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April 21st, 2017

  • 3:30pm: “Berkeley on the Heterogeneity of the Senses”, Honors Thesis Presented by Bridger Ehli


    In his Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision, George Berkeley presents a revolutionary theory of visual perception. Central to this theory is what scholars have dubbed the “Heterogeneity Thesis,” which Berkeley calls the “main part and pillar” of his theory. This thesis is often interpreted as the claim that there are no common sensibles––that the sensible qualities we touch, for example, are not the sensible qualities we see. On the face of it, the thesis appears to be false, or at least to depart from common sense: we think we often see and touch the same quality or the same object. The aim of this paper is not to defend the Heterogeneity Thesis but to answer a series of questions: what is the Heterogeneity Thesis, what role does it play in Berkeley’s theory of perceptual experience, and why did he view it as the main part and pillar of his theory? I argue that Berkeley adopts several versions of the Heterogeneity Thesis, and that each version plays a crucial role in Berkeley’s story of how we navigate a spatial world, visually.


April 17th, 2017

  • Image preview 3:30pm: “What’s A Definition in Biology?” Richard Boyd, Cornell University
    According to the ‘homeostatic property cluster’ conception many categories in biology and other sciences are defined by naturally occurring property clusters and their underlying clustering mechanisms.  The HPC conception has been challenged on the grounds that it doesn’t accord with actual definitional practices in biology and that it fails to account for the role of phylogeny in defining biological taxa.  A response is developed that focuses on (1) the role of published ‘definitions’ in the sciences and (2) the relationship between philosophy of science and the (other) sciences.

March 3rd, 2017

  • Image preview 3:30pm: “Meaning and the Good Life” by Dan Haybron (St. Louis University)
    It is plausible that good lives somehow include virtue and well-being: living well and doing well. But it also seems to matter that our lives be meaningful. What does it mean to lead a meaningful life? Is meaning a further value, in addition to well-being and virtue? I will suggest that meaning in life concerns engaging with value in certain ways–for example, enjoying worthwhile activities. Meaning is important in life, and people can reasonably trade a good deal of personal happiness to lead more meaningful lives. But meaning is not itself a distinct kind of value. Rather, meaningful lives are desirable because of the contributions meaning makes to well-being and virtue.

December 2nd, 2016

  • 3:30pm: How Otto did not Extend His Mind, but Might Have: Dynamic Systems Theory and Social-Cultural Group Selection
    I start with the back-story on Otto, his career as a NASA scientist, when Otto supersized his embodied mind, embedding it in the natural and social-cultural environments and extending it to both, thereby creating with them, extended and distributed cognitive agents. I explore how this happened, arguing that four major objections to extended cognition: (1) the mark of the cognitive, (2) the function-identity fallacy, (3) cognitive bloat, and (4) scientific irrelevance lose much of their sting in the case of distributed cognition, the extension of cognitive agency to a group of cognitive agents, such as a scientific research team. However, I claim that a crucial fifth challenge, that advocates of the extended mind commit the causal-constitution fallacy, has yet to be satisfactorily addressed. I focus on Spyridon Palermos’ use of dynamic systems theory to refute this charge and I argue that his appeal to dynamic systems theory as a criterion of system-constitution fails. Instead, I suggest a social-cultural group selection hypothesis for understanding system-constitution. But, I leave it for another day to elaborate that hypothesis’ empirical plausibility.

November 18th, 2016

  • 3:30pm: Backdoors, Newgenics, and Eugenics Underground, by Rob Wilson (University of Alberta)
     This talk will take up the idea of newgenics–of eugenics persisting in contemporary practices that are not typically identified as eugenic–drawing on the disability theorist Rosemarie Garland-Thompson’s appeal to what she calls eugenic logic.  We’ll review some well-worn arguments concerning prenatal screening and newgenics, and consider several threads of thinking in contemporary bioethics that embolden (and perhaps manifest) eugenic logic.  Throughout the talk there will be a focus on disability, eugenics, and human variation, and I will make some framing comments that locate the talk in the broader framework of the book, The Eugenic Mind Project, from which it drawn.

September 30th, 2016

  • Image preview 3:30pm: The Veridicality of Perception in Aristotle, Rosemary Twomey (Simon Fraser)
    Aristotle repeatedly characterizes our perception of the special objects — colors, odors, flavors, and sounds — as true, or not mistaken. He is less explicit about other kinds of perception, including the perception of so-called common objects like shape and size and the perception of incidental, macro objects, but what he does say about such cases has led many to think that misperception is possible. To the contrary, I argue that Aristotle is committed to the veridicality of all perception, and that his recognition of this commitment can be seen in his treatment of the psychological capacity of imagination. The claim that perception is always veridical might first sound stipulative: we don’t say that someone who mistakes a parrot for a human voice has perceived a human voice. However, I argue that perception’s accuracy follows from Aristotle’s metaphysical account of perception, and in particular from the essential causal role that the external object plays in the activity of perception. As such, the claim that perception is always accurate is a substantive thesis, one that can help to ground his empiricism. I neutralize the passages that have been thought to acknowledge misperception. According to my interpretation, these statements can be read as addressing how likely we are to be in error about the special objects as opposed to the common and incidental objects: Aristotle never claims that when we are wrong about common or incidental objects it is because we are perceiving them incorrectly.

May 2nd, 2016

April 16th, 2016

  • 9:45am - 11:15am: “The Academic Animal is Just an Analogy: Against the Restrictive Account of Hegel’s ‘Spiritual Animal Kingdom’” by Miguel Guerrero, Presenting at the Pacific University Philosophy Conference
    In this essay, I will argue against the restrictive account of Hegel’s “Spiritual Animal Kingdom.” To demonstrate this, I will present the restrictive account, as expressed by Royce, Kojève, Loewenberg, and Shapiro. While the intellectual life analogy is useful, I argue that it must not be understood as the sole content of the “Spiritual Animal Kingdom” for two reasons. The first comes from H.S. Harris, who holds that das geistige Tierreich includes, but is not limited to, intellectuals. However, I argue that the restrictive account fails also due to a misunderstanding of what Hegel means by die Sache selbst (in English, “the matter in hand”). I distinguish between (a) the initial and (b) the universal matters in hand. The restrictive account fails because such interpretations mistake the universal matter in hand for the initial one. Such a mistake restricts the ability of consciousness to progress to absolute knowing, which is the ultimate project for Hegel’s Phenomenology.

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