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Past Lectures and Colloquia

Fall 2015 Speaker Series

Jonathan Dorsey, Texas Tech University

Department Colloquium: Four conceptions of the hard problem of consciousness

Wednesday, September 24, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Abstract: Though widely discussed, the hard problem of consciousness is surprisingly difficult to pin down. In fact, one may see that not just a couple of plausible conceptions of the problem exist but rather four do. After providing some background for the hard problem, I present and clarify these four conceptions of it. I close by providing some considerations for and against each of the four conceptions without passing final judgment on any of them.


Anna Christina Ribeiro, Texas Tech University

Department Colloquium: The Musilanguage Hypothesis and the Origins of Poetry

Friday, October 10, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Abstract: An intentional-historical formalist definition of poetry such as the one offered in Ribeiro (2007) inevitably raises the question of how poetry first emerged, and why. On this view, repetitive linguistic patterning is seen as a historically central feature of poems, and one that has both an aesthetic and a cognitive dimension (e.g. in being pleasing to the ear and easier to remember). Combining the Darwinian idea of a musical protolanguage with analyses of 'babytalk', I suggest that this central feature of poetic practices first emerged as a vestige of our prosodic proto-speech and of our earliest form of communication with our caregivers. Conversely, I suggest that the existence and universality of 'babytalk', together with the universality and antiquity of poetic practices, argue in favor of the musical protolanguage hypothesis over its competitors, lexical and gestural protolanguage. One consequence of this proposal is a reversal of how we understand poetic repetition: rather than being justified in terms of the mnemonic needs of oral cultures, it is now understood as an aesthetically pleasing exploitation of features already found in speech. Further, on the basis of the recently proposed 'serial founder effect' in the phonemic diversity of languages, I offer the empirical prediction that poetic form will become more 'musical' the fewer phonemes a language has, to compensate for phonemic loss. The late advent of rhyme is offered as evidence of this possibility.


Alex Grzankowski, Texas Tech University

Department Colloquium: A Relational Theory of Non-Propositional Attitudes

Friday, November 14, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Abstract: The 'standard theory' of the propositional attitudes is well received and well motivated. According to it, propositional attitudes are two-place relations holding between subjects and propositions. It would be nice to extend this theory to the non-propositional attitudes. Doing so would bring unity to the attitudes and, as I'll argue, many of the same considerations that make the relational view of propositional attitudes attractive arise for the non-propositional attitudes. Unfortunately, the non-propositional attitudes present special challenges. I'll argue that they can be overcome, but there are various costs that must be taken into consideration.


James Weatherall, Associate Professor, U.C. Irvine LPS

Physics Lecture: The Physics of Wall Street

Thursday, November 20

Location: TBA

Abstract: I will discuss how three mathematical physicists contributed to the development of the first mathematical model for pricing options contracts, and how one of them used a strategy based on the model to start the first modern quantitative hedge fund. I will then discuss how work by Benoit Mandelbrot, presented very early in the history of options pricing, revealed a way in which one of the central assumptions underlying this model could fail. I will conclude by discussing what this example reveals about physicists' contributions to finance.


James Weatherall, Associate Professor, U.C. Irvine LPS

Department Colloquium: Inertial Motion, Explanation, and the Foundations of Classical Space-time Theories

Friday, November 21, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Abstract: There is an influential view in physics and philosophy of physics, originating with Einstein and Eddington, that holds that general relativity is distinctive in the history of physics because it can be used to "explain" inertial, or unforced, motion. In this talk, I will describe how a reformulation of Newtonian gravitation may be used to provide insight into claims concerning the (allegedly) distinctive explanatory resources of relativity theory. I will then argue that Newtonian gravitation can be understood to explain inertial motion in much the same way as general relativity. However, a careful comparative study of the status of inertial motion in the two theories reveals that neither explanation is as clean or straightforward as adherents to the view noted above believe. I will conclude by presenting a view about the interdependencies of the central principle of physical theories that I will argue provides some insight into a sense in which inertial motion is explained in both of these theories.


Spring 2015 Speaker Series


Pamela Hieronymi, Professor, UCLA

Public Lecture: The Intuitive Problem of Free Will and Moral Responsibility

Friday, February 13, 5:30 pm [RESCHEDULED]


Abstract: We will consider the traditional, intuitive problems of free will and moral responsibility. My main goal is to tease apart different ways in which we come to worry about whether we are free and responsible, and show how they differ. Having teased them apart, I will consider the merits of each. We will see that some threats to our freedom are both real and avoidable—and so should be avoided. Other threats depend on the assumption that we are other-worldly souls—an assumption I think we should avoid. But, I will argue, certain features of our agency make that assumption very tempting—or, at least, make tempting the thought that we cannot understand or explain our own agency in scientific or "theoretical" terms. Once we see how this temptation arises, I think it goes away. Even avoiding that temptation, though, an intuitive problem with freedom remains—one that comes from our ordinary but, I think, impoverished sense of what it is to be in control of something. We won't, in the end, solve this remaining problem—that is what I am trying to do in other work. But I hope we will have narrowed our target.


Pamela Hieronymi, Professor, UCLA

Department Colloquium: The Embodiment of Agency

Friday, February 13, 2:00 pm [RESCHEDULED]

Eng/Phil 264

Abstract: In this paper I defend the claim that certain states of mind, such as belief and intention, states which are often thought of as dispositions, are themselves activities—in particular, that they are, or embody, the activity of settling a question (or set of questions). This strange-sounding claim underwrites the strategy I have been advancing for avoiding the problem of free will and moral responsibility. In this paper I will briefly sketch that strategy before turning to the central task of providing additional clarification of and support for this underlying claim. I support it with two moves: First, I hope to show it far less costly than it might appear. We can help ourselves to it by freeing ourselves from the assumption that all activities must involve unfolding processes of change—that activities must be dynamic. Second, I hope to show that denying it is costly. Not only does its denial ensnare us in the free will problem (a point I detail elsewhere), but it also leaves us with an alienated picture of our relation to those states of mind for which we are answerable.


Mark Schroeder, Professor, USC

Graduate Conference Keynote Speaker: A Common Subject for Ethics

Friday, March 6, 5PM

Location: Eng/Phil 108

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to motivate, conceptualize, and explore what I will call the common subject project within metaethical theory. The common subject project is simple: to characterize the subject matter of normative discourse in a way that helps us to make sense of how we could all, with our diverse substantive normative views, be talking about the same thing. The common subject project is not new; as we will see, there are multiple research programs which we can see as contributing to it. Nor is it universal; on the contrary, many interesting metaethical views are motivated precisely by the goal of doing without such a common subject for normative discourse. But it is, I will argue, a worthwhile and important project, and it is well worth being clear and explicit about its motivations, goals, and prospects.


Sharon Lloyd, Professor, USC

Public Lecture: Not Your Father's Hobbes: Why What Hobbes Really Thought Matters Today

Thursday, March 26, 5:30PM

Location MCOM 57

Abstract: TBA


Sharon Lloyd, Professor, USC

Department Colloquium: Hobbes on the Duty Not to Act on Conscience

Friday, March 27, 3:30PM

Location PHIL 264

Abstract: TBA


Wayne Myrvold, Professor, Western Ontario

Physics Colloquium: Probabilities in Statistical Physics: What are they?

Thursday, April 9, 3:40PM

Location 234 Science

Abstract: There's something puzzling about the way that probabilities are treated in standard statistical mechanics texts. They are introduced because of incomplete knowledge of the state of a system, which suggest that the probabilities have to do with what we do and don't know, rather than with the physical system under investigation. On the other hand, they are used to generate testable predictions, which suggests that we think of them as something physical. In this talk, I will propose a reading of these probabilities that makes sense of both aspects and, I claim, does justice to the way we use probabilities in statistical physics.


