the open session
The 91st Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the Mind Association will be held at the University of Edinburgh from 14 to 16 July 2017.
The Open Sessions take place during the Saturday and Sunday afternoons of the conference. There are a large number of places available, allowing room for an extensive and diverse programme of talks. There are no restrictions on the areas of philosophy which papers may address. The intention is to accommodate all philosophical material (so far as time and space in the programme allow) that is suitable for presentation. Each Open Session talk lasts up to 20 minutes and is followed by an additional 10 minutes for discussion.
*For further information regarding the Open Session programme, please visit the official 2017 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.
A Priori Concepts in Euclidean Proof
Peter Epstein (Berkeley)
For over two millennia, Euclid’s Elements was taken to be a paradigm of a priori reasoning. With the discovery that there are consistent non- Euclidean geometries, and the eventual realization that our own universe is not a perfectly Euclidean space, the a priori status of our geometrical knowledge was radically undermined. In the wake of this upheaval, philosophers have adopted two central revisionary interpretations of Euclidean proof. Some, following Hilbert, have suggested that we understand Euclidean proof as a purely formal system of deductive logic – one not concerned with specifically geometrical content at all. More recently, others have suggested that Euclidean proof—the cognitive practice both of contemporary high school students and of Euclid himself – employs concepts derived, in some fashion, from our sensory experience or imagination. In this paper, I argue that both interpretations fail to capture the true nature of our geometrical reasoning. Euclidean proof is not a purely formal system of deductive logic, but one in which our grasp of the content of geometrical concepts plays a central role; moreover, our grasp of this content is a priori, rather than being derived from experience.
Peter Epstein is a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. Beginning in October 2017, he will be a Junior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge. His central research interests are in the philosophy of mind, epistemology, and the philosophy of science. His dissertation, titled "Sensible Concepts: Experience and the A Priori," offers an account of spatial perception that situates experience of spatial properties within a broader context of other, non-sensory forms of spatial cognition. Currently, he is a Co-Principal Investigator on a year-long research project titled "Grounding Sensible Qualities," funded by the New Directions in the Study of the Mind Project at the University of Cambridge.
Higher-Order Ignorance inside the Margins
Samuel Carter (Rutgers)
Call the principle that an agent’s knowledge iterates (KK):
(KK) (S knows that p)⊃(S knows that (S knows that p)).
(KK) has been argued to be untenable for a number of reasons. Some objections to (KK) may be avoided by moving to a weaker formulation of the principle, such as (KK^):
(KK^) (S knows that p)⊃(S is in a position to know that (S knows that p)).
However, other forms of objection have been claimed, if successful, to motivate the rejection of any plausible version of the principle. Williamson’s (2000) Margins-for-Error (MfE) argument constitutes an objection of the latter kind.
§1. introduces Williamson’s MfE-argument and shows how it can be generalised. §2. presents an alternative model of knowledge, on which it is constitutively dependent upon facts about normal conditions. Greco (2014) has argued that this model of knowledge is compatible with (KK), contra the MfE-argument. §3. demonstrates that Greco’s argument depends upon an implausible assumption concerning the logical principles governing normality. Finally, §4. shows that once this assumption is dropped, a weakening of the normality model of knowledge is, in fact, sufficient to derive failures of (KK) and (KK^) without appeal to margins-for-error.
Samuel Carter is a PhD student at Rutgers, working primarily in philosophy of language and formal semantics. Before coming to Rutgers he received an undergraduate degree from the University of Edinburgh and a BPhil from the University of Oxford. Much of his research involves modals and anaphora, and looks at the interaction between different ways of dynamically updating information states. He has also recently been working on loose talk, focusing on a number of associated phenomena as a way, more generally, of investigating questions about the interface between semantics and pragmatics.
Property Dualism and the Cheshire Cat
Ralph Weir (Cambridge)
I argue that property dualism contradicts a principle upon which standard arguments for it rely: that absence of a priori entailment means absence of metaphysical necessitation. This conclusion presents property dualists with a choice. They can concede that the kind of a priori reasoning upon which they have relied is invalid. Alternatively, they can accept some kind of substance dualism. I indicate how this conclusion may be of importance not only for metaphysics but also for developmental psychology.
