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The 2023 Postgraduate Session
Birkbeck & The Institute of Philosophy, University of London ● 7–9 July 2023

The local organiser from Birkbeck is Alex Grzankowski. 

For full details and to participate in the conference, and for updates on the format and program, please see the official conference website.

Theoretical Philosophy

Will Moorfoot

Will Moorfoot


Indeterministic Grounding and Physicality

Cansu Yüksel

Cansu Yüksel


A Counterpart Theorist’s Guide to Surviving the Problems of Advanced Modalizing


Grounding, a non-causal relation of metaphysical dependence, is usually assumed to be deterministic. Nonetheless, indeterministic grounding has been given serious consideration (e.g., Montero 2013, Craver 2017, and Bader 2021). Perhaps, as with cases of indeterministic causation, whether a full ground succeeds in grounding a groundee can be left to chance.

This paper explores the implications of indeterministic grounding for the distinction between physicalist and anti-physicalist theories of mind. Prima facie, indeterministic grounding is an exclusively anti-physical notion because it violates the deterministic supervenience of groundees on their grounds, suggesting that the groundees are something over and above their grounds.

Against this worry, the paper demonstrates how the notion of indeterministic grounding can be coherently employed within a physicalist framework. Say that a grounding relation is physically
acceptable when it ensures the transmission of physicality up the grounding hierarchy. Deterministic supervenience is typically assumed to follow from any plausible understanding of
physicality transmission. I resist this assumption by setting out a plausible reading of nothing over and above that fails to entail deterministic supervenience but ensures physicality transmission. This reading respects many of our intuitions regarding physicality transmission while also allowing physicality transmission for some instances of indeterministic grounding.

Counterpart Theory (CT) is an extensional theory that eliminates modal vocabulary via a translation algorithm converting every formula of quantified modal logic (QML) into a formula of a non-modal first-order language (Lewis, 1968). The theory has been criticized on the grounds that the translation pairs certain modal claims that one expects to be true with non-modal translations that are false. This problem has initially been recognized in the literature as ‘the advanced modalizing’ problem (where not only modal statements about ordinary considered, but also modal statements about advanced objects such as possible worlds themselves are translated) and various solutions, in terms of revisions or extensions of the counterpart-theoretic translation, have been proposed. In this paper, I consider two alternative translations, and argue that they are not needed because cases of advanced modalizing are cases of equivocation which lie outside the scope of the translation. I finally defend that the present treatment of advanced modalizing does not point at a limit in CT’s scope since the content and the function of advanced modalizing are not clear.



Will is a second-year Ph.D. student at the University of Southampton. His Ph.D., supervised by Naomi Thompson and Richard Grey, investigates formulations of physicalism that reject the metaphysical supervenience of the mental on the physical. More generally, he is interested in the Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics, and Philosophy of Science. He is funded by the South, West, and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (AHRC). Will completed his BA and MPhil at Girton College, University of Cambridge.

Cansu Yüksel completed her PhD in philosophy at King’s College London in October 2022. Her research lies in the intersection of metaphysics, the philosophy of logic and the philosophy of language, with a focus on modal metaphysics and modal semantics. Specifically, her PhD thesis defends the formal flexibility of a counterpart-theoretic semantics for modal logic, replies to the problems of advanced modalizing, and explores a variety of reductionist metaphysical theories compatible with counterpart theory. Most recently, she is working on two research projects: one concerning the interaction of higher-order necessitism with modal realism; and another developing a reductionist account of modality combining neo-conventionalism with counterpart theory. She holds a BA in Philosophy from Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne University, and an MA in Philosophy from King’s College London.

Alice C.W. Huang

Alice C.W. Huang


Deflationism Does Not Entail That Metaphysical Dependence is Irreflexive

Banjamin Davis

Benjamin davis


Acceptance and Alienation: A Note on Doxastic Agency as Activity in Being


Deflationism about relative fundamentality says that relative fundamen- tality can be reduced to patterns of metaphysical dependence relations. Bennett (2017) presents a novel positive argument for the irreflexivity of metaphysical dependence motivated by deflationism. I argue that this argument begs the question.

Boyle (2011) creatively proposes that doxastic agency is a kind of activity in being. This short essay explains and evaluates that proposal. In §1, I introduce the central metaphysical distinction which is crucial for understanding Boyle’s suggestion. This is Aristotle’s distinction between kinesis (activity in motion) and energeia (activity in being). After rehearsing Boyle’s position that doxastic agency is a form of energeia (also §1), I present my main objection to the view in §2. The gravamen of the objection is that Boyle’s account alienates agents from their own doxastic attitudes. Therefore, I argue that Boyle’s sketch of doxastic agency fails to substantiate doxastic agency as a kind of activity in being.




Alice C.W. Huang is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. She also holds a B.A. in philosophy from New York University, Abu Dhabi. Alice is interested in social and formal epistemology, and the application of computational methods to philosophical reasoning. She also enjoys thinking about metaphysics and the nature of consciousness.

Ben Davis is a PhD student in the University of Leeds where he works under the supervision of Prof. Helen Steward (primary) and Dr. Tasia Scrutton (secondary). Before coming to Leeds, Ben completed an MA in philosophy at UCL. He also recently completed his MPhil Stud at UCL where his thesis was supervised by Prof. John Hyman and Prof. Lucy O’Brien. His thesis assessed (or, in a sense, reassessed) the relationship between voluntariness and beliefs. It argued that a proper apprehension of the concept of voluntariness renders a strong iteration of doxastic voluntarism far less resistible, and far more appealing. His PhD thesis continues and develops the work done in his MPhil. Aside from the philosophy of mind & action, and the ethics of belief, some of Ben’s other interests include the philosophy of psychiatry, emotion, and religion.     

