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Winter Semester 2018/19

Silver Bronzo: Propositional Complexity and the Frege-Geach Point

Oct. 10, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

It is almost universally accepted that the Frege-Geach Point is necessary for explaining the inferential relations and compositional structure of truth-functionally complex propositions. I argue that this claim rests on a disputable view of propositional structure, which models truth-functionally complex propositions on atomic propositions. I propose an alternative view of propositional structure, based on the notion of simulation, which accounts for the relevant phenomena without accepting the Frege-Geach Point. The view makes room for the idea that there is no such thing as the forceless expression of propositional contents and is attractive because it provides the resources for avoiding a fundamental problem generated by the Frege-Geach Point concerning the relation between forceless and forceful expressions of propositional contents. The view I propose is also made plausible by independent considerations about the behavior of truth-functional connectives. I further argue that the acceptance of the Frege-Geach Point mars Peter Hanks’ and François Recanati’s recent attempts to resist the widespread idea that assertoric force is extrinsic to the expression of propositional contents. Rejecting this idea, I maintain, requires a deeper break with the tradition than Hanks and Recanati have allowed for.

Peter Sullivan: Russell and Ramsey: On Truth

Oct. 10, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

What is truth? The difficulty of this question, Ramsey said, ‘may be judged from the fact that in the years 1904-25 Mr Bertrand Russell has adopted in succession five different solutions of it’.  By contrast the essential structure of Ramsey’s own approach to the question is remarkably stable.  It is set down in a paper he wrote in 1921, when not yet half-way through his undergraduate degree, and persists into the unpublished book manuscript, On Truth, that he worked on in his last years.  The talk will (1) expound this structure, (2) explain how it determines Ramsey’s assessment of Russell’s various theories, and (3) consider in its light the recently popular suggestion that in his late work Ramsey adopted a kind pragmatism.

Bio:

Peter Sullivan studied at the universities of Leeds and Oxford.  After teaching for several years in Oxford he moved in 1993 to a lectureship the University of Stirling.  He has been Professor of Philosophy in Stirling since 2003.  His main interests are in issues in the philosophy of logic raised in the work of the early analytic philosophers, and he has published essays on Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Ramsey.

Handout (PDF)

Tyke Nunez: Kant and the vicious circle: Kant’s account of particular causal cognition

Nov. 7, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

When I experience, e.g., water’s freezing or sunlight’s warming a particular stone, I seem to have cognition of a causal connection. Hume rightly claims that much of our purported cognition of the world is either like this or builds on this kind of causal cognition. Kant would count his critical philosophy a failure if he cannot present a view on which particular causal cognition is commonplace. Yet, according to his interpreters, if we can have this cognition at all, it is only in very rare cases. In this essay, I develop a reading of Kant on particular causal cognition where this kind of cognition can be a ubiquitous aspect of our everyday cognitive lives, and I argue that Kant’s account radically breaks with how philosophers tend to think of this cognition.

Bio:

I received my PhD in April 2015 from the University of Pittsburgh and am a visiting postdoctoral fellow for the coming year at Universität Leipzig. My research centers on how commitments in the philosophy of mind and logic shape epistemological, metaphysical, and scientific ones. Specifically, I am interested in how this happens in the work of various figures in early modern and early analytic philosophy, especially Kant.

2018 PostDoc Job Talks

Alec Hinshelwood: Thought in motion

Mar. 2, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

When acting intentionally, we represent the kind of action that we are doing—walk across the street, for example—as a goal: something which we aim to achieve. I label this sort of representation ‘practical thought’. But how does it relate to the actual, temporally-extended changes which our intentional actions are? In this paper I defend the Identity View, which says that our intentional actions are identical with the practical thoughts they require; and that, by the same token, those actions are identical with our first-personal knowledge of them. Whilst this is, I think, an ancient idea with many contemporary adherents, I present a simple albeit under-emphasized argument in support of it: I suggest that the Identity View is consequence of the fact that practical thought is a species of thought. If I am right, then by denying the Identity View, we jeopardize our grip on the very idea of a distinctively practical, or goal-oriented, form of thought. I consider a number of objections to this argument, but try to show that they fail.

