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Level 7, Napier Building
North Terrace Campus
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005 Australia

Email: School of Humanities
Phone: +61 8 8313 4249
Facsimile: +61 8 8303 4341

Seminar Series 2016

Semester 1 | Semester 2

Semester 1





March 4

Christian Barry (ANU)

On Satisfying Duties to Assist Napier 208

April 8

Michael Titelbaum
(University of Wisconsin-Madison)

One's Own Reasoning
Agents often reason about evidence to evaluate how it bears on hypotheses.  Agents then possess facts about how their reasoning has come out.  I will consider how facts about the outcome of an agent's own reasoning should bear on her opinions concerning hypotheses.

Napier G03

April 29

Andy McKilliam
(University of Adelaide)

Materialist’s Need Not Explain What It Is Like Napier G03

May 13

Neil Levy
(Macquarie University)

Am I racist?
There is good (though still controversial) evidence that ordinary agents harbour implicit attitudes that are sometimes at odds with their explicit beliefs. Many white Americans, for instance, exhibit an implicit bias against black people. Assuming that they are sincere in professing non-racist beliefs, are they racist? There are three influential models of racism in the literature: doxastic, behavioural, and affective. I will consider whether such agents are racist, measured against the standard each provides. I will argue that given the best evidence of the nature of implicit attitudes, they should be assessed as largely though not exclusively non-racist against the doxastic and behavioural standard, while the affective standard delivers a more mixed verdict.

Napier 208

May 20

Robert Audi
(University of Notre Dame)

The Scope of Intention: Action, Conduct, and Responsibility
Intention takes various forms. Must its objects be acts or activities? Even apart from the types of objects intention can have, there is the question of how much can be encompassed in the content of a single intention. A further question here is whether intentions can have the content: to A for R, where ‘A’ ranges over act-types and ‘R’ over reasons for action, for instance to keep my promise. The question is particularly important on the widely accepted assumption that, for concrete actions (act-tokens) that are rational and have moral worth, both their rationality and their moral worth depend on the reason(s) for which they are performed. If intentions can have content of the form of ‘to A for R’, should we conclude that (contrary to the position of Kant and many others) we have voluntary control—even direct voluntary control—of the reason(s) for which we act? If intentions cannot have such content, how can we intend to act rationally or intend to do, not just what we ought to do, but to do it with “moral worth”? This question is also raised by the idea that we can be commanded (enjoined, urged, and the like) to treat others as ends in themselves—which presumably has moral worth. If the commandable is intendable, we need a theory of the scope of intention to understand commands and other directives. This paper explores kinds and objects of intention, proposes an account of its scope, and brings out some of its implications for moral responsibility.

Napier G03

May 27

Alex Grossman
(University of Texas at Austin)

Conciliationism and Debunking
Tomas Bogardus proposes the Argument from Symmetry, an evolutionary debunking argument against metaethical realism based on conciliationism about peer disagreement. He argues that it should worry proponents of ‘Representationalism,’ who maintain that our moral beliefs are always formed on the basis of a mental intermediary like sentiment or gut feeling. But he believes the Argument can be resisted by those that defend ‘Rationalism,’ who think that at least some of our moral beliefs are formed on the basis of a direct apprehension of the moral truth. I argue that Bogardus has misjudged the power of his argument: if it succeeds against Representationalism then it succeeds against Rationalism.

