Department of Philosophy
   
   
  

Seminars and conferences

Research seminars

We run weekly research seminars, kindly sponsored by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

There is no need to sign up for these seminars, and refreshments are provided. 

Details of the 2018 Autumn term seminars will soon be available.

Contact  Jon Robson for more details.

 

RIP Seminar, 31 January

Date
Wednesday 31 January 2018
Location:
Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
Description
Joel Smith (University of Manchester) - The First Person Plural Perspective

RIP Seminar, 7 Feb - Blame, Shame, and the Emotional Economy of Responsibility

Date
Wednesday 7 February 2018
Location:
Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
Description
Dr Stephen Bero (University of Surrey) - Blame, Shame, and the Emotional Economy of Responsibility

RIP Seminar, 14 February: Still Life, a Mirror

Date
Wednesday 14 February 2018
Location:
Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
Description
Dr Clare Mac Cumhaill (University of Durham) - Still Life, a Mirror

RIP Seminar, 21 February: Authenticities and normative conflict

Date
Wednesday 21 February 2018
Location:
Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
Description
Professor Julian Dodd (University of Manchester) - Authenticities and normative conflict

RIP Seminar, 21 March

Date
Wednesday 21 March 2018
Location:
Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
Description
Alison Fernandes (University of Warwick)

RIP Seminar, 25 April

Date
Wednesday 25 April 2018
Location:
Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
Description
Shyam Nair (Arizona State University)

RIP Seminar, 2 May

Date
Wednesday 2 May 2018
Location:
Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
Description
Chon Tejedor (University of Hertfordshire)

RIP Seminar, 9 May

Date
Wednesday 9 May 2018
Location:
Machicado Suite, Willoughby Hall
Description
Royal Institute of Philosophy research seminar: Teemu Toppinen (Helsinki) - Still Puzzled by Pure Moral Deference
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Past seminar series

Spring 2018

31 January 2018

Joel Smith (Manchester)

The First Person Plural Perspective

Language and thought can be first-personal. That is, one can utter the words ‘I’ or ‘me’, and one can employ the first-person concept I in one’s thinking. More generally, philosophers often speak of the first-person perspective: a perspective from which one speaks, or thinks, first-personally. But language and thought can be first-personal in both the singular and the plural. That is, one can not only utter ‘I’ or ‘me’, but also ‘we’ and ‘us’, and one can employ the first-person plural concept we in one’s thinking. Is there, then, a first-person plural perspective; a perspective from which one speaks, or thinks, plural first-personally? I argue that there is and that much of what can be said about the first-person singular perspective carries over to the plural case.

7 February 2018

Stephen Bero (Surrey)

Blame, Shame, and the Emotional Economy of Responsibility

It has become a commonplace in the growing theoretical literature on blame to say that blame is something more than adverse assessment yet something less than adverse treatment. But this commonplace has proven resistant to explanation; the difficulty is sometimes described as the challenge of accounting for the distinctive force of blame. Attention has tended to focus on what the blaming party is doing, resulting in various suggestions that the force of blame is a matter of (for instance) judging, desiring, expressing, or feeling in some special way.

But we might approach blame’s force from a different direction. Rather than focusing on what the blaming party is doing, we could focus instead on how the blamed party reacts. If blame has a special force then we should expect those on the receiving end of it to feel that force, and by considering how the force is felt we might better appreciate what it amounts to.

To this end, I examine the interaction between blame and shame. Philosophers usually associate blame with guilt rather than shame. But shame, I contend, is responsive to blame in a way that guilt is not, and this reveals a dimension of blame’s force that has not been adequately reckoned with, due in part to a theoretical tendency to intellectualize and de-personalize blame. More generally, the blame/shame link provides a promising point of entry into a larger emotional economy of responsibility.

14 February 2018

Claire Mac Cumhaill (Durham)

Still Life, a Mirror

I explore a candidate form of recollection that is akin to episodic recollection but which may be better cast as ‘phasic’, at least insofar as one can be said to remember what it was like to be oneself at an earlier stage or phase in one’s subjective history. I suggest that episodes of re-encountering certain kinds of artworks (re-listening, re-reading) can sometimes occasion such ‘phasic remembering’. The kinds of works that enable such recall I call ‘still lives’ – they are self-limiting wholes the formal properties of which are stable over time. Unlike standard cases of episodic recollection however, the phasic recollection which might be said to be occasioned by ‘still lives’, so understood, requires the temporal presence of the artwork.

