ARPA Conference: 2019


Special Sessions

Canadian Association of Reductionist Philosophy (CARP) Friday, Sept. 18, 3:25-5:30 CE 327

Speakers: TBA

Recovering Rorty Symposium Sat., 1:30-3:20 CE 315

Speakers: Robbie Mosher (Mt.A), Mary Jo Curry (Ind. Sch.), Louis Groarke (StFX), Neb Kujundzic (UPEI), Madeleine Legér (Ind. Sch.)

Wittgenstein Reading Group Sat., Oct. 19, 10-12 CE 315

Speakers: Lynette Reid (Dal), TBA; Michael Hymers (Dal), “Hadot’s Wittegenstein”; Steven Burns (Dal), “Wittgenstein, Atomism, and AI”




al-Maini, Doug (StFX) Friday, Oct. 18 3:25-4:15  CE 323

"The Difference Between 'Belonging' and 'Being Like' in Plato's Lysis"

Plato's Lysis ends with an interpretive challenge for the reader: at 222b Socrates states that "if there is some difference between belonging and being like, then we might have something to say about what a friend is."  The problem for the reader is to determine what this difference consists in and how it helps to solve the various dilemmas concerning the nature of friendship that Socrates raises throughout the dialogue.  Socrates does let us know that the reason this distinction must be made is to avoid a problem associated with the claim that like is friend to like.  If belonging and being like cannot be distinguished, "it won't be easy to toss out our former argument that like is useless to like insofar as they are alike.  And to admit that the useless is a friend would strike a sour note."  Here, Socrates suggests that the difference between belonging and being like is predicated on the concept of usefulness.  Accordingly, this paper will explore discrete senses of the term 'use' as a way of distinguishing between belonging to something and being like that thing.  In particular, the difference between the uses of instrumental and final ends will be explored as providing a tool for explaining how friends that are perfectly alike belong to each other such that they are of use to each other as well.

Andrews, Derek (Dal) Saturday, Oct. 19 1:30-2:20 CE 312

“Predictions, Not Restrictions: Why the Naturalness of Depression Ought Not to Impact Access to Medical Assistance in Dying”


Jonathan Tsou argues that depression is a natural kind, in that it is a class of abnormal behaviour underlain by stable biological causal mechanisms (Tsou, 2013). As such underpinnings enable reliable projectionable inferences to be made about members of their associated kinds, we can make accurate predictions about persons with depression (2013). Accordingly, argues Tsou, we should assess the decisional capacity of persons with depression who seek medical assistance in dying (MAiD), due to the predictable effect depression can have on one’s decisional capacities (2013).

In this paper I argue for two conclusions. First, I argue that Tsou’s conclusion relies on a conflation of the ability to make general predictions regarding the impacts of a condition in general terms and its effects in individual cases – that is, while depression being a natural kind would allow for reliable projectionable inferences in general, this does not guarantee the accuracy of those predictions in particular cases. Second, I argue that systematically evaluating the decisional capacities of persons with depression who seek MAiD due to the mere fact of their diagnosis is unjust. As all persons, including those with mental illness, are presumed capable unless proven otherwise (Nielson and Chaimowitz, 2015), singling persons with depression out in the manner Tsou suggests represents a failure to treat them justly, as the mere presence of a mental disorder is insufficient to prompt an assessment of competence in other cases.


Ansell, Robert (SMU) Sat., Oct. 19 9-9:50 CE 314

“Organization of Society in the General Interest”

How can a large society, comprising millions of people, be organized in the general interest?  The answering of this question begins with a discussion of the expression 'general interest'.  It is then noted that in On Liberty J. S. Mill offers the "liberal" political model in response to the desire for organization of society in the general interest, though he also says that the model will fall short.  In the paper it is argued that far from delivering organization in the general interest the "liberal" model actually strengthens egoistic organization.  The paper then proceeds to identify principles which are actually appropriate for organization of society in the general interest.  In part this is done by identifying principles of "liberal" society which are suitable for the purpose, and other principles of the "liberal" society which need to be replaced by other organizing principles.

Ashfield, Mike (USC) Sat., Oct. 19, 2:30-3:20 CE 314

“From Manslaughter to Mass-slaughter”


