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. Only current postgraduate students (including those who have obtained a postgraduate degree within the past year) can submit for the Postgraduate Session. Each talk for the Postgraduate Session 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.
On the Supposed Incoherence of Obligations to Oneself
Janis Schaab (St Andrews)
According to an influential argument, if we had any obligations to ourselves, we could release ourselves from them at once, rendering the very idea of such obligations incoherent. However, why should the fact that we can release our- selves from an obligation render the very thought of that obligation incoher- ent? I suggest that the underlying assumption is that there is no difference, conceptually speaking, between releasing oneself from an obligation and fail- ing to comply with it; in short, it is conceptually impossible to violate an obli- gation from which one can release oneself. If this assumption was true, then obligations to oneself would indeed be incoherent. However, an argument against obligations to oneself cannot simply rely on this assumption. What is more, at least one well-developed account of obligation—Stephen Darwall's second-personal account—implies that this assumption is false. I suspect that much of the initial plausibility of the assumption is due to its conflation with another claim: that any motive for acting against an obligation is a motive for releasing oneself from that obligation. I offer a brief discussion of the latter claim, including some reasons for its rejection.
Janis Schaab just finished his PhD on the St Andrews/Stirling Philosophy Graduate Programme, where he was supervised by Jens Timmermann and Ben Sachs. He holds an MLitt in Philosophy from the same programme as well as a BA in Philosophy & Economics from the University of Bayreuth. During his doctoral studies, he visited the philosophy departments of Yale University and Humboldt University of Berlin. Janis’s research is concerned with ethical theory and focuses on Kantian approaches. His PhD thesis provides a restatement of Kantian constructivism that clears up some of the ambiguities and avoids some of the objections that have haunted previous versions of the view. Janis is a postgraduate member of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (CEPPA) at the University of St Andrews.
The Disrespectfulness of Weighted Survival Lotteries
Joseph Adams (Nottingham)
If an agent is able to save the lives of only one of non-overlapping groups of people, then, other things being equal, it might seem, they ought to save the group that consists of the greatest number of people. John Taurek objects that this ‘greatest number’ view fails to respect the equal moral significance of each saveable individual, and argues that the agent instead ought to hold an ‘equal chance’ lottery to determine which group to save. If the greatest-number view takes the number of people in each group too seriously, though, the equal-chance view does not take it seriously enough. Seeking a compromise, then, we might suggest that the agent ought to hold a proportionally weighted lottery to determine which group to rescue. In this paper, I argue that, given the most plausible way of specifying the weighted-lottery view with respect to particular cases of changing information, this view offers no solution to Taurek’s objection: so specified, this view does not in every case respect the equal moral significance of saveable individuals.
Joseph Adams is a PhD candidate at the University of Nottingham, working primarily in normative ethics, and with research interests in epistemology, metaethics and philosophy of mind. He previously completed both his BA (in French and Philosophy) and MA (in Philosophy) at the University of Nottingham as well. His doctoral research centres on the nature and moral significance of desert. He is interested, for example, in defending a presentist view of desert: on this view, what a subject now deserves is determined exclusively by facts about the present. He is also particularly interested in questions concerning moral rightness more generally, such as whether a maximising-act-consequentialist view of rightness is defensible.
On Doing Less Good
Jessica Fischer (UCL)
Many philosophers, consequentialists and non-consequentialists alike, think that we have a default duty to maximize value when no other moral considerations are at play. That is, once any constraints, permissions, or duties are absent, even many non-consequentialists believe that one ought to do more good rather than less good if one is able to do so at no cost. Yet, so far, cases of charitable giving have constituted an awkward exception to the idea that there is such a default duty to maximize value since most people believe that it is permissible to donate to a less efficient charity, even if one could donate to a more efficient charity at no additional cost. However, Theron Pummer and Joe Horton have recently rejected this common intuition about charitable giving and have argued that it is wrong to donate to less efficient charities, given that one is able to produce a greater good at no additional cost. In this paper, I reject Pummer’s and Horton’s arguments. I argue that there is an agent-centered moral consideration which Pummer and Horton overlook, but which they cannot permissibly ignore in light of the fact that they recognize the moral significance of agent-centered considerations at a different level. I conclude that it’s permissible to donate to less efficient charities after all, and further suggest that the duty to maximize is too quickly evoked while rarely examined.
Jessica JT Fischer is PhD candidate in philosophy at University College London, with research interests in normative ethics and political philosophy. She previously completed an MPhil Stud and MA in philosophy, and a BA in European Social and Political Studies, also at UCL. Her MPhil thesis was written on the separateness of persons and individual justification. Currently, her work focuses on risk and contractualism, and on foundational problems with the justifications of consequentialist moral theories. She is supervised by Véronique Munoz-Dardé, Ulrike Heuer, and Joe Horton.
Sexual Consent and Having Sex Together
Karamvir Chadha (Cambridge)
Several theorists have recently claimed that consent is not even a necessary condition for sex to be morally permissible. This claim is false. It rests on a mistaken view of the metaphysics of sex. I defend an alternative view. This view restores the conventional wisdom that consent is necessary but insufficient for morally permissible sex, explains why rape law is framed in terms of non-consensual penetration rather than non-consensual sex, and suggests the need for an additional criminal offence of non-consensual envelopment.
