September 11, 2020
  • Colloquium: Anna Mahtani, LSE
    2:00 pm-4:00 pm

    "The Designators that Matter"

September 25, 2020
  • Colloquium: Barbara Vetter, Freie Universität Berli
    2:00 pm-4:00 pm

    "Essence, Potentiality, and Modality"

    Abstract: ​According to essentialism, metaphysical modality is founded in the essences of things, where the essence of a thing is roughly akin to its real definition. According to potentialism (also known as dispositionalism), metaphysical modality is founded in the potentialities of things, where a potentiality is roughly the generalized notion of a disposition. Essentialism and potentialism have much in common, but little has been written about their relation to each other. The aim of my talk is to better understand the relations between essence and potentiality, on the one hand, and between essentialism and potentialism, on the other. It is argued, first, that essence and potentiality are not duals but interestingly linked by a weaker relation dubbed ‘semi-duality’; second, that given this weaker relation, essentialism and potentialism are not natural allies but rather natural competitors; and third, that the semi-duality of essence and potentiality allows the potentialist to respond to an important explanatory challenge by using essentialist resources without thereby committing to essentialism.

October 23, 2020
  • Colloquium: Jake Nebel, USC
    3:30 pm-4:30 pm

    "The Case for Comparability" (with Cian Dorr and Jake Zuehl)

    Abstract: We argue that all comparative expressions in natural language obey a principle that we call Comparability: if x and y are both F to some degree, then either x is at least as F as y or y is at least as F as x. This principle has been widely rejected among philosophers, especially by ethicists, and its falsity has been claimed to have important normative implications. We argue that Comparability is needed to explain the goodness of several patterns of inference that seem manifestly valid. We reply to some influential arguments against Comparability, and raise and reject some new arguments.

October 30, 2020
  • Colloquium: Paul Taylor, Vanderbilt
    3:30 pm-4:30 pm

    "Which me will survive all these liberations?" Toward a 3rd wave race theory

    Abstract: Race theory seems finally to have arrived in philosophy. But what has it had to become to get here? And might it be something else? Inspired by Audre Lorde, Mary Mothersill, Ludwig Wittgenstein, James Baldwin, and others, this talk looks for a way to take race seriously in philosophy without losing sight of what makes race matter. 

November 20, 2020
  • Colloquium: Alan Hájek, ANU
    5:00 pm-6:00 pm

    "Would’ Work"

February 19, 2021
  • Colloquium: Cailin O’Connor, UC Irvine
    3:30 pm-5:30 pm

    Measuring Conventionality

    Abstract: Standard accounts of convention include notions of arbitrariness. But many have conceived of conventionality as an all or nothing affair. In this paper, I develop a framework for thinking of conventions as coming in degrees of arbitrariness. In doing so, I introduce an information theoretic measure intended to capture the degree to which a solution to a certain social problem could have been otherwise. As the paper argues, this framework can help improve explanation aimed at the cultural evolution of social traits. Good evolutionary explanations recognize that most functional traits are also conventional, at least to some degree, and vice versa.​

March 19, 2021
  • Colloquium: Eric Schwitzgebel, UC Riverside
    3:30 pm-5:30 pm

    "Is There Something It's Like to Be a Garden Snail?"

    Abstract: The question “are garden snails conscious?” or equivalently “is there something it's like to be a garden snail?” admits of three possible answers: yes, no, and denial that the question admits of a yes-or-no answer. All three answers have some antecedent plausibility, prior to the application of theories of consciousness. All three answers retain their plausibility after the application of theories of consciousness. This is because theories of consciousness, when applied to such a different species, are inevitably question-begging and rely on dubious extrapolation from the introspections and verbal reports of a single species.​

April 9, 2021
  • Colloquium: Robert Gooding-Williams, Columbia
    3:30 pm-5:30 pm

    "The Moral Psychology of White Supremacy and the Theory of Democratic Despotism"

    Abstract: During the era of the Great War, W.E.B. Du Bois believed that white supremacist habits of mind functioned both domestically and internationally to thwart the democratic aspirations of the earth’s “darker folk,” thus intensifying their vulnerability to political domination and economic exploitation. Accordingly, I divide this paper into two parts. In the first, I analyze Du Bois’s moral psychology of white supremacy. In the second, I turn to the larger story Du Bois tells relating white supremacy to industrial capitalism and the “new imperialism.” The substance of that story, I argue, is his analysis of “democratic despotism.” This paper is part of a larger project on Du Bois’s political aesthetics. Considered in the perspective of contemporary debates, it offers analyses of 1) Du Bois’s WWI era contribution to our understanding of racial capitalism, and 2) his account of the role culture can play in explaining imperialism. Regarding the second point, paper tacitly brings Du Bois into conversation with theorists like William Appleman Williams and Edward Said.​

April 16, 2021
  • Colloquium: Russ Shafer-Landau, UW-Madison
    3:30 pm-5:30 pm

    "The Structure of Philosophical Inquiry."

May 7, 2021
  • Colloquium: Robert Pasnau, CU Boulder
    3:30 pm-5:30 pm

    title to be announced