Texas Tech University

Philosophy Talks 2023-24

Fall 2023 Speaker Series

Miriam Schoenfield (University of Texas, Austin)

Department Colloquium: Why I'm not a Boltzmann Brain [Joint work with Sinan Dogramaci]
Friday, September 22nd, 4:00-6:00 pm


Abstract: If the universe is big enough, or exists long enough, it is nearly certain that the universe's full history includes enormous numbers of short-lived brains, having experiences just like mine, but that came into existence through the random interactions of particles. Some have taken the existence of these “Boltzmann Brains” to raise a skeptical challenge: If most of the brains having experiences like mine are of the Boltzmann variety, aren't I most likely one of them? In this paper we offer a Bayesian solution to this challenge.

Michael Schon (Texas Tech University)

Department Colloquium: Ignorance and the Mind-Body Problem
Friday, November 3rd, 4:00-6:00 pm


Abstract: Much has been made of our ignorance of certain facts about the world in debates concerning consciousness. To illustrate, and cut the discussion to a more manageable size, I'll focus on two claims of ignorance. The first is a claim made by panpsychists that we are ignorant of certain phenomenal properties, namely those had by fundamental physical objects. The second is a claim made by Daniel Stoljar (and others) that we are ignorant of certain physical properties, namely those that do not enter into physical theory. These are just a few of the claims of ignorance that have become prominent in the debate, but each of them is supposed to provide the crucial clue that will help us solve the mind-body problem. It should be more than a bit puzzling how our ignorance about something that is central to the mind-body problem can help us come to a satisfactory solution. But the claims of ignorance are intended to show how the view in question can avoid the need to directly answer a kind of conceivability argument leveled against it. Central to these arguments is that we can conceive of a certain possibility, but if we are ignorant of something crucial to this scenario, then it seems plausible that we are not conceiving of any genuine possibility at all. We just don't know what we are thinking. I'll argue that while we are ignorant about many things with respect to these two kinds of property, we know enough about them to be able to confirm whether any proposed property would be a candidate for either category of the phenomenal or the physical. The conclusion to draw from this discussion is that claims of ignorance are not good ways to respond to conceivability arguments.   

Zara Amdur (Texas Tech University)

Department Colloquium: A Generative Reading of Diotima's Speech in Plato's Symposium
Friday, December 1st, 3:00-5:00 pm [please note the time change]


Abstract: In Plato's Symposium, Socrates, through the voice of Diotima, claims that the mortal participates in immortality through childbirth (208b). How does childbirth aim at immortality? The usual reading of Diotima's speech responds to this question with what I will call a re-productive answer: someone produces a copy of themselves, thereby prolonging themselves and their legacy. The paradigmatic examples of the reproductive account are species reproduction and striving after the legacy of fame, each of them instances of a repetitive cycle. However, in ways I will show, this reproductive account fails to explain all the relevant textual examples and emphasizes the wrong aspects of the examples that it does explain. By contrast, I argue for a generative reading: human beings desire to generate in reaction to what they perceive as beautiful. According to the generative account, the cyclical mechanism by which human beings participate in immortality includes striving for betterment and establishing relationships with others rather than simply a replication of the same. In ways my positive view will show, this generative reading captures the transformative power of seeing something as beautiful and organizing one's life accordingly.  


Spring 2024 Speaker Series

Sahar Fard (Ohio State University)

Department Colloquium: A Dynamic Ontology of Social Groups
Friday, February 2nd, 3:00-5:00 pm

Abstract: Gender, race, class, political affiliations, movements, teams, committees, and many other social groups structure various aspects of our day-to-day lives. They influence how we expect to be treated, the resources available to us, how we perceive ourselves and others, and address many other significant questions essential for coexisting with others. Thus, it is argued that even though each of these groups might employ different mechanisms to structure our lives, a common function of all meaningful social groups is this structuring aspect in relation to norms. The issue, however, arises from the perspective that social groups are stable, pre-existing entities, distinct from other groupings due to their association with social norms. The primary aim of this talk is to reconsider this conception of social groups by challenging the assumption of their stability. In doing so, I will provide an alternative account that takes the fluidity of these groups seriously, recognizing that most are not only dynamic but often the focus of theoretical analysis precisely due to the need to comprehend and potentially modify them or their influence.

Sarah Buss (University of Michigan)

Department Colloquium: The Moral Point of View: Two Stories of Inner Conflict (With an Interlude on How Not To Think about Acting Beyond the Call of Duty)
Friday, March 1st, 4:00-6:00 pm [please note the change in time]

HUMA 201 [on the English side of the second floor]

Abstract: The moral point of view is not a fully coherent point of view.  In this paper I identify two reasons why this is so.  The first of these reasons is conceptual:  because no single virtue is reducible to the disposition to respond appropriately to reasons, the virtues cannot form a perfect unity; only someone with an extremely attenuated set of commitments could insulate herself from the possibility of moral dilemmas.  In exploring the second reason, I turn my attention to the relation between the demands of self-love and the demands of mutual respect.  If, I suggest, we have difficulty balancing these demands, this is because the ideal of mutual respect is in tension with another moral ideal.  In setting the stage for my diagnosis of this second – contingent -- source of our less-than-perfect moral coherence, I challenge the conception of moral virtue that is presupposed in discussions of “supererogation.”

Christopher Hom (Texas Tech University)

The Texas Tech Annual Philosophy Colloquium on Systemic Injustice: Ideology and Propaganda
Friday, March 22nd, 3:00-5:00 pm

HUMA 108 [note the room change]

Abstract: Ideologies, good and bad, are a pervasive feature of contemporary life. They animate our everyday activities, socially, politically, and culturally. Understanding ideologies requires understanding how they are both socially and epistemically situated. This leads to an understanding of how they are also linguistically situated. Our language and its use reflect the values that constitute these ideologies, which gains expression through propaganda meant to attract and maintain adherence to the ideology. We advance a genetic account of propaganda as the communication put forward by ideological institutions for the sake of their own maturation. We then provide a theoretical framework that distinguishes three kinds of propaganda (semantic, pragmatic, and aesthetic) which in turn provides a unified explanation for such disparately seeming phenomena as slurs, dog whistles, social meaning, and pornography.

Adriel Trott (Wabash College)

Department Colloquium: 'Stretching-Along-Between': Reconsidering Birth and Death in Heidegger with Recourse to Aristotle
Friday, March 29th, 3:00-5:00 pm

HUMA 108

Abstract: A recent strain of feminist readings of Heidegger find his privileging being-towards-death over being-from-birth in his analytic of Dasein to be rooted in resentment with having been generated, following a long line of those who accept the wisdom of Silenus that it is better to have never been born at all or at least to die soon. I articulate two such critiques, develop and defend Heidegger's focus on being-towards-death because of its relation to the possible, and elaborate this case with a turn to the relationship of the necessary to the possible in Aristotle's De Interpretatione. Coming to terms with the fact that we will cease to be does more to inform our experiences of taking our being as a question for ourselves than recognizing the contingency of our birth. This analysis, I suggest, achieves distance from potentially fascist or ethno-nationalist emphasis on the specifics of birth.

Adam Pautz (Brown University)

Department Colloquium: Varieties of Intentionalism about Consciousness
Friday, April 12th, 3:00-5:00 pm

Abstract: Intentionalism is the dominant theory of perceptual consciousness. It comes in many varieties. In my talk, I want to try out a few new arguments in favor of an internalist and nonreductive form. The arguments will be interrelated and off the beaten path.

HUMA 108


Department of Philosophy