Manslaughter, a form of homicide, is considered a serious moral wrong (and a crime) even though it’s committed without premeditation or so-called “malice aforethought” (an evil intent prior to the killing). Voluntary manslaughter includes killing someone in the heat of passion or while committing a felony. Involuntary manslaughter involves causing someone’s death in the course of a non-felony legal violation, such as reckless driving (i.e., “vehicular manslaughter”). Cases involving a large number of deaths that have been caused or risk being caused in similarly unpremeditated ways are occasionally termed “mass manslaughter,” but the use of this term seems quite rare. Meanwhile, the legal and dictionary definitions of more familiar terms for various kinds of mass homicide, including ‘mass murder,’ ‘mass killing,’ 'war crimes,' ‘crimes against humanity,’ ‘ethnic cleansing,’ ‘genocide,’ ‘politicide,’ ‘democide,’ and ‘classicide,’ either stipulate to their premeditation explicitly by making the definition parasitic on existing definitions of murder, or remain unclear whether premeditation is a requirement for their obtaining. In general, therefore, it seems that we do not extend our moral and legal thinking about manslaughter to cases of mass homicide, whether caused by individuals or collective agents. But it’s not clear why we shouldn’t, especially since we already do this explicitly extend our moral and legal thinking about murder to cases of mass homicide. If our moral and legal thinking about mass homicide should be informed by our moral and legal thinking about individual homicide, then there appears to be an important gap in the literature where mass manslaughter (hereafter “mass-slaughter”) is concerned. In this paper, I survey this heretofore under-explored normative conceptual space.



Baker, Alex (SMU) Sat., Oct. 19 9-9:50 CE 313

“Humanity and Rational Principle: Latent Ideology in Aristotle’s Function Argument.”   

My talk will focus on Aristotle’s function argument. According to Aristotle, the final cause, and thus chief good, of human beings is happiness. He goes on to say, however, that construing humanity’s chief good in this way, without further elaboration, seems a platitude, and that a more precise account requires an appeal to humanity’s function, which Aristotle identifies as active (i.e., not just the possession, but the exercise, of) reason. Aristotle posits that if humanity’s function is adherence to a rational principle, then the function of a good individual is the good and noble performance of that rational principle.    There is, however, reason to contest Aristotle’s argument, and, moreover, to question the thought process behind it. Evidence that would have been available to Aristotle suggests that human beings are not the only animals that exhibit rationality. It is my contention that Aristotle emphasizes reason primarily in order to preserve the traditional power structure he knew and benefitted from, one that treated women and slaves as inferior based on their supposedly lesser capacity to exercise the mind. Critical evaluation of Aristotle’s argument is fruitful, not because the argument is particularly persuasive, but because close scrutiny of the function argument demonstrates just how subtly ideology can underpin seemingly objective philosophy.

Baldner, Steven (StFX) Friday, Oct., 18, 4:20-5:30 CE 323

“Aquinas and Early Modern Philosophers on Causality”

Theists traditionally hold that in some sense God causes everything in creation, not just at the beginning of time, but in the on-going history of the world for as long as the world exists. But if God is causing everything, and at all times, is it possible for creatures to cause anything? I argue that early modern philosophers, such as Suarez, Descartes, and Malebranche, in different ways insisted so heavily on the fact of God’s causality that creatures are left with no real causal role at all. Thomas Aquinas, on the other hand, has a way of explaining God’s causing of the being of all things that allows for creatures to be true, independent causes of natural effects. Hence, paradoxically, Thomas Aquinas is a better defender of the new natural science than are the modern philosophers who rejected Scholasticism for the sake of this science.


Bingeman, Emily (Dal) Friday, Oct. 18 4:20-5:10 CE 326

“Some Concerns About Praise-Blame Asymmetries


In the contemporary literature on free will and moral responsibility it is often suggested that there is a praise-blame asymmetry, i.e. that standards for meriting praise are much lower than standards for deserving blame (e.g. Wolf 1990, Nelkin 2011, Pereboom 2014). Some free will theorists, e.g. Sartorio (2016), even suggest that explaining the praise-blame asymmetry could be understood as a criterion of theory success. However, arguments supporting this asymmetry are often brief, if they exist at all. In this paper I raise some doubts about praise-blame asymmetries. First, drawing from feminist epistemology (Medina 2013, Code 2006), I argue that unjustified praise can cause grave harms when we look at larger ecosystems of credit and discredit, e.g. white people receiving disproportionate praise that serves to further entrench structures of power and privilege. And second, I argue that failures to balance our judgements of praise and blame about individual agents can lead to patterns of injustice. I discuss Kate Mann’s concept of “himpathy” to explore an example of how inappropriate weightings of praise and blame can contribute to patterns of excusing men of sexual assault. I do not conclude that there are no praise-blame asymmetries, but that these asymmetries may be more complicated than is generally recognized in the free will literature.


