Alice Crary (The New School): Objectivity's Politics

Anyone with an ear for trends of political discourse will be aware that objectivity-talk is sometimes taken to be racist, colonialist, sexist or elitist. This is the starting point of a dialectic, prominent in our public culture, that starts from the idea that some claims to objectivity are tools of oppression and proceeds to the idea that the epistemic ideal picked out by the word “objectivity” can be re-envisioned to serve social justice. Questions about what objectivity is like, and what falls under it, are the purview of philosophy, yet discussions of objectivity in analytic and other professional philosophical circles offer little support for this familiar liberating pattern of thought, instead favoring the kinds of assumptions about what objectivity amounts to that underlie complaints about its oppressive potential. It is, however, not obvious that these assumptions about objectivity owe their widespread acceptance primarily to their philosophical merits. There is a substantial historical corpus that provides support for the view that their appeal is in real part a function of alignment with political, economic and technological developments of capitalist modernity—developments that many social theorists take to be structurally connected to the very forms oppression that some appeals to objectivity serve. These different considerations suggest that the apparently unremarkable philosophical task of rethinking objectivity can be an exercise of resistance, a step toward a language of politics suited for illuminating grievous injustices of our time—and finding routes to more just forms of life.

Achille Mbembe (The European Graduate School): TBA

Student speakers

Liam Ryan (CEU): Squaring A Platonic God
Divine Aseity is the idea that God does not depend upon anything else, but has eternally existed without any external or prior cause. Divine Simplicity is the idea that God has no parts. Platonism is the view that in addition to created concrete objects, there are uncreated abstract objects just as eternal and necessary as an uncreated God. Platonism poses a challenge to God’s aseity and simplicity: either abstract objects are co-eternal in which case they do not depend on God and this is inconsistent with divine aseity, or else they exist in God, and this is inconsistent with divine simplicity. Some theist philosophers, such as William Lane Craig, therefore deny Platonism and the real existence of abstracta. Contra this, some theists wish to maintain theism and Platonism. Can these two views be reconciled? I claim that divine aseity and divine simplicity are compatible with the real existence of abstracta. I reconcile these positions by arguing that abstracta exist in God not as distinct parts, but are subsumed in him, comparable to the manner in which God is three persons subsumed into one entity.

Maciej Tarnowski (Warsaw): Careless Assertions, Moore's Paradox, and KK Principle
One of the main arguments provided for the Knowledge Norm of Assertion (KA) – that one should assert p only if one knows that p – is that it explains the apparent absurdity of the epistemic version of Moore’s Paradox – paradoxical assertion of the form ‘p but I don’t know whether p’. In his 2009 paper, David Sosa challenges this assumption by pointing out that KA cannot provide a right account of the similar absurdity of the iterated version of this paradox (of the form: ‘p, but I don’t know whether I know that p’) without appealing to the highly controversial principle KK, which states, that if one knows p, then one also is in a position to know that one knows p. In my paper, I show that the explanations provided by the proponents of KA (Benton 2013, Montminy 2013, and Ganapini 2016) either fail to support an adequate explanation of Moore’s Paradox or lead to the conclusion that many of our seemingly rational assertions should be seen as unwarranted. In conclusion I propose a possible solution for explaining the oddity of iterated Moore’s Paradox by following the Gricean approach towards knowledge claims according to which they are understood as implying that the speaker possesses justification for her claim.

Sebastian Liu (Princeton): Inductive Knowledge and Decision Theory
The aim of this paper is to show that there is a natural solution to a family of decision theoretic paradoxes, including the St. Petersburg paradox, given the combination of two plausible claims. The first is a claim about what you can know inductively about the outcomes of the flips of a fair coin. It seems that, on pain of skepticism, you can know of a fair coin, that it will not land tails every time when it is flipped a large number of times, provided that it in fact doesn't. The second is a claim about the relationship between knowledge and rationality. It seems that, if knowledge is to play any role in determining rationality, it should be permissible for you to ignore the outcomes incompatible with your knowledge in your decision theoretic calculations. If you accept both that you can have a certain kind of inductive knowledge about fair coins and that you can rationally ignore outcomes which you know won't obtain in your decision theoretic reasoning, then there's an appealing answer to decision theoretic puzzles involving low probability outcomes with enormous values. On the picture that emerges, there is a straightforward but significant relationship between knowledge and decision theory.

Ruben Noorloos (CEU):“Except God, no substance can be conceived”: Spinoza on other substances
It seems that several of Spinoza’s arguments for the existence of God can be used to prove the existence of a non-divine substance instead. The Problem of Other Substances (Garrett 1979/2018; Barry 2019) is to explain why Spinoza does not and could not do this. This paper develops a novel response to this problem, based on the claims that non-divine substances are inconceivable and that every conceivable substance exists. Unlike previous attempts, it locates the source of the inconceivability of non-divine substances not in their apparent conflict with God’s existence, but in problems that arise from Spinoza’s conceptual barrier between the attributes.