Bio:

Alec Hinshelwood attended University College London (PhD, 2017) and the University of Oxford (BPhil, 2011). He is currently a Teaching Fellow at UCL, lecturing on Marxism.
His main interests are in the philosophy of mind and action, and in ethics–especially moral psychology.
His current research focuses on practical reason, and the knowledge of self and other our possession of it affords.
In general, his work is informed by Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Marx and psychoanalysis.

Vanessa Carr: The Importance of Being Creative

Mar. 1, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

My concern, in this talk, is with a range of creative acts, and a problem that they pose for certain accounts of action. The creative acts in question are those with non-physical results, such as: writing a poem, composing a piece of music, editing a film, and developing a website. After outlining the relevant notions of a physical, and a non-physical, result of an act, I argue that the non-physical results of creative acts cannot be caused by agents. This presents a problem for any account that holds that action is essentially a matter of the agent causing the results of their acts. These accounts cannot handle the range of creative acts with non-physical results, even if they are adequate for the range of acts that are more usually considered, such as: raising one’s arm, flipping a light switch, baking a cake, and crossing a street. For, these acts are alike in having only physical results. An appropriate account of action as such must accommodate the full range of acts, with all their varying results.

Bio:

Vanessa Carr studied philosophy at University College London (PhD 2018, MPhilStud 2014), with her doctoral thesis on the relationship between activity and causation (Movers and Makers).
Before this, she obtained a BA in Philosophy, Psychology and Physiology from the University of Oxford.
Her research interests are mainly in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind and action.

Bianca Ancillotti: The Impossibility of Chaos

Kant’s Argument in the Second Analogy

Feb. 28, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

In the Second Analogy, Kant gives a transcendental proof of the principle: “All alterations occur in accordance with the law of the connection of cause and effect” (B232). This proof turns upon the claim that the truth of this principle is a necessary condition of the possibility of experiencing objective time- sequences. In this talk, using Kant’s argument in the Second Analogy as case study, I propose a novel interpretation of Kant’s method of proof. According to this interpretation, we can know that a principle is a necessary condition of the possibility of experience by using conceivability and experimenting in thought to reveal and correct modal illusions. In the Second Analogy, this is done through an argument which says that, even if it seems intuitively possible that there could be an alteration without a cause, it turns out, upon further reflection, that all attempts to conceive of situations in which there is an alternation but not a cause, systematically fail.

Bio:

Bianca Ancillotti studied Philosophy at the Humboldt University of Berlin (M.A. 2012) and King’s College London (visiting, 2016-7).
She is currently writing her Dissertation on the method of Kant’s transcendental proof (HU Berlin).
Besides Kant’s theoretical philosophy, and its relation to early modern rationalism, empiricism, and scepticism, her research interests lie mainly in contemporary meta-philosophy, analytic Kantianism, and the epistemology of modal claims.

Sabrina Bauer: Realism or Anti-Realism?

Epistemological objections to a metaphysical dispute and a Kantian proposal for its reconciliation

Feb. 27, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Michael Dummett drew attention to the systematic link that ties the alternative of realism and its counter position anti-realism to the question of accepting or rejecting the principle of bivalence. Looking at Dummett’s opposition, it can be demonstrated that the theory of truth and metaphysics are in danger of becoming involved in an antinomic interplay, which has to be criticized from an epistemological perspective. I argue that this metaphysical alternative is based on assumptions considering the notion of truth. These theses are rejected as inappropriate from the standpoint of an epistemologically clarified theory of truth, as the one developed by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason.

In terms of methodology, a fruitful relationship between the Analytical philosophy and the interpretation of Kant’s philosophy is attempted by identifying the legitimate insights of both sides, realism and anti-realism, and understanding them as requirements that guide the development of an adequate solution with the resources offered by Kant.

Bio:

Sabrina Bauer (Universität Heidelberg) studied philosophy in Tübingen and Munich (MA, 2012).
Her research interests lie mainly within epistemology and metaphysics, which she approaches through the history of philosophy, especially Kant.
She holds a scholarship of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes and works on a dissertation concerning the notion of truth in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

Rory O’Connell: An Argument Against the Possibility of an Instrumental Being

Feb. 26, 2018 / 11:15 – 13:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Is the concept of an instrumental being, a being possessing instrumental reason but lacking a rational comprehension of its ends, an intelligible one? I argue that a proper account of the logical character of instrumental reasoning—an account I give in this paper—reveals that it is not. The significance of this is twofold. Firstly, it directly undermines the Humean contention that we are such beings. Secondly, it has ramifications for our conception of human agency: Many philosophers trenchantly opposed to Humeanism have, I argue, failed to liberate themselves from an impoverished conception of instrumental reason, in virtue of retaining the very assumptions that render the concept of an instrumental being apparently intelligible. Moreover, in jettisoning these assumptions, we can better illuminate the relation between, on the one hand, pleasure and sensible desire, and, on the other hand, practical reason.