Bonasio, Giulia (King’s) Sat., Oct. 19, 11:10-12 CE 313


“Function and Use in Aristotle’s EE and NE

The Function Argument (FA) figures in Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics (EE) and in the Nicomachean Ethics 1 (NE). In both treatises, the FA prepares the ground for the definition of happiness. The NE-Function 2 Argument has received a lot of attention by scholars who study Aristotle’s ethics, and it has been subjected to a number of fundamental objections. The EE-Function Argument is almost unexplored. With this paper, I aim to fill this gap and to show the role of the Function Argument for understanding happiness and virtue. I argue that in the EE, there is not only a Function Argument - namely, an argument that explains that there is a function (ergon) of the human soul and that happiness consists in excellently exercising that activity which is the human function - but also what I call a Use (chrêsis) Argument. The Function Argument and the Use Argument are presented together, they share premises and they are both subject to a number of objections. However, I argue that the Use Argument clarifies aspects of the EE-Function Argument. That is, it clarifies that it is not enough to survive, but we need to be awake and to be active: these are the minimal conditions in order to lead a good life. I argue that throughout the EE, Aristotle completes the Use Argument by arguing that best living - happiness - involves using virtues, goods and friends in the best way. I compare the Function Argument in the EE to the one in the NE, and I retrace the Platonic antecedents of Aristotle’s notions of function and of use.

Brett, Nathan (Dal) Sat., Oct. 19, 11:10-12 CE 314

“Taking Climate Change Seriously”

As many young people are now making clear, they are being subjected to extraordinary risks of harms because of government inaction on climate change. Adapting an argument that has its basis in Singer’s “Famine, Affluence and Morality,” I argue that those who accept climate science have an obligation to join forces with others in pressing for adequate policies within their countries and promoting compliance with evolving international agreements. Given how much harm is at stake, it is quite wrong for individuals go about their everyday lives while ignoring the problem. This is not a vague obligation to future generations, an obligation that is opaque to common-sense morality. In the second part of the paper I argue that complacency in the face of the risks that we are imposing of younger people is a form of discrimination that ought to be taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination, such as racism and sexism.  What accounts for the inadequacy of our current response to the climate crisis we face? I conclude with some reflections on the view that “we are all climate change deniers.” 


Calder, Todd (SMU) Sat, Oct. 19, 3:40-4:30


“Evil Isn’t Necessarily Wrong”

Almost every theorist writing about the concept of evil believes that evil is a species of wrongdoing. Some of these theorists argue that the distinction between evil and wrongdoing is merely quantitative. On this view evil actions are just very wrongful actions (Russell 2007, 2014). Others suggest that there is a qualitative distinction between evil and wrongdoing. On this view, evil actions are wrongful actions that are accompanied by additional qualitative features, such as certain sorts of motivations, feelings, or harms (de Wijze 2002, Garrard 2002, Haybron 2002, Steiner 2002, Card 2010, Formosa 2013). All of these theorists believe that evil actions are, at least, wrongful, and that wrongdoing is an essential component of the concept of evil. I believe that this view is mistaken. Evil is not necessarily wrong.


The paper proceeds as follows. Section I presents a case that is evil but not wrongful on some plausible conceptions of wrongdoing. It follows that proponents of these theories should accept that wrongdoing is not an essential component of the concept of evil. Section II addresses some objections to the arguments of Section I. Section III explains how evil actions can be morally worse than merely wrongful actions without being more morally wrong. Section IV addresses some additional objections to the position argued for in the paper.


Campbell, Doug (Toronto) Sat., Oct 19, 1:30-2:20 CE 313


“Plato on Reincarnation: Eschatology, Mythology, and Philosophy”

I argue that Plato’s theory of reincarnation follows from his other philosophical commitments, such as that the soul is immortal, that virtue is rewarded and vice punished, and that the body is the only cause of disorders in the soul. Theories of the afterlife are properly the subject of philosophy, not only of mythology, for Plato: he does not have a rigid distinction between philosophy and mythology at all. These claims run up against the way Plato has been read for a very long time. Even scholars who take Plato’s thoughts on the afterlife “seriously” end up taking them seriously only as things he really believed, not as inseparable from other core Platonic commitments. If time permits, I will also add that the theory is doing work as a natural-philosophical explanation of why non-human animals exist. Their existence puzzled Plato, and part of the appeal of the theory is the double work it does as a natural-philosophical theory and a moral-eschatological one. This talk will appeal to a generalist audience as, at the very least, an opportunity to think through what philosophical reasons there are for believing in reincarnation. 


Campbell, Richmond (Dal) Sat., Oct. 19, 3:40-4:30 CE 314


“The Co-Evolution of Moral Norms and Human Knowledge”

Moral philosophers agree that moral judgments about the world rely on non-moral knowledge of the world, such as the suffering caused by an action or the fact that an action was meant to deceive. Philosophers concur on this general point whether or not they think that there can be moral knowledge. Consider now the converse claim. With the exception of feminist epistemologists, philosophers generally would deny that in gaining non-moral knowledge, such as scientific knowledge, we rely in some way on morality. That would be especially true of philosophers who like me share a realist perspective on the relevant non-moral knowledge. Facts about the causal effects of actions, for example, obtain whether or not we believe them to be true or think they ought to be true. How could knowledge of facts about causation depend on human moral norms? The position that I defend today, however, is that non-moral knowledge does depend on moral norms—at least when the relevant knowledge is sufficiently complex.

