CEU Philosophy Graduate Conference
The 1st Philosophy Graduate Conference at CEU
March 18-19, 2006, Central European University, Budapest

Keynote address

Simon Blackburn (University of Cambridge)
Why Hume Beats Nietzsche


Robin Brown (University of Bristol)
On difficulties facing the formulation of the doctrine of supervenience
Comments: István Aranyosi (ANU Center of Consciousness/CEU)

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The introductory section discusses supervenience and the role it plays in formulating contemporary physicalism. The section concludes with the definition of local supervenience used by Kim in the causal-exclusion argument.

The second section outlines an abstract model for the analysis of supervenience, associating total mental states with total states of the nervous system. It is argued that Kim’s formulation confuses two orders of necessity: a metaphysical necessity attaching to the supervenience of the total mental state, and a nomological necessity attaching to the correlation of particular elements of the concurrent physical and mental states.

A central idea is the degree of resolution of the description of the state of the nervous system. This serves as a metaphor for the idea of multiple levels of physical description, and in the third section it is argued that any formulation of supervenience that was attached to a particular level of description would risk error if changes at a more fundamental level of the subvening base proved to be significant for supervenience.

In the fourth section it is argued that the problem of levels of properties and description cannot be avoided by a retreat from local to global supervenience. Loewer’s notion of a duplicate world may help, but an alternative weaker formulation is proposed that does avoid the difficulty.

Mladen Domazet (University of Zagreb)
Feeling in private
Comments: Vlad Morariu (University of Iasi)

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It can be assumed that if any part of our mental life is innate it could in principle be developed in private, i.e. is not of necessity a social product. According to de Sousa’s 1980 account emotions can be subjected to rationality assessments, making them a part, albeit special (borderline), of our ‘rational life’. Contribution of emotions to conduct of ‘rational life’ is important, as the characteristics of belief and action most commonly associated with rationality do not provide sufficient grounds to guide an organism towards any particular course of action. By asking whether emotions (such that are still subjectable to minimal rationality assessments) can be developed in private (in a sense of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations) we are asking whether there can be any part of our ‘rational life’ that could be innate, and thus not a result of social conditioning. A brief survey of the related issue of interpretation of Wittgenstein’s arguments against private language and rule-following reveals that the issue is not whether socially non-conditioned emotions could be experienced (exist), but whether we would ever, given the absence of ‘investigation independent standards of correctness’, be able to know that they are or are not.

Martina Fürst (University of Graz)
What is it like to be directed at something: the phenomenology of intentionality
Comments: Maria Trofimova (CEU)

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In the following paper I want to elaborate the importance of phenomenal properties (qualia) for an adequate analysis of conscious mental states. Starting from the assumption that qualia are the essence of phenomenal states, it will be argued that these properties also constitute other conscious states, namely intentional states.

This radical claim will be supported by a profound investigation of two indispensable components of an intentional state: its attitude type (or modus) and its mental content. Describing several scenarios I will show that each of these two crucial components of intentional states reveals a phenomenal aspect, which can not be reduced to associated phenomena like e.g. sub-vocal speech. Hence it will turn out that it can only be the intrinsic phenomenal aspects of the modus and the mental content, which constitute an intentional state as being the specific state that it is. Finally, appealing to the special epistemic access we have to the qualitative aspect of our inner life, I will give compelling reasons for ascribing to qualia the status of essential, constitutive properties of all kind of conscious mental states.

Achill Schnetzer and Juan Suarez (University of Fribourg)
Human echolocation and sense individuation
Comments: Monica Jitareanu (CEU)

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Lopes (2000) claims that the intermodal representationalist theory of sense individuation and phenomenal character has a clear counterexample in the phenomenon of human echolocation—the way in which (mostly blind) people become aware of some of the spatial properties of their environment by using the sounds reflected from objects. The crucial thesis of this theory is a supervenience claim:

(IP) No difference in phenomenal character without a difference in representational content.

The argument against IP depends on the following intuitive claim:

(IC) What it is like to hear a shape is different from what it is like to see a shape.

