CEU Philosophy Graduate Conference
The 2nd Philosophy Graduate Conference at CEU
March 29-30, 2008, Central European University, Budapest
Keynote speaker: Galen Strawson

The presentations will take place at the Philosophy Department, Zrínyi u. 14. Parallel sessions will be held in rooms 411 and 411/a, and the keynote address, in room 412.

Saturday, March 29 2008

10:00 - 11:30 Steinvör Thöll Àrnadóttir (UCL)
Functionalism and Thinking Animals
Comments: David Kovacs (ELTE)
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Sydney Shoemaker has proposed a functionalist solution to a problem of too many thinkers that arises for Neo- Lockean accounts of personal identity. Neo-Lockeans claim that persons have psychological persistence conditions and, given that animals do not have psychological persistence conditions, they must deny that persons are identical to animals. But such a denial becomes problematic when it is combined with the very plausible assumption that animals share the thoughts of the persons they constitute. If wherever there is a thinking person there is a thinking animal distinct from it, then there are at least twice as many thinkers as we thought there were –hence the problem of too many thinkers. Shoemaker’s response to this problem is to deny that animals can think. He argues that it is a consequence of functionalism that mental properties can be had only by things with psychological persistence conditions, and so it is a consequence of functionalism that animals cannot think. In this paper, I outline the core tenets of Shoemaker’s position and his argument for why animals cannot think and propose two different ways in which his argument fails to establish its intended conclusion.

  Dan Zeman (CEU/LOGOS)
Knowledge Attributions and Relevant Contexts
Comments: Lee Walters (UCL)
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The paper is concerned with the semantics of knowledge attributions (K-claims, for short) and proposes a position holding that K-claims are context-sensitive that differs from extant views on the market. First I lay down the data a semantic theory for K-claims needs to explain. Next I present and assess three views purporting to give the semantics for K-claims: contextualism, subject-sensitive invariantism and relativism. All three views are found wanting with respect to their accounting for the data. I then propose a hybrid view according to which the relevant context for making/evaluating a K-claim is neither that of the subject (subject-sensitive invariantism), nor that of the assessor (relativism), but it is a context-sensitive matter itself. In the end I qualify the view by proposing a principle that should guide us in making/evaluating K-claims and consider some objections to it.

11:45 - 13:15 Matthew Conduct (Durham)
Naïve Realism, Adverbialism, and Perceptual Error
Comments: Tomasz Budek (CEU)
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My paper has three parts. First I will outline the act/object theory and its commitments to (a) a strongly relational view of experience and (b) a view of core phenomenal character according to which it is constituted by the character of the objects of experience. I present the traditional adverbial response to this, in which experience is not to be understood as a relation to some object, but as a way of sensing. In the second part I argue that acceptance of (a) the strongly relational conception of experience is independent of acceptance of (b) the view that the core phenomenal character of such experience is simply constituted by the character of the objects of experience. I then present a modified adverbialism that presents experience as relational in nature but whose character is nevertheless to be explained in terms of the way in which one senses. Finally, I will offer an explanation of how a naïve realist about experience can adopt this modified adverbialism and in so doing accommodate the possibility of perceptual error.

  Paula Sweeney (St Andrews/Arché)
Contextualism and the Minimal Theory of Vagueness
Comments: Lucian Zagan (CEU)
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In ‘Vagueness: A Minimal Theory’ (2003), Patrick Greenough aims to locate a level playing field within the vagueness debate: a minimal, theory-neutral definition of what vagueness consists in which all parties could accept, regardless of philosophical or logical leanings. According to Greenough such a minimal theory would “ensure that the dialectic of the vagueness debate can at least begin at the mutually agreed point”. In this paper, while agreeing that the development of a minimal theory is beneficial, I suggest that Greenough’s formulation is not compatible with a contextualist reading of Mark Sainsbury’s (1990) notion of vagueness as boundarylessness and as such, Greenough’s minimal theory could bias the vagueness debate in favour of epistemicist theories over contextualist theories.

13:15 - 14:30 Lunch break  
14:30 - 16:00 Monica Jitareanu (CEU)
Phenomenal vs. Intentional - Ways of Conceiving Perceptual Experience and What It Means to Say It is Transparent
Comments: George Tudorie (CEU)
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The so-called transparency argument has come to play an important role in arguing for the intentionality of perceptual experience. The phenomenal character of experience – the what it’s like for the subject to undergo a perceptual experience – has sometimes been explained in terms of properties of mind-dependent objects (sense-data theories), or, alternatively, of qualia (intrinsic, non-intentional, introspectively accessible properties of experience). The transparency argument is an argument from introspection, which supposedly shows that the phenomenal character of experience is best explained in terms of intentional/representational content.

