Skip to the content | Change text size

Philosophy Bioethics Staff Seminar Series 2011

Semester 2, 2011

Staff Seminars will be held on Fridays at 2.15 p.m. in the Philosophy Department Library, Room 916, Menzies West, unless otherwise indicated.

29 July Amber Carpenter (York) (Venue TBC)
'Plato's Ideal Knowledge and its Affects'

Abstract: This paper investigates the way knowledge, for Plato, operates as an ideal with respect to which we can evaluate other forms of cognitive engagement, and have a standard for improving them. It further considers the overall psychological effects of adopting such an ideal, rather than remaining satisfied with aiming for a less robust kind of knowing.

5 Aug Dominic Murphy (Sydney)
'Delusions and Folk Epistemology'

Abstract: In this paper I look at the attribution of delusion. The idea I explore is that when we call somebody deluded we reveal something about folk psychology in a much wider sense than philosophers normally bother to discuss. Specifically, I conjecture that our attributions of delusion rest on, and show something about, a folk epistemology. A folk epistemology is a set of expectations about the normal causes of human belief acquisition that guide our epistemic assessments of others. I argue that this approach deals with some puzzles about the concept of delusion within psychiatry, but also suggests that delusions are not a natural kind.

12 Aug Miranda Fricker (Birkbeck)
'Group Testimony: Constructing a Collective Good Informant'

I address the question what it would take for a group (in the sense of a collective) to be able to testify. My strategy is to build up to a conception of what the speech act of testimony most basically is, and to then ask whether a group could do that. I begin with Edward Craig's conception of a 'good informant' in the State of Nature, a conception of a near-ideal testifier, which I further elaborate in terms of a certain interpersonal relation of trust (second personal trust). So now the question becomes: Is a group capable of standing in the requisite relation of second personal trust?
I propose that a group constituted by way of a 'joint commitment' (in the manner of Margaret Gilbert's 'plural subjects') to trustworthiness as regards p, or a given p-like domain, can indeed testify that p. By contrast, less committed, more loosely constituted groups are not cut out to be testifiers, though many such groups may convey information in other ways that involve another kind of trust—third personal trust. I end with a speculative suggestion about the political importance of having at least some institutional bodies that are appropriately constituted so that they may testify to citizens.

26 Aug Dan Marshall (Hong Kong)
'Possible World Contingentism'

Abstract: Possible world contingentism is the thesis that: i) there are possible worlds, and ii) each possible world merely contingently exists. A popular version of possible world contingentism, for example, holds that possible worlds are set-theoretic constructions out of immanent universals and concrete particulars, and that possible worlds merely contingently exist since the immanent universals and concrete particulars out of which they are built only contingently exist. This paper argues that possible worlds can do little or no theoretical work if they only contingently exist, and, as a result, argues that possible world contingentism should be rejected.

2 Sep John Maier (ANU/Sydney)
'Two Concepts of Free Action'


7 Oct Ian Hunter (Queensland)
'Vernunftglaube: Kant's Defence of Metaphysics against Unbelief and Enthusiasm'

Abstract: Kant is generally regarded as a secular philosopher as a result of his championing of the autonomy of human morality and reason. If we approach Kant from the viewpoint of the history of philosophy, however, then a different picture of his relation to secularising cultures begins to emerge. In this paper I argue that Kant's core conception of moral autonomy — the notion of 'rational being as an end in itself' — is deeply rooted in a theocentric metaphysics, and forms part of an exercise in spiritual self-transformation. Further, by exploring Kant's notion of Vernunftglaube — 'reason's faith' — I discuss the role of this exercise as part of a cultural politics directed against rival philosophical comportments, characterised by Kant as 'philosophical unbelief' and 'philosophical enthusiasm'. From this re-description Kant's philosophy emerges as far less secular and far more regional than it usually appears.

Convenors: &


Semester 1, 2011

Staff Seminars will be held on Fridays at 2.15 p.m. in the Philosophy Department Library, Room 916, Menzies West, unless otherwise indicated.

 February 4           John Heil (Washington University St. Louis)

Abstract: The paper questions the widely accepted depiction of causation as a relation among distinct events, the cause preceding the effect. I reflect on some worries about this picture and recommending a change of focus to the causal nexus, instances of which I call 'causings'.

March 4                Dan Nolan (ANU)
                               ‘"The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Abstract Metaphysics'

March 11              John O'Dea (University of Tokyo)
                                'Perceptual constancy and the Sensation/Perception Distinction'

March 18              Michael Smith (Princeton)           
                               'Beyond beliefs and desires, or: responsibility and knowledge of basic moral truths'

 Abstract: The standard belief-desire account of the explanation of action, at least in the form in which that account was put forward by Donald Davidson, is inadequate to the task of explaining even the very simplest actions (Davidson 1963).  If some version of the standard account is correct, then we must suppose that it is a variation on the version forward by Carl G. Hempel prior to Davidson (Hempel 1961).  According to Hempel, three psychological states are in play when we explain action, not just two as Davidson supposes.  Desire and belief are part of the explanation of every action, but so too is the capacity to be instrumentally rational, a capacity that is but one among many capacities rational agents possess (Smith 2009).  Once we enrich our understanding of action explanation to acknowledge the causal role played by an agent's exercise of his rational capacities, much richer accounts of action explanation come into view, accounts that highlight the many different ways in which agents' actions can be explained by their rational capacities.  Of special interest are cases in which agents' actions are explained by their failure to exercise their rational capacities, where these are capacities that they possess, and cases in which their actions are explained by their failure to exercise their rational capacities, where these are capacities that they do not possess (Smith 2003).  Richer accounts of action explanation such as these suggest a distinctive story about the conditions under which people are responsible for wrongdoing, a story with surprising implications for our understanding of what it is for an agent's moral beliefs to be justified.

 April 8                  Dana Goswick (University of Melbourne)                                 ‘
                               A Response-Dependent Account of Ordinary Objects'

 Abstract: Response-dependent accounts (e.g. of colours, of value) are often motivated by a desire to avoid eliminativism whilst recognizing that there's not a 1-1 match between how the world seems to be to us and how the world is independently of our perception.  Concerns similar to those that arise for colours and values arise for ordinary objects.  A desire to avoid eliminativism about ordinary objects whilst recognizing that there's not a 1-1 match between how the world seems to be to us and how the world is independently of our perception -- The world is modally bare rather than laden with (human-independent) modality -- can be used to motivate a response-dependent account of ordinary objects.  I examine the feasibility of such an account and defend a particular version of response-dependence about ordinary objects.

May 13                  Dave Ripley 
                               '...(to be announced)'

 Convenors: and

For information about parking at Monash, please email Sharon Webb or phone her on (03) 9905 3209.