Wayne Myrvold, Professor, Western Ontario

Colloquium: What happened to phlogiston? Reconsidering the Chemical Revolution
Friday, April 10

Location TBA

Abstract: Major theory-shifts in science, such as the transition in the late 18th century from a phlogiston-based chemistry to something more like modern chemistry, raise a number of philosophical questions. Among these are the question of accounting for the shift, and whether it can be regarded as rational. This talk looks at the so-called Chemical Revolution with these questions in mind. The shift involved a shift in multiple theoretical presuppositions, in commitments about the basic substances that make up the world, and also a shift in methodology. Philosophical attempts to account for the shift have tended to be holistic, following Kuhn who treated the case as one of rival paradigms to be embraced or rejected as package deals. However, the components are logically independent, and it is possible to accept certain aspects of Lavoisier's novel approach to chemistry while rejecting others. This is key to understanding the shift. I will argue that, for one key tenet of Lavoisierian chemistry, there was something like a "crucial experiment," and that, though acceptance of this tenet was not incompatible with retaining phlogiston, it eventually led to the downfall of the phlogiston theory.


Gregory Bakos, Professor, Sapientia College of Theology, Budapest

Department Colloquium: How To Think The Otherness of Medieval Thought: On Decortian Hermeneutics and Nicholas of Cusa's Manuductive Project

Friday, April 17, 3:30pm

Location: Eng/Phil 264

Abstract: Such great thinkers as Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, René Descartes, Benedictus de Spinoza, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Pierre Hadot all agreed that in order to become a philosopher one should undergo a radical change of perspective. This paper tries to effect such a change by reconsidering the traditional approaches toward medieval thought, i.e. Neo-Scholasticism, analytic philosophy and intellectual history, as well as introducing a corrective methodology. I mainly focus on the question of how we can approach the genuinely Other as the Other. I argue that a rationality that is able to think difference or transcendence is far from being the exclusive possession of post-modern philosophies. Based on an existential hermeneutics, in this respect we can still learn from medievals. My approach has been inspired by the work of Jos Decorte (1954–2001), a Flemish scholar at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) as well as the work of the medieval thinker Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464).



Spring 2014

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.


Fall 2014

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 2013

Shaun Nichols, Professor, University of Arizona

Public Lecture: Two Senses of Self

Thursday, April 11, 7:00 pm

Media & Communications Room 00057

Philosophers have uncovered apparently conflicting patterns of intuitions about personal identity (e.g., Williams 1970; Sider 2001). In some cases, it seems that personal identity depends on the continuity of psychological properties; in other cases, it seems that personal identity is preserved despite a radical discontinuity in psychological properties. Survey studies have shown a similar split in how ordinary people think about the self (Nichols & Bruno 2011). This talk will report a series of new studies in which we manipulated how people think about the stability of their traits. We find that this affects economic decisions, but not other future concerns. I'll suggest that these results follow from two different senses of self. The proposal that there are two senses of self is bolstered by research on amnesia patients (Klein et al. 2004; Klein & Nichols 2013), but it remains unclear exactly how we, as philosophers, should react to the plurality of senses of self.


Shaun Nichols, Professor, University of Arizona

Department Colloquium: Rational Learners and Non-utilitariun Rules

Friday, April 12, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Hundreds of studies on moral dilemmas show that people's judgments do not conform to utilitarian principles. However, the exact nature of this nonconformity remains unclear. Some maintain that people rely on deontological "side constraints" that are insensitive to cost-benefit analysis. However, the scenarios that are used to support this intuition, e.g., the magistrate and the mob, contain an important confound. In these cases, we consider whether it is appropriate for one person to violate a moral rule in order to prevent others from committing similar violations. In that case, people tend to say that it would be wrong to violate the rule. In a series of experiments, we showed that people give very different responses when the question is whether an agent should violate a moral rule so that she herself doesn't have to commit more such violations in the future. This suggests that a critical feature of our moral rules is that they function in an intra-agent, rather than inter-agent manner. But this raises a further question --why do our rules have this non-utilitarian character? One prominent view (e.g. Mikhail 2007) holds that the structure of moral rules plausibly depends on an innate moral grammar. We propose instead that given the evidence that the young child has, a rational Bayesian learner would in fact arrive at non-utilitarian rules.


Christopher Hom, Assistant Professor, Texas Tech University and Jeremy Schwartz, Visiting Assistant Professor, Texas Tech Univeristy

Department Colloquim: What the Frege-Geach Problem is Not

Friday, April 19, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

The negation problem for expressivism says that expressivists can't provide sufficient structure to account for the various ways in which a moral sentence can be negated. In this paper, we argue that the negation problem does not arise for expressivist accounts of all normative language but arises only for the specific examples on which expressivists usually focus. Looking to non-normative cases we find that a very similar negation problem can be generated for language that has hidden adverbial structure. We propose, therefore, that what separates language that faces the negation problem from language that does not is that the former, unlike the latter, has hidden adverbial structure. Accordingly, we suggest an analysis of 'wrong' and 'required' as unconditional normative disapproval or endorsement and explain how this analysis overcomes the negation problem. Finally, we compare our own account to the influential account given in Schroeder 2008.


Susan Haack, Professor, University of Miami

Departmental Colloquium: The World According to Innocent Realism: The One and the many, the real and the imaginary, the natural and the social

Monday, April 29, 7:30 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Innocent Realism is a metaphisical theory, and as such is about the world (not our concepts or language). Its key thesis is that there is one real world, which is at once very heterogeneous, and yet integrated. An exploration of the meaning of "one," and then of the meaning of "real," reveals that "real" contrasts with "fictional, imaginary"; and that, since fictionality is a matter of degree, so too is reality.


Susan Haack, Professor, University of Miami

Inistitute for Study of Western Civilization Lecture Series: The Integrity of Science: What It Means, Why It Matters

Tuesday, April 30, 5:30 PM

Student Union Building, Escondido Theatre


Joel Velasco, Ahmanson Postdoctoral Instructor in Philosophy, California Institute of Technology

Public Lecture: The Tree of Life: Metaphor, Models, and Reality

Thursday, May 2, 7:00 pm

Media & Communications Room 57

Common ancestry is one of the pillars of Darwin's theory of evolution. Today, the Tree of Life, which represents how all life is genealogically related, is often thought of as an essential component in the foundations of biological systematics and so therefore of evolutionary theory – and perhaps all of biology itself. It is an iconic representation in biology and even penetrates into popular culture. Massive amounts of time, effort, and money are being put into understanding and reconstructing the Tree. Yet there are serious debates as to the usefulness and even the very existence of the Tree. Here I will attempt to critically evaluate the merits of some of these worries. In doing so, we will see that questions about the Tree and the foundations of systematics can only be answered in the light of not only a wide range of empirical considerations, but of philosophical considerations as well. An historically informed picture of how and why we got to where we are today is important for understanding these debates; however, here I can give only the briefest of introductions to the history of the Tree as it has been used in systematics. Then we will focus on contemporary discussions, and finally, look to the future.


Joel Velasco, Ahmanson Postdoctoral Instructor in Philosophy, California Institute of Technology

Departmental Colloquium: Evolutionary and Newtonian Forces

Thursday, May 3, 4:00 pm

Engl/Phil 264

A number of recent papers have criticized what they call the "dynamical interpretation" of evolutionary theory found in Elliott Sober's The Nature of Selection. Sober argues that we can think of evolutionary theory as a theory of forces analogous to Newtonian mechanics. These critics argue that there are several important disanalogies between evolutionary and Newtonian forces such as that unlike evolutionary forces, Newtonian forces can be considered in isolation, they have source laws, they compose causally in a straightforward way, and they are tertium quid in a causal chain.

Here we defend and extend the forces analogy by arguing that each of these criticisms are based on a misunderstanding of Newtonian forces. We then examine the some of the criticisms of Sober's causal claims and here we find some agreement with the criticisms of the dynamical view. Our discussion also has the interesting consequence that natural selection turns out to be more similar to forces such as friction and elastic forces rather than the more 'canonical' gravitation.