Napier 208

June 17

Luc Faucher
(Université du Québec à Montréal)

A ROAMER With a (Wider) View
Psychiatry is in a state of disarray. Its main tool of classification, the DSM, has been under increasing criticism for its lack of validity. The DSM-5 was supposed to remedy the situation, but according to many (Cooper, 2015; Demazeux, 2015), it just failed at it. It is thought that solutions will have to come from somewhere else. In previous papers, I (with Simon Goyer, 2015, forth.) have examined the capacity of the RDoC initiative to provide a way out of the muddle in which psychiatry is stuck. Though I think the RDoC can make psychiatry move forward, I pointed to some potential problems with the initiative. In this talk, I will engage in “comparative social epistemology”, that is, I will compare the features of the process that lead to the establishment of the research priorities figuring in the Strategic Plan for Research of the NIMH (from which the RDoC emanates) and the ones that lead to its European equivalent, the ROAMER (the Roadmap for Mental Health in Europe). I will argue that some of the features of the process that lead to the ROAMER protect it from some of the problems that many sees in the RDoC

Napier 208

Semester 2





27 July

Graham Priest
(CUNY, University of Melbourne)

Attraction and Repulsion
I argue that certain mental states realise dialetheias (true contradictions). There is a well known psychological phenomenon (noted, for example, by Plato in the Republic) in which something is so repulsive that one is drawn to look at it. One is attracted and repelled. Prima facie, that is a contradiction. I argue that that is exactly what it is.  This contradiction captures the phenomenological content of one’s experience, though this does not mean that the underlying brain states are themselves contradictory.

Napier 209

Aug 5

Neil Sinhababu
(National University of Singapore)

From Moral Twin Earth to Pleasure in Eden
Many popular works of science fiction involve humans and aliens meeting for the first time and disagreeing with each other about moral questions. Unfortunately, the causal theory of reference renders such disagreements impossible, as Moral Twin Earth cases show. To account for the breadth of possible disagreement, I offer a new theory of moral concepts and how they represent reality. I offer a theory of representation based on empathy, according to which moral feelings like guilt, horror, and admiration represent their objects in virtue of shared phenomenal character. This version of the Edenic account of representation described by David Chalmers provides a new argument for ethical hedonism

Napier 208

August 12

Miri Albahari

Idealism and the Perennial Philosophy
‘The Perennial Philosophy’ is a term used by some to convey the most profound of so-called mystical insights, by which all concrete reality is directly apprehended as grounded in, and deeply at one with, universal consciousness. With the current renaissance of Cosmopsychism, (the view that the cosmos is a giant conscious subject) the time is ripe for the Perennial Philosophy to be put on the Western philosophical map as a serious metaphysical option. But first we must get clear about what is on offer; so making initial sense of the Perennial Philosophy is the goal of this paper. I outline its main tenets, briefly distinguishing it from Cosmopsychism and historical forms of British and German Idealism. Following this are two main sections. In the first, I attempt to explain what could be meant by universal consciousness. The second outlines a novel hypothesis for how ordinary concrete objects might conceivably be grounded in universal consciousness.

Napier 208

Aug 26

Laura Schroeter
(University of Melbourne)

The Generalized Integration Challenge in Metaethics
The Generalized Integration Challenge (GIC) is the task of providing, for a given domain of discourse, a simultaneously acceptable metaphysics, epistemology and meta-semantics and showing them to be so. In this paper, we focus on a metaethical position for which (GIC) seems particularly acute: the brand of normative realism which takes normative properties to be (i) mind-independent and (ii) causally inert. The problem is that these metaphysical commitments seem to make normative knowledge impossible. We suggest that bringing metasemantics into play can help to resolve this puzzle. We propose an independently plausible metasemantic constraint on reference determination and show how it can provide a plausible response to (GIC) for this brand of normative realism.

Napier 208

Sept 9

Dirk Baltzly
(University of Tasmania)

At the Origins of Constitutional and Relational Approaches to Ontology
Contemporary work in metaphysics rightly identifies Aristotle as the origin of constitutional and relational approaches to ontology. Aristotle’s hylomorphism is an example of the first, while the ontology of the Categories illustrates the second. This paper argues that there is a third account of the relation between universals and particulars in some of Aristotle’s remarks. At some points, he takes seriously the idea that universals are wholes of which particulars are parts. (His contemporary, Eudoxus, seems to have developed this parallel in a different way.) This view of universals as wholes is eclipsed by his other accounts and appears only as a vestige in the ‘philosophical lexicon’ of Metaphysics Delta. Nonetheless, the strong parallel between universals and wholes is taken up again later by Neoplatonist philosophers.