Practical Philosophy


Lauren Miano


Appetitive Education and Unmixed Pleasures

Aiden Penn (BW)

Aiden Penn


Prerogatives under risk


It has been argued that the early educational program set out in Books II and III of the Republic aims only at the rational and spirited parts of the soul, leaving out the appetitive part. In this paper, I present textual evidence which suggests that early education not only aims at the appetitive part, but that it enables the soul to develop the virtue of moderation by instilling in the appetitive part the proper agreement that reason should rule. My main focus is on clarifying the mechanism by which early education has this effect on appetite. I broadly agree with James Wilberding’s account that this process tames and eradicates certain appetitive desires in order to habituate appetite to be positively disposed towards reason. However, I draw on the discussion of mixed pleasure in Book IX to add to his account an explanation of how this positive disposition results. When the lower parts of the soul follow reason, according to Socrates, they achieve the best pleasure possible for them (586d-e). Therefore, I argue that when appetite follows reason in the course of early education, it will experience qualitatively superior pleasures compared to when it pursues pleasure on its own, thus helping to explain how appetite becomes positively disposed towards reason as a result of this early educational program.


Recent work has shown that many putative moral phenomena—not least, constraints, contractualism, prioritarianism, risk-aversion, and limited aggregation—can be understood in cases of risk to depend either on people’s ex ante or ex post interests. This paper argues that the same point applies to agent-centered prerogatives. It then maintains that ex ante and ex post theories of prerogatives are similarly plausible. Each type of theory has attractive foundational motivations. Ex post theories are supported by a compelling conception of the moral significance of risk, according to which (roughly) one is permitted to do what one knows is permissible given the actual state of the world. Ex ante theories are supported by a compelling conception of the moral significance of social choice, according to which (roughly) one is required to act as one would if one were motivated solely by concern for each person individually. Moreover, each has the resources to avoid its apparent extensional problems. The upshot is mixed: there are two promising ways of thinking about prerogatives under risk, but they’re similarly plausible only because prerogatives force us to choose between two compelling ideals.


Lauren is a PhD student at Princeton University in the Classical Philosophy Program. Before starting at Princeton, she completed an MA at Tufts University and an MSt in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Lauren is primarily interested in ancient Greek ethical theory and moral psychology, especially in the role that different affective states play in Plato and Aristotle’s conceptions of virtue formation. She also has interests in contemporary moral philosophy and philosophy of religion.

Aidan Penn is PhD candidate in the department of Philosophy at NYU. His research focuses on ethics, decision theory, and epistemology. His thesis examines foundational questions about whether and how various types of moral theories can plausibly handle cases of risk. He has a B.Phil. from the University of Oxford and an A.B. from Bowdoin College.

Annalisa Costella-compressed

Annalisa Costella


Value incomparability: choosing, drifting and creating reasons

Evan Behrle

Evan Behrle


Desert and Economic Interdependence


Choices such as those of one’s career or whether to have a family are, often, a tall order. There are two main ways of understanding these choices. The first holds that individuals lack conclusive ‘standard’ reasons for choosing in these cases. The second maintains that individuals have reason to pick. Each account faces a challenge. Accounts of the first type need to explain how an individual should deliberate when she does not have a conclusive reason, what a non- standard reason is, and why it is appropriate for choosing. Call this the deliberative challenge. Accounts of the second type need to explain why picking in the face of distinctively hard choices does not hamper one’s agency. Indeed, many choices that shape a person’s identity are distinctively hard. Explaining how one ought to choose in these occasions by reducing the decision-making process to a random choice seems to degrade the individual to a wanton. A theory should thus be able to vindicate the idea that picking when faced with choices that may shape one’s identity does not undermine a person’s agency. Call this the arbitrariness challenge. I argue that current accounts cannot accommodate these challenges. As a remedy, I propose an account that draws on Chang’s (2013, 2020) idea that individuals can create reasons. Contrary to her, I do not rely on the dubious assumption that one creates reasons by willing them. I argue, instead, that the reason creation is located in the very act of choice.

Outside of philosophy, the idea that workers deserve to be paid
according to their productive contributions is very popular. But political philosophers have paid it relatively little attention. In this paper, I argue against the attempt to use this idea about desert and contribution to vindicate significant income inequality. The argument ’s central observation is that, in any complex economy, the size of each worker’s contribution is mostly explained by what many workers only together do; each worker’s contribution is in this sense a collective accomplishment.


Annalisa is a PhD Candidate at Erasmus University Rotterdam and affiliated to the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE). She works at the intersection of political philosophy and philosophy of action. She is broadly interested in questions on the nature of agency, autonomy and the relation between a person’s rational and moral virtues. Her PhD focuses on the non-instrumental value of choice and its implications for freedom, instrumental and practical rationality, as well as autonomy.


Evan is a PhD candidate at New York University. His work is in moral and political philosophy, and focuses on egalitarianism, economic desert, and exploitation. He received an MPhil in political theory from the University of Oxford (Balliol College) and a BA in politics from the University of Virginia.