Fall 2012 Speaker Series


Francesca diPoppa, Associate Professor, Texas Tech University

Department Colloquium: Some Remarks on Religious Exemptions for Health Care Professionals

Friday, October 5, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Democratic countries offer some legal protection to health care professionals who refuse to perform requested medical interventions because of conflicts with faith-based moral convictions. Aside from legal arguments, which will not be addressed in this paper, there is an intuitively appealing defense for these protections based on the notion that individuals should not be asked to act against their moral or religious conscience. I will argue firstly that this argument could bring serious dysfunctions into the medical profession, unless unavoidably arbitrary distinctions are put in place. Then, I will argue that such protections constitute unacceptable violations of patient autonomy. Health care professionals ground their authority on their unique medical expertise. Such expertise can sometimes justify overruling a patient's autonomy. However, medical expertise does not include superior competence in moral or religious decision-making. Therefore, it should not overrule a patient's own moral or religious conscience.


Michael Serra, Assistant Professor, Texas Tech University

Department Colloquium: Cue-Utilization in Metacognitive Judgments of Learning

Friday, October 19, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

When people think about or evaluate a cognitive state or process, they are said to be engaging in metacognition, or "thinking about thinking". Metacognitive processes are particularly relevant when students are learning new information and studying for tests. For this reason, much empirical research on human metacognition has focused on students' monitoring and control of their learning and study processes. Importantly, metacognitive monitoring is inferential in nature, so the accuracy of students' evaluations of their learning (and, therefore, the efficacy of their ongoing study behaviors) will be limited by the predictability of the cues they consult to inform their metacognition. Towards this point, I will discuss my empirical research into some specific cues that students use to inform their judgments of learning and how their utilization of these cues leads to accurate or inaccurate metacognitive monitoring in various situations.


Adam Sennet, Associate Professor, University of California, Davis

Public Lecture: Whither Philosophy of Language?

Thursday, November 8, 7:00 pm

Media & Communications 00057

Philosophy of language took a prominent role in 20th century philosophical thinking, but it is one of philosophy's less well publicly understood areas. Generally when philosophers of language tell people what they do, they are told that it sounds like linguistics rather than philosophy. When they tell linguists, they are told it sounds like philosophy rather than linguistics. This talk will tease apart some of the themes and methods of philosophy of language and try to explain why it's hard-to-pin-down image is a mark of its success rather than failure to articulate clear philosophical questions.


Adam Sennet, Associate Professor, University of California, Davis

Departmental Colloquium: Expressivism and Subjunctive Conditionals

Friday, November 9, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Expressivism is a view about indicative conditionals that is debated, but some of the arguments for expressivism about indicative conditionals extend to subjunctive conditionals as well. We (Hirsch and I) show that the arguments extend to cases involving modals in general and that thus these arguments are either far too strong or they reveal that our modal talk, both epistemic and metaphysical, is expressivist rather than cognitivist in nature


Cynthia Freeland, Professor & Chair, University of Houston

Public Lecture: Icon and Index Revisited: Artistic Explorations of Medical Imaging Technologies

Thursday, November 29, 7:00 pm

Media & Communications 00057

This talk explores a range of medical imaging technologies that challenge the icon/index distinction articulated by C.S. Peirce, ranging from electrocardiograms to X-rays, ultrasounds, and fMRI images of the brain. Dr. Freeland questions the nature of realism in such images and examines the role of interpretation and aesthetic choice in their creation. Finally, she discusses work by various artists who have used "automatic" imaging technologies for creative purposes, including Robert Rauschenberg, Gary Schneider, Aline Mare, Gabriele Leidloff, Gabriel de la Mora, and Wim Delvoye.


Cynthia Freeland, Professor & Chair, University of Houston

Departmental Colloquium: Revisiting Plato on Images and Art

Friday, November 30, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

In his 2002 book The Aesthetics of Mimesis (Princeton) Stephen Halliwell argues that Plato held inconsistent views about mimesis (which he translates as "representation"): first, that there are accurate forms of rendering reality; second, that art involves mere appearance and hence must be distrusted. Halliwell thus challenges the standard interpretations of Republic X's notorious dismissal of all mimesis as false and psychologically damaging. My paper follows up on this line of thought by examining other relevant texts from Plato (Theaetetus, Sophist, Timaeus, Cratylus, and Laws). I seek to clarify the connection between mimesis and images or appearances in Plato. This requires a review of his analysis of vision as well as of his claims about how images, whether faithful ones (eikones) or "mere" appearances (fantasmata), can mislead the soul into experiencing so-called false pleasures (Philebus). My aim is to produce a more subtle and considered view of Plato's ideas about art. In closing I will briefly sketch a story about the influence of Plato's views upon Neoplatonic and Byzantine treatments of images and icons.


Helen Hattab, Associate Professor, University of Houston

Public Lecture: What Was God Doing Before He Created the World?:  Ancient Time Paradoxes and the Origins of Modern Time Concepts

Thursday, February 2, 7:30 pm

Eng/Phil 00001

The early modern view of time as something extended implies that eternity is simply time stretching out infinitely in both directions. This linear way of thinking about time is usually traced back to Isaac Newton’s physics. Until Newton, the prevailing views on time built on Aristotle’s definition of time as the measure of finite motions or changes. Only God 's existence is eternal, and since it is also unchanging, eternity was thought to stand outside of any time line. But this generates the paradox expressed by St Augustine in the 4th century.  If time originates with God’s creation of moving things, what was God doing before he created the world?  Strictly speaking, there can be no before since God is outside of time.  And yet, it doesn’t make sense to say God did absolutely nothing until he created the world.  In the early 17th Century, the philosopher René Descartes gave an answer to this question thereby introducing a different conception of divine eternity.  His view of eternity and time was however not entirely original as I show that it is very similar to the view of a 16th century heretical Protestant theologian.


Helen Hattab, Associate Professor, University of Houston

Department Colloquium: Descartes' Mechanistic Explanations as Mathematical Demonstrations

Friday, February 3, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Despite the fact that his mechanistic explanations are rarely quantitative, Descartes claims throughout his career that the demonstrations of his physics have the same level of certainty as mathematical demonstrations. When one turns to the explanation of salt that Descartes offers to his follower Regius as representative of his mathematical demonstrations, one is deeply disappointed.  Descartes simply asserts that salt grains, being square, must be made up of oblong shaped particles, because oblongs put together form squares.  This so-called mathematical reasoning appears to amount to no more than the assumption that the miscrostructures of natural objects consist in particles with the appropriate geometrical shapes.  In short, there appears to be a huge gap between Descartes’ stated mathematical method and his actual scientific explanations. I will first address various attempts to grapple with this problem in the secondary literature and show that each falls short.  Then I will defend my own solution which draws on background from Aristotelian mechanics to account for the sense in which Descartes’ mechanistic explanations fulfill the prevailing criteria for mathematical demonstrations.


Sherri Irvin, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Oklahoma

Public Lecture: Making Contemporary Art:  Fabrication and Negotiation

Thursday, March 1, 7:30 pm

Human Science 169

Making a contemporary artwork is not simply (and at times not at all) fabricating an object.  The artist's negotiations and curators and conservators are often crucial in determining the artwork's very nature.  This lecture will examine how the hybrid process of fabrication and negotiation shapes works of art.


Sherri Irvin, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Oklahoma

Departmental Colloquium: Sex Objects and Sexy Subjects:  A Critique of Sexiness (co-authoring with Sheila Lintott of Buckness University

Friday, March 2, 4:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

Feminists have sometimes been inclined to abandon the notion of sexiness because of the way it is entwined with sexual objectification of women. We argue that because the sexual gaze is an important form of interpersonal recognition and validation with both individual and political implications, sexiness should be not abandoned but reshaped into an ethically adequate form. Our revisionist notion of sexiness has two tenets: (1) the ethical sexual gaze should seek out not conventionally attractive bodies, but a wide range of bodies in all of their rich particularity, and (2) attributions of sexiness should be directed not to bodies alone, but to embodied persons, with specific attention to their sexual subjectivity.


