The Annual Southwest Graduate Philosophy Conference

Each year, the Graduate Philosophical Society at ASU holds a graduate conference in the spring to give graduate students in the southwest an opportunity to present their work, receive feedback and network with other graduate students.

Friday, April 12 - Saturday, April 13, 2024 | 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Lattie F. Coor Hall, ASU Tempe Campus
976 S Forest Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281

Register here

Call for proposals

Submissions are now open. Each presenter will be given 30 minutes for their presentation and 15 minutes for Q&A. We welcome submissions in all areas of philosophy. Submissions related to the keynote topic, the relationship between ethics and epistemology, will be given priority. For details on how to apply, see the call for proposals

Questions may be directed towards Angela Barnes.

Keynote Speaker

Regina Rini
Associate Professor, York University
Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Moral and Social Cognition

Regina Rini holds the Canada Research Chair in Social Reasoning and is Associate Professor of Philosophy at York University. Her research focuses on how we navigate shifting norms in public life, particularly in response to technological disruption. Among other topics, she has written about the effects of social media on democratic politics and the significance of machine learning to moral life. In addition to her academic work, she writes the regular ‘Morals of the Story’ column for the Times Literary Supplement. Her most recent book is The Ethics of Microaggression, and she is currently writing a book about certainty and doubt in political life.

Keynote Abstract: 

Trust as the fundamental epistemic virtue

Interpersonal trust might seem like a mere tangent to the concerns of epistemology. At most, epistemologists admit a role for trust in justifying our reliance on testimony, itself a sideline concern from the ‘core’ epistemology of perception and reasoning. But I will argue that this is entirely backwards. Far from lurking in the epistemic margins, interpersonal trust should be understood as the fundamental epistemic virtue. That is because trust is the normative dimension of our unavoidable epistemic dependence. Humans cannot escape relying on one another, both for knowledge of the world and for calibration of our perceptual and reasoning capacities. Trust occurs when this dependence is volitionally accepted and brought under normative governance through mutual accountability. This leads, I will claim, to a radical revisioning of epistemology. All epistemic normativity flows from the regulation of interpersonal trust; there is no such thing as normative epistemology without it. If I am right, we will also need to trace some unexpected implications for how we evaluate arguments within epistemology and for our understanding of the relationship between epistemology and ethics.

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Friday, April 12

9 - 9:45 a.m.: Acceptance and Deference: The Case for Epistemic Discipline

Talk 1:  Travis Quigley “Acceptance and Deference: The Case for Epistemic Discipline”  

School: University of Arizona

Abstract: Beliefs form a cognitive “default background” that strongly influences future deliberation. This background is difficult to modify because it is immediately buttressed by strong cognitive biases. For these reasons it is important to be careful about what beliefs we form. Optimists about moral deference hold that there is nothing wrong with forming beliefs based on deference to moral testimony or advice. This means forming beliefs that we are not able to assess, and therefore will not be able to use wisely as part of the default background. This provides a basis for a negative evaluation of moral deference. Importantly, there is an alternative cognitive resource in the vicinity: we may accept testimony rather than deferring. Acceptance treats a proposition as a premise in practical reason while blocking its role in the default background. This is an act of epistemic discipline. We do not have an endless capacity for discipline, so especially important beliefs should be prioritized. This explains a

rough (but not categorical) asymmetry between moral and non-moral deference. But deferential belief is only justified when the capacity for acceptance is exhausted. I support this conclusion by arguing that acceptance fills several roles associated with moral deference: it explains an appropriate sense in which we rely on others to navigate a complex world; grounds an attractive picture of pedagogy, moral and otherwise; and is an appropriate alternative to deference in both political and personal relationships.

10 - 10:45 a.m.: Epistemic Taxes

Talk 2:  Dallas Amico-Korby  “Epistemic Taxes”  

School: University of California, San Diego

Abstract: It’s a well-recognized truth that what’s morally or politically required can come apart from what’s best for you individually. But this thought—the thought that what’s epistemically required may be divorced from what’s epistemically best for you—is absent in epistemology. In this paper, I identify a phenomenon—call it epistemic taxes. One owes an epistemic tax when one has an epistemic obligation to act for the epistemic good of a group. Thus, like traditional taxes, epistemic taxes require something of individuals, and their justification is the creation or maintenance of a group level (or public) epistemic good. The major upshot for epistemology? Epistemic taxes imply the existence of other-regarding epistemic obligations. 