Ralph Weir is a second-year doctoral student at the University of Cambridge where he is supervised by Tim Crane. His research is on the metaphysics of the self, and especially nonphysicalist theories of the self. He is a supervisor on the MA in philosophy at the University of Buckingham and lectures in aesthetics at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford. His main interests include metaphysics, philosophy of mind and action, aesthetics and ancient philosophy. He is also interested in the epistemology of value, and in the relationship between philosophy and the wider humanities. In 2013 he co-founded the Humane Philosophy Project, an initiative based at the Universities of Oxford and Warsaw which provides a platform for philosophy approached from a humanistic perspective.
Aristotle's nous: a purely potential actuality
Hannah Laurens (St Andrews)
Noûs (the intellect) is, paradoxically, a purely potential actuality. Although noûs is an actual disposition that characterizes the soul, noûs has no form itself, solely being a capacity to take on forms of other things. Aristotle’s reason for conceiving noûs as pure capacity is noûs being unrestricted: because noûs can take on all forms, noûs can have no form of its own. But why does noûs’ unrestrictedness necessitate noûs’ pure potentiality? Commentators have traditionally offered two answers: the blind spot thesis, as proposed by Hamlyn (1968), and the pervasion thesis, as defended by Hicks (1907).
In this paper, I contend that both theses fail to explain Aristotle’s reasoning adequately. If noûs were to have its own form, noûs would not necessarily be impeded by a blind spot; neither would noûs’ form pervade all other forms. Instead, Aristotle’s argument is that if noûs were to have an actual form, thinking would not even get off the ground. The answer to why thinking would be blocked can be found in Aristotle’s technical machinery operative in any instance of natural change: actuality and potentiality. I first analyse how actuality and potentiality operate in the case of perception (and develop a distinctive account of the ‘mean’ as a blend of sensible forms); and then extend the operation of actuality and potentiality to the case of the intellect. Because there is no actual form that has the potentiality to become every other form, noûs must, paradoxically, be a purely potential actuality.
Hannah Laurens is a PhD Candidate at the University of St Andrews supervised by Sarah Broadie and Barbara Sattler. She completed the BPhil at Oxford, an MA in Political, Legal and Economic Philosophy in Bern, and received a BA from Birkbeck College, where she was awarded the Cyril Joad Prize for top results in finals.
Hannah’s PhD research focuses on Aristotle’s conception of nous, the intellect. Her other research concerns Spinoza’s notion of Scientia Intuitiva and the role of attention in action. Previous presentations include talks at Princeton University, Boğaziçi University, University of Groningen (Collegium Spinozanum), and the Univeristy of St Andrews (Scottish Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy). In addition to her academic pursuits, Hannah performs regularly as a professional violinist, playing a Montagnana/Cerutti violin, Cremona, dated 1740/1880.
Anscombe's response to Thompson on Intentional Action
Nathan Hauthaler (Stanford)
Thompson’s recent Naïve Action Theory constitutes the seminal recent account of intentional action and its rationalization in the Anscombean tradition. In this paper I show that Thompson’s own account of intentional action turns out to be incompatible with Anscombe’s, at least with regard to intentional actions done “for no particular reason”, a type of case both Anscombe and Thompson recognize as a type of intentional action proper. I consider a possible response on Thompson’s behalf and show how recourse to it would invite a prominent (though otherwise inapposite) line of criticism of his account. I suggest that the problem Thompson faces with with fully accommodating Anscombe’s account of intentional action reflects a more general one in the philosophy of action: that of fully reckoning with and accounting for phenomena of intentional action done for no particular reason.
Nathan Hauthaler is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Stanford University. His research is focused on issues in action, in particular the ontology of action, the nature of intentional action and of practical knowledge and practical capacity proprietary to it. Prior to Stanford he studied Philosophy (MPhilStud) in London, having before studied Philosophy as well as Public International Law (Magister philosophiae; Magister iuris) in Austria and the Netherlands, and worked in international human rights and humanitarian law as well as intersectional discrimination.
The Motivational Account of Pleasure and Pain
Elizabeth Ventham (Southampton)
This paper argues in favour of the motivational account of pleasure and pain. That is, the following:
A subject is having a pleasant experience at any given time T if, and only if, at T they intrinsically desire for that experience to continue. The converse applies for unpleasant experiences.
My argument will consist of responding to prominent contemporary counter-examples by Ben Bramble, which he terms ‘Reflective Blindness’ objections. These are examples in which a subject is supposedly unaware of the unpleasant or pleasant experience that they are in, such as an example of slowly aging and being depressed. I’ll show that these counter-examples do not stand up to scrutiny. The subjects are either still experiencing the displeasure without categorising them as a certain thing (such as depression) or they are not cases of displeasure at all.