In his response to Lopes, Dretske (2000) claims that (IC) draws upon a confusion between property awareness and fact awareness, where only differences in property awareness without differences in phenomenal character yield pertinent counterexamples to his theory. We introduce three criteria for p-awareness, based on which we argue that echolocation might well consist in p-awareness of spatial properties. Whether in echolocation subjects are p-aware of spatial properties depends on the way these properties are represented by the subject. Alternatively the representationalist could claim that the phenomenology of echolocation and vision are the same. This option cannot be ruled out on the basis of current evidence, but it is unreasonable to presuppose that this will necessarily be so given the different ways spatial information is given to the subject in echolocation and sight.

Delphine Chapuis-Schmitz (Université Paris 1)
Logical rules and the method of verification: Schlick and Carnap vs. Quine
Comments: Lucian Zagan (CEU)

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This papers intends to show that the kind of verificationism defended by Carnap and Schlick cannot be properly understood independently of a conventional linguistic framework which first makes verification possible. In other words, the principle of verification does not function as an independent principle of meaning, but it has to be correlated with specific logical rules which play a decisive role in determining the meaning of cognitive statements.

First, Quine’s attribution of an atomistic conception of verification to logical empiricists is shown as inadequate for what concerns Schlick’s and Carnap’s writings in the thirties. Secondly, the way Schlick and Carnap respectively conceive of the articulation between the verifiability requirement and the structural determination of meaning through logical rules is examined in more details; important differences between these two approaches reveal themselves here. It appears nonetheless at the same time that they function on a common background which permits to exhibit a revised notion of “empirical meaning” in linking verifiability and linguistic conventions. Understanding properly the views of these authors on verificationism thus permits to apprehend the distinction between linguistic and empirical components of meaning in a way which escapes Quine’s critic based on the rejection of atomistic verification.

Eugen Zelenak (Catholic University in Ružemberok)
On explanatory relata
Comments: Andra Lazaroiu

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In my paper I approach the issue of explanation via analysis of singular explanatory statement. Such statement asserts that there is an explanatory relation between some entities – relata. What entities are suitable for explanatory relata? I try to outline three different positions. Purely causal approach stipulates that the same entities, which are related in causal relation, are linked also by explanatory relation. This position, however, has a problem with distinguishing between causation and explanation, two distinct relations allegedly obtaining between the same entities. Purely linguistic approach states that explanatory relata are linguistic entities of some sort, i.e. statements, propositions etc. There are various versions of this position. I deal with two of them and try to show that they are unsatisfactory because they change the usual meaning of the word “to explain”. On the first version explanation is something like interpretation or clarification of the meaning and on the second one it is something close to evidential relation or justification. I consider these switches in meaning of “explanation” unnecessary and consequently reject their views on explanatory relata. The most promising proposal concerning these relata seems to be mixed view, according to which statements explain events.

Olivier Massin (Université Pierre Mendès, Grenoble)
Forces as symmetrical relations
Comments: Hanoch Ben-Yami (CEU)

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This paper defends the view that forces are real symmetrical relations. I first give a minimal definition of forces, according to which forces are nonkinematical entities that have both a magnitude and a direction. Second, I sketch a truthmaker argument in favour of some mesoscopic forces: the disposition to move of a static equilibrium can change even if no kinematical mesoscopic change occurs in the equilibrium (removing a keystone hasn’t the same consequence before and after the removal of the props). This argument shows that some forces are real and that they must be component ones and not (only) resultant ones. Third, I reject the view that forces (and other vectors) are monadic properties, whether categorical or dispositional ones, because it cannot account for the directionality of forcevectors (especially, directedness of dispositions shouldn’t be confused with directionality of vectors). Fourthly, I argue for a metaphysical principle according to which for any two particulars, if their exemplifying a relation necessitates their exemplifying the same relation but in opposite sense, then what they exemplify is in fact one and the same symmetrical relation —and not two crossing asymmetrical relations. Newton’s third law states that “To any action there is always an opposite and equal reaction”. The fact that forces come by pairs, together with the above principle, implies that forces are symmetrical relations. There is no essential difference between force and distances: for any two bodies, it is true that “To any distance there is always an opposite and equal distance” but this doesn’t imply that there are two asymmetrical distance between them.