Cast differently, the experience must be partly temporally transparent to its object. But to this extent, re-encounters with still lives can be likened to perceiving with a mirror. In specular experience, direction and location are cleaved apart. One can see things located behind one by looking in the direction of the mirror. In part analogy, I test the idea that one can sometimes seem to experience times behind one – in particular, past phases in one’s subjective history – through re-experiencing artworks temporally located at the present time. I consider whether this suggests a reason for valuing the formal features of artworks.

21 February 2018

Julian Dodd (Manchester)

Authenticities and normative conflict

In this talk I distinguish three kinds of authenticity that are candidates to be performance values governing the performance of works of Western classical music. These are, respectively, score-compliance authenticity (accurately rendering the composer's instructions, as explicitly and implicitly expressed in the score, into sound), interpretive authenticity (delivering a performance that evinces a deep or profound understanding of the work), and Kivy's notion of personal authenticity (performing the work in a way that is faithful to the performer's artistic persona).

I defend the following claims: that only score-compliance authenticity and interpretive authenticity are genuine performance values within Western classical music; that these two performance values are constitutive norms of work performance in that tradition; and that when interpretive authenticity and score-compliance authenticity conflict, the former trumps the latter.

21 March 2018

Alison Fernandes (Warwick)

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Causation

Causation has an uneasy place in the picture of the world presented by fundamental physics. It’s unclear, for example, how we can explain the pervasive temporal asymmetry of causation, given that candidate laws are, for the most part, temporally symmetric. I’ll argue that considering the evidential relations relevant to time travelling agents can help. On the negative side, time travel cases provide reasons for thinking we can’t evaluate counterfactuals (from which causal relations might derive) by holding the state of the world outside the antecedent fixed.

This creates trouble for certain statistical mechanical explanation of causal asymmetry. On the positive side, thinking about time travel cases suggests other standards for evaluating counterfactuals: hold fixed the states that a relevant deliberating agent has (external) evidence of, and consider what her decisions are further evidence for. This approach makes good sense of the relevance of causal relations for decision-making, and can use resources from evidential decision theory to explain causal asymmetry. It also offers a new diagnosis for what is puzzling about causal loops: they systematically undermine the possibility of rational agents making use of the causal relations of which they’re composed.

25 April 2018

Shyam Nair (Arizona State)

The Explanatory Power of Probabilistic Analyses of Reasons

One popular albeit controversial idea in ethics and epistemology is that we can explain what we ought to do and ought to believe in terms of our reasons for action and reasons for belief. In this paper, I argue that in order to make good on the explanatory ambitions of this project those who accept it should also accept an analysis of reasons that has a probabilistic structure. I do this by showing that there are classes of ordinary cases involving the competition of reasons that can be smoothly explained by such an analysis.

These are cases of so-called "accrual" of reasons, cases where what we ought to do cannot be settled just by comparing the strengths of individual reasons but instead comparison among collections of reasons is also needed (eg, a case where two reasons are individually worse than another reason but collectively are better than another reason). I then show that a variety of popular views in metaethics can be implemented so that they have a probabilistic structure. I do not offer any argument or proof that a non-probabilistic analysis or quietism about reasons cannot explain these cases. But I close by giving some grounds for pessimism.

2 May 2018

Chon Tejedor (Valencia)

The Ethics of Belonging as a Form of Honesty in One’s Position in the World

In this paper, I explore an idea which I believe to be central to ethics but which has proved surprisingly elusive, at least in Anglophone (mostly analytic) moral philosophy: the idea that some of my individual ethical responsibilities and dues (that which I am ethically owed) arise from my being part of interlocking structures (eg, cultures, markets, natural or artificial environments, institutions, social groups) that condition me. Crucially, the ethical responsibilities and dues in question arise by virtue of my belonging to (i.e. here: being conditioned by) these structures, regardless of whether I belong to them voluntarily or am even aware of my belongings. In analytic philosophy, the idea that ethical responsibilities and dues could arise in this way has sometimes been discussed (and, typically, found wanting) as part of debates on Marxism and Communitarianism, or in discussions relating to collective and associative responsibility. I aim to show that the ethics of belonging goes much further than these debates would suggest: indeed, insofar as it taps directly onto an ethical requirement of honesty in our position in the world, it can be seen as constitutive of the very possibility of our ethical agency.