Isabel Canfield (Notre Dame): How Rape Can Be Genocidal
Some instances of rape were recognized as genocidal in international criminal law in the 1990s after being used systematically as a tool of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda. In both conflicts, rape was inflicted on thousands of people in meticulously planned and executed efforts to harm specific ethnic groups. Yet, while cases in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda created a precedent for treating some kinds of rape as genocidal, prosecution remains rare in international law. The lack of prosecution is not merely a historical concern, as the insufficient international response to the ongoing conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia illustrates. Failures of the international community to adequately respond to genocidal rape likely occur, at least in part, because there is conceptual confusion over how rape can function as genocidal. While groups use rape strategically to perpetrate genocide, rape is frequently understood too simplistically to make sense of this phenomenon. Clarifying how instances of rape can be part of genocidal projects is essential in adequately understanding these acts. In this paper, I develop an account that provides a more precise understanding of the concept by arguing that a rape is an act of genocide if and only if both the effect and the intent of the rape are genocidal.

Alex Horne (Cambridge): The Self-improvement Machine
Suppose that in the not-too-distant future, scientists invented a self-improvement machine. The machine adds a chip into your brain which contains lots of new information and helps you conform more readily with the norms of epistemic and practical rationality. As a result of the procedure, many of your priorities, interests, values and tastes are quite different from what they were before entering the machine. You are much more epistemically and practically rational, better informed, and operating with a much more coherent evaluative standpoint than before. But will the new you wish to remain in your old life? My guess is that the odds are even, at best. In light of these risks – and in spite of the obvious benefits – I am reluctant to step into the self-improvement machine. That is, I am reluctant to risk losing my present attachments, values, preferences and desires even where I know that losing them in the machine meant they were irrational. This sounds odd and yet, I suspect I am not alone in feeling a degree of disquiet at the prospect of undergoing such a procedure. My hunch is that exploring the source of this disquiet can help us better understand the relationships between agency, identity and self-improvement of the more “organic” variety.

Cassie Finley (Iowa): Godlikeness: Socrates, the Philosopher, & the Ideal Life According to Theaetetus
The Theaetetus is generally understood as a (if not the) paradigm Platonic epistemological dialogue. Its inquiry into answering the question “What is knowledge?” is as definitively epistemological as a question can be; however, the obviously ethical discussion known as the ‘Digression’—which explores the life and godlikeness of the Philosopher compared to the orator-politician—raises difficulties for the straightforwardly epistemological reading of Theaetetus. Indeed, the concept of ‘godlikeness’, homoiosis theoi, is arguably one of, if not the single, core tenet of Plato’s ethics (Sedley 1999). Furthermore, as Burnyeat points out, the fact that the Digression is nearly six Stephanus-pages long, positioned at the exact center of the dialogue, suggests it likely has a significant role in the dialogue (Burnyeat 1990, 35). Therefore, the centrality of both godlikeness to Plato’s ethics and the Digression to the whole of the Theaetetus indicates that the obviously ethical nature of the Digression ought not be understood as an interlude among an otherwise ethically divorced, epistemic inquiry; instead, we ought to understand our interpretation of the Digression as central to our interpretation of the whole of the Theaetetus. In this paper, I argue that the Digression’s discussion of godlikeness as the ideal life positions Socrates—not necessarily the Philosopher—as godlike, because of Socrates’ interactions with others within Athens. The Philosopher is described in a sufficiently ambiguous manner to suggest that unless he uses his knowledge to the benefit of others as Socrates does, the Philosopher is not clearly godlike. This differs from the primary interpretations of the Philosopher’s capacity to be godlike. According to the intellectualist interpretation, which argues that intellectual assimilation with god is sufficiently just and therefore godlike, the Philosopher would clearly be godlike regardless of his separation from others (Sedley 1999). In contrast, Rue (1993) argues that the Philosopher is an extreme caricature incapable of godlikeness. However, I argue that the Philosopher is not necessarily incapable of being godlike, because educating others can allow the Philosopher to become just. Unlike readings which attempt to carve a middle path by subordinating Socrates’ godlikeness to the Philosopher’s (Lännstrom 2011; Giannopoulou 2011), I aim to show that Socrates’ engagement with fellow citizens makes him more godlike than the Philosopher who dismisses interactions with others. By positioning the ideal philosophical life as essentially requiring that a person bring truth to others through education, Socrates demonstrably lives the just, godlike life. This interpretation leads to the larger conclusion that the Digression most directly complements interpretations of the Theaetetus as an ethical dialogue emphasizing exploration of the soul and education.

