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April 26th, 2019
“Self-Knowledge and Temperance: What is the Lesson of the Charmides?” by Cecilia Li (University of Western Ontario)
My question in this paper is whether the Charmides presents a serious challenge to the Apology’s portrayal of Socratic self-knowledge and Socrates’ enterprise of testing the wisdom of others. The Charmides is an inquiry into temperance (sophrosunē) and after several unsuccessful attempts, Socrates and Critias seem to arrive at a promising definition – temperance is the knowledge of self (epistēmē heatou). Socrates describes the temperate man as the only man “who will know himself and will be able to examine what he knows and does not know, and in the same way he will be able to inspect other people to see when a man does in fact know what he knows and thinks he knows, and when again he does not know what he thinks he know, and no one else will be able to do this. And being temperate and temperance and knowing oneself amount to this, to knowing what one knows and does not know” (Chrm. 167a1-7).
This description has been noted by commentators to bear significant textual affinities to Socrates’ professed ignorance and his Delphic mission most notably presented in the Apology. The Charmides concludes that temperance, understood in this Socratic sense, is ultimately impossible and useless. Even if it were possible, it would be of no use to our happiness or faring well (eu prattein). This final conclusion has been taken by commentators to be a critical reflection, to various degrees, on Socratic self-knowledge and the enterprise of testing the wisdom of others. In section I of this paper, I survey the range of the positions taken by commentators. I argue that, despite the textual affinities, the Charmides and the Apology does not share the same model of knowledge. The former develops a view of knowledge based on crafts (technai) whereas the latter dialogue does not. In section II, I develop the thesis that temperance, understood as knowledge of self and its abstract rendering knowledge of knowledge, is a kind of craft (technē). I argue that the Charmides is an attempt to develop the Socratic notion of self-knowledge with an account of craft knowledge already present in the Apology. In the Apology, Socrates is careful to praise the craftsmen as knowing “many fine things” but their biggest mistake was believing that this expert knowledge amounted to the most important pursuits and as a result, it overshadowed their wisdom (Apology, 22de-5). The Charmides’ account of temperance as ‘self-knowledge’ corrects this mistake. Those who possess temperance recognize the limitations of their expertise. They entrust matters of which they are ignorant to other experts and cautious against anyone who practices outside of their field of expertise (171d-172a5). I conclude the paper in section III with some comments speculating why the Charmides ultimately rejects the definition of temperance as knowledge of self.
April 12th, 2019
April 11th, 2019
March 8th, 2019
November 9th, 2018
“Do Experts Really Perceive the World Differently from Non-Experts?” By Kevin Connolly (Minerva Schools)
People sometimes say things like the following: Cabernet Sauvignon tastes differently to an expert wine taster, or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony sounds differently to a seasoned conductor. Such claims are often made by philosophers, from the 14th-century Hindu philosopher Vedānta Deśika to the 18th-century Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid as well as to contemporary philosophers like Ned Block, Susanna Siegel, and Christopher Peacocke. But do experts really perceive the world differently from non-experts? According to an alternative story, the wine tastes (or the symphony sounds) the same to the expert and non-expert alike. On this view, it’s just that the expert has specialized concepts for the wine (or the symphony) that the non-expert lacks, while the wine tastes (or the symphony sounds) the same to both. Which of these two accounts is correct? In this talk, I examine and evaluate the evidence, drawing on philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience.
September 14th, 2018
March 21st, 2018
February 23rd, 2018
“Abstract on the Possibility of a Neuroaesthetics of Natural Environments” by James Dow (Hendrix College)
Experiences of nature sometimes involve multisensory engagement, immersion of ourselves in nature, and transformative experiences. Could such aesthetic experiences be described, explained, and predicted by neuroscience? Neuroaesthetics has emerged as a discipline that explains and predicts aesthetic experiences of visual art, music, and literature. Enactivists about perception have argued against the possibility of neuroaesthetics based on the claim that perceptual experience involves sensitivity to sensorimotor contingencies. Engagement theorists about nature aesthetics have argued that engaged aesthetic experiences are non-conceptual, participatory, and action-oriented. Do the enactivist arguments against the possibility of a neuroaesthetics of art provide similar challenges to the possibility of explaining and predicting aesthetic experiences of natural environments? I argue for the counterintuitive thesis that while neuroaesthetics of art can overcome hurdles posed by the enactivists, by appealing to pragmatic representations, the neuroaesthetics of natural environments cannot overcome challenges presented by the action-oriented nature of aesthetic experience of nature.
January 26th, 2018
“Oppressive Things” by Shen-yi Liao (University of Puget Sound)
Minds can be biased. Practices can be biased. Things can be biased too. Oppressive things are parts of the physical world that are biased in congruence with systems of oppression—such as racism, sexism, classism, and ableism. Oppressive things structure and normalize patterns of associations, imaginings, and behaviors. And oppressive things sustain and reinforce problematic epistemological, moral, and aesthetic norms.
November 10th, 2017
“Memory as Macrocognition” by Bryce Huebner (Georgetown University)
We often talk to others about what we remember, and about what has happened to us. A great deal of work in social and cognitive psychology suggests that these practices of collaborative remembering shape what we remember individually, as well as what we will forget. In this talk, I will explore the social implications of these kinds of effects. I will argue that practices of collective remembering play a critical role in shaping our shared understandings of the world, by highlighting aspects of the world that are salient to us, and downplaying the aspects of the world that are not. This process helps to sustain shared understandings of the world; but it can also generate barriers to understanding other ways of thinking, and it can even make other perspectives seem unintelligible. But more importantly, I will argue that understanding why this occurs helps to open up strategies for exploring novel imaginative possibilities, and constructing ways of understanding the world that go beyond what any of us could imagine on our own.