11 -11:45 a.m.: A Case for Moral Standing of Insentient Entities

Talk 3: Schmuel Gomes “A Case for Moral Standing of Insentient Entities”  

School: University of California, Riverside

Abstract: For an entity to have moral standing means that it warrants non-instrumental moral concern — i.e., concern for its own sake, not merely for the sake of others. There is widespread agreement that all persons have moral standing in this sense, and a growing number of philosophers have argued that animals do as well. Yet few believe that insentient entities, such as plants, can have moral standing. In this essay I contest this prevalent belief, arguing that any entity for which things can go well or badly has moral standing and that certain insentient entities (such as plants) meet this criterion. To motivate this thesis I critically examine Peter Singer’s utilitarian argument for why all (and only) conscious entities have moral standing, as well as Christine Korsgaard’s more recent Kantian argument for this same conclusion. I show that both have been misled by the fact that human wellness integrally consists in certain conscious states, obscuring the fact that it is really wellness per se that matters, not conscious states as such. For although human wellness consists in certain conscious states, it is not these conscious states themselves that warrant our concern, but wellness that does. Indeed, these conscious states matter only because they constitute our wellness. Thus, I conclude it is wellness that ultimately matters, and so any entity that can be made more or less well has moral standing, regardless of whether the entity is sentient.

12 - 1 p.m.: Lunch Break

1 - 1:45 p.m.: Knowing the Food Animal: Animal Consciousness, Animal Soul, Implications for Post-Industrial Meat Farming, and the (Un)Ethics of In-Vitro Meat and Dis-enhanced Animals

Talk 4: Sue McRae  “Knowing the Food Animal: Animal Consciousness, Animal Soul, Implications for Post-Industrial Meat Farming, and the (Un)Ethics of In-Vitro Meat and Dis-enhanced Animals”  

School: University of North Texas

Abstract: Well-intentioned bioengineers in the field of cellular agriculture have devised ways to produce so-called “clean meat”, also known as “in vitro meat”, as one solution to the destructive effects of intensive animal agricultural practices (factory farming) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) on the environment. While in vitro meat is touted as an ethically sound alternative to the unnatural confinement and cruel “standard practices” affecting billions of factory-farmed animals, another remedial proposal is the continuation of intensively reared livestock, yet with genetically engineered breeds which, in theory, would be rendered incapable of suffering, also known as “dis-enhancement” or “neural dis-enhancement”. In this paper, I will examine ethical implications for in vitro meat and dis-enhanced animal-meat farming in a not-too-distant future. While in vitro meat appears to be a viable and promising alternative to current inhumane and cruel practices behind the “iron curtain” of factory farms, CAFO’s and slaughterhouses, especially for utilitarian philosophers, the quest for “meat without the suffering” harbors problems not far from the realm of the demonic with respect to animal dis-enhancement. Through an epistemological analysis of food animals and animal parts as food, with an emphasis on philosophy of religion and creaturely connection, as well as implications of deontological and virtue ethics, I consider animal consciousness, animal soul, philosophical, and divine implications for continuation of these practices.

2 - 2:45 p.m.: It’s the Thought that Counts: The Role of Thoughtfulness and Usefulness in Presents

Talk 5: Joseph Bernadoni  “It’s the Thought that Counts: The Role of Thoughtfulness and Usefulness in Presents”  

School: University of California, Riverside

Abstract: Gretchen gives her young brother, who she knows opts to spend every available moment in a world of Jurassic make-believe, a toy dinosaur for his birthday out of sisterly love: this toy in this context is a paradigmatic present. Personal gift-giving is pervasive—integral to many occasions and frequently done without one. Yet we disagree over what makes for a good present. Contemporary economic theory suggests that what matters in a present is the usefulness of what is given, while popular wisdom insists that “It’s the thought that counts,” that the thoughtful act of giving is what matters. I argue for a hybrid theory of what makes for a good gift that ascribes the leading role to the present’s thoughtfulness and a secondary role to its usefulness. First, I develop an account of thoughtfulness and usefulness based on analyzing the nature of a present as a social construct made of something given, the source of usefulness, by the intentional structure of the act of giving, the source of thoughtfulness. I then argue that thoughtfulness alone determines whether gratitude is fitting in response to a present and that thoughtfulness with usefulness—insofar, and only insofar as it realizes or fails to realize thoughtfulness—determines how good a gratitude-worthy present is.