Roslyn Weiss, Professor of Philosophy, Lehigh University

Department Colloquium: Justice and Moderation in the Republic 4

Wednesday, March 28, 5:00 pm

Eng/Phil 264

The Republic purports to define justice in Book 4 as parts--whether of city or soul--doing only their own jobs and not someone else's and/or as the harmony that results from such diligence and restraint.  In this paper I try to make the case that this definition fits not justice but moderation.  I show that in Book 4 Socrates hints in many ways that he is deliberately withholding a distinct definition of justice.  I then speculate as to what Socrates' definition of justice actually is and why he doesn't just say so.





This program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.




Roslyn Weiss, Professor of Philosophy, Lehigh University

Public Lecture: Two Kinds of Philosophers in Plato's Republic

Thursday, March 29, 7:30 pm

Human Science 169

In the Republic, Socrates stipulates that philosophers would make the best rulers because only they behold with their mind's eye the eternal and purely intelligible Forms of the Just, the Noble, and the Good. Yet, as Plato describes them, the philosophers who are groomed to rule in the Republic are initially unwilling to ascend to the heights of the intelligible world, and, having made the ascent, are reluctant to come back down again to rule in the ideal city.  They are at first too attached to the material world to want to leave it; they are later so enamored of the intelligible world that they wish to remain there. They find the prospect of governing  their fellow citizens decidedly unattractive.

I will argue that these philosophers represent but one of two distinct philosophic paradigms presented in the Republic.  As the allegory of the Cave vividly shows, these men (and women) must be forcibly dragged from the material world of pleasure to the austere realm of the intellect, and from there back down to the 'Cave' to rule the beautiful city imagined by Socrates and his interlocutors.  Yet there are other philosophers, described earlier in the Republic, who are distinguished by their natural yearning to encounter the higher realm of the pure Forms and by a willingness to serve others, at least under appropriate circumstances.



This program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.



David Resnik, Bioethicist & IRB Chair, National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences

Public Lecture: The Ethics of Patenting Human DNA

Thursday, April 12, 7:30pm

Human Science 169


Jonathan Dancy, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin

Public Lecture: An Unprincipled Morality

Thursday, April 19, 7:30pm

Human Science 169

It is generally supposed that if an action is wrong, this is because there is some moral principle which says that actions of a certain sort are wrong, and so this action, being of that sort, must therefore be wrong. In this talk I will provide reasons for questioning this supposition. My conclusion will be that if an action is wrong, this is not because of its relation to a moral principle, and that this is just as well, because there are no moral principles. The absence of principles is not something that undermines morality, in my view, but something that preserves it.



This program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Jonathan Dancy, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin & University of Reading

Departmental Colloquium: From Thought to Action

Friday, April 20, 4pm

Eng/Phil 264

In this talk I show how to make sense of Aristotle's apparent suggestion that action can be the conclusion of reasoning.  I then turn to beat off the main principled objections to my account.  The first of these claims that only belief can be the conclusion of reasoning; the second claims that reasoning can take us only to intention, and never to the action intended.



This program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.



Fall 2011 Speaker Series


Dustin Tucker, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, TTU

Departmental Colloquium: Understanding in a Paradoxical World

Friday, September 30, 4pm

Eng/Phil 264

Propositions are more than the bearers of truth and the meanings of sentences: we also use them in our theorizing about an array of attitudes including belief, desire, hope, fear, knowledge, and understanding. This variety of roles leads to a variety of paradoxes, most of which have been sorely neglected. I focus on just some of these neglected paradoxes and survey several possible responses. Each response makes concessions somewhere, either in our theory of truth, our theory of generality, our theory of attitudes, or our ability to construct those theories. But whatever propositions are, they are supposed to help account for the connection between our mental attitudes and the determinate way the world is, and I argue that each concession jeopardizes this purpose. Insofar as my survey is comprehensive, then, propositions cannot do all we might have wanted them to. I explain why I prefer certain responses---certain ways of reining propositions in---but also why I think more work needs to be done before we can make any decisive choices.


Christopher Hom, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, TTU &

Jeremy Schwartz, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, TTU

Departmental Colloquium: Unity and the Frege-Geach Problem

Friday, October 14, 4pm

Eng/Phil 264

The problem of the unity of the proposition asks what binds together the constituents into a fully formed proposition that provides truth-conditions for the sentence that expresses it, rather than merely a set of objects.  Hanks’ solution is to reject the traditional distinction between content and force. According to him, propositions are speech act types, and the attitudes that the speakers take toward propositions are essential for their contents. Although Hanks does not draw the inference, his proposal extends naturally to metaethics as a solution to the Frege-Geach problem, since expressivists believe that the attitude of the speaker is part of the content of a normative term. Unfortunately Hanks’ theory isn’t successful, but it does point to significant connections between expressivism, unity and embedding.


Cynthia M. Grund, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern Denmark &

William Westney, Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Music, TTU

Public Lecture: Music, Meaning -  and Machines

Thursday, October 20, 7:30pm

Holden Hall 0075

Musical performance provides us with one of the most extensive catalogues of human/machine interaction in the history of our species. Recent advances in information technology have served to highlight the philosophical implications of this interaction, and also present new possibilities for grappling with questions regarding intentionality in music. This presentation is based on ongoing cross-disciplinary research in which the two presenters are participating, and explores the interrelationship of cognition, embodiment and meaning.


Jonathan Dorsey, Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, TTU

Departmental Colloquium: The Intermediate Problem of Consciousness

Friday, October 28, 4pm

Eng/Phil 264

The standard view in philosophy of mind is that the problem of consciousness is actually two problems: the easy problem and the hard problem. My contention is that the problem of consciousness is actually three problems: the easy one, the hard one, and what I call the intermediate problem of consciousness.

Of course the bad news here is that there may be three problems where there was previously thought to be just two. The good news, though, is that consciousness (more specifically, phenomenal consciousness) may be easier to explain once we recognize that this third problem exists, appreciate its nature, and consider how to try to approach it.


Brad Thompson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Southern Methodist University

Public Lecture: The Subjectivity and Objectivity of Color and Space Perception

Thursday, November 10, 7:30pm

Holden Hall 0075

There is a traditional view, embodied in Locke's distinction between primary and secondary qualities, that colors are in some sense mind-dependent whereas spatial properties are mind-independent.  Various arguments will be discussed that  are meant to show that colors are mind-dependent.  It will then be argued that there are plausible parallel arguments concerning spatial properties.  A view about the relationship between perceptual experience and the colors and spatial properties that those experiences represent will be offered.  The resulting view vindicates intuitions concerning both the subjectivity and the objectivity of color and spatial perception. 


Brad Thompson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Southern Methodist University

Departmental Colloquium: The Indexicality of Perceptual Content

Friday, November 11, 4pm

Eng/Phil 264

I argue that perceptual content is a kind of indexical content.  This raises difficulties for the view that the phenomenal properties that we visually experience can be identified with particular physical properties of external objects.  The general problem is illustrated by considering various ways of making sense of the representational content of visual experiences of shape and size from a perspective.


James Shaw, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh

Public Lecture: Sometimes There Are No Answers

Thursday, November 17, 7:30pm

Holden Hall 0075

In response to fascinating developments in cosmology, there has been a flurry of interest from scientists, laymen, theists, and atheists in very fundamental questions about the origins of the universe. (Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are the laws of the universe the way they are, as opposed to some other way?) I'm going to look at a contribution philosophers might make here: to show that some such questions might be unanswerable. This is not because there are answers to the questions that we can't know. On the contrary, it seems that on weak assumptions we might know that some question has no answer:  there is just no response to the question to have any knowledge of in the first place. I'll sketch a relatively simple argument for this claim that I find compelling, and give the history behind it. Then I'll explain why I think that this philosophical claim, if correct, is really astonishing—one of the very important things we can say about the origins of our cosmos.


James Shaw, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Pittsburgh

Departmental Colloquium: De Re Belief and Cumming's Puzzle

Friday, November 18, 4pm

Eng/Phil 264

Cumming (2008) has raised a new and challenging puzzle about the meaning of names which he claims provides very strong evidence again the Millian view—quite possibly the dominant position on the topic since Kripke's seminal work.  I want to show that solving Cumming's puzzle is even harder than Cumming assumes, and that once we see this, we'll appreciate that any solution to the puzzle must actually help, rather than hurt, the Millian position.  I explain why the puzzle needs to be integrated with more traditional views on de re belief, and explore how a position very similar to that espoused by Stalnaker might give us the right tools to understand the puzzle.