 
Autumn 2017

4 October 2017

Kirsten Walsh (University of Nottingham) 

Newton's Epistemic Triad

11 October 2017

Elinor Mason (University of Edinburgh) 

Rape, Harassment and Refusal

18 October 2017

Mark Jago (University of Nottingham)

Real Contingent Identity

25 October 2017

Åsa Burman (Stockholm University)

Telic Power

1 November 2017

Kathleen Stock (University of Sussex)

8 November 2017

Alison Wylie (University of British Columbia)

What Knowers Know Well: Why Feminism Matters to Archaeology – and to Philosophy

15 November 2017

Jenny Saul (University of Sheffield)

Dogwhistles and Figleaves: Techniques of Racist Linguistic Manipulation

22 November 2017

Stephen Ingram (University of Manchester)

Realism, Anti-Realism, and Arbitrariness in Ethics

29 November 2017

Derek Matravers (Open University)

Visualising

6 December 2017 

Matt Duncombe (University of Nottingham)

Thinking of an object: Transparency and Demarcation in Plato

 
Spring 2017

1 February 2017

Heather Widdows (University of Birmingham)

Beauty, Choice and Exploitation

8 February 2017

Chris Woodard (University of Nottingham)

Knowing What is Good for You

11 February 2017

A one-off extra seminar from  Stephen Grimm, who will be visiting the UK from from Fordham University in New York.

Understanding as an Intellectual Virtue

15 February 2017

Aness Webster (University of Nottingham)

What's Bad About Casual Racism?

22 February 2017

David Owens (King's College London)

Property and Authority

1 March 2017

Lea Ypi (London School of Economics)

The Moral Ought in 'As If' Politics

8 March 2017

Jon Robson (University of Nottingham)

Omni-beauty as a Divine Attribute

15 March 2017

Jessica Begon (University of Oxford)

Disability: A Justice-Based Account

22 March 2017

Neil Sinclair (University of Nottingham)

Belief Pills and the Possibility of Moral Epistemology

5 April 2017 

Emily Thomas (Durham University)

The Nature of Space and Time in John Locke

 
Autumn 2016

28 September 2016

Karen Simecek (Warwick)

Claudia Rankine's 'Citizen' and the value of intimacy in poetry

12 October 2016

Ian Kidd (Nottingham)

Following the Way of Heaven – Exemplars, Emulationism, and Daoism

19 October 2016

Rachel Fraser (Peterhouse College, Cambridge)

The Ethics of Metaphor

26 October 2016

Lina Jansson (Nottingham)

Newton’s Methodology Meets Humean Supervenience about Laws of Nature

2 November 2016

Jonathan Tallant (Nottingham) and David Ingram (Milan)

Nefarious Truth

9 November 2016

Jonathan Way (Southampton)

Creditworthiness and Matching Principles

16 November 2016

Peter Vickers (Durham)

The Sommerfeld Miracle

23 November 2016

Rosanna Keefe (Sheffield)

Essentialism and logical consequence

30 November 2016

Matt Matravers (York)

Rootless Desert and Unanchored Sanctions

7 December 2016
NB: Seminar will take place
in Humanities, A02.  

Philipp Rau (University of Nottingham)

The Person and the Self

 
Spring 2016

27 January 2016

Stacie Friend, Birbeck

The Real Foundation of Fictional Worlds

I argue that judgements of what is ‘true in a fiction’ presuppose the Reality Assumption: the assumption that everything that is (really) true is also fictionally the case, unless excluded by the work. By contrast with the more familiar Reality Principle, the Reality Assumption is not a rule or ‘principle of generation’ for inferring implied content from what is explicit in a text. Instead it provides an array of real-world truths that can be used in making such inferences. I claim that the Reality Assumption is essential to our ability to understand stories, drawing on a range of empirical evidence. However, the Reality Assumption has several unintuitive consequences, not least that what is fictionally the case includes countless facts that neither authors nor readers could (or should) ever consider. I argue that such consequences provide no reason to reject the Reality Assumption.