My argument for the thesis comes in two parts. Part I explains why knowledge that is complex enough to require Type 1 and Type 2 brain processing is best achieved through language based socially interactive reasoning. Part II argues that interactive reasoning is more successful when it is constrained by moral norms, especially those that demand honesty, fairness, liberty, and moral consistency. When these two parts are combined with the generally acknowledged dependence of morality on non-moral knowledge, the upshot is the interdependence of complex non-moral knowledge and a moral mind responsive to moral norms.

This interdependence of the moral and the non-moral likely evolved at least 300,000 years ago before behaviorally modern humans began to spread out of Africa, but maybe even earlier. In Part III, I propose that the mutual dependences continue to co-evolve but at the level of large-scale morally structured institutions. The relevant complex non-moral knowledge is knowledge of how we function in large social institutions. Regrettably, moral norms appear now to be evolving to undermine rather than to enhance this desperately needed social self-knowledge.

Conlon, James (Mount Mary) Sat., Oct. 19, 11:10-12 CE 311

“Sex and Shame”

Is sexual shame something that our post Freudian age has left behind or is there anything about sex that is inherently shameful?  In order to answer this question I look at Augustine of Hippo’s analysis of three specific aspects of sexual experience: 1) the mental state during orgasm, 2) the autonomy of the sexual body and 3) the occurrence of orgasms while asleep. 

1)    According to Augustine, during the convulsing moments of orgasm, the choosing self is, as it were, vacated. Climax is, indeed, “une petite morte,” in which the self’s boundaries are loosened rather than clarified. Can pride be taken in this moment?

2)    The sexual body operates separately from the human will. Unlike other willed acts, sexual acts depend on the indirect process of passion to get things going. In men, this is exemplified by “erectile dysfunction”; in women, by "hypoactive sexual desire disorder." These problems highlight the fact that all sexual “activity” is actually a form of passivity. Can pride be taken in this?

3)    Finally, orgasms while asleep, which are common in both men and women, are problematic for human pride. Suppose one’s orgasm occurs during a dream of incest. How should one feel about this? Is there truly nothing to be ashamed of here?

Augustine’s analysis of these experiences is not theological, but philosophical.  Sex is not evil, but it highlights our ineradicable duality, “the obvious misery of being unable to live as [one] wishes.” This argument seems as forceful in the 21st century as it was in the 5th.

Cudmore-Keating, Shaughnessy (StFX) Friday, Oct. 18, 2:30-3:20 CE 326

“Was Descartes an Occasionalist? An examination of other Cartesians in support of an answer”

While most scholars agree that the early modern philosophers who defended occasionalist theses were working within a Cartesian framework, they are divided on the extent to which the position has its roots in Descartes’ own thought. In this paper, I consider the work of three figures reputed to be Cartesian occasionalists: Arnauld Geulincx (1624-1669), Louis de La Forge (1632-1666), and Geraud de Cordemoy (1628-1684), each of whom are widely accepted as defending occasionalist theses. If the same premises which necessitate conclusions consistent with a thoroughgoing occasionalism are present in these, are equally found in the work of Descartes, then there may be some indirect evidence for an occasionalist reading of Descartes. I will argue that there are two features which most contribute to the occasionalist theses defended in the work these three thinkers: First, the treatment of matter as an inert, extend substance and second, the treatment of moments in time as atomistic in nature. Since these features are also present in the work of Descartes, I will claim there is some evidence for an occasionalist reading of Descartes.

Curry, Paul (Dal) Friday, Oct. 18, 3:25-4:15 CE 319

“Identity Politics vs a Fusion of Horizons “


The rise of identity politics has brought to the fore potential challenges to the goal of building a pluralist, multicultural society that also has a sense of common purpose. If some experiences and identities are radically impenetrable, then conflict over values seems inevitable, and perhaps also, unending. Meaningful political discourse becomes problematic between citizens with different backgrounds and worldviews.


In the past, some multicultural theorists have argued that we can indeed come to appreciate the values of co-citizens who have different identities and worldviews. Charles Taylor, for example, relying in part on Hans-Georg Gadamer concept of a ‘fusion of horizons’, claims that we can partially take on the worldview and values of others and acquire a degree of appreciation for their perspective. This view has received less attention in recent years.


In this exploratory talk, I will re-examine the claim that we can reach across silos and engage in meaningful political dialogue across identities. 


Eager, Scott (SMU) Friday, Oct. 18, 4:20-5:20 CE 319

“Transit Network Design & Historical Injustice: a Canadian Case Study “

Consider the view that public transit agencies or private transit companies should make it their primary aim to maximize the number of people using their services. They might have that aim, in order for environmental reasons, that is, to reduce carbon emissions. Or they might have that aim to maximize fare revenue. Whatever their reasons for having that aim, it turns out that a straightforward consequence of the aim is that transit agencies or companies should serve only regions with high-density populations. A further consequence is that transit agencies and companies should eliminate service from low-density regions, leaving people in those regions without access to transit.

