) argue that Wilson’s account of moral progress can be accommodated within a moral realist framework, 2) defend the realist account against her claim that anti-realism is preferable, and 3) subsequently point out inherent issues within her own account.
Re-Examining Resistances to Reconceptualising Disability
Chong-Ming Lim is an MPhil student at University College London, and a Teaching Assistant at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His primary research interests centre on topics in political philosophy and ethics. He is currently exploring the challenges posed by (competing) conceptions of disability, to our understanding of equality and (distributive) justice. This is part of a broader project of articulating the status and salience of considerations which are “outweighed” in the political domain.
Central to the reconceptualisation of disability is the idea that disability is not intrinsically bad; rather, it is merely part of the spectrum of natural human diversity or variation. However, not only do philosophers regard the reconceptualisation as implausible, it has also not gained much traction beyond the small circles of disability rights activists and theorists. This paper re-examines two resistances to reconceptualising disabilities, in the form of two purported convictions concerning disability. I argue that these convictions depend, in part, on our considerations about the costs and extent of change required to accommodate citizens with a particular disability trait. Political considerations and arguments enter. There are two main payoffs of clarifying the bases of these convictions. First, it identifies the limitations to both the project of reconceptualisation, and its rejection. Second, it reveals as overly-quick the dismissals of those in favour of reconceptualisation by those against it, and vice versa. I then suggest how worries about the analysis may be assuaged.
Is Marriage Compatible with Political Liberalism?
Alisoon Toop (Leeds)
Alison Toop completed her BA (Hons) in Philosophy at the University of Leeds and her MA in Political Philosophy: The Idea of Toleration from the University of York. She is currently a second year PhD student at the University of Leeds supervised by Gerald Lang (primary), Matthew Smith, and Pekka Väyrynen. Her thesis title is ‘Marriage and the Political Liberal State: An investigation into the nature of the marital relationship and the legitimacy of a political institution of marriage’. Her research interests include political philosophy, the philosophy of love and personal relationships, as well as applied and normative ethics. Alongside her research she is the Assistant Project Manager for the Diversity Reading List project, and is actively involved in the University of Leeds MAP (Minorities and Philosophy) chapter which she co-founded in October 2014. Her University of Leeds webpage can be viewed here.
This paper examines four arguments that claim marriage, as a political institution, is incompatible with political liberalism. These arguments are drawn from Elizabeth Brake (2012), Clare Chambers (2013) and Tamara Metz (2010). My responses suggest that none conclusively shows the political institution of marriage to be incompatible with political liberalism. Argument 1 claims that the political institution of marriage violates the principles of neutrality and public reason. I question whether a violation really occurs. Argument 2 alleges that marriage involves the state in unjustified discrimination. I consider whether there are grounds for the differential treatment. Argument 3 argues that marriage is ineffective for its maintained purpose of protecting caregiving relationships. My reply suggests marriage could be particularly good at this task. Argument 4 is concerned that marriage involves regulating belief (not solely action). My response considers whether such a distinction can be made, and suggests that the intention of the state is paramount. Whilst unsuccessful, these arguments do highlight necessary features of a political liberal defence of marriage, which I draw out in the conclusion.
Explaining Moral Testimony: A Different Appeal to Understanding
Laura Frances Callahan (Rutgers)
Laura Callahan is a PhD student at Rutgers University, with primary interests in epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of religion. Her current project on moral testimony pulls together several themes of particular interest: e.g., the interaction or relationship between moral and epistemic normativity, and the epistemology of testimony. She has also recently published on the problem of evil and on seeing faith or trust as an intellectual virtue. She completed the BPhil degree at Oxford University in 2015 and earned her BA in philosophy and mathematics at Indiana University.
Why is there a felt asymmetry between cases in which agents defer to testifiers for certain moral beliefs, and cases in which agents defer on other matters? Here, I attempt to motivate an answer that appeals to the distinctive importance of affectively, motivationally involved understanding in the moral domain. When it comes to certain moral matters, we want to grasp them, in a way that involves our affections as well as our cognitive capacities to perceive reasons and draw connections. But achieving such a grasp is somewhat in tension with deferring to testimony – hence the felt ‘fishiness’ of many cases of moral testimony. This explanation incorporates and builds on going explanations appealing to the importance of understanding in a thinner sense of the word.
8 - 10 July 2016
School of English, Communication and Philosophy
John Percival Building
Cardiff CF10 3EU
future joint sessions
2017 joint session:
7 - 9 july 2017
2018 joint session:
2019 joint session:
Visit our Future Joint Sessions page for further information.
The inaugural address and symposia for the Joint Session are published in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume, which is published digitally and in hardcover every June. The Supplementary Volume is sent to subscribing members of the Society in categories 4 and 5.
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2015 joint session:
10 - 12 july 2015
2014 joint session:
11 - 13 july 2014
2013 joint session:
12 - 14 july 2013
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