Fall 2010

Ernie Lepore (Rutgers)

Public lecture: "Switching Contexts, Sharing Contents"

Thursday, October 21, 7:30 PM

Engl/Phil 106


Abstract: Contextualism looms large over cognitive science, linguistics and philosophy. Ordinary folk have apparently missed the fact that many of our most puzzling and paradox-ridden expressions are sensitive to their context of use. Familiar words like “know”, “believes”, “truth”, “good”, and “beauty” turn out to require contextualization for application.  Fears of the Liar Paradox, the Paradox of the Heap, reconciling Skepticism with Compatiblism, Moral Relativism, all are alleged to vanish once key expressions are recognized as context sensitive.  Though there is much observational support for contextualism, I want to draw your attention to the observation that most speakers face no difficulty whatsoever in using many of the alleged context sensitive words to say (or make) the exact same claim, assertion, etc., across a wide array of contexts. So, on the one hand, for many sentences there is evidence that what their utterances contribute depends on features of their contexts of use; while, at the same time, there is evidence (as I will remind you ) that relevantly distinct utterances of these sentences in distinct contexts express agreement. How to reconcile these observations is the topic of my paper.


Departmental Colloquium: “In Search of Meaning in Another’s Words: Communication and Knowledge of Language”

Friday, October 22, 4:00 PM

Engl/Phil 264


Robin Fiore (University of Miami)

Public lecture: “Beyond Conflicts of Interest: A Moral Hazards Analysis of Industry Funded Research”

Thursday, October 28 time and room TBA

Abstract: Research collaborations between industry and academic medicine are both ubiquitous and unruly. Following technology transfer legislation in 1980, scientific research became increasingly funded by industry – today nearly 80% of all academic research is industry funded.. Researchers have been criticized for financial ties to radiation, tobacco, chemical pesticides, and food additives industries; clinical research and medical education have been heavily sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry and medical device manufacturers. Numerous studies identify a strong association between funding and research conclusions. While Institutional Review Boards (IRB’s) can effectively address the protection of human subjects in particular research, they are not well positioned to address institutional conflicts of interest and the proliferation of creative investment models that outrun regulatory response. In this presentation, I analyze failures in a widely publicized recent cancer screening study funded by tobacco interests and elaborate a virtue approach to the problem of financial conflicts of interest in industry funded research.


Jacob Beck (TTU, Washington University-Saint Louis)

Public lecture: "The Problem of Animal Minds"

Thursday, November 4, 2010, 7:30 PM, ENGL/PHIL 106

Abstract: The complex behavior of nonhuman animals provides evidence that they think.  But our attempts to precisely characterize animal thoughts meet with failure.  This poses a problem: if we are so sure that animals think, shouldn’t we be able to say precisely what they think?   I’ll consider a variety of common suggestions about how this problem can be resolved, and argue that none of them are satisfactory.  I’ll then propose my own solution.


Departmental Colloquium" "Sense, Mentalese, and Ontology"

Friday November 5, 2010, 4:00 PM, ENGL/PHIL 264

Abstract: Gottlob Frege famously proposed that beliefs and other propositional attitudes have contents that are composed from senses.  Many philosophers have found Frege’s proposal attractive, not least of all because it helps to account for so-called “Frege cases,” in which a single object is represented under disparate modes of presentation.  Recently, however, a movement has arisen to banish senses in favor of a reductivist version of the language of thought hypothesis.  Jerry Fodor, along with Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence, Susan Schneider, and Robert Rupert, have sought to account for propositional attitudes solely in terms of formally individuated symbols instantiated in the brain and the objects and properties in the world that those symbols denote.  A number of considerations have motivated this reductivist program, but two loom especially large.  First, given that senses are supposed to be abstract objects existing in neither the mind nor the spatiotemporal world, but in a “third realm,” reductivists worry about where senses fit in the natural order.  Second, reductivists believe that Frege cases can be fully accounted for in terms of mental symbols and their referents, rendering senses otiose.  This paper argues that reductivism is misguided on both counts.  When senses are properly understood, they are both ontologically benign and explanatorily indispensible.  The key to my arguments is an interpretation of senses as ability types—an interpretation that, I argue, is implicit in the theories of many neo-Fregeans.

Kevin Coffey (Texas Tech University)

Departmental Colloquium: "Comical Underdetermination as a Guide to Realism"

Friday, November 19th, 4:00, Engl/Phil 264

Abstract: The underdetermination argument was once thought to have sounded the death knellof scientific realism. If the evidence used in the construction and support of our best scientific theories always provides an equal measure of support for other, competing theories -- in short, if theories are always underdetermined by the evidence { then belief in the approximate truth of any individual theory is unjustified. Recently this anti-realist strategy has fallen on hard times. Philosophers of varying stripes have dismissed it as preying upon logical contrivances altogether removed from scientific practice. Central to their objection is the conviction that any attempt to demonstrate the widespread existence of theoretical rivals will inevitably trade on an appeal to theories that are, in one way or another, illegitimate. However, what has been systematically overlooked in this discussion (I claim) is that there are large classes of intuitively illegitimate casesof theory underdetermination in foundational physics that nevertheless satisfy the central criteria for what counts as a legitimate theoretical rival. In this talk I'll use this observation to motivate and develop a new form of scientific realism, one that differs in important ways from both the traditional construal and the recently fashionable structural realist alternative. My claim is that in order to avoid being vanquished at the hands of such meager and comical forms of underdetermination, the aspiring scientific realist about foundational physics is forced into the account of realism I propose.

Ben Minteer (Arizona State University)

Public lecture: "Nature as a Moral Resource: Recovering Aldo Leopold's Public Philosophy"

Thursday, December 1


Spring 2011

Joan McGregor (Arizona State University)

Public lecture: "Emerging Technology and Sustainability: Are Transhumanists Thinking Like Mountains?"

Thursday, February 3, 7:30 PM, Human Sciences 169

Abstract: Emerging technologies (e.g. nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, cognitive science) are hyped as "transformative" by their proponents, who prophesize that these new technologies will significantly and beneficially change our world - in medicine, communication, transportation, agriculture, energy, and even in the very makeup of human beings. Emerging technologies challenge our understanding of our responsibilities to the environment and future generations. Does the vision of the future coming from proponents of emerging technologies conflict with the demands of sustainability portrayed in Aldo Leopold's "land ethic"?


José Diez (University of Barcelona)

Public lecture: "The Structure of the Theory of Natural Selection and the Vacuousness Objection"

Thursday, March 24, 7:00 PM, Human Sciences 169

Abstract: From almost its very beginning, the Darwinian theory of Natural Selection has been recurrently charged of being vacuous, tautological, truistic and unfalsifiable. The goal of this talk is to show that such charge is unsound and relies on a misconception of the structure of natural selection and of other highly unified theories. Once this structure is clarified, it becomes clear that natural selection is no more vacuous than other, never questioned, theories such as Classical Mechanics or Thermodynamics. The clarification of this issue also sheds some light on puzzling aspects of the famous Rouse-Laudan debate about the best defense against creationist attacks.


Departmental Colloquium: "Who Got What Wrong? Guide Principles and Explanatory Models in Natural Selection"

Friday, March 25, 4:00 PM, Engl/Phil 264

Abstract: In What Darwin Got Wrong (2010) Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini argue that natural selection cannot be part of an acceptable explanation of phenotype evolution because, they claim, there is nothing non-truistic, counterfactual-supporting, of “adaptive” character, and common to different explanations of traits evolution. Elliott Sober (2008, 2010a, 2010b) defends natural selection from Fodor & Piatelli-Palmarini’s objection, but claims that this theory has a peculiar epistemic status compared to other theories, such as Classical Mechanics, in that its explanatory models are a priori. The goal of this paper is to defend, contra Fodor and Piatelli-Palmarini, that the theory of natural selection is a bona fide, empirical, and unified explanatory theory. We argue that the explanations of natural selection are neither defective -- natural selection provides adaptive explanations of phenotype evolution, all of which embody a non-truistic common principle of natural selection -- nor specifically a priori in comparison to standard theories like classical mechanics.