 This paper will not defend this view in any detail (though it will motivate the view somewhat). Rather, the paper will assume the view in what I take to be its most compelling form, in order to show that even by the view’s own lights, it must allow certain kinds of exceptions. The paper will consider the example of Greyhound Bus Lines’ 2018 decision to terminate service in Western Canada, eliminating the only transit connections between rural First Nations. The paper will argue that, even on the most compelling interpretation of the view in question, public funds should be used to provide transit to communities that have experienced certain kinds of historical injustice. 


Grenzberg, Valkyrie (Millersville) Friday, Oct. 18 2:30-3:20 CE 311


“What’s wrong with sex? An in-depth analysis of the issues faced by a sexually active woman in the era of #Metoo.”


The problem with sex leads back to how we as a culture talk about and view sex. It is a taboo topic that is awkwardly whispered between teenage boys and girls on the school bus, along with porn and that thing your parents do that you want to know nothing about. The misinformation and lack of actual education on this topic is what leads to the need for a movement such as #Metoo. #MeToo was a movement that started on social media after the Brett Kavannaugh hearing where men and women could tell their stories of sexual assault and show that it was more common then we as a society think in support of Christine Blasey Ford. 


Without reputable Sex Education classes, young adults grow up with no experience of sex culture or reproductive health. This causes them to be self conscious and nervous, making consent one of the last things on their mind. Consent is the root of intercourse being mutual and ethical. In any sexual encounter there should be full verbal consent and consent can be revoked at any time in which either partner becomes uncomfortable. Consent must also be something that is enthusiastic and given when sober. If consent is not, it could be false consent that that was coerced out of someone. Consent needs to be something that is clearly defined for our society, and there is no reason any grey moral area should be involved. 


Groarke, Louis (StFX) Sat., Oct. 19, 10-10:50 CE 313


“Aristotle’s Poetics Understood as a Response to Plato: An Aristotelean Account of Oedipus Rex”


Aristotle advances a very specific account of literature in the Poetics (and elsewhere). I will argue, contrary to prevailing opinion, that Aristotle is chiefly concerned with articulating a response to Plato’s criticisms of poetry as something seriously immoral and impious.  As well as situating Aristotle’s thought within a broader philosophical context, I consult historical, religious, historical, and legal sources.  Aristotle’s views are relevant to issues that surface in contemporary literary criticism and theory.


Hamm, Nikolas (McGill) Sat., Oct 19, 10-10:50 CE 314


“Manifesting Morality: Affective Experience and Character Cultivation in Kant’s Moral Philosophy”


Underlying the motivation for this paper is the simple belief that Kant did indeed intend for his moral philosophy to be practically applicable. As I argue, ‘character’, for Kant, plays a mediating role between reason and sensibility, and so it is through the cultivation of moral character that one comes to be a reliable moral actor. In other words, a person with character, for Kant, is one who consistently acts from self legislated moral maxims, i.e., one who successfully and reliably translates moral recognition into moral action.


In this paper I explore the role of affective experience for the cultivation of moral character in Kant’s moral philosophy, focusing in particular on experiences of beauty in nature, and experiences of moral sublimity. In short, I argue that the affective nature of these sorts of experience lead the agent to recognize first, that they can set ends of their own (through reason), and second, that the world is purposively ordered, and hence conducive to accomplishing those ends; both of which are necessary components of successful and intentional moral action, and hence crucial for becoming a truly moral being.


Harris, Daniel (CUNY) Sat., Oct. 19, 9-9:50 CE 315


“Wittgenstein’s Looming Presence over Contemporary Speech-Act Theory”


I begin by delineating the major schools of thought in contemporary speech-act theory: (i) conventionalism (Austin, Searle, Lepore & Stone); (ii) intentionalism (Grice, Strawson, Schiffer, Loar, Bach & Harnish); (iii) commitment-based views (Brandom, MacFarlane, Kukla & Lance, Geurts); (iv) epistemic-norm-based views (Williamson); (v) functionalism (Sellars, Millikan, Skyrms); (vi) expressionism (Greene, Bar-On); and (vii) dynamic theories of discourse (Lewis, Stalnaker). I then show how each of these conflicting theories can be traced back to a different reading of the work of the later Wittgenstein. My thesis—a somewhat ironic one, given Wittgenstein’s anti-theoretical philosophical method—is that nearly all of the contemporary theories of speech acts originate as mutually conflicting threads in Wittgenstein’s multifarious discussion of language use.