Karamvir Chadha is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge, working at the intersection of moral and legal philosophy. His thesis—Essays on Consent—is supervised by Tom Dougherty and Rae Langton, and is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Before coming to Cambridge, Karamvir studied law, economics, and philosophy (variously) at the Universities of Manchester, North Carolina, Bologna, Hamburg, Bristol, and Oxford.
Habits, Skills, and Intelligent Capacities
Will Hornett (Sheffield)
In The Concept of Mind, Ryle makes a contrast between habits and skills which has acutely affected the way many philosophers think about them. Ryle’s contrast is between skills as intelligent, flexible, and thought-involving, and habits as dumb, routine, and mindless. Importantly, Ryle takes his contrast to be a contrast between species of a genus: behavioural dispositions. I will argue that Ryle’s contrast is deeply misguided since it masks important features of the metaphysics and rationality of habit. Unmasking these features lets us see an unnoticed yet distinctive way that habitual actions are rationalised. I first describe Ryle’s contrast, and then challenge his positive claims about habit by arguing that, by Ryle’s own lights, habits and habitual actions are intelligent. Thirdly, I argue that Ryle’s contrast presupposes a category mistake, and that habits are species of motivation. This means that, like desires, habits rationalise actions. Finally, these arguments allow me to give a preliminary account of the distinctive rational form of habit-explanations which appeals to the way in which habitual courses of action feel familiar.
Will Hornett is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield where he also did his MA, though he did his BA at the University of York. He works broadly in the metaphysics and phenomenology of perception and action, dealing mainly with questions about whether perceptual experience could play a motivational role in action-explanation, what sort of self-consciousness is required for bodily action, and whether rational action requires thought about one's reasons. His thesis brings these questions together in arguing that there is a rational structure distinctive of habit-explanations which goes largely unnoticed. His account of habit attempts to shed light on this, as well as other issues in the philosophy of action.
Time Travel and Ability
Olivia Coombes (Edinburgh)
This paper argues that time travellers can kill their grandfathers even though they will never succeed. They can do it because they have the ability. I will argue, contrary to Kadri Vihvelin, that abilities should not be analysed in terms of their ‘outputs’ – i.e. whether an agent will succeed – but more in terms of their ‘inputs’ – i.e. whether an agent ‘has what it takes’ to carry out an action. First I will outline the Grandfather Paradox and the challenge it poses to the possibility of time travel. Second I will outline Vihvelin’s response which follows a conditional analysis of ability. Then, I introduce a counterexample to the conditional analysis using the case of an infinite lottery. Finally, I will use the case of an infinite lottery to motivate my own analysis that abilities only require inputs showing how time travellers can kill their grandfathers.
Olivia Coombes is a first year PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, whose main interests lie in metaphysics. Before starting her PhD Olivia completed a BA in philosophy at Cardiff University and an MScR at the University of Edinburgh. Within metaphysics Olivia’s primary interests lie in the philosophy of time travel, more specifically her PhD is aimed towards looking at how the philosophy of time travel interacts with the traditional free will debate. She is currently focussing on the idea of ‘ability’ and attempting to propose a new theory of ability that allows time travellers to act freely in the past despite some logical constraints. Ultimately, Olivia spends most of her time thinking about whether time travellers can kill their grandfathers and judging films based on whether they can tell a consistent time travel story.
Vagueness-Induced Counterexamples to Modus Tollens
Tom Beevers (KCL)
I argue that vagueness produces counterexamples to modus tollens (MT). I begin by arguing that both indicative and counterfactual conditionals (henceforth: natural conditionals) can be determinately true even when their antecedents are borderline and their consequents false. I show this implies that MT fails. One consequence is that natural conditionals do not entail any of the conditionals proposed by the main theories of vagueness. I argue that MT-type inferences will be warranted when we can presume the antecedent of a conditional is non- borderline. This preserves the justification for our everyday inferences.
Tom Beevers is a PhD student at King’s College London. He has a BA from The University of Manchester and a MSc from The London School of Economics. He also worked as a Researcher at The Early Intervention Foundation for a couple of years. His thesis is on vagueness in language, and particularly, the interaction between vagueness and conditionals. He is sympathetic to degree-theoretic supervaluationist theories of vagueness.
Co-application conditions, criteria of identity and fiction
Zuzanna Gnatek (Trinity College Dublin)
Whereas neo-Fregean accounts of abstract reference and objecthood, such as Hale and Wright’s, employ abstraction principles - the idea being that abstraction principles ensure that a relevant term refers, and thus that a corresponding object exists - some recent developments, an outstanding example being Amie Thomasson’s easy ontology, aim at avoiding them. Thomasson claims that her account does not require a term to be associated with an abstraction principle, but only with a simple conditional. The aim of this paper is to question the extent to which this is feasible.
Zuzanna Gnatek is a PhD candidate in Trinity College Dublin, working on a dissertation entitled Semantics for abstract terms and their consequences for metaphysics. An essay on prospects and problems with abstraction principles as a means of justifying reference to abstract objects. Her main interests are in logic, metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of language, in particular abstract objects, abstract reference, fiction and neo- Fregeanism. As of September 2018, Zuzanna is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor in Trinity, where she teaches logic.
19–21 July 2019
Calman Learning Centre
Durham DH1 3LE
future joint sessions
2020 joint session:
2021 joint session:
2022 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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2018 joint session:
6 - 8 july 2018
2017 joint session:
14 - 16 july 2017
2016 joint session:
8 - 10 july 2016
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