Fall 2009

Niko Kolodny (University of California--Berkeley)


Public Lecture: "A Problem with If-Then Arguments"

Thursday, October 1, 7:30 PM

Engl/Phil 106



It may seem obvious that arguments of the form "P.  If P, then Q. Therefore, Q." are good arguments.  (For example, it seems perfectly fine to reason: "Socrates is a man.  If Socrates is a man, Socrates is mortal.  Therefore, Socrates is mortal.")  I suggest that this may not be so.  The problem is that there are cases in which P is true and "If P, then Q" is true, but Q is false.  I then try to explain why it *seems* that arguments of this form are good.  (This lecture draws on joint work with John MacFarlane.)



Department Colloquium: "Incidental Transmission"

Friday, October 2, 4:00 PM

Engl/Phil 264



For many philosophers, it is a truism that if there is reason for the end, then there is, because of that, reason to take the means. Whether reasons for ends derive from our desiring those ends, or whether they derive from their relation to things of independent value, these reasons "transmit" or "transfer" to their instruments. Assuming that there is such a phenomenon as "instrumental transmission," how is it best understood? I begin by criticizing some existing proposals, in particular that reason for the end transmits in its full force to necessary means. I then venture my own proposal: roughly, that reason for the end transmits to the means to the extent that the  probability of achieving the end is higher if one takes the means. This account suggests that instrumental transmission may be a special case of a broader phenomenon, which permits, first, transmission to actions that are not means to an end, but conditions that more broadly help tobring it about, and second, transmission of reason that we do not actually have, but would have under other conditions. It also raises the possibility that instrumental transmission may be something of a myth: that while reasons for ends are correlated with reasons for means, they do not explain them.


Peter Railton (University of Michigan)


Public Lecture: "Happiness, Satisfaction, and Morality"

Friday, October 16, 4:00 PM

Engl/Phil LH01


Departmental colloquium: "Rationality in Belief and Desire:  A Unified Account"


Engl/Phil 264


Christopher Hom (Texas Tech University)


Departmental colloquium: "A Puzzle about Pejoratives"

Friday, October 30th, 4:00 PM

Engl/Phil 264


Darren Hudson Hick (Texas Tech University)


Departmental colloquium: "Toward an Ontology of Authored Works"

Friday, November 13, 4:00 PM

Engl/Phil 264


David Miguel Gray (Texas Tech University)


Departmental Colloquium: "From Experience to Delusions: Non-phenomenal Contributions to Delusional Reports of Alien Control in Schizophrenia"

Friday, December 4, 4:00 PM

Engl/Phil 264


Jacob Beck (Texas Tech University)


Departmental Colloquium: "Analog Magnitudes: A Case Study in Non-Conceptual Cognition"

Friday, February 26, 4:00 PM

Engl/Phil 264


Graduate Student Philosophy Conference Keynote Speaker:

Peter Carruthers (University of Maryland)

“Self-Knowledge of Affective Attitudes is De Re, not De Dicto”

Friday, April 2, 7:30 PM

Room TBA



This talk will challenge the view that affective propositional attitudes (desires and emotions) can be introspected, and/or known with authority, and/or are privilegedly accessible to their subjects. We can introspect the valence component of these attitudes, and to some degree their arousal component. We can also know which objects or events they are directed at, characterized de re. But our knowledge of the degrees of desire or emotion directed at those things can only be arrived at by self-interpretation. Likewise for our knowledge of the fine-grained de dicto propositional contents that give rise them.


Jeremy Schwartz (Texas Tech University) and David Hayes (European College of Liberal Arts, Berlin)


Departmental Colloquium:  “Piety as Gratitude in Plato's Euthyphro”

Friday, April 16, 4 PM



Daniel Nathan (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture:  "Making the Subject Objective: Toward a Naturalist Theory of Beauty"

Thursday, April 29, 7:30 PM



Spring 2009

Benjamin Sachs (National Institutes of Health)

Public Lecture: The Timing and Currency of Equality of Opportunity

Thursday, February 57:30 pm, Eng/Phil LH-01


Jeremy Schwartz (Texas Tech University)

Public Lecture: Practical Analytic Judgments

Friday, February 55:00 pm, Phil 264



According to traditional interpretations of Kant, moral judgments are synthetic a priori. Implicitly, this traditional interpretation suggests that the analytic/synthetic distinction, originally developed to characterize theoretical judgments, applies equally to the practical sphere. This raises the question of whether there are analytic practical judgments which might contrast to the synthetic practical judgments of morality. It is natural at this point to look to Kant's hypothetical imperatives as a potential source of practical analytic judgments. In opposition to most commentators, I defend this natural suggestion and argue that 1) there is a generalization of Kant's traditional analytic/synthetic distinction according to which hypothetical imperatives are indeed analytic, but that 2) such a generalization requires us to postulate the existence of formal practical laws analogous to the rules of inference of theoretical reason. I conclude with textual evidence that Kant would be sympathetic to the postulation of such formal practical laws.



Philosophy and Fine Arts Speaker Series

“Philosophy, Beauty, and the Arts”

(co-sponsored by the Fine Arts Doctoral Program)


Noel Carroll (Graduate Center of the City University of New York)

Public Lecture: "Dead Ends of Enlightenment Aesthetics"

Thursday, March 267:00 pm (room TBA)



This lecture concerns the way in which the aesthetic theory of art emerged as an attempt to repair the Modern System of the Arts that arose in the late eighteenth century. I argue that the aesthetic theory of art is an impediment to the contemporary philosophy of art and that the attempt to rationalize the Modern System of the Arts by means of theories such as the aesthetic theory of art are misguided, in part, because the Modern System of the Arts is no longer a system but at best a collection.


Departmental Colloquium: "Comic Amusement, Emotion and Cognition"

Friday, March 274:00 pm, Phil 264



Gregory Currie (University of Nottingham)

Public Lecture: "One Million BC"

Thursday, April  97:00 pm (room TBA)



The origin of art is conventionally identified as the period of European cave art in the Upper Palaeolithic. With the discovery of Chauvet cave in southern France, this is now dated around 32,000 years ago. I argue that art is older--much, much older. Perhaps one million years old, certainly half a million years old. Older than language, symbolism and most things we would look for as signs of culture. More specifically, I argue that certain stone implements of the Acheulean technology can fairly be counted as art--in one legitimate sense of that troubled notion. I respond to various objections to this claim, notably the idea that it depends on an ethnocentric conception of art--it doesn't. Without denying that art is a cultural phenomenon, I argue that it is also a biological one.



Stephen Davies (University of Auckland)

Public Lecture: "Humans’ Aesthetic Appreciation of non-Human Animals"

Thursday, April 23rd,7:00 PM (room TBA)



We have always lived in intimate contact with non-human animals and understand many aspects of their lives. We eat them, put them to work, farm then, use them for sport, and have them as pets. As well, we admire them and many humans identify non-human animals as gods and tribal ancestors. The earliest European cave paintings are mainly of animals. It is no more surprising that we have aesthetic attitudes to non-human animals, then, than that we have them to fellow humans and to landscapes and environments.Our aesthetic interest in animals probably has several sources, dating back to our origins as hunter-gatherers: we extend to them aesthetic preferences we have for certain human characteristics; the rare or unusual can have aesthetic appeal; their roles in our ancestors' lives affects whether they are seen as attractive or repulsive; we admire their adaptedness; our senses and perceptual triggers resonate with their mutual displays; we view them literally as God's artworks or imaginatively as pseudo-artworks; or we abstract their appearances from their natural context in order to engage aesthetically with these as formal or sensory arrays.