Andrew Inkpen (Brandon) Friday, Oct. 18, 3:25-4:15 CE 317

“Health and Ecology”

Abstract: Biological individuals are the paradigmatic bearers of health. They are what philosophers call health subjects: entities that possess the capacity for health and disease. But can entities other than individuals also be health subjects? In this talk, I will discuss cases in which the concepts of health and disease are extended and applied to biological systems other than individuals. In particular, I will consider ecological systems, like communities, holobionts, and ecosystems. I will argue that one currently widespread argument which purports to demonstrate that our concept of health extends beyond the individual fails. From this, I will draw a few implications about what kinds of systems can be health subjects. 



Killin, Anton (Mt. A) Sat., Oct. 19, 10-10:50 CE 312


“Inferences in cognitive archaeological research: the minimum necessary competence problem”

Cognitive archaeology involves inferring the cognitive and cultural features of past hominins and their societies from the material record. This task faces the problem of minimum necessary competence. As the most sophisticated thinking of ancient hominins may have been in domains that leave no archaeological signature, we must assume that tool production and use represent the lower boundary of cognitive capacities. According to cognitive archaeologist Thomas Wynn, this makes it possible to consistently underestimate intelligence, but difficult to overestimate intelligence. In this talk I’ll agree with the former claim but contest the latter. Cognitive archaeology involves selecting a model from the cognitive sciences and assessing some aspect of the material record through that lens. I’ll give examples to show that the background commitments in the philosophy of cognitive science that inform those models lead to very different minimum necessary competence results. This raises an important question: what principles should guide us in selecting a model from the cognitive sciences? I’ll outline two responses to this question. The first involves using independent lines of evidence to converge on a particular capacity. The second is a broader suggestion. Theoretical diversity is a good thing in science; but is only beneficial over a limited amount of time. Recent modelling suggests that one way of limiting diversity is to introduce extreme priors. This suggests that having a broad spectrum of views in the philosophy of cognitive science may actually help cognitive archaeologists converge on the truth.


Holt, Jason (Acadia) Sat., Oct. 19, 11:10-12 CE 312


“Allusion and Anti-Intentionalism”


Literary allusions are references by association where such associations are intended by authors rather than merely discovered or attributed by readers; as such, they challenge anti-intentionalist approaches to literary interpretation (which deny that authors’ intentions determine the meaning of literary works). Anti-intentionalists might claim that allusions do not strictly figure in literary meaning, that they are merely a species of intertextuality which broadly doesn’t require author’s intent, or that they are made not by the author but by the work itself. Accounting for allusions as such becomes the real challenge. Here the anti-intentionalist may concede the importance of the author’s intentions as an atypical case or as determining the meaning of part of a work although not necessarily bearing on the meaning of the whole. I argue, however, for a third approach: the anti-intentionalist can account for allusion as such if we understand the object of appreciation as a situated rather than isolated work, in other words, where allusive intentions are framed as part of what we appreciate rather than determining another part’s meaning.


Johhannsen, Kyle (WLU) Sat., Oct. 19, 1:30-2:20 CE 315


“Humanitarian Intervention in Nature: How Should We Do It, and What Should We Aim For?”


Animal ethicists have increasingly come to appreciate the extent to which wild animals fail to live flourishing lives. In fact, what we know about wild animal reproduction suggests that the majority of sentient beings born into the world may not even live lives worth living. After all, many animals (r-Strategists) protect their genes by producing large numbers of uncared-for offspring, the majority of whom die from disease, starvation, injury, exposure or predation, shortly after birth.


In light of the harms and hardships wild animals experience, a number of animal ethicists have adopted a qualified commitment to humanitarian intervention in nature. However, there isn’t yet a consensus about what types of intervention to research, or about what the specific goals of intervention should be.  In my paper, I’ll argue that using gene drive to beneficially modify wild animal populations is a type of intervention especially worthy of research.  Focusing on CRISPR in particular, I’ll argue that the moral costs of alternative large-scale interventions, e.g., the perpetual interference with wild animals’ liberties associated with turning nature into a zoo, are far greater. Additionally, I’ll compare a number of different goals that CRISPR could be used to try to achieve: to make certain species, such as r-Strategists or predators, go extinct; to remove the capacity to suffer from certain animals; or to change animals’ dietary and reproductive behavior, e.g., turn carnivores into herbivores or r-Strategists into K-Strategists.  Though I’ll argue that behavior change is ideal, I’ll also argue certain other goals are appropriate under non-ideal circumstances.  


Klassen, Abigail (Winnipeg) Sat. Oct. 19, 9:9:50 CE 311


“Too Queer to Count as Queer?”

