Past Events Friday March 17. (3:30-5:30 PM).
Emelia Miller (UMass Amherst)
“The Prudence of Prudential Naturalism: How to Do “Good For” Well”
Abstract. Well-being, also known as prudential value, refers to whatever makes a life non-instrumentally good for the person living it. Well-being is the object of immense practical, philosophical, and scientific concern. Assessments of well-being help to guide our decisions in everyday life, from relationships, to health decisions, to education and career choices. Well-being is increasingly the object of governmental and institutional policy, and even policies that are not aimed directly at promoting it can be evaluated in terms of their impacts on well-being. Colleges and universities routinely offer programs designed to help students maintain their well-being in the face of academic and personal stress. However, debates over the nature of well-being have raged since the beginning of philosophical inquiry, leaving us in a bad position when it comes to making headway on addressing those practical and scientific concerns. The goal of this talk is to show how the application of naturalistic methodology can help us to resolve the philosophical stalemate and thus to make progress in our practical and scientific projects relating to well-being.
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Thursday March 23. (4-6 PM).
Marissa Bennett (Toronto)
“The Conventionality of Real-Valued Quantities”
Abstract. The representational theory of measurement provides a collection of results that specify the conditions under which an attribute admits of numerical representation. The original architects of the theory interpreted the formalism operationally and explicitly acknowledged that some aspects of their representations are conventional. There have been a number of recent efforts to reinterpret the formalism to arrive at a more metaphysically robust account of physical quantities. In this paper we argue that the conventional elements of the representations afforded by the representational theory of measurement require careful scrutiny as one moves toward such an interpretation. To illustrate why, we show that there is a sense in which the very number system in which one represents a physical quantity such as mass or length is conventional. We argue that this result does not undermine the project of reinterpreting the representational theory of measurement for metaphysical purposes in general, but it does undermine a certain class of inferences about the nature of physical quantities that some have been tempted to draw.
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Friday April 7. (3:30-5:30 PM).
Allison Aitken (Columbia)
"Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu on the Principle of Sufficient Reason"
Abstract: Canonical defenders of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), such as Leibniz and Spinoza, are metaphysical foundationalists of one stripe or another. This is curious since the PSR—which says that everything has a ground, cause, or explanation—in effect, denies fundamental entities. In this talk, I explore the apparent inconsistency between metaphysical foundationalism and approaches to metaphysical system building that are driven by a commitment to the PSR. I do so by analyzing how Indian Buddhist philosophers arrive at both foundationalist and anti-foundationalist positions motivated by implicit commitments to different versions of the PSR. Specifically, I will focus on the role of the PSR in helping to the shape the metaphysical systems of foundationalist Sautrāntika Abhidharma Buddhists as represented by Vasubandhu and anti-foundationalist Madhyamaka Buddhists as represented by Nāgārjuna. I begin by introducing the Buddhist Principle of Dependent Origination (pratītyasamutpāda) as a proto-PSR that is restricted to causal explanation. Next, I show how Vasubandhu’s Sautrāntika Abhidharma metaphysics is shaped by a qualified commitment to causal and metaphysical grounding versions of the PSR. I then reveal how Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka metaphysics is driven by an unrestricted and exceptionless commitment to causal and metaphysical grounding versions of the PSR. Finally, I consider how Nāgārjuna’s account may put him in a unique position to respond to some contemporary objections to the PSR.
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Friday April 28. (1-3 PM).
Ezra Rubenstein (Berkeley)
"The Nomic Exclusion Argument for Physicalism"
Abstract: Many of us are convinced of physicalism: the view that all fundamental notions feature in the ultimate physical theory of the world. It is widely agreed that a good reason to be highly confident in physicalism is the success of physics since Newton. But how exactly does the argument from success proceed? A popular formulation is the ‘causal exclusion argument’: the success of physics indicates that everything is physically caused, and this leaves ‘no causal work’ left over for anything non-physical. However, this argument rests on a premise about causation which is far too contentious to justify any great confidence in physicalism. Instead, I suggest, the real issue concerns laws of nature: the success of physics indicates that everything can be subsumed under physical laws, leaving ‘no nomic work’ left over.
Zoom Link -- Email me for the passcode
Friday June 9 (3-5 PM).
Alison Springle (Miami)
"Radicalizing Practical Representations"
ABSTRACT: "Practical Representations" are psychological representations with action-related contents. Such representations seem to be involved in a range of psychological phenomena. These include perception and action capacities we share with other animals as well as moral beliefs and implicit biases that reflect distinctively human conceptual capacities. I argue that a unifying account of the content of practical representations is desirable and that meeting the desiderata on such an account motivates a “robustly radical” view of practical representations. The robustly radical view contrasts with “conservative,” “moderate,” and “relatively radical” views. Conservative views hold that practical representations are a species of propositional representation. I argue that such views satisfy certain desiderata only at the expense of sacrificing others. Moderate views hold that practical representations are a proposition-esque species of non-propositional representation. I argue that they don’t fare much better than conservative views. Radical views hold that practical representations are a species of non-propositional representation and are either relatively or robustly distinct from proposition-esque representations. Relatively radical views not only fail to satisfy the desiderata but also struggle with cogency, whereas, I argue, thoroughly radicalizing practical representations avoids such troubles. Drawing on my “practical access” analysis of representation, I develop a robustly radical view of practical representations. After demonstrating how my view satisfies the desiderata and solves several specific problems that arose for the other views, I close by noting a few ways my view sheds light on interesting phenomena in which practical representations feature.