William Gildea (Warwick): The Moral Status of Humans and Animals: Towards a New View
All views of the moral status of humans and animals face serious objections. They are either insufficiently egalitarian, insufficiently hierarchical, or insufficiently theoretically robust. In this talk, I offer a new view of moral status, called the Engagement View, which is well-placed to respond to these objections. The view can account for the equal moral status of humans with severe cognitive impairments, without abandoning a hierarchical approach to moral status; though it is highly revisionary about which beings occupy the upper reaches of that hierarchy.

Lewis Wang (Boston): Hegel and the Problem of Poverty
It has often been noted that poverty poses a great challenge to Hegel’s political philosophy. In part, this is because unlike other problems Hegel identifies to facilitate transitions between different stages of the development of the concept of freedom, he provides no clear solution to the problem of poverty. This lack of an answer has led some to worry that the problem of poverty is really the Achilles’ heel of Hegel’s political philosophy. Others make the more radical move in suggesting that Hegel might be intentionally leaving this question open to provide a covert criticism of modern capitalistic society. My view in this paper falls into a third category, which claims that Hegel has at least an implicit solution to the problem of poverty that we could reconstruct from his writings. I will argue that Hegel takes that structural poverty is to be prevented by the restricting the productive activity of civil society by the state, as the root cause of structural poverty is overproduction. But this restriction must not take the form of the state directly controlling civil society. Instead, the state’s role is one of supervisor and coordinator, while the restriction of production is to be carried out by corporations in the form of self-restriction.

This paper will proceed as follows. Section 1-3 contains three preliminary discussions of Hegel’s remarks on poverty. I will first show that for Hegel, poverty is a necessary consequence of civil society because civil society has an inherent tendency towards overproduction. I will then show that poverty is a problem for Hegel because it implies that both civil society and the philosophical principle underlying it are self-undermining. Then I will briefly survey Hegel’s rejections of various possible solutions to the problem of poverty. Finally, in section 4, I will propose and argue for the implicit solution I reconstruct from Hegel. I will argue, against Anderson (2001), that the implicit solution requires restricting civil society’s production rather than consumption activities. I will also argue, against Kain (2014), that this restriction should be differentiated from social democrats’ approach.

Giulio Pietroiusti (Barcelona): Having a Disagreement: Expression, Persuasion and Demand
It is common to distinguish between disagreement in the state sense (being in disagreement) and disagreement in the activity sense (having a disagreement). This paper deals with the question of what it is for two people to have a disagreement. First, I present and reject the thesis according to which having a disagreement is a matter of expressing conflicting attitudes. I argue that this is not sufficient for having a disagreement: two people can express conflicting attitudes without having a disagreement. Second, I present and reject the thesis according to which having a disagreement involves not only the expression of conflicting attitudes, but also the persuasive attempt to bring the other around to one's view. I argue that this is not necessary for having a disagreement: two people can have a disagreement without trying to change each other's minds. Finally, I put forward an alternative account that goes beyond the mere expression of conflicting attitudes, but that does not go as far as to posit the attempt to change someone's mind. Having a disagreement, I submit, is a matter of expressing conflicting attitudes and demanding agreement, that is, advancing the normative claim that the other should share one's attitude.

Niccolò Aimone Pisano (St. Andrews): Are Higher-Level Marks of the Cognitive Feasible?
In this talk, I will examine what sort of difficulties higher-level marks of the cognitive (MOC) may have to face if one is to endorse the prima facie agreeable Alexander's Dictum (AD). To do so, I will take into consideration two representative higher-level MOC's and I will highlight the respective problems in the light of AD. The claim I will be arguing for is that, despite its being somewhat agreeable, we are not required to endorse AD in order to maintain our naturalistic commitments, thus making the formulation of a MOC in terms of higher-level notions viable.

Sara Ayhan (RUB): Bilateralism, Logical Consequence, and Uniqueness of Connectives
In the literature on uniqueness it has been clearly shown that the question whether a connective is uniquely characterized by its set of rules is strongly related to the logic, its specific representation, and in particular to the underlying consequence relation. I will show the problems that are encountered when dealing with uniqueness of connectives in a bilateralist setting within the larger framework of proof-theoretic semantics and suggest a solution. Therefore, I will present and argue for a specific - and so far underrated - form of bilateralism: one that is bilateral not only on the level of rules, but also on a meta-level, namely concerning inferential relations. This is realized in the logic 2Int, for which I introduce a sequent calculus system, displaying - just like the corresponding natural deduction system - a consequence relation for provability as well as one dual to provability. I will propose a modified characterization of uniqueness incorporating such a duality of consequence relations, with which we can maintain uniqueness in a bilateralist setting.