Philosophy Colloquia


Spring 2022

Nathan Ballantyne Fordham University
Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022
3 p.m.
Coor Hall 4403 or Zoom 

Title: Do Your Own Research

Jake Nebel University of Southern California
Friday, Jan. 21, 2022
3 p.m.

Title: The Sum of Well-Being
Abstract: Philosophers sometimes use numbers to represent how good things are for people. The sum of these numbers is often said to represent a sum of well-being. I want to understand what, if anything, this means. There are sums of masses and of lengths, but not of beauty or of times. Why should we think that there are sums of well-being? In this talk I explain what it would take for well-being to be the kind of quantity that can be summed across individuals, and explore some ways of showing well-being to be that kind of quantity.

Erin Beeghly University of Utah POSTPONED
Friday, February 11, 2022

Title: TBA
Abstract: TBA

Jonathan Ichikawa University of British Columbia
Friday, March 18, 2022
3 p.m.

Title: Obligations to Believe

Abstract: Epistemologists focus a lot on negative epistemic norms, which prohibit belief in particular circumstances. We should pay more attention than we do, I’ll argue, to positive epistemic norms, according to which it is an epistemic error in some cases not to believe. Epistemologists sometimes acknowledge the existence of such norms — often following William James — but most tend to underemphasise them. Some epistemologists have gone so far as to argue that there can be no positive epistemic norms. I’ll respond to those arguments, affirming and articulating an approach to epistemic duties to believe. I think the emphasis on the negative represents an undue bias in epistemology, against belief, and towards the skeptical. I’ll also argue that this bias is tied up with conservative political instincts and deference to the status quo.

Tayler Burge UCLA
Saturday, March 26, 2022
Memorial Union, Arizona Ballroom (Room 221), ASU Tempe Campus

Title: A Map of the Lower Representational Mind

Abstract: TBA

Erin Beeghly University of Utah
Friday, April 8, 2022
3 p.m.
Coor Hall 4403

Title: Prejudice and the Problem of Statistical Stereotyping

Abstract: This talk uses the lived experiences and work of AIDS activists in the U.S. during the 1980s and 1990s as a launching pad to explore what’s wrong with stereotyping. I begin with an observation. Activists often cited prejudice to explain why it was morally wrong to stereotype people with AIDS. Then I introduce a well-known problem with prejudice-focused explanations: not all wrongful stereotyping seems to be caused by prejudice. Statistical stereotyping is a prime example. When people engage in statistical stereotyping, they do so based on statistical information, not hateful, irrational beliefs about groups. Much of the talk is devoted to showing that prejudice can play a crucial causal role in morally wrongful statistical stereotyping—or wrongful statistical discrimination, for that matter—despite appearances otherwise. I argue that this result shows two things: (1) prejudice is far more epistemically insidious than meets the eye and (2) theorists should not summarily dismiss the explanatory power of prejudice simply because it appears to be absent in salient cases. I end by returning to activists’ thoughts on the matter and, drawing them out, sketch a pluralistic theory of morally wrongful stereotyping in which prejudice plays a role. 

Fall 2021

David Livingstone Smith  University of New England
Friday, Sept. 17, 2021
3 p.m. 

Title: Dehumanization, Gender, and the Folk-Metaphysics of Race

Abstract: There is an intimate connection between dehumanization and racialization. Although groups can be racialized without being dehumanized, dehumanized groups are almost always racialized. To understand why this is, it's necessary to unpack the folk-metaphysics of race and its relationship to certain underlying psychological dispositions. In this talk, I'll explore two crucial components of racialization and dehumanization--psychological essentialism and hierarchical thinking--and then go on to discuss why the most dangerous form of dehumanization, demonizing dehumanization, is highly gendered.

Allison Aitken Columbia University
Friday, Oct. 15, 2021
3 p.m.

Title: A Case against Simple-mindedness: Śrīgupta on Mental Mereology

Abstract: There's a common line of reasoning which supposes that the phenomenal unity of conscious experience is grounded in a mind-like simple subject. To the contrary, Mādhyamika Buddhist philosophers beginning with Śrīgupta (seventh-eighth century) argue that any kind of mental simple is incoherent and thus metaphysically impossible. Lacking any unifying principle, the phenomenal unity of conscious experience is instead an ungrounded illusion. In this paper, I present an analysis of Śrīgupta’s “neither-one-nor-many argument” against mental simples and show how his line of reasoning is driven by a set of implicit questions concerning the nature of and relation between consciousness and its intentional object. These questions not only set the agenda for centuries of intra-Buddhist debate on the topic, but they are also questions to which any defender of unified consciousness or a simple subject of experience arguably owes responses.

Sarah Moss University of Michigan
Friday, Oct. 29, 2021
3 p.m.

Title: A Contextualist Reframing of Encroachment

Abstract: This talk defends a contextualist theory of ‘knowledge’ ascriptions. I argue that in some sentences, the implicit argument of ‘knows’ is bound by a quantifier. The natural readings of these sentences can be generated by contextualist theories, but not by competing interest-relative theories of knowledge. In addition, I argue that the contextualist can explain distinctive patterns in our judgments about sentences in which 'knows' is embedded under change-of-state verbs. Along the way, I argue that the most common definitions of ‘encroachment’ and ‘interest relativity’ are seriously flawed.

Juan Comesana University of Arizona
Friday, Nov. 19, 2021
3 p.m.
Coor Hall 4403

Title: Revisiting the argument from illusion

Abstract: Philosophers like Descartes, Russell, and Ayer used the argument from illusion to conclude that in perception we are directly aware of inner objects, and at best indirectly aware of external objects. Many have objected to that use of the argument by claiming that it illegitimately draws a metaphysical conclusion from epistemic starting points, and that just because, in the bad case, we are wrong about external objects, that does not mean that we are right about internal ones.

The argument from illusion can also be used to draw a purely epistemic conclusion: that in both the good and the bad case we are justified in believing the same propositions (this new use of the argument from illusion forms the basis of Stew Cohen’s “new evil demon problem” for Reliabilism). Some followers of Williamson’s program of knowledge-first epistemology have objected to this new argument from illusion. In this talk I want to consider that objection. My conclusion will be that we have not been given good reasons to reject the conclusion that in both the good and the bad case we are justified in believing the same propositions.