The scope of the argument was misunderstood from the very beginning by its proponents. This paper is intended as an analysis of the argument – of what it is an argument for, and what lies outside of its scope; it is not an evaluation of the argument, though. The argument has been intended as an argument from introspection for the intentionality of perceptual experience and against the existence of intrinsic, non-intentional, introspectively accessible properties of perceptual experience. It will emerge that it is, indeed, an argument for the intentionality of perceptual experience and against the existence of non-intentional, introspectively accessible properties of experience. Yet, it is not an argument against the existence of intrinsic, introspectively accessible properties of experience. The way it has been formulated is compatible with 2 other types of intentionalist theories (which sized the opportunity to use it), supervenience intentionalism and phenomenal intentionalism, whose ontological commitments are very different. Although it could be used to establish the general intentionalist claims, it is not strong enough to establish the particular conclusions of representationalism.

It will emerge that the transparency argument consists in two claims ambiguous between two different readings, leading up to two different arguments: one of them is an argument from introspection for the general claim that perceptual experience has content/accuracy conditions. The other one is an argument for externalism; it is a much stronger argument that cannot be established by introspection alone. This is the argument intended by representationalist philosophers. They were mistaken, though; introspection provides a weaker argument, which only establishes the conclusion that experience has content.

  Lee Walters (UCL)
The Duality of Might and Would
Comments: András Simonyi (CEU)
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The claim that "if A were the case then C would be the case" seems to be undermined by the claim that "if A were the case then ~C might be the case". But given that for many A and C we can affirm the latter claim, it seems that many counterfactuals are false. This line of thought depends on the duality of "would" and "might". I argue that such a duality is implausible since it implies the would counterfactual is a strict conditional and that we know not to be the case.

16:15 - 17:45 Carl Baker (Leeds)
Musical Platonism, Folk Intuitions, and Philosophical Methodology
Comments: Eva Ferlez (CEU)
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I have two aims in this paper. Firstly, the narrow aim: to defend Musical Platonism from the charge that it should be rejected because it is counter-intuitive. Secondly, the broader aim: to argue that appeals to prevalent folk intuition in philosophical argument are only warranted insofar as these intuitions are sensitive to the relevant facts about the world. I begin by outlining Platonism and sketching Jerrold Levinson’s ‘counter-intuitiveness’ objection. I then offer a general account of when appeals to prevalent folk intuition are warranted, before suggesting that the relevant conditions are not met in the case of Musical Platonism. I consider and resist four objections to my account, concerning (respectively) mathematical beliefs, ‘fundamental intuitions’, contingency, and counterpossibles.

  Jose Gonzalez Varela (Sheffield)
Caution and Necessity
Comments: Maja Malec (CEU)
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In this paper I argue against Crispin Wright’s non-cognitivist conventionalism about necessity as based on the availability of the attitude of “Caution” towards judgements of necessity. I argue that, despite the attractiveness of Wright’s non-cognitivism, Caution cannot provide an adequate basis for a non-cognitivist account of necessity. I present, mainly, two objections. (1) That, if Caution is coherent and interesting, its availability will show not only that modal judgement is non-objective but that it is dispensable. The availability of Caution then will not only preclude an answer to what I take is the main outstanding Quinean objection against the modal, that which recommends the elimination of the modal due to its lack of function or role in our thought, but actually would seem to promote it. (2) However, my second objection is that Caution is not ultimately interesting, for it has a mere verbal character and, on account of this, it fails to satisfy a necessary constraint of non-generalization to other discourses. This failure would trivialize the result sought by Wright’s non-cognitivist argument for the non-objectivity of modal judgement based on the availability of Caution, for it would entail that, if the availability of Caution showed modal judgement to be non-objective, then it would show as well that no judgement is objective. Yet, once Caution is shown to be not interesting, that is, merely verbal, that will be sufficient to dispel the threat of dispensability of the modal that its availability seemed to bring.