Napier G03

Sept 16

Matt Farr
(University of Queensland)

The C theory of time
J. M. E. McTaggart (1908) (in)famously argued against the reality of time, primarily on the basis that the concept of temporal passage is incoherent. Though it is not much discussed, in light of his rejection of both the ‘A series’ (an ordering of events in terms of pastness/presentness/futurity) and ‘B series’ (an ordering of events in terms of earlier/later), McTaggart nonetheless accepted the reality of his third series, the ‘C series’ (an undirected ordering of events). Unlike the former two, however, the C series was considered by McTaggart to be non-temporal, and so the reality of the series was not sufficient to save time from its 'unreality'. Much subsequent focus in the philosophy of time has fallen on McTaggart's attacks on the A and B series: The A theory of time holds, contrary to McTaggart, that the A series is not contradictory; the B theory of time holds that the B series is sufficient for genuine change and so also for 'real' time. No such time-saving enterprise has been undertaken on behalf of the C series, and as such there is no C theory of time. This is odd since there is nothing crucial in the account of change given in terms of the B series that the C series cannot provide - the C series simply does without a direction of time. I show the historical focus on a B theory (rather than a C theory) of time is a mistake. I argue in favour of a C theory of time by arguing for the irrelevance of ‘time directed facts’ (B-facts) in the explanation of apparently time-directed phenomena.

Napier 208

Oct 28

Jennifer Windt
(Monash University)

Predictive brains, dreaming selves, sleeping bodies
In this paper, I discuss the relationship between bodily experiences in dreams and the sleeping, physical body. I put pressure on the view, popular in the current literature, that dreaming is a real-world example of cranial envatment, in which phenomenal experience, including embodied phenomenal selfhood, unfolds completely independently of external and peripheral stimuli. I propose an alternative view, in which dreams are weakly phenomenally-functionally embodied states, and bodily experiences in dreams are largely illusory misperceptions of the sleeping body. I then explore how predictive processing accounts of dreaming can be enriched by focusing on the unique phenomenal-functional configuration that underlies self-experience and self-other distinctions in dreams. This has consequences for understanding the fragility viz. robustness of embodied selfhood not just in dreams, but also in wakefulness.

Napier 208

Nov 11

Chris Letheby
(University of Adelaide)

Psychedelic Neuroexistentialism
Philosopher Owen Flanagan has coined the term ‘neuroexistentialism’ to refer to a distinctive form of existential anxiety and the attempt to deal with it. The anxiety here arises from the advances in contemporary neuroscience which render ever more detailed, vivid and compelling the ‘disenchanted’ image of human beings as solely material beings in a wholly natural world. I will argue that the emerging scientific study of transformative experiences occasioned by psychedelic drugs can help to resolve this neuroexistentialist predicament. My key claim is that psychedelics can help to re-enchant a subject’s world by engendering novel patterns of attention which are more flexible, less self-centred (somewhat literally), and conducive to appreciation and wonder.

Napier G03

Dec 9

Ed Zalta
(Stanford University)

Infinity Without Mathematical Primitives or Mathematical Axioms
In this talk, I show how the existence of numbers, an infinite number, and an infinite set can be proved without any mathematical primitives or mathematical axioms. The derivation takes place in the extended theory of abstract objects. In contrast to ZF, we don’t assert an axiom of infinity, and in contrast to second-order logic extended by Hume's Principle, we don't take #F as a primitive notion or Hume’s Principle as an axiom. Nevertheless, some key parts of the strategy used in Frege's Theorem are preserved. The results are not intended as a replacement for any part of mathematics, but rather as a study into a body of logical concepts and principles from which something infinite emerges.

Napier 210