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Philosophy Talks 2013-14

Fall 2013 Speaker Series

Shannon Spaulding, Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University

Public Lecture: On Whether We Can See Intentions

Thursday, October 3, 7:00 pm

Media & Communications Room 00057

Theorists from philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience argue that we can see others' mental states, i.e., that we perceive others' mental states with the same immediacy and directness that we perceive ordinary objects in the world. This view is known as Direct Perception. I evaluate Direct Perception by considering whether we can see intentions, a particularly promising candidate for Direct Perception. I argue that Direct Perception proponents equivocate on the notion of intention. Disambiguating the Direct Perception claim reveals a troubling dilemma for the view: either it is banal or highly implausible. The failure to establish that we can directly perceive intentions in any interesting sense spells trouble for the general Direct Perception account.


Shannon Spaulding, Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University

Department Colloquium: Imaginary Desires

Friday, October 4, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

We often have affective responses to fictional events despite the fact that we know that the events depicted are not real. We feel afraid for Desdemona when Othello approaches her in a murderous rage. We feel anger toward Othello for murdering Desdemona. We feel disgust toward Iago for orchestrating this tragic event. We experience these apparently genuine emotions even though we know that the events are merely fictional. This is what is known as the paradox of fiction. Our affective responses to fiction are paradoxical because, intuitively, to feel fear, anger, or disgust toward X requires that one believe that X is real. In this talk, I address a solution to the paradox of fiction that holds that the explanation for our affective responses to fiction lies in imaginary desires.


Darren Hick, Visiting Assistant Professor, Texas Tech University

Department Colloquium: Owning Your Voice

Friday, October 25, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

An artist's style is her voice—sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively—and we tend to think of someone who appropriates another's style as a "rip-off artist." To appropriate someone's style is to create a work that sounds, looks, or reads as something that the artist might have created. It is at least often a tacky or lazy move—but is there any sort of wrong here? Can you own a style? Is it something that can be stolen? In this paper, I work to develop an intuitive and coherent understanding of what it means for an artist to have a style, and then look to whether such a style could be owned under dominant species of intellectual property: copyright, trademark, and privacy and publicity rights.


Stephen Stich, Board of Governors Professor, Rutgers University

Public Lecture: Moral Disagreement, Moral Relativism & Moral Nihilism

Thursday, November 21, 7:00 pm

Location: Eng 001

Moral disagreement is widespread. But would that disagreement persist even under idealized conditions in which everyone involved in a moral debate is rational, impartial and fully informed about the relevant non-moral facts? Many moral theorists think that a positive answer would entail moral relativism or moral nihilism. In this talk I'll review recent empirical findings suggesting that the answer may indeed be positive. I'll also sketch a theory about the psychological processes underlying human norms that points in the same direction.


Stephen Stich, Board of Governors Professor, Rutgers University

Department Colloquium: Taking Diversity Seriously

Friday, November 22, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Abstract: Appeal to intuitions about cases plays an important role in philosophical argument. But in recent years a number of writers have suggested that intuitions about cases – in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of language, and elsewhere – may be significantly different in different cultural and demographic groups. How seriously should we take the possibility that philosophical intuitions vary with culture? In the first part of this talk, I will argue that we should take that possibility very seriously. In the second part of the talk I will assume that there is a substantial amount of cultural variation in philosophical intuition, and ask: So what? Some philosophers maintain that this would be irrelevant to philosophical practice. Others argue that it would undermine appeal to intuition in philosophy. I will argue that both of these reactions are mistaken. Rather, I'll argue, the appropriate philosophical reaction to cultural diversity in intuition depends on the details of the project that a philosopher is engaged in and how she makes use of the evidence of intuition. To make the case, I'll consider a number of examples in epistemology and (if time permits) in moral theory.


Spring 2014 Speaker Series

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics, Duke University

Public Lecture: Are Psychopaths Responsible?

Thursday, January 30, 7:00 pm

Location: MCOM 353

Psychopaths are less than 1% of the population but commit over 30% of the violent crime in our country. They are widely misunderstood, but new studies (including some brain scans) have taught us a lot about what makes them tick. This new information points towards innovative psychiatric treatments and raises question about whether they should be held legally responsible.


Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics, Duke University

Department Colloquium: Is Morality Unified?

Friday, January 31, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Abstract: I argue that morality is not a single thing that can be studied as a whole either by philosophers or by scientists.