Hossein Sheykh Rezaee (University of Durham)
Multiple realisation, unity of science, and autonomy of special sciences
Comments: Claire Wirsig (University of St Andrews)

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Realization is one of the most central issues in contemporary analytic metaphysics. In philosophy of science, the problem of reduction is completely tied to it, such that the standard problem with the classical model of reduction is undoubtedly (multiple) realization. In this paper, first I present an exposition of the received view on metaphysics of realization. After that, we move to the philosophy of science and the relationship between unity of science and multiple realization. I argue that even if multiple realization blocks the possibility of reduction (which I think does not), we still can defend a kind of unity between special sciences and physics. This unity is based on the fact that special-science and physical laws express the same nomological content in two different coarse and fine-grained versions. After that, Kim’s two epistemic and metaphysical objections to general and autonomous special sciences will be discussed. In reply, I try to defend the possibility of general and autonomous special sciences according to the received framework of realization.

Alexandre Costa-Leite (University of Neuchâtel)
Combining possibility and knowledge
Comments: István Bodnár (CEU)

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This paper is an attempt to define a new modality with philosophical interest by combining the basic modal ingredients of possibility and knowledge. This combination is realized via product of modal frames so as to construct a knowability modality, which is a bidimensional constructor of arity one defined in a two-dimensional modal frame. A semantical interpretation for the operator is proposed, as well as an axiomatic system able to account for inferences related to this new modality. The resulting logic for knowability LK is shown to be sound and complete with respect to its class of modal-epistemic product models.

Milosz Pawlowski (CEU)
Traversing the infinite in both directions
Comments: Katalin Farkas (CEU)

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The main aim of my paper is to present a proof to the conclusion that is impossible to traverse an infinite series (in particular, an infinite series of past moments). This conclusion might then be used in arguing that the series of past moments cannot be infinite. There are three preparatory stages preceding the formulation of the formal proof. First I formulate five theses concerning traversing, successive addition and successive subtraction and present the idea of the argument: if it were possible to traverse infinite past, it should be in principle possible to go back, which is, however, impossible. The main body of the paper is concerned with working out a simple mathematical apparatus which captures some structural features of processes like traversing and successive addition. I also make a crucial distinction between completion of a process at a particular time and its timeless “completion” in infinite time. In section V I present the proof and defend it against a possible objection of question-begging. Finally, I discuss what philosophical applications the argument might have. It can contribute not only to arguments for God’s existence, but also to solving the problem of assymetry of our attitudes towards death and prenatal nonexistence.

Ophelia Deroy (University Paris XII)
In defence of dispositional monism
Comments: Miklós Márton (Eötvös Loránd University)

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Taken out of the banishment pronounced by Modern philosophers, dispositions benefit nowadays from a large audience in analytic metaphysics. After having sketched the history of the concept and its problems up to most contemporary developments, and explained its challenging issues for semantics, epistemology and ontology, the paper focuses on the most contemporary problem faced by dispositions in the metaphysical field, i.e. whether they necessarily have categorical basis. This problem divides contemporary systems into dualistic and monistic ones; given the numerous problems faced by the former, mainly to explain the relation between disposition and categorical properties, many philosophers advocate for the more economical monism. What is to be challenged is then not the adequacy of this choice, but the pretty unilateral privilege given to categorical monism in front of dispositional monism. The paper thus tries to advocate for an ontology in which all properties are dispositional, first against the theoretical objection offered by categoricalists that it leads to infinite regress, secondly, and more positively, by showing how it may be consistent and fertile regarding other developments in metaphysics and sciences.