19:00 - 21:00 Dinner  

Sunday, March 30 2008

10:00 - 11:30 Barbara Trybulec (Lublin)
Is Naturalism Normative? Function of Epistemic Norms within Naturalised Epistemology
Comments: Stefan Ionescu (CEU)
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The topic of the paper is the problem of normativity within naturalised epistemology. The question I pose is whether naturalism can be conducted as a normative enterprise or whether it is merely descriptive as traditional epistemologists maintain. If they are to be faithful to their philosophical presuppositions naturalists cannot deliver traditionally understood substantive account of normativity. This is the reason why naturalism is often conceived as a merely descriptive enterprise. Nevertheless, naturalists do not reject normativity they just understand it differently. The numerous misunderstandings between traditional and naturalistic epistemologists is rooted in the difference in the attitudes to the naturalistic fallacy taken by these two sides. Naturalists treat this ‘fallacy’ as unavoidable, which profoundly influences their account of normativity. In my paper, I show that the main problem with naturalising epistemic norms could be expressed by asking – What is the substantial difference between epistemic norms derived from descriptive statements and those statements? What does this derivation really mean? My thesis is that naturalistic epistemic norms are actually descriptions of empirical phenomena which are expressed in a normative form for the sake of everyday life and scientific practice. To justify this argument I firstly recall the traditional meaning of ‘normativity’ in the work of Descartes and the post-Cartesian internalists. Secondly, I present how and why the meaning of ‘epistemic norm’ and ‘justified belief’ change within naturalism with reference to Quine’s and Goldman’s versions of naturalism in particular. Finally, I focus on the consequences of naturalising normativity, especially on the function of epistemic norms within naturalised epistemology. At this last stage I make use of Jonathan Knowles’ book Norms, Naturalism and Epistemology.

  Rebekah Humphreys (Cardiff)
Contractarianism: On the Incoherence of the Exclusion of Non-Human Beings
Comments: Andrei Stavila (CEU)
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Although the practices of animal experimentation and intensive rearing involve a considerable amount of animal suffering they continue to be supported. Why is the suffering of animals in these practices so often accepted? This paper will explore some of the reasons given in support of the use of animals for such practices. In particular I will focus on contractarianism as one of the many positions that argues that morally relevant differences between species justifies animal experimentation and factory farming. These differences include rationality and moral agency. On this position non-humans are excluded from direct moral concern on the basis that they lack such qualities. I will argue that in order for contractarianism to be coherent it necessarily has to include non-humans in the contract. This has implications for the application of contractarianism to the ethics of factory farming and animal experimentation.

11:45 - 13:15 Julien Dutant (Geneva)
One Knows Only If One Could Not Have Been Wrong
Comments: Sara Neva (Bologna)
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A basic task for epistemology is to find out what knowledge requires above true belief. I defend a partial answer to it, modal infallibilism, according to which a necessary condition on knowledge is that one could not have been wrong. I first spell it out in more detail, and contrast it with both epistemic infallibilism (which boils down to epistemic closure, and which I take to be almost trivially true) and evidential infallibilism (which I take to be false). Four arguments for modal infallibilism are then presented: that it is required to solve the Gettier problem, that is accounts for our ignorance in lottery cases, that it is compatible with epistemic closure, and that it avoids some counter-examples to Williamson’s safety. Modal infallibilism turns out to be preferable to other modal conditions on knowledge, such as Goldman’s reliability, Unger’s non-accidentally, Williamson’s safety, and Nozick’s sensitivity. In the last section, the potential sceptical consequences of modal infallibilism are explored. It is argued that whether modal infallibilism leads to scepticism depend on unsettled issues about the relevant notion of possibility and the individuation of bases of belief. Two further objections are briefly discussed, according to which modal infallibilism as formulated here is too vague.

  Marion Vorms (IHPST/Paris 1)
Models and Formats of Representation [Link]
Comments: Hanoch Ben-Yami (CEU)
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Scientific models are most of the time assigned two main functions: representing the phenomena and allowing predictions. Their predictive power is generally thought of as depending on their representational power. The issue of the representational function of models is obscured by both the great heterogeneity of the class of things that are called “models” and a lack of clarity of what is to be understood by “representation”. In this paper, I focus on a particularly important class of things that are called “models”, namely non-physical entities that are presented as the imaginary referents of scientific laws. One example of them is the simple pendulum. This paper aims at answering the following question: What do we mean when we say that we use the simple pendulum to represent target systems? First, I propose a conception of representation that emphasizes the importance of what I call the “format” of a representation to the inferences it enables cognitive agents to draw. Then, I analyze what happens, in practice, when we say that we use the model of the simple pendulum to represent a target system. I show that the simple pendulum itself has to be characterized in various formats, which matter to the kind of reasoning that can be led, and that it is not, per se, the representing device. Indeed, representing a physical system always consists in using some particular device (equation, graph, description in natural language, schematic drawing), whose format matters to the inferences one can draw from it. Using the simple pendulum to represent a physical system consists in using representations in the same formats as those used in characterizing the model itself. The representational power of models of the kind of the simple pendulum lies in the formats that are used to characterize them and to represent physical systems.

13:15 - 15:00 Lunch break  
15:00 - 16:30 Keynote address: Galen Strawson
Subjects as Objects: Unity and Self. How to Turn the 2nd Paralogism into a Valid Argument.
19:00 - 21:00 Dinner