Orange Alert

Philosophy Graduate Conference online July 31-Aug 1, 2020

Posted on: July 8, 2020

The schedule and abstracts, as well as contact information, are posted below. Get ready for excitement!


Huzeyfe Demirtas and Kellan D L Head

All talks will take place on Zoom & based on Eastern Standard Time. Please contact the organizers for the Zoom link.

Friday, July 31, 2020

12:00-1:30: Rhys Borchert & Yili Zhou (Arizona), “The Errors in Error Theory”

Comments: Ben Cook
Chair: Ian York

1:45-3:15: Tien-Chun Lo (Oxford), “On a Novel Metaphysical Explanation of Identity”

Comments: Janek Swiderski

Chair: Joshua Tignor

3:30-5:30: External Keynote Address by Sara Bernstein (Notre Dame), “Ontological Pluralism about Non-Being”

Chair: Thiago De Melo

Saturday, Aug 1, 2020

10:00-11:30: Zoe Walker (Cambridge), “A Sensibility of Humour”

Comments: Rose Bell

Chair: Chip Osborne

11:45-1:15: Chad Marxen (Brown), “On the Rationality and Significance of Self-Fulfilling Beliefs”

Comments: Kellan D L Head

Chair: Cagla Cimendereli

2:00-3:30: Louis Doulas (California, Irvine), “Reading Ontology Off of Paraphrase”

Comments: Sanggu Lee

Chair: Joshua Tignor

3:45-5:45: Internal Keynote Address by Michael Rieppel (Syracuse), “Reference to Things”

Chair: Ben Cook


"The Errors in Error Theory", Rhys Borchert & Yili Zhou (Arizona):

Many moral error theorists endorse the following argument against moral realism.

(M1) Moral realism implies the existence of categorical normativity.

(M2) Categorical normativity does not exist.

(M3) Therefore, moral realism is false. [M1, M2]

Call this the Metaphysical Argument.

Moral realists, however, have a counterargument.

(P1) Epistemic normativity is categorical.

(P2) Epistemic normativity exists.

(P3) Therefore, categorical normativity exists. [P1, P2]

Call this the Parity Argument.

The parity argument attempts to undermine (M2) of the metaphysical argument by making a parity between moral and epistemic normativity. There are three possible responses for the moral error theorist. One is to accept the parity between moral and epistemic normativity, but reject moral normativity nonetheless (Cowie 2014). Two is to reject the parity between moral and epistemic normativity (Olson). Three is to accept the parity between moral and epistemic normativity, and embrace skepticism for both (Streumer 2013; 2017).

We hope to show that there are problems with each of these responses. In section I, we argue that the problem with Cowie’s response is that it undermines the primary motivation for taking moral error theory seriously in the first place: the metaphysical queerness of categorical normativity (Mackie 1977; Olson 2014). In section II, we doubt that epistemic reasons can be reduced to desires or correct norms associated with a pertinent role or activity. In section III, we argue that the problem for Streumer is simple: we can believe the Error Theory.

"On a Novel Metaphysical Explanation of Identity", Tien-Chun Lo (Oxford)

Shumener (forthcoming) proposes a novel metaphysical account of identity on which identity facts, e.g. the fact that a=a, are grounded in how objects stand in certain quantitative relations to themselves. In this paper, I will raise a problem with the foregoing account. I shall argue that although this problem is not unsolvable, the solutions either lead to a different but explanatorily better account or undermine Shumener’s own account itself.

“A Sensibility of Humour”, Zoe Walker (Cambridge)

This paper concerns the philosophy of humour. My focus is on cases where our ethical and aesthetic judgments about jokes (and humour more broadly) come apart, so that we might find a joke objectionable (sexist, racist, homophobic) yet still find it funny. I am interested in thinking about how this divergence in judgments comes about, and how we might go about resolving it.

In section I, I consider the current literature on the ethical criticism of humour. I consider three theories: the ‘attitudinal endorsement’ view, the ‘merited-response’ view, and the ‘effects-mediated responsibility’ view. I argue that the first two views do not allow for the phenomenon of judgment divergence, and that where they go wrong is in over-intellectualising the joke-hearing experience. I argue that the third view is more convincing, yet it leaves us with some unanswered questions about how to shape our aesthetic judgments about jokes, and what the responsibility of the hearer is for doing so.

In section II, I tentatively propose a new approach to the problem, that takes the idea of a ‘sense’ of humour seriously, and treats humour as a matter of taste or a sensibility that is shaped by habituation. I support this position using an analogy with erotic taste, drawing on Anne Eaton’s discussion of antiporn feminism’s neglect of the role of erotic taste in sustaining sexism. I suggest that similarly, the ethical criticism of humour has neglected the role of taste in jokes, and that paying more attention to it will shed light on how we can bring our aesthetic judgments about jokes in line with our ethical ones, and what responsibility we have to do so.

"On the Rationality and Significance of Self-Fulfilling Beliefs", Chad Marxen (Brown)

Some propositions are not likely to be true overall, but are likely to be true if you believe them. Appealing to the platitude that belief aims at truth, it has become increasingly popular to defend the view that such propositions are rational to believe. However, I argue that this view runs into trouble when we consider the connection between what’s rational to believe and what’s rational to do. I conclude by discussing how rejecting the view bears on another epistemological issue: the connection between epistemic rationality and truth.

"Reading Ontology Off of Paraphrase", Louis Doulas (California, Irvine)

Metaphysicians are in the business of describing reality as it is, in and of itself. Therefore, for the metaphysician to conflate their talk of what there is with what there really is would be to make the ultimate metaphysical blunder, what some philosophers call the representational fallacy, or the fallacy of “reading ontology off of one’s language.” If there is a real fallacy here, then, it would be nice to know how to identify it so we can learn to avoid it. This paper is an attempt to get a better grip on this fallacy by showing how one allegedly guilty method—the way of paraphrase—is innocent.