3 February 2016

Katharine Jenkins, Cambridge/Nottingham 

Ontic Injustice

In this talk, I argue that there is a distinctive type of injustice, ontic injustice, which occurs when someone is wronged by the social construction of categories, such as race categories or gender categories. A victim of ontic injustice suffers a wrong in virtue of being made into a member of the social category in question; that is to say, it is the very fact of category membership that constitutes the wrong, not any particular negative experiences that may follow. This wrong consists of a failure of recognition respect: the victim of ontic injustice instantiates morally relevant properties that warrant certain sorts of responses from others, but her category membership serves to license contrary sorts of responses. Although the notion of ontic injustice can be combined with different accounts of the ontology of social categories, here I draw on John Searle’s account of institutional reality to offer a more detailed explanation of ontic injustice. Finally, I apply the notion of ontic injustice to the Black Lives Matter movement, showing that interpreting the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’ with reference to ontic injustice helps to fend off some confused and obstructive responses.

10 February 2016

Fiona Macpherson, Glasgow 

Cognitive Penetration and Predictive Coding

If beliefs and desires affect perception—at least in certain specified ways—then cognitive penetration occurs. Whether it occurs is a matter of controversy. Recently, some proponents of the predictive coding account of perception have claimed that the account entails that cognitive penetrations occurs. I argue that the relationship between the predictive coding account and cognitive penetration is dependent on both the specific form of the predictive coding account and the specific form of cognitive penetration. In so doing, I spell out different forms of each and the relationship that holds between them. Thus, mere acceptance of the predictive coding approach to perception does not determine whether one should think that cognitive penetration exists. Moreover, given that there are such different conceptions of both predictive coding and cognitive penetration, researchers should cease talking of either without making clear which form they refer to, if they aspire to make true generalisations.

17 February 2016

Natalja Deng, Cambridge 

Does Time Seem to Pass?

One of the current philosophical debates about the nature of temporal experience concerns whether or not we (perceptually) experience time as passing in a certain sense. That sense is as follows. According to (some) A-theoretic views of time, the most fundamental description of the world is tensed; it includes such claims as that it’s Wednesday today. On such views, time passes in a ‘robust’ sense. For example, only the present exists and which time exists constantly changes, or the past and the present exist and which time is the latest time constantly changes, or times constantly move into the present and then into the more and more distant past. I defend veridicalism, which denies that we (perceptually) experience time as passing in this sense. The talk has two parts. In the first part, I take the debate at face-value. I show that veridicalism gains indirect support from a close inspection of rival proposals. Moreover, I point out that veridicalists can offer good explanations for why we are nevertheless sometimes inclined towards A-theoretic views. In the second part, I suggest that a deflationary view of the debate can provide further support for veridicalism. Finally, I offer some McTaggart-style reasons to adopt this deflationary view and respond to a recent objection.

24 February 2016

Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vji, Kent 

Epistemic Heroes and Duties to Inform

We owe duties to others, and those duties include a duty to help. Our duty to address other people’s need for information is a special case of this more general duty of beneficence. Taking Goldberg’s recent proposal regarding the nature of our duty to inform as my starting point, I will argue that the principle Goldberg is defending is demanding, since it (a) makes for an upward shift of the bar between duty and epistemic charity, and (b) is consistent with our in some cases having a duty to change our fundamental commitments if that would make us more useful to others. But it’s not too demanding—so long as it’s properly reformulated to handle cases of epistemic heroism.

2 March 2016

James Ladyman, Bristol 

An Apology for Every Thing Must Go

In this paper I enumerate the main positive and negative theses of Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalised. I will explain and defend some of them in more detail and clarify the version of Ontic Structural Realism the book advances replying to some objections.

9 March 2016

Naomi Thompson, Southampton 

Irrealism about Grounding

Grounding talk has become increasingly familiar in contemporary philosophical discussion. Most discussants of grounding think that grounding talk is useful, intelligible, and accurately describes metaphysical reality. Call them realists about grounding. Some dissenters reject grounding talk on the grounds that it is unintelligible, or unmotivated. They would prefer to eliminate grounding talk from philosophy, so we can call them eliminitivists about grounding. This paper outlines a new position in the debate about grounding, defending the view that grounding talk is (or at least can be) intelligible and useful. Grounding talk does not, however, provide a literal and veridical description of mind-independent metaphysical reality. This (non-eliminative)irrealism about grounding treads a path between realism and eliminativism. 