Graduate Student Philosophy Conference

Keynote Address


Geoffrey Sayre-McCord (University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill)

Public Lecture: "The Nature of Normative Concepts"

Friday, April 3rd, 8:00 PM (Eng/Phil LH01)


Fall 2008 Speaker Series


Kendall L. Walton (Charles L. Stevenson Collegiate Professor of Philosophy, University of Michigan)


Public Lecture: "Poets as Thoughtwriters; Music without Personae"

Thursday, October 9

7:30 pm, English/Philosophy LH01



It may seem obvious that all or almost all works of literary fiction have narrators, characters who, in the fiction, utter or write the words of the text "seriously," thereby reporting the events of the story.   I explore a very different way of understanding literary works, one applicable especially to poetry.   Music can be understood in a similar manner, and doing so nicely explains several important characteristics of listeners' experiences.


Departmental Colloquium: "Fictionality and Imagination: Mind the Gap"

Friday, October 10

4:00 pm, Philosophy 264




Imaginings, unlike beliefs, come in clusters, clusters corresponding to different fictional worlds. This obvious fact has not been taken into account sufficiently in recent discussions of the functional roles of beliefs and imaginings in our cognitive architecture.


Fictionality is relative to clusters—a proposition is fictional in one fictional world or another. I previously understood a proposition to be fictional just in case there is a prescription to imagine it: It is fictional that p, in the world of a given novel or picture, for instance, just in case appreciators of that work are to imagine that p. This is mistaken. A variety of interesting examples show that prescriptions to imagine are necessary but not sufficient for fictionality.


I am not sure what more is necessary, what it takes to fill the gap between prescriptions to imagine and fictionality. But whatever it is, is likely to provide a nice solution to the "seeing-the-unseen" problem, the worries about cases in which we are to imagine seeing something which, fictionally, is unseen. In observing Michelangelo's Creation we are to imagine seeing the creation, but we are also to imagine that no one sees it. These imaginings are linked to different fictional worlds, however, they belong to different clusters; so there is no conflict between them.




Mathias Frisch (University of Maryland)


Public Lecture: "Russell Revisited:  Skepticism about Causes"

Thursday, Oct 16, 7pm (room TBA)



According to a widespread view, causal notions have no legitimate role to play in mature physical theorizing.  This view, which can be traced back to Russell's famous attack on the notion of cause, has proponents even among those who believe that causal notions have an important place in the special sciences and in our folk conception of the world.  In this talk I critically examine a range of general arguments for the view, argue that none of them succeed and propose two routes by which asymmetric causal assumptions can be legitimated even within the context of a physics with time-symmetric laws.



Departmental Colloquium: "'The most sacred tenet':  Causal Reasoning in Physics"

Friday, October 17, 4pm, Philosophy 264




According to a view widely held among philosophers of science, the notion of cause has no legitimate role to play in mature theories of physics.  In this talk I examine a case where physicists themselves appeal to what they identify as a causal principle.  I argue that contrary to the popular view causal principles can function as genuine factual constraints.



Paul Katsafanas (University of New Mexico)


Public Lecture: TBA

Thursday, October 13th


Departmental Colloquium: "Activity and Passivity in Deliberative Agency"

Friday, October 14th, 4PM, Philosophy 264




Spring 2008



Anna Christina Ribeiro (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "Aesthetic Luck"

Wednesday, April 3rd

5:00 pm, English/Philosophy LH01



John Hawthorne (Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy, Oxford University)


Public Lecture: "Religious Belief: Some Epistemological Reflections"

Thursday, April 24th

7:00 pm, English/Philosophy LH01



Departmental Colloquium: "Names"

Friday, April 25th

4:00 pm, Philosophy 264



Fall 2007


Chris Hom (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "Hating and Hysteria: Social Misconceptions of Racial Epithets"

Thursday, October  4th

7:00 pm, English/Philosophy LH01


Departmental Colloquium: "Hating and Necessity: Semantic Misconceptions of Racial Epithets"

Friday, October 5th

3:30 pm, Philosophy 264



Mark Scala (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "Theories of Persistence: What the heck are we saying when we say that Muhammed Ali is Cassius Clay"

Thursday, October 18tht

7:00 pm, Engllish/Philosophy LH01


 Departmental Colloquium: "Parthood and Persisitence"

 Friday, October 19th

 3:30 pm, Philosophy 264


Francesca DiPoppa (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "Spinoza as Process Philosopher?"

Thursday, November 1

7:30 pm, English/Philosophy LH01


Departmental Colloquium: 

Friday, November 2

3:30 pm, Philosophy 264


Baird Callecott (University of North Texas)


Public Lecture: "Naturalizing the Boundary Between Humanity and Nature"

Thursday, November 15

7:00 pm, English/Philosophy LH01


Departmental Colloquium: "From the Land Ethic to the Earth Ethic: Environmental Ethics and Global Climate Change"

Friday, November 16

3:30 pm, Philosophy 264


Aaron Meskin (University of Leeds)


Public Lecture: "Comics, Literature, and Performance"

Thursday, November 29

7:00 pm, Philosophy 264


Spring 2007


Howard Curzer (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "Aristotelian Good Temper vs. Unconditional Forgiveness"

Thursday, January 25th

7:00 pm, English/Philosophy LH01


Hugh Benson (University of Oklahoma)


Public Lecture: "Socratic Learning (or Cleitophon's Challenge)"

Thursday, March 1st

7:00 pm, Philosophy 160


Departmental Colloquium: "Knowledge, Virtue, and Method in Republic 471c-502c"

Friday, March 2nd

3:30 pm, Philosophy 264


Simon Feldman (Connecticut College)


Public Lecture: "Locating Conscience: Conflict, Integrity and the Limits of Morality"

Thursday, March 22

7:00 pm, English/Philosophy LH01


Departmental Colloquium: "The (Limited) Appeal of Amoralism"

Friday, March 23

3:30 pm, Philosophy 264


Ann Cudd (University of Kansas)


Public Lecture: "Wanting Freedom"

Thursday, April 12

7:00 pm, English/Philosophy LH01


Departmental Colloquium: "Truly Humanitarian Intervention"

Friday, April 13

3:30 pm, Philosophy 264


Edward Hinchman (University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee)


Departmental Colloquium: "The Assurance of Warrant"

Thursday, April 26

7:00 pm, Philosophy 264


Andrea Westlund University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee)


Graduate Conference Keynote Address: "Love and Shared Identity"

Friday, April 27

5:15 pm, English/Philosophy LH01


Fall 2006


Stephen Darwall (University of Michigan)


Public Lecture: "Responsibility Within Relations" 

Thursday, September 14

7:30 p.m., LH 001



 For the last thirty or so years, an important line of thought associated with Iris Murdoch, Bernard Williams, and feminist ethical philosophy has criticized orthodox moral theories on the grounds that they insufficiently appreciate the way in which personal relationships involve concern for particular individuals. There is much to learn from these critcisms. But it also possible to understand moral theories such as utilitarianism and Kantianism as beginning with the phenomena of particularized benevolence and respect, respectively, and then extending these, rather than as arising in abraction from these phenomena. More interestingly, the distinctive character of personal relationship may itself presuppose an infrastructure of more general, moral concern. I consider specific ways in which personal relationships depend upon a background of mutual respect.


Departmental Colloquium: "Authority and Second-Personal Reasons for Acting"

Friday, September 15

3:30 p.m., PHIL 264


Robert Howell (Southern Methodist University)


Public Lecture: "Anti-Depressants and Personal Identity"

Thursday, October 5

7:30 p.m., LH 001



It is not unusual to hear about someone taking anti-depressants and becoming a "different person" because of them. While this is in part the promise of anti-depressants-those who take them don't want to remain as they were, after all-it might also seem to be part of their threat. To alleviate the symptoms of depression by taking pills that make one into someone else seems foolish overkill. Don't we want to feel better while being ourselves? Doesn't abandoning oneself to become someone else amount to a strange sort of character suicide? In this talk I discuss the several senses of "becoming a different person" that are at issue here, and argue that once we are clear on what we mean when we voice our worries, there might be very little to worry about after all.