Bio:

2005-2008, B.A. (Hons) Philosophy, King’s College London.
2008-2010, M.Phil in Philosophy, King’s College London.
2011-Present, PhD in Philosophy, University of Chicago
Interests:
Ethics, Philosophy of Action, Philosophy of Mind.

Winter Semester 2017/18

Jean-Philippe NarbouxSelf-Consciousness in Sartre and Anscombe

Jan 10, 2018 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

The conceptual equivalence between self-consciousness and consciousness of oneís self has been taken for granted ever since its terms became available with the advent of modern philosophy. In this lecture, I propose to show that Sartreís contention that there is no “I” lying behind consciousness (in The Transcendence of the Ego) and Anscombeís claim that “I” is not a referring expression (in her essay “The First Person”) articulate a single negative insight into the spuriousness of the canonical equivalence. I shall contend that doing justice to self-consciousness, far from requiring us to embrace this equivalence, requires us to forsake it in even its most innocent-seeming version.

The presentation will be based on Narboux’s paper, “Is Self-Consciousness Consciousness of One’s Self?”

Further reading on the topic:

Anscombe, “The First Person

Sartre, “Transcendence of the Ego” (2004 Translation) / “Transcendence of the Ego” (1960 Translation); 

Further reading by the author:

“Pensées en première personne et Cogitationes cartésiennes” (“I-thoughts and Cartesian Cogitationes”).

 

Handout: Link

Recordings:

Bio:

Jean-Philippe Narboux graduated from Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Currently he is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Bordeaux and Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

webpage

Irad Kimhi: “Like a Child begging for ‘Both'”

Gigantomachia and Non-Being in Plato’s Sophist

Dec 6, 2017 / 15:15 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Usually the Gigantomachia in Plato’s Sophist is read separately from the discussion of falsehood, negation and non-being in the dialogue. I will propose that the passage plays a crucial role in Plato’s treatment of the Parmendian difficulties.

Handout: Link

Recordings:

Further reading on the topic:

Further reading by the author: Document

Bio:

Irad Kimhi’s interest and expertise range across various aspects of literature, theology, psychoanalysis, mysticism, and aesthetics. Recognized for his originality and depth of thought, he trained in philosophy and previously taught at Yale University and at Bezalel Academy of Art Graduate Program in Jerusalem, Israel. His manuscript, Being and Thinking: The Two Way Capacity, has been completed and accepted for publication by Harvard University Press. This book will offer a reflection on the history of logic and the relation between logic and metaphysics.

Kimhi has been a fellow at the Rozenzweig Center in Jerusalem and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and his BA in mathematics and philosophy from Tel-Aviv University in Israel. Kimhi joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2012. During Winter Semster 2017-2018, Prof. Kimhi was Humboldt Guest Professor at the University of Leipzig.

webpage

Carla Bagnoli: Hard Times

Nov 29, 2017 / 15:00 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Some perplexing cases of choice are perplexing because agents think and act under temporal constraints. To think rationally under temporal constraints seems to require us to form reasons by adapting to the circumstances of action. Reasons for action provide us with the stability that is required to engage in meaningful activities. Yet they may lose their grip on us if they are not time sensitive. It frequently happens that what seemed a good reason to p at time t1, it is not a good reason to do it at t2. Sometimes temporal shifts parallel shifts in the axiological or deontic status of action. A goal that was previously considered valuable at t1 does not have value at a later time time t2. What seemed right, or even morally required, at one time t1, at a later time t2 may seem plainly wrong. In this sense, reasons for action exhibit what we might call normative fragility. I will argue that Kantian constructivism offers resources to adequately characterize and address this problem, by shifting focus from finite to temporally structured rational agency.