Elizabeth Ventham is a PhD student at The University of Southampton where she is supervised by Alex Gregory and Fiona Woollard, and is writing her thesis on the relationship between desires, reasons and moral obligations. She defends an internalist account of reasons, a subjective account of value and a consequentialist approach to ethics. Other research interests include accounts of pleasure and pain – particularly Heathwood’s motivational theory, in which a subject’s experience is a pleasant one if the subject desires for that experience to continue. She’s currently also writing a paper on obligations and the problem of supererogation. In 2016 she founded a Minorities and Philosophy chapter at her university, and she hopes to help encourage a wide range of underrepresented groups to pursue philosophy at all levels.
How might compensation form a part of the negative duty not to harm, in the case of global poverty?
Leonie Smith (Manchester)
Most accept that individuals have a thin pro-tanto negative duty not to harm others. But this intuitive demand does not translate well to the case of global poverty. If members of wealthier nations are individually implicated in the poverty inducing actions of global institutions our duty not to harm others, “turns out to be difficult and to require our undivided attention” (Lichtenberg, 2010, p558). And in terms of actually addressing the impact of global institutions on the global poor, arguably the most helpful and straightforward thing an individual could do, would be to just provide financial compensation. But responsibilities for providing such aid appear to only arise from a thicker positive duty of beneficence. Contra this, I argue that individually providing compensation can in fact be a way of fulfilling our negative duty not to harm others. This leaves room for both a psychologically comprehensible, and realistically plausible, method of individually avoiding harming the global poor.
Leonie Smith is a doctoral candidate in Philosophy at the University of Manchester, with primary interests in social epistemology, metaphysics, and material injustice. Her PhD project brings together these themes, examining the connections between material exclusion, personhood status, social knowledge, and epistemic harm. She has also published on the problem of the reliable liar for sensitivity-based accounts of testimonial knowledge, and is developing work on corporate personhood, and on the nature of harm in the case of global poverty. Prior to her PhD she earned her BA in PPE at the University of Oxford, and completed the MLitt in Philosophy at the University of St Andrews.
This year Leonie will be speaking in Stockholm, Vienna, St Andrews, Copenhagen, Edinburgh and Munich, and co-convening the MANCEPT 2017 workshop: ‘Collective Agents and Global Structural Injustice’. Outside of her research she volunteers as a MAP (Minorities and Philosophy) UK mentor and works with talented year 12 students from backgrounds currently under-represented in higher education, as a Manchester Access Programme tutor.
The Interest Theory of Rights and Harmless Wrongdoing: What Else is of Interest?
Joseph Bowen (St Andrews)
According to the Interest Theory of Rights, it is necessary for right-ascriptions that the putative right protect its holder’s interests. This paper examines a range of cases in which we might want to attribute rights (and right-violations) and yet it appears as though the right-holder is not harmed by the violation of that right. These cases are known as “harmless wrongdoings”. One might think that, because the agent is not harmed in such cases, an interest is not protected by the right under question. This means that the necessary condition for the ascription of a right is not satisfied. Particularly, we will be concerned with cases of overdetermination, harmless discrimination, and pure risk imposition. This paper puts forward a novel solution to this problem: the Safety Condition. For an agent to hold a right against some other agent, there must be some set of relevantly close worlds, by reference to which, the putative-right holder would be worse off were the putative correlative duty-bearer to act against the duty, and that difference in wellbeing must be of sufficient weight for the putative duty-bearer to be under a duty.
Joseph Bowen is a doctoral student in philosophy on the joint program at the universities of St Andrews and Stirling. He is also a member of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at St Andrews. Prior to this, he completed a BPhil in Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and a BA (Hons) in Philosophy at the University of Kent, with a year abroad at the University of Calgary. Joseph’s interests are in moral, legal, and political theory. Particularly, he is interested in the nature of rights, of harm, and of wronging. Relatedly, he is interested in the justification and limits of defensive harming, and just war theory. His thesis examines the relationship between right-ascriptions and harmless wrongdoing.
14-16 July 2016
School of Philosophy
Psychology and Language Sciences
Dugald Stewart Building
3 Charles Street
Edinburgh, EH8 9AD
future joint sessions
2018 joint session:
2019 joint session:
2020 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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2016 joint session:
8 - 10 july 2016
2015 joint session:
10 - 12 july 2015
2014 joint session:
11 - 13 july 2014
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