3 - 3:45 p.m.: A Critique of Morphological Freedom

Talk 6: Christophe Facal  “A Critique of Morphological Freedom”  

School: McGill University

Abstract: I argue that morphological freedom (MF) is a positive kind of freedom in the sense suggested by Isaiah Berlin. As such, the argument mobilized by Berlin against positive freedom can also be

mobilized against MF.

In section 0, I will set the table for the upcoming discussion by briefly combing back to Berlin’s distinction between negative and positive freedom. In section 1, I will explain what MF is. I will contend it is the right to modify, through technological means, one’s own body beyond it’s normal functioning, in the pursuit of happiness and self-enhancement. While I acknowledge this concept is generally understood to be a negative kind of freedom since philosophers tend to understand it as a right of non-interference, framing it as a positive kind of freedom is enlightening. I will put forth such a framing in Section 2, by emphasizing how MF is meant to be an open-ended process towards elf-mastery and self-actualization. Doing so will enable me to mobilize a new argument against MF, according to which MF is conceptually flawed, since it opens up a process that can never be satisfied, and akin to self-tyranny, since by chasing a trans- or posthuman body, we condemn our actual body to forever be less than adequate. I develop this argument in Section 3 of this paper, and will present two objections one could formulate against it.

4 - 4:45 p.m.: Modal Realism and Ethical Fatalism

Talk 7: Mathew Marzec “Modal Realism and Ethical Fatalism” 

School: University of California, Santa Cruz

Abstract: Providing a metaphysical basis for modal concepts is an important task, as much of human reasoning and deliberation is dependent on the reality of possibilities. Lewisian modal realism is one attempt to provide this foundation, but one that leads to ethical fatalism. This is because modal realism fixes the overall reality of good and bad, regardless of what may occur in our world. Lewis rejects these ethical implications by claiming that our moral concern ought to be egocentric and focused on agent-centered virtue. His egocentric response is insufficient because even if moral concern ought to be egocentric, this does not necessarily imply a focus on the actual world. Egocentric scope is not the same as spatiotemporal scope. In certain respects, a person has more awareness and ability to affect the moral happenings in other worlds than they do their own. Beyond this, it is not clear that our moral focus ought to be egocentric. As we grow in awareness of other possible worlds and our effects on them, so too should our moral concern grow. Lewis’s focus on agent-centered virtue is similarly flawed. It does not properly consider the full scope of a person’s actions, the legitimate role of consequentialist considerations and overemphasizes the focus of being the causal source of good or bad, regardless of the outcome. The charge of ethical fatalism remains. Lewis’s pushback does little to demonstrate otherwise.

5 p.m.: Dinner

Saturday, April 13

9 - 9:45 a.m.: Moral Norms on Peer Disagreement

Talk 8: Ripley Stroud  “Moral Norms on Peer Disagreement”  

School: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Abstract: The philosophical literature on disagreement focuses largely on the rational response to peer disagreement. Painting with very broad strokes, this literature can be split into two camps. Conciliationists claim that there is a rational demand for credence reduction upon the discovery of peer disagreement. Steadfasters, however, hold that it is rational for that person to stick to their guns. In this way, both camps believe that the relevant question

is one about rationality. I argue that there is a moral context here as well, and that exploring this context reveals pro tanto moral reasons to minimally conciliate in cases of peer disagreement.

10 - 10:45 a.m.: Friends, how should we be biased?

Talk 9: Esther Goh Hui Fen  “Friends, how should we be biased?”