Handout:

Recordings:

Further reading on the topic:

Further reading by the author: Document

Bio:

I am professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Modena since 2010. Before that I was tenured full professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I taught since 1998. I have also held Visiting Professorships at the Université de Paris 1- Panthéon Sorbonne, and at the University of Siena 2005-09, a Visiting Fellowship at Harvard University, and a Post-doctoral Fellowship in Practical Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. I obtained a Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Milan in 1996.
My main research interests are in practical reasoning, moral epistemology and Kantian ethics. In particular, I deal with issues about the objectivity of rational justification, the standards of rational agency and related accounts of practical knowledge. I have argued for a distinctive form of Kantian constructivism, which is designed to vindicate both the objective and subjective aspects of practical reason. Current projects concern the impact of subjective vulnerabilities and constitutive constraints on rational deliberation and practical thought, as well as the status and role of retrospective attitudes of moral assessment.

webpage: http://www.hf.uio.no/ifikk/english/people/aca/philosophy/temporary/carlaba/

Dawa Ometto: Practical Knowledge and Freedom

8. 11. 2017 / 15:00 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Handout

Recordings: Talk; Discussion

Further reading on the topic:

Further reading by the author: Document

Abstract:

In this talk, I aim to show that Anscombe‘s account of intentional action as characterized by practical knowledge allows us to understand how intentional action can (and must) be understood as essentially free action. The self-consciousness of practical thought, I argue, constitutes a form of causality that is (in a sense to be explained) self-determining. As a consequence, intentional action requires a certain openness of the future: exercises of the power to act cannot be causally determined in advance. This contrasts with a conception of the freedom or spontaneity of practical thought which remains altogether oblivious to the topic of causality and determinism, e.g. the idea that such spontaneity consists merely in bringing oneself under certain norms.

Bio:

Dawa Ometto (Universität Leipzig) studied philosophy at Utrecht University (the Netherlands). He obtained his PhD in 2016, with a dissertation on action and freedom (Freedom & Self- Knowledge). His research interests lie mainly within the philosophy of action and philosophy of mind, but also in ethics and metaphysics. Since Wintersemster 2017/2018, Dawa is a postdoctoral fellow of the Humboldt Professur in Leipzig.

Martijn Wallage: How all things are in all respects

1. 11. 2017 / 15:00 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Handout

Recordings: Talk; Discussion

Further reading on the topic:

Further reading by the author: Document

Abstract:

“The world is everything that is the case… the totality of facts, not of things.” These lines, familiar as the opening lines of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, have engendered much discussion about the relation between thinking and being. They describe the world as in a certain way thinkable, since a fact has the form of a thought. But it would be mistaken to understand this as meaning that the world is made up of thinkable things, as the identity theory of truth has it. A better understanding takes “not of things” more seriously. Reflecting on this will also lead us to the issue of the place of the thinking subject in the world.

Bio:

Martijn Wallage (Universität Leipzig) studied Philosophy most recently at King’s College London (PhD, 2017) and the University of Chicago (visiting, 2013-4, 2015-6). His research is concerned with self-consciousness and self-determination, which he approaches through reflection on the history of philosophy, especially Aristotle and Wittgenstein. Since Winter of 2017/2018 Martijn is a postdoctoral fellow of the Humboldt Professur at the University of Leipzig.

www.martijnwallage.com

Gilly Nir: Wittgenstein’s Third Man Argument

25. 10. 2017 / 15:00 – 18:00 / GWZ H2.1 16

Paper

Recordings: Talk; Discussion

Abstract:

In the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Wittgenstein draws the notorious distinction between what can be said in language and what can only be shown, but cannot be said. I draw an analogy between the argument through which Wittgenstein introduces this distinction and the Platonic Third-Man Argument. In Plato’s theory, an infinite hierarchy of ideas seems to be required in order to account for the relation between universals and particulars. The threat of a similar regress arises in Wittgenstein’s theory of representation, and this leads Wittgenstein to the conclusion that there cannot be such a thing as a representation of the logical form of representation. Logical form shows itself, but it cannot be said. My aim is to clarify the meaning of this dark saying, and to reevaluate the conception of logic that underlies it.

Bio:

Gilly Nir studied Philosophy at the University of Chicago (PhD, 2017) and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (MA, 2008). His main interests lie in the history of analytic philosophy, from Kant to Wittgenstein. His dissertation concerns the nature of inference and the debate, in early analytic philosophy, concerning the idea that in inferring we are following rules. Since Wintersemster 2017/2018, Gilly is a postdoctoral fellow of the Humboldt Professur in Leipzig.