16 March 2016

Nathan Wildman, Hamburg 

For Contingent Necessity-makers

Are there true grounding claims of the form, 'P's necessity is  grounded in Q', for some absolute necessity P and some contingent Q?  Or, to rephrase, are there any contingent necessity-makers for  absolute necessities? Here, I argue that there are. More specifically,  I argue that, for every contingent Q that is a partial grounds of some  absolute necessity P's truth, there is a contingent plurality G,  consisting of Q plus some (possibly empty) D, that is P's  necessity-maker. And while this result doesn't show that all  necessities, let alone all absolute necessities, are grounded in  contingencies, it does show that the necessity of some absolute  necessities are fully grounded in contingent matters.

13 April 2016

Marcello Oreste Fiocco, University of California Irvine 

Time as a Substance

In this paper (the third chapter of a book in draft), I lay out the framework for a metaphysics of time by deriving some ontological principles of a more general metaphysical theory whose crux is a certain account of what a thing is.  A thing is a natured entity, something constrained in what it is by its very existence and, via this existence, constraining other things.  This account is derived from a unique methodology, one that assumes nothing about the world, confronting it as merely the impetus to inquiry.  Applying this methodology as the first step in a wholly critical metaphysics of time, I argue that time itself is a thing, more specifically, a substance.  In so doing, I examine the most obvious phenomena associated with time, providing accounts of change and what a moment is, and considering the relations among these and time per se.  The resulting account of time summarily resolves several much-discussed controversies in the metaphysics of time.  This just shows, however, that the most contentious and interesting issues here are not about time itself, but about temporal reality—the world in time.

20 April 2016

Christopher Bennett, Sheffield 

Why and How to Express One's Emotions

'My point of departure is an interest in actions that are expressive of emotion. Recently philosophy has concentrated on expressions of emotion that are automatic and involuntary, such as facial expressions. My focus is different. I would like to understand expressions of emotions that are deliberate and intentional (though not normally done with some further purpose in mind). In particular, I am interested in the idea that expressive actions ‘symbolise' the way in which the person experiencing the emotion sees the salient features (the ‘gravity’) of their situation. After providing some examples by way of illustration I will consider two potential objections: what is the point of expressing one’s emotions in this sense; and is the vehicle for expression merely conventional? In exploring the beginnings of an answer to this question, I turn to the history of ideas - in particular to the Romantic or post-Kantian tradition - for a range of understandings of 'expressive needs,' that is, our alleged need to express our emotions. I provide a taxonomy of five different answers to the question of why we have expressive needs. One of these understandings is the tradition of Symbolism, and I suggest that this tradition may help in understanding the claim that expressions of emotion symbolise the intentional content of the emotion. I suggest that the idea of symbolising the content of one’s emotions in external form has some advantages over the alternative answers as a way of explaining the value of expressing the emotions. I conclude by considering how this history can help us begin to answer the two objections to the idea of symbolic, expressive action with which we started.’

27 April 2016

Katherine Hawley, St Andrews 

Are You Trying to Tell Me Something?

To learn from what others say, we need to understand the content of their utterances, and also to grasp the force with which they are expressed: who is joking around, who is asking rhetorical questions, who is trying to tell me something?  In the first part of this talk, I investigate some obstacles to the communication of force, paying particular attention to obstacles which arise from power imbalances, social stereotypes, and clashes of localised conventions.  In the second part, I explore why some of us sometimes need to use non-standard speech acts to achieve our perlocutionary goals, for example persuading by speculating rather than telling.

4 May 2016

Jeff McMahan, Oxford 

 

 

Postgraduate Research Seminar

The Postgraduate Research Seminar meets weekly. Usually, a research student presents their research, although occasionally we set a paper to read and discuss, or a member of staff presents.

For details of other events organised by the Department and research centres see our news and events page.

New reading groups?

Anyone interested in starting a new reading group is encouraged to do so. Try an email to the staff and research students to find people sharing your research interests.

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