Maja Malec (CEU)
Essentialism contextualized
Commenst: Adrian Briciu (CEU)

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I critically discuss a contextualist approach to essentialism, which was developed as an explanation of the seeming inconstancy of our essentialist intuitions. The problem supposed to be that we vacillate a great deal in judging what properties an object has essentially from one occasion to another, which obviously undermines the reliability of our essentialist intuitions. The contextualist solves the problem by claiming that ‘essentially’ is a context sensitive expression. Once we are aware of this fact, contextualist argues, the conflict of intuitions turns out to be only apparent. The central idea of my paper is that since contextalist is making claims about our ordinary language, she should present linguistic evidence to support her case. Appealing to the usefulness of the theory does not suffice. I present two linguistic tests for context sensitivity, which ‘essentially’ does not pass. This suggests that in fact ‘essentially’ is not context-sensitive term.

Treasa Campbell (Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick)
Humanising epistemology: the danger of misidentifying instincts as beliefs in Hume’s philosophy
Comments: Judit Szalai (CEU)

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For Hume there exists a small group of principles that cannot be justified by reason yet are unavoidable features of how we operate in the world. In an attempt to mark out this group literature on Hume widely refers to them as ‘natural beliefs’. This paper will demonstrate that what have been termed 'natural beliefs', for example our affirmation in the existence of the external world, the existence of the self and of causation, are more accurately categorised as instincts. I argue that Hume calls for more then a mere reclassification of these phenomena as a unique form of belief, what Hume demands is that these phenomena should no longer be viewed as any form of belief but as instincts inseparable from our species. I contend that the term 'natural belief' fails to take cognizance of the radical change which Hume's work necessitates, and is a fundamental misrepresentation of the phenomena which it is attempting to characterize. If philosophy is to have any relevance to us as human beings, it must take account of the cognitive capacities of our species. In characterizing these principles as instincts and not as beliefs, Hume has enacted a dramatic transformation in the epistemological landscape.

Adrian Kuzniar (Warsaw University)
Free will, moral luck and the evolutionary basis for moral responsibility
Comments: Zoltán Wagner (CEU)

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In the paper it is argued, first, that even when construed as liberum arbitrium free will cannot be regarded as a necessary condition of moral responsibility. There are cases of moral luck in which we hold people morally responsible despite the fact that their acts breach a necessary condition that has to be imposed on free agency. Secondly, having formulated an expressivistic theory of moral responsibility, we refer to Moritz Schlick’s account of its conditions. We put forward a hypothesis to the effect that all typical situations in which we hold people responsible or we deny their responsibility are explicable in terms of evolutionary reasons behind punishing and rewarding. Thirdly, we justify the hypothesis in question by providing an account of the rather difficult practice of ascribing moral responsibility in moral luck cases where, as it will have been shown, even libertarians cannot make responsibility dependant on an agent’s free will.

Mikołaj Gołembiowski (Warsaw University)
Emotivistic concepts of moral responsibility. A critical analysis of the account presented by Charles L. Stevenson
Comments: András Szigeti (CEU)

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In this paper the author analyzes the account of moral responsibility presented by Charles L. Stevenson in his work Ethics and Language, in the chapter: “Avoidability, indeterminism.” In the first part he is concerning Stevenson’s definitions of avoidability. He examines Stevenson’s claim about correspondence of this definition with the notion of liberty that was presented by Hume and argues the results of the analysis suggest that the definition is inappropriate. He admits that the argument presented by C. A. Campbell is sound and the definition should be rejected as a claim about the common usage of word “avoidable”. In the second part the author is presenting Stevenson’s conception of forward-looking function of moral judgments. He concerns main problems and implications of the theory. The third part the author claims that Stevenson’s main statements resist the arguments of the opponents in spite of implausibility of the definition of avoidability. And this favours compatibilism over incompatibilism. On the author’s view, the incompatibilists haven’t shown that Stevenson’s claim that responsibility is to be explained in terms of controlling one’s future conduct is unsound. Moreover, Stevenson’s account complies with the main standards of rational methodology of scientific research unlike some libertarian theories presented by incompatibilists.