Broadly, the term ‘asexual’ refers to persons who do not experience sexual arousal or who, despite sexual arousal, choose not to engage in sexual activity. These people may or may not experience romantic feelings for others. In the Western world, the trend of “sex positivity” and its accompanying proliferation of ways to understand or identify one’s own sexuality (i.e., as “pansexual,” “demisexual,” “polyamorous,” etc.) is pervasive in academia and the lived world. While interest, both expert and otherwise, has increased with respect to non-heterosexuality, despite some exceptions, asexuality is largely overlooked. Asexuality remains a relatively unknown, and perhaps worse, a largely misunderstood phenomenon. Some typical misconceptions include the notion that an asexual is someone who is a “closeted” homosexual or a person who “has yet to find the right person.” More radically, asexual persons can be wrongly associated with the recent uprising of “incels” or “involuntary celibates.” “Inceldom” is often characterized by misogyny, resentment, a sense of entitlement to sex, and the endorsement of violence against people who are sexually active. Recent media coverage of violent incel cases includes the 2014 US shooting massacre undertaken by Elliot Rodger, for example. When asexual persons are misunderstood, constraints placed upon them can be not only epistemically unwarranted, but unethical and oppressive. Perhaps best described in the works of Foucault, Western society emphasizes “compulsory sexuality” – the idea that human beings are “naturally sexual.” This idea, coupled with the current trend of “sex positivity” and its accompanying proliferation of ways to understand or identify one’s sexuality (i.e., as “pansexual,” “demisexual,” etc.), while considered emancipatory by some, can serve to reinforce the notion that there is something wrong with asexual people. In Ian Hacking’s terms, asexual people are also subject to the looping effect. Being characterized as asexual by oneself or by others, an individual has some capacity to negotiate the meaning of that characterization - to accept, reject, or alter the label. Beauvoir’s analysis is useful in providing a lens through which to reconceptualize asexuality by means of ideology critique; she reconstructs frigidity as an active resistance to one’s situation rather than a passive pathology. I hope to further underscore this important rearticulation and to buttress Beauvoir’s reading with Catherine MacKinnon’s work on pornography, and Sally Haslanger’s work in Resisting Reality (2012) on ameliorative social constructionist programs.

Luft, Eric v.d. (Gegensatz Press)   Sat., Oct.19, 10-10:50 CE 311

“Do Transgendered Individuals Exist?”

This paper deals with a strictly ontological question, and does not touch upon the sociology, psychology, or politics of transgendered individuals. To be transgendered means to be actually of the opposite gender from what one’s natural or original physical body indicates in terms of sex, i.e., a born male who is really a woman or a born female who is really a man. If maleness and femaleness are each merely physical or material realities, then there can be no such thing as a transgendered individual. Any epiphenomenalist, materialist, or physical reductionist ontology of the individual is thus inconsistent with transgenderedness. If, on the other hand, the ontology of the individual involves some "immaterial," "mental," "non-physical," "spiritual," or even "occult" component, then transgenderedness is possible if and only if that "non-physical" component either is itself gendered or, in combination with the "physical/material" component, bestows gender upon the individual. The idea that gender identity is not grounded in physicality is consonant with Aristotle's theory of the living substance (ousía) as an entelechy, according to his definitions of these terms in De Anima 412a. If one’s gender identity is only a feeling, then any declared gender identity would be valid, and would have to be taken literally upon just the word of the declarer, since anyone’s feelings are strictly idiosyncratic and spontaneous, and immediately valid precisely because they are idiosyncratic and spontaneous. Hence we may ask in what ways gender identity is commensurate - or not commensurate - with personal identity.



(MacKinnon) O’Keefe, Rachel (Toronto) Friday, Oct. 18, 2:30-3:20 CE 319

“Plotinus’ Pseudo-Hylomorphism and Change in Sensible Objects”

In this talk, I examine Plotinus’ reasons for rejecting Aristotle’s hylomorphism – that is, his view that individuals are composed of matter shaped by form. Aristotle first introduced hylomorphism in order to resolve paradoxes about the possibility of change. Matter acts as a substrate, which both is and is not the forms that come and go throughout a change. This allows us to explain how it is that something can remain while its properties are altered. Plotinus, however, rejects this story in his treatises on matter. Instead, he insists that matter never actually joins with form and that objects are consequently mere bundles of properties. While it seems as though this requires Plotinus to give up on the possibility of explaining change, I argue that Plotinus rejects Aristotle’s hylomorphism precisely due to his desire to preserve the claim that objects change. In doing so, Plotinus stands out amongst post-Aristotelian thinkers, most of whom adopted some version of his hylomorphism. This talk is about a technical debate in ancient Greek metaphysics, but addresses a problem that still puzzles contemporary philosophers – how do we explain the persistence of objects across change?

