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September 22nd, 2017
“The What, the How, and the Why of Science Denial” by Adrian Bardon (Wake Forest University)
What is going on when someone is “in denial”? Denial, as opposed to lying or bullshitting, arises from a state of sincere self-deception. This seems paradoxical. How can one self-deceive? And why would anyone ever want to be wrong about something? As it turns out, it is all-too-easy to self-deceive, and there are lots of reasons why people are motivated to deny reality.
Science denial is the denial of consensus science on any of a wide range of issues, such as climate change, vaccine safety, GM foods, or water-supply fluoridation. Widespread denial of established science in areas like these can have a big impact on public policy and human well-being. We would do well to form a better understanding of what denial is, how it is maintained, and, perhaps most importantly, why we do it.
Dr. Bardon is well-known philosopher who works in the philosophy of science. It promises to be an great talk. Hope to see you there!
September 15th, 2017
“On Characterizing the Fundamental” by Jessica Wilson (University of Toronto)
What is it for some goings-on to be fundamental at a world? Here I argue against ‘independence’-based accounts according to which this is for the goings-on be ‘un-Grounded’ or otherwise metaphysically independent from all others, motivate my preferred account according to which this is ultimately a primitive matter, and defend my account against several recent objections.
Dr. Wilson is well-known philosopher who works in contemporary metaphysics. It promises to be an great talk. Hope to see you there!
April 21st, 2017
“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
“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
“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.
February 24th, 2017
December 2nd, 2016
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
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
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
“What’s So Special About Reflection?”
Matt Braich (University of California at San Diego)
“What’s So Special About Reflection?”