School: Rutgers University

Abstract: Epistemic partialism is the view that friendship generates pro-tanto non-evidential reasons to have certain beliefs about your friend. Epistemic partialists often assume that these beliefs must be positive in nature. Call this friendship norm on belief “Positive Bias towards Friends” (i.e., PBF). In this paper, I argue that PBF is false. Instead, I defend the view that what we ought to believe about our friends depends on whatever you think your friend’s ideal self would want you to believe of their current, actual self. This entails that sometimes, friendship requires you to have beliefs that your friend desires you not to have, beliefs that would not be conducive to or sustain the friendship, and beliefs that paint your friend in a negative light.

11 -11:45 a.m.: Blackbox AI in healthcare: How an Attitude of Pursuit can Mitigate Epistemic and Ethical concerns

Talk 10: Rooke Christy  “Blackbox AI in healthcare: How an Attitude of Pursuit can Mitigate Epistemic and Ethical concerns”  

School: John Hopkins University

Abstract: In this paper, I argue that (1) current attempts in the literature to address epistemic an ethical concerns pertaining to using "blackbox AI" in a healthcare setting are not sufficient, and that we do have reason to not trust this technology in healthcare settings. However, I argue further that (2) it is possible to integrate blackbox AI into healthcare in a way that addresses or mitigates relevant epistemic and ethical concerns. I do this by making an analogy with philosophy of science literature, particularly Kuhn (1962) and Laudan (1977), ultimately arguing that we should pursue the technology but not accept it at this time. I further argue that pursuing the technology is best done by integrating it into standard, patient-centered healthcare practices, along with some other suggestions.

12 - 1 p.m.: Lunch Break

1 - 1:45 p.m.: The Use of Character Types Within Hermenuetical Justice

Talk 11: Katie Ebner-Landy  “The Use of Character Types Within Hermenuetical Justice” 

School: Harvard University

Abstract: “As a lady who covers politics,” Marin Cogan wrote in 2012, “I’m intimately familiar with the mansplainer. You know who I’m talking about: he’s the supremely self-

impressed dude who feels the need to explain to you—with the overly simplistic, patient tone of an elementary school teacher—really obvious shit you already knew.”1 This paper claims that the “the mansplainer,” (and by extension other character types) are resources that can be used within Fricker’s framework of “hermeneutical injustice”: a notion that sits at “the border” between ethics and epistemology. The paper is structured in three parts. It first introduces Fricker’s “hermeneutical injustice” and shows that character types do not yet figure within it. It then makes a case for the way in which character types aid the processing of particular concepts. This section aims to ground the character type as an epistemological resource. My argument here is in dialogue with the work of Carnevali and Engel, who respectively see the technique of ethopoeia––the rhetorical practice of sketching characters, from the ancient Greek “to produce” (poiein) and “character” (ethos)––as a means to achieve moral or practical knowledge. This paper advances their claims is by focusing on how certain character types are not only tools for knowledge, but tools which can play an ethical role. To defend this claim, I question how to adjudicate between repressive and liberatory character types.

2 - 2:45 p.m.: Revisiting the Pure View of Moral Perception: Criticisms, Empirical Support, and the Introduction of the Trigger Principle

Talk 12: Yukun Chen  “Revisiting the Pure View of Moral Perception: Criticisms, Empirical Support, and the Introduction of the Trigger Principle”  

School: University of Miami

Abstract: This paper explores the debate between the Impure View and the Pure View of moral perception. Both Views agree that some moral properties viz., goodness, badness, rightness and wrongness, are contents of perceptual experience. The Impure View argues that moral perception relies on prior propositional beliefs to justify moral beliefs, while the Pure View argues for epistemic independence of moral perception without the need for such beliefs. I critique Werner’s defense of the Pure View, highlighting its circular reasoning and a lack of empirical support. To better defend the Pure View, I propose the Trigger Principle, contending that moral perception is accurate when triggered by morally relevant, non-moral properties. This principle finds supports in empirical studies, including the moral pop-out effect and binocular rivalry with moral stimuli. After responding to possible objections with insights from perceptual learning and cognitive penetration, I conclude by affirming the success of the Pure View of moral perception.

3 - 5 p.m.: Keynote

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