Texas Tech University

Philosophy Talks 2021-22

Fall 2021 Speaker Series

Sally Haslanger, (MIT)

Department Colloquium: On Being Part of a Social System: Coordination and Resistance
Friday, August 27th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Abstract: Societies are complex systems that reproduce themselves: their hierarchies, their culture, their practices, and their structures. Most, if not all, societies reproduce profound injustice. How can the process of social reproduction be effectively disrupted and replaced so that better systems emerge? In order to answer this question, I will begin by considering how agents are embedded in social systems and participate in their reproduction. I will argue that once we see how both cognition and agency are shaped for the purposes of coordination, the philosophical strategy of promoting justice through argument and deliberation, i.e., the non-coercive appeal to reason, is not as promising as it might initially seem. Although deliberative processes are useful to gain allies in the state, effective and legitimate social change requires that we employ tools of both disruptive and everyday activism to change the material and cultural conditions of agency. Practices change when we do things differently, together. Nothing is ever promised by community activism, but it is morally wrong to wait for the state and its elite allies to keep their promises.


Ashley Atkins (Western Michigan University)

Department Colloquium: Grief at the Edge of the Living World
Friday, September 10th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Abstract: Researchers studying attachment have introduced 'searching grief' as a label for a range of puzzling, albeit common, responses to the death of a significant other, including looking for the dead, awaiting their return, and at times even sensing their presence. The guiding idea behind this research is that we cannot immediately relinquish our ties to the living person and that, until we do, death is experienced as a separation that might be overcome. Within the philosophical literature, there is disagreement concerning whether this type of explanation must be supplemented with the assumption that we are motivated to deny the reality of such a death, raising concerns about the rationality of grief. This paper challenges the assumption common to these views, namely, that we search because our attachments to the other are preserved. We search, I argue, because those ties are severed. Those who respond to loss in these ways are not insulated from the death of their significant others and, in fact, often find themselves closer to the dead than the living. I argue that this experience of dwelling among the dead helps to reframe and clarify discussions around the rationality and even sanity of grief.


Isidora Stojanovic (Institut Jean Nicod)

Department Colloquium: Exploring Valence in Aesthetic Judgments
Friday, October 22nd, 4:00-6:00 pm

Abstract: The aim of this talk is twofold. First, I will be interested in adjectives that are neither clearly positive nor negative, such as 'intense' and 'surprising'. Such neutral adjectives can nevertheless be used in judgments of taste and in aesthetic judgments, and give rise to evaluations that can be positive or negative, depending on the context. Second, I will look at adjectives such as 'harrowing', 'disturbing', 'terrifying' and 'shocking', which have a negative valence, since they express emotions and experiences that are considered to be negative. Nevertheless, when used to assess works of art, they tend to express positive evaluations. I will explore different mechanisms, semantic and pragmatic, that allow neutral terms to acquire their valence in context, and negatively valenced terms to give expression to positive evaluations.


May Sim (College of the Holy Cross)

Department Colloquium:Epictetus and Zhuangzi: Indifference Toward Health

Friday, November 12th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Click here to access a Zoom recording of this talk.

Abstract: This essay compares the views of a Stoic (Epictetus) and a Daoist (Zhuangzi) toward the concept of health. Despite their agreement about how bodily health is not the main focus of living well, they disagree about the reasons why. Their differences are traceable to differences in their metaphysics, which in turn affect their respective views of ‘nature' as well as ethics. By comparing Epictetus's and Zhuangzi's metaphysics, nature and ethics, I show how their concepts of ‘health' stem from their respective philosophies, and how their views can help us rethink our current presuppositions about health.


Spring 2022 Speaker Series

Kevin Dorst (University of Pittsburgh)

Department Colloquium: Ambiguous Overconfidence
Friday, February 4th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Abstract: One of the most widely-cited indicators of human irrationality is the apparent finding that people are overconfident in their opinions. The evidence for this claim is that people's opinions are often predictably miscalibrated—for example, of the things they report 80% confidence in, only 60% are true.  In this paper I do two things.  First, I show that this is evidence for overconfidence only if we should expect rational opinions to be calibrated, and that we should expect this only if we should obey a particular type of “Reflection” principle (van Fraassen 1984) toward rational opinions.  Second, appealing to the fact that this Reflection principle fails whenever rational people can be unsure whether they're rational, I show that the connection between rationality and calibration is much looser than has been realized—often rational people can be expected to be systematically miscalibrated.  I argue that this observation casts doubt on the claim that we have strong evidence for overconfidence.


Karánn Durland (Austin College)

Department Colloquium: TBA
Friday, March 4th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Abstract: TBA


Tim Williamson (Oxford University)

Department Colloquium: TBA
Friday, April 8th, 4:00-6:00 pm

Abstract: TBA

Department of Philosophy