Meynell, Letitia (Dal) Sat., Oct. 19, 2:30-3:20 CE 312

“Getting the picture – An analysis of understanding”

While many philosophers have argued that various pictures, particularly those that are employed in the sciences, are in some sense epistemic, there is little agreement on what an analysis of the appropriate epistemic success term for images might look like. This paper offers such an analysis. While knowledge is the appropriate epistemic success term for attitudes of belief or acceptance towards true propositions, I will suggest that understanding is the appropriate success term for epistemic attitudes towards pictures. Taking inspiration from Helen Longino’s analysis of knowledge of scientific models (1994), I will characterize and defend an analysis of pictorial understanding in a manner in keeping with mainstream approaches to knowledge. Roughly, this specifies the conditions under which we might truthfully say that S gets the picture p. Finally, I will suggest that this analysis offers an account of understanding that may be applicable more generally.

Miller, Shaun (Dal) Sat., Oct. 19, 2:30-3:20 CE 311

“Contextual Sexual Consent”


Through our cultural conversations, there has been increased discussions revolving around sexual consent, namely receiving and giving consent. I offer three pictures of sexual consent through the philosophical literature. The past views of consent are what I have identified as consensual minimalism and consensual idealism. I put forward consensual realism as a third alternative. For consensual minimalism, the requirements for sexual consent are a voluntary informed agreement. Feminist critiques of consensual minimalism reveal difficulties and the response has been to raise consent to ideal standards leading to what I call consensual idealism. However, one main problem with consensual idealism is that ignores context. In this paper, I suggest a new view of consent, namely consensual realism, that offers a view of consent that takes into account of the context. I suggest consensual realism offers a route that captures the context of sexual encounters and still fulfill the requirements of consent.


Nelson, Eric (Dal) Sat., Oct. 19, 9-9:50 CE 312

“Explicit Nonlinguistic Mental Content: Inferentialism, Connectionism, and Chickens”

Robert Brandom has argued that grasping a concept is dependent upon one’s ability to recognize and assess the reasons for the application of that concept, and what sorts of claims its application can count as a reason for. This access to and evaluation of reasons is, according to Brandom, only possible for beings who are capable of making the norms implicitly operating in the background of conceptual behaviour explicit. Brandom defines the act of making something explicit as inherently linguistic, stating that “making something explicit is saying it” (1994, xviii). This means that, for Brandom, conceptual capabilities, rationality, and the activities that depend upon them, such as thinking and cognition, are only possible for those who also have linguistic capabilities. In this paper, I argue that language is neither necessary (e.g. pointing) nor sufficient (e.g. poetry) for making content explicit. Drawing from the debate between classical A.I and connectionism, I argue that the implicit/explicit distinction is best understood as a two-dimensional continuum that rests on (1) ease of use and (2) variety of modes of use (Clark, 1992, 198). The easier it is to access and use content and the greater the variety of modes it can be used for, the more explicit it is. This understanding of explicitness explains why there is a close link between language and explicitness for human beings because language is a particularly powerful tool when it comes to making content accessible and flexible for human use. But it also opens up the possibility of explicit content existing outside of language, and furthermore means that content that is explicit for one type of being existing in one context may not be explicit for another. To demonstrate these points, I will use examples from feeding and predator avoidance chicken behaviour, as well as canine play behaviour. While these results do not disprove Brandom’s other claims, they do provide a possible first step towards understanding nonlinguistic rationality, conceptual capabilities, and cognition within an inferentialist framework.

Pascoe, Jordan (Manhattan) Sat., Oct. 19, 1:30-2:20 CE 311

“Respect Women”: Rethinking Consent in light of Male Sexual Entitlement”

This paper rethinks two common ethical commands in contemporary sexual culture: consent and the imperative to “respect women.” I argue first that neither consent nor the general duty to “respect women” offer rigorous moral challenges to entrenched patterns of male sexual entitlement, and argue that instead, these norms entrench misogynist assumptions within heterosex, for both women and men. Instead, I turn to Kant’s account of sex as a “shared community of ends” to rethink what respect in sexual contexts might entail, arguing that we should think of sexual respect as taking another’s sexual ends as our own. This framework offers a robust challenge to the structure of consent, requiring us to think of all participants in a sexual encounter as end-setting beings equally determining what “sex”, for this encounter, might entail, and producing epistemic duties not merely to know one’s partner’s sexual ends, but to treat them as a reason to act accordingly. I argue, using case studies from #metoo, that such a normative framework offers concrete tools for undermining patterns of male sexual entitlement and the epistemic vices that support them.

Searing, Keith (Dal) Sat., Oct. 19, 3:40-4:30 CE 313

 “Necessity a-Posteriori?”

Are there necessary truths that are known by experience (a-posteriori)? If it is possible to discover necessary truths about the world through scientific methods, then there are non-trivial identity statements that would be necessarily true, if true at all. The statement “water is necessarily H2O” is often taken as a paradigm example of such a truth. One might wonder, however, whether the necessity of apparently synthetic identity statements is just a result of analyticity in disguise. If that were the case, then whatever seems necessary about the statement “water is H2O” would be due to it being logically synonymous with “all objects