What is the Ockham Society?

The Ockham Society provides a forum in which graduate students in philosophy - whether BPhil, MSt or early DPhil - may present their ideas to their peers at the University of Oxford. Our aim is to provide every Oxford graduate student with the opportunity to present their ideas in a friendly environment at least once during their time in Oxford. It is an ideal opportunity to gain feedback on your essays, and to gain first experiences in academic presenting. Small, experimental and unfinished papers are just as welcome as more advanced ones.

While the majority of speakers are from Oxford, the society welcomes papers from graduate students and young academics from other universities. If you would like to present a paper to the society please contact Matthias Brinkmann (firstname.lastname(at)philosophy.ox.ac.uk).

Programme for Michaelmas 2015

We'll meet Wednesdays 13:00-14:00 in the Radcliffe Humanities Building, Colin Matthew Room (except for weeks 6 and 7 when the meetings will be in the Lecture Room).

Week 1
14 October
Benjamin Lange (LMH)
Restricted Prioritarianism or Competing Claims?
I here settle a recent dispute between two rival theories in distributive ethics: Restricted Prioritarianism and the Competing Claims View. Both views mandate that the distribution of benefits and burdens between individuals should be justifiable to each affected party in a way that depends on the strength of each individual’s separately assessed claim to receive a benefit. However, they disagree about what elements constitute the strength of those individuals’ claims. According to restricted prioritarianism, the strength of a claim is determined in ‘prioritarian’ fashion by both what she stands to gain and her absolute level of well-being, while, according to the competing claims view, the strength of a claim is also partly determined by her level of well-being relative to others with conflicting interests. I argue that, suitably modified, the competing claims view is more plausible than restricted prioritarianism.
Week 2
21 October
Benjamin Brast-McKie (St Cross)
Neo-Actualist Ideology
This paper presents a real definition of what it is to be a non-actual object, defending this account against a number of objections. I will begin by arguing that the necessitist ideology of contingent non-concreteness fails to adequately capture our pre-theoretic intuitions about what is non-actual, resulting in a broad error theory. After presenting and defending a real definition for non-actuality, I will conclude by showing how an ideology of non-actuality (appropriately defined) helps to clarify the necessitist’s position.
Week 3
28 October
Matthew McMillan (St Catherine's)
Minds and mirror symmetry: a transcendental argument that our brains are not mirror-symmetric
Week 4
4 November
Christopher Fowles (Queen's)
Nietzsche on cognition and consciousness
Week 5
11 November
Martin Lesourd (St Anne’s)
Role Reversal in String Theory: how the tail wags the dog
Week 6
18 November
Michael Plant (St Cross)
This week the talk will be in the Radcliffe Humanities Lecture Room!
Week 7
25 November
Niels Martens (Magdalen)
Eliminating mass from Newtonian Gravity
Motivated by a desire for ontological parsimony, or a more general (logical) empiricist framework, one might be tempted to reduce mass - as it features in Newtonian Gravity - to observable, kinematical notions, such as acceleration. I discuss several such historical attempts, starting of course with Ernst Mach, and provide a novel argument against reducing mass to accelerations (and distances).
This week the talk will be in the Radcliffe Humanities Lecture Room!
Week 8
2 December
Wim Vanrie (St Anne’s)
Are There Complex Names in the Tractatus?
In proposition 5.02 of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein distinguishes between indexical and functional complexity of signs. In this paper, I argue, against a claim made by Cora Diamond, that there are no functionally complex names according to the theory of the Tractatus. First, I argue that, contrary to what Diamond seems to think, nothing in 5.02 implies an acknowledgement of complex names. I then proceed to give some arguments, based on the Tractatus as a whole, why there are indeed no complex names in the Tractatus. I end by considering objections.
Past Sessions.
Michaelmas 2012 | Hilary 2013 | Trinity 2013
Michaelmas 2013 | Hilary 2014 | Trinity 2014
Michaelmas 2014 | Hilary 2015