Programme for Trinity 2013

All sessions were held on Tuesday, at 4-5pm, in the Ryle Room at the Faculty of Philosophy.

Week 1
April 23
Jonathan Erhardt (Lincoln)
2D Semantics and the Foundations of Mereology
Many philosophers think that linking principles of the form “if there are atoms arranged F-wise, there is an F” are in some sense trivially true. This seems to suggest that many theories in Mereology are either trivially true or false. Various philosophers have explored ways to maintain the triviality of linking principles while also rejecting the idea that theories in Mereology are trivially true or false. Their suggestions, even if they work, lead to a rejection of a broadly Quinean meta-ontology. In this paper I develop an explanation of the triviality of the linking principles which allows us to have both: non-trivial theories in Mereology and a broadly Quinean meta-ontology. This explanation invokes the framework of two-dimensional possible world semantics.
Week 2
April 30
Alexander Kaiserman (Jesus)
The Conceivability Argument and Macrophysical Zombies
David Chalmers' Conceivability Argument purports to show that the conceivability of zombies worlds (minimal physical duplicates of the actual world in which there are no phenomenally conscious agents) implies the falsity of physicalism. But the argument is sound only granting modal monism, the thesis that the space of ways the world could be for all an ideal agent can tell a priori is identical to the space of metaphysically possible worlds. Chalmers accepts this, but replies that adopting modal dualism in order to save physicalism is ad hoc and unmotivated. In this paper, I defend modal dualism, and hence physicalism, against this accusation.
Week 3
May 7
Shivani Radhakrishnan (Linacre)
Legal Indeterminacy and the Rule of Law
Many legal theorists accept what I will call the indeterminacy claim, or the view that the law's requirements are sometimes indeterminate. Indeterminacy apparently conflicts with the ideal of the Rule of Law, which requires the content of the law to both be clear and capable of guiding the behavior of its subjects. This requirement is especially important given juridical bivalence: the law has to rule as to whether people are guilty or not guilty, parties are liable or not liable, and contracts are valid or invalid. If we accept the indeterminacy claim, however, it looks as though we are committed to saying that sometimes, judges can't help but arrive at an outcome that is not determined by law. Some have chosen to deny indeterminacy. I argue that we can both accept indeterminacy and maintain a commitment to the Rule of Law, and will propose several strategies for how we might do so.
Week 4
May 14
Nora Heinzelmann (Mansfield)
Dilemmas and Weakness of Will
Weakness of the will is often described as a failure to act or intend in accordance with one’s better judgement. Certain types of dilemmas seem to challenge accounts of weakness of the will because these accounts imply that an agent in a dilemma is necessarily weak-willed. For if the agent believes that he ought to F and that he ought not to F, regardless of what he does, he will act against what he believes he ought to do. But it seems implausible that an agent in a dilemma should necessarily be weak-willed. I shall discuss how accounts of weakness of the will can deal with this problem.
Week 5
May 21
Neil Dewar (University)
The Aharonov-Bohm Effect and Non-Locality
This paper asks whether the Aharonov-Bohm (A-B) effect does indeed show, as has been claimed, that physics is non-local. It begins by clarifying some of the different senses of the term ‘locality’ that have been used in the recent literature; then gives a (brief) exposition of the A-B effect itself. Then, various different interpretations of electromagnetism are considered, and it is discussed how the accounts these interpretations give of the A-B effect bear upon whether that effect should be considered to breach any of the above senses of locality.
Week 6
May 28
Amin Ebrahimi Afrouzi (Christ Church)
Transcendence of the Philosopher in Plato's Symposium and Phaedrus
In Plato’s Phaedrus and Symposium there are suggestions that the (soul of a) philosopher transcends the mundane world and elevates to immortality and the companionship of the gods. These suggestions have been usually read as claims about metaphorical transcendence or immortality. This paper examines these claims in both dialogues and explores the possibilities of a literal reading of them.
Week 7
June 4
Yair Levy (Balliol)
Knowledge of Action as Self-Knowledge
Contemporary discussions of self-knowledge struggle to make room for intentional actions. Knowledge of the latter is knowledge of something taking place outside one’s mind, and hence generally taken to outstrip mere self-knowledge. But the paper argues, to the contrary, that knowledge of actions is thoroughly first-personal, on a par with knowledge of other mental attitudes such as beliefs and intentions. In fact, it is suggested that acting intentionally may itself be understood as an (external, factive, and dynamic) mental attitude. Viewed this way, intentional actions can be assimilated wholesale into the domain of self-knowledge.
Week 8
June 11
Rachel Fraser (Linacre)
Should Epistemologists Care about Testimony?
Epistemologists tend (a) to presume that testimony is an epistemic kind, both epistemically distinctive and homogenous and (b) to fail to consider the properties of illocutionary acts to be epistemically pertinent, worrying instead about the properties speakers and addressees must have in order that acceptance of testimony be a knowledge producing mechanism. Can the presumption of testimony’s epistemic distinctiveness – and folk-epistemology’s privileging of the speech act of telling – be vindicated? I develop an epistemology of illocutionary acts, introducing two properties – stability and security – and argue that it is epistemically pertinent whether an illocutionary act token has these properties. With this epistemology of illocutionary acts in place a defence of the distinctiveness of testimony may be mounted. I finish by making some remarks about why we ought to be pessimistic about the efficacy of this defence.