Departmental Colloquium: "The Two-Dimensionalist Reductio" 

Friday, October 6

3:30 p.m., PHIL 264


Abstract: In recent years two-dimensional semantics has become one of the most serious alternatives to Millianism for the proper interpretation of modal discourse. I argue that though there is probably something salvageable from two-dimensionalism as a way to explain the content of thought, as a metaphysical tool it should be abandoned. In this talk I aim to establish this point by reductio: if "metaphysical" two-dimensionalism and its concomitant modal rationalism is assumed, it can be shown to be false. Instead of modal rationalism, therefore, I suggest we adopt what I call metaphysical modal monism, a view I intend to describe briefly at the conclusion of the talk. 


Jonathan Kvanvig (Baylor University)


Public Lecture: "Religious Pluralism and the Buridan's Ass Paradox" 

Thursday, November 9

7:30 p.m., LH 001


Departmental Colloquium: "Rationality and Evidence" 

Friday, November 10

3:30 p.m., PHIL 264


Fall 2005


Allan Hazlett (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "Knowledge and Conversation" 

Thursday, September 22

7:30 p.m., PHIL 160


Al Martinich (Roy Allison Vaughan Centennial Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas)


Public Lecture: "Seven Solutions to the Problem of Evil in the Book of Job" 

Thursday, October 20

7:30 p.m., Business Administration 67


Departmental Colloquium: "Reference, Nonexistence and Fiction" 

Friday, October 21

3:00 p.m., PHIL 264



Robert Bishop (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "I Don’t Know How to Defend Physicalism" 

Thursday, October 27

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH-001



Mathew Weiner (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "Does Knowledge Matter?" 

Thursday, November 11

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH-001



Neal Judisch (Texas Tech University)


Public Lecture: "Determinism and Epiphenomenalism" 

Thursday, November 17

7:30 p.m., PHIL 160


Spring 2006


Peter Lewis (University of Miami)


Public Lecture: "Quantum Mechanics and the Prospects for Immortality" 

Thursday, February 09

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH-001


Matthew Shockey (Kalamazoo College)


Public Lecture: TBA 

mid March




Robert Kane (University of Texas)


Public Lecture: "Are All Values Relative?: Seeking Common Ethical Ground in a Pluralist Society"

Thursday, April 06

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH-001


Departmental Colloquium: "Free Will: New Directions for an Ancient Problem" 

Friday, April 07

3:00 p.m., PHIL 264


Spring 2005


Marcia Baron (Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University)


Departmental Colloquium: "Excuses, Excuses" 

Monday, February 7

4:00 p.m., PHIL 264



Mini-conference in Honor of Edward Averill, "Color, Color-Perception, and the Nature of Properties"


Friday, April 8

                        11:00-12:10     David Hilbert (Illinois at Chicago

                        1:30-2:40         Jonathan Cohen (UC-San Diego)

                        2:50-4:00         Edward Averill (TTU)

                        4:10-5:20         Robert Rupert (TTU)


Saturday, April 9

                        10:00-12:00     panel discussion of color, with Hilbert, Cohen, and Averill 


All events will be held in Room 160, English and Philosophy Building at Texas Tech University, Lubbock.




Alfred Mele (William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University)


Public Lecture: "Free Will: The Current State of the Debate" 

Monday, April 25

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH-001


Departmental Colloquium: "Free Action, Moral Responsibility, and Alternative Possibilities"

Tuesday, April 26

3:30 p.m., PHIL 160



Fall 2004


Zachary Ernst (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Florida State University)


• Departmental Colloquium: "Playing Games in Ethics"

Friday, October 8

4:00 p.m., PHIL 264



Alex Neill (Senior Lecturer, University of Southampton)


Public lecture: "Philosophers on the Art of Tragedy"

Monday, October 25

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001


Departmental Colloquium: "Schopenhauer on the Aesthetic Method of Consideration"

Tuesday, October 26

4:00 p.m., PHIL 264



Jesse Prinz (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)


Departmental Colloquium: "Has Neuroscience Solved the Mind-Body Problem?"

Monday, November 1

3:30 p.m., PHIL 264


Public lecture: "Dining with Cannibals: Moral Convictions and the Challenge of Relativism"

Monday, November 1

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001



Sara Chant (Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Texas Tech University)


Departmental Colloquium: "When We Act Together" 

Thursday, November 18

5:00 p.m., PHIL 160


Academic year 2003-04


Jonathan Weinberg (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University)


Public lecture: "The A Priori, Externalism, and the Purposes of Justification" 

Thursday, September 18

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001



James Hardy (Visiting Assistant Professor, Philosophy, Texas Tech University)


Public lecture: "Chasing Infinity"

October 14, 2003

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001



James Hamilton (Professor of Philosophy, Kansas State University)


Public lecture: "Understanding Plays"

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001


Departmental Colloquium: "Performers' Intentions"

Thursday, October 30, 2003

5:00 p.m., PHIL 160



Claudia Card (Emma Goldman Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin, Madison)


Public lecture: "Is Penalty Enhancement for Hate Crimes a Good Idea?"

Thursday, March 4, 2004

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001


Departmental Colloquium: "Torture in Ordinary Circumstances"

Friday, March 5, 2004

3:00 p.m., PHIL 160



Nicholas Smith (James F. Miller Professor of Humanities, Lewis and Clark College)


Public lecture: "Socrates in the Agora: A Talk about Talking"

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001


Departmental Colloquium: "Persuade or Obey"

Thursday, April 1, 2004

3:00 p.m., PHIL 160



Carl Gillett (Associate Professor of Philosophy, Illinois Wesleyan University and Post-Doctoral Fellow, The Center for Philosophy of Religion, University of Notre Dame)


Departmental Colloquium: "A Third Way for Functionalists: The Nature of Mentality and the Perils of Ramseyfication"

Friday, April 16, 2004

2:00 p.m., PHIL 160



Danny Scoccia (Associate Professor of Philosophy, New Mexico State University)


Public lecture: &quotSlippery Slope Objections to Legalizing Voluntary Euthanasia"

Wednesday, July 28

2:30 in PHIL 160


Departmental Colloquium: "Toleration, Skepticism, and the Religious Fanatic"

Thursday, July 29

2:30 in PHIL 160


Spring and Summer, 2003


David Chalmers (Professor of Philosophy, Research Professor of Cognitive Science, and Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies, University of Arizona)


Public lecture: "The Matrix as Metaphysics" 

Tuesday, February 18

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001


Departmental colloquium: "Phenomenal Concepts and the Explanatory Gap" 

Wednesday, February 19

3:00 p.m., PHIL 160



Luc Faucher (Assistant Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal)


"Developmental System Theory and Mental Disorders"

Thursday, February 27, 2003

5:15 p.m. Philosophy 264



Mariam Thalos (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah)


Public lecture: "From Human Nature to Moral Philosophy"

Thursday, March 6

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001


Departmental colloquium: "The Natural History of Knowledge"

Friday, March 7

3:00 p.m., PHIL 163.



Robert Cummins (Professor of Philosophy, University of California, Davis)


Public lecture: "Evolution and Cognition: The Puzzling Mix of Learning, Selection and Development"

Tuesday, March 25

7:30 p.m., ENG/PHIL LH001


Departmental colloquium: "Representation and Indication"

Wednesday, March 26

3:00 p.m., PHIL 160



Alastair Norcross (Associate Professor of Philosophy, Rice University)


Public lecture: "Puppies, Pigs, and People: Eating Meat and Marginal Cases"

Thursday, April 3

7:30 p.m., in ENG/PHIL LH001


Philosophy Department colloquium: "Harming in Context"

Friday, April 4

3:00 p.m., ENG/PHIL 163



Paul Studtmann (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Canterbury)


Philosophy Department colloquium: "Time, Tolstoy and the Logic of Freedom"

Thursday, April 10,

5:15 p.m., LH001



Colin Allen (Professor of Philosophy, Texas A&M University)


Departmental Colloquium: " What Can Artificial Moral Agents Teach Us about Morality?"

Friday, July 25

4:00 p.m., PHIL 160


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