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2012 seminars

28 February 2012
Nicholas Southwood
ANU
"How to Solve the Problem of Rationality"
20 March 2012
Jon Simon
NYU/ANU
"How is the vagueness of a concept accessible to users of the concept?"
27 March 2012
Wylie Breckenridge
CSU
"The Puzzle of the Ship of Theseus"
2 April 2012 (Monday)
Seumas Miller
CAPPE
"Joint Epistemic Action and Collective Responsibility"
We need to distinguish between the genus, joint action, and an important species of joint action, namely, what I will call joint epistemic action. In the case of the latter, but not necessarily the former, participating agents have epistemic goals, e.g., the acquisition of knowledge. Joint actions are actions involving a number of agents performing interdependent actions in order to realise some common goal. Examples of joint action are: two people dancing together, a number of tradesmen building a house and a team of scientists seeking a cure for cancer. The latter is an instance of joint epistemic action, given the essentially epistemic goals of the researchers. Epistemic actions, including joint epistemic actions, can have moral significance. Thus one can be held morally responsible for failing to pursue knowledge or for arriving at false beliefs on the basis of sloppy evidence gathering. Naturally, the knowledge in question must have moral significance, but in criminal investigations, for example, the knowledge (or false beliefs) in question almost always have moral significance, at least potentially, since many crimes such as murder (wrongful killing) are by definition immoral acts. But if an individual can be held moral responsibility for his or her epistemic actions (and epistemic omissions) then presumably members of a collective can be held morally responsible for their joint epistemic actions (or omissions). This paper provides an analysis of joint epistemic action, of collective moral responsibility, and seeks to marry them.
24 April 2012
Ed Spence
CSU
"Wisdom in the Age of Technology" (Public Performance and Dinner)
The setting with food and wine reflects that of a Platonic Symposium, promoting philosophical discussion in an amicable environment. Dr Edward Spence will give a 30-minute talk on the origins and sources of wisdom in ancient Greece and its relevance and importance in our lives in the Information Age. This will be followed by a 30-minute performance of an original philosophy play Wise After the Fact written by Edward Spence and performed by Thomas Papathanassiou and Emma Rush. The play, in the form of a dramatic dialogue between Ms Wise (a young woman seeking wisdom) and Mr Google (the famous search engine), explores the relationship between information, knowledge and wisdom. Following the talk and the play the audience is invited to participate through lively discussion.
1 May 2012
Brent Madison
University of Warwick
"Epistemic Value and the New Evil Demon"
Epistemic justification is valuable; it is a good that warrants our pursuing. But what explains the value of justification? Much recent tradition has it that justification’s value is to be understood instrumentally: while justification is a good, it is only good as means to something else which has final value, such as true belief. In this paper I will argue that epistemic justification has final value – it is valuable for its own sake. In addition to it being shown that epistemic justification should not be thought of instrumentally, which will refute any theory of justification which conceives of justification in that way, more generally, it will be shown that epistemic-value monism is false: there is more of epistemic value than mere true belief.
8 May
James Franklin
UNSW
"In what kind of universe can persons have worth?"
15 May 2012
Daniel Cohen
CSU
"Smith on Morality, Desire and Rationality"
22 May 2012
Adam Dickerson
University of Canberra
"How to attach the 'I think' to all my representations: Kant on apperception and combination"
In that section of the Critique of Pure Reason entitled the 'Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding', Kant claims that my capacity to be aware of my own thinking depends upon my capacity to combine all my thoughts into a unity. This paper explores the reasoning behind Kant’s claim, and examines his analysis of the concept of a unified consciousness. It presents an account of Kant in which ‘I’ is non-referential, and the unity of consciousness is treated as a notion altogether distinct from the unity of a self or person. This promises a new understanding of this central doctrine in Kant, and his argument for it. We sketch a novel and yet textually faithful perspective on Kant’s contested doctrine of Transcendental Idealism.
30 May 2012 (Wednesday)
Samuel Kerstein
University of Maryland
"The Mere Means Principle and Research on Biological Samples"
According to the Mere Means Principle, it is wrong for an agent to treat another merely as a means. Bioethicists frequently appeal to this Kantian principle as a constraint on research involving human subjects. However, they rarely probe the principle’s content. This paper summarizes a precise account of treating others merely as means. The paper then applies the account to a controversy in research ethics. For an illustration of this controversy, consider the following example. Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that results in digestive problems and lung infections and that significantly curtails lifespan. Suppose that a group of people with the disease give their informed consent to investigators to have their blood used in a study of the effectiveness of drugs to prevent lung infections. After the investigators “anonymize” the blood samples, that is, render them individually unidentifiable to anyone outside of their group, they provide them to an outside researcher who, without the donors’ knowledge or consent, uses them to study a method for detecting whether early-stage fetuses carry mutations for cystic fibrosis. This latter research might lead to an increase in the abortion rate of fetuses carrying these mutations. In the United States, neither the original investigators nor the outside researcher would, by virtue of the actions described, violate research regulations. In cases such as this, it nevertheless makes sense to wonder whether any of the experimenters treat the sample donors merely as means and thereby act wrongly. The paper argues that the risk that they do so is significant and that there is therefore strong Kantian reason to institute research regulations that forbid tests on de-identified biological samples without the consent of their donors.
28 June 2012
Clive Hamilton
CSU/CAPPE
"Climate Engineering and the Anthropocene"
17 July 2012
John Kleinig
John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CAPPE
"Absolute Loyalties? The Binding of Isaac"
24 July 2012
Steve Vanderheiden
University of Colorado/CAPPE
"Climate Change and Human Rights"
1 August 2012 (Wednesday)
Ed Spence
CSU/CAPPE
"Wisdom and Wellbeing in a Technological Age"
14 August 2012
Tom Dougherty
Sydney
"Doing Well By Doing Good"
I explore the practical implications of the thesis that we are required to make some sacrifices to help people in need, but are not required to sacrifice so much that this comes at the expense of living good lives ourselves. I argue that this thesis is significantly more constrictive than it is widely taken to be, particularly in light of our ability to adapt our own interests over time into forms that allow us to enjoy our own lives while simultaneously doing more to help others.
4 September 2012
David Ripley
Melbourne/Connecticut
11 September 2012
Max Rabie
UNSW
2 October 2012
Clare McCausland
Unimelb/CAPPE
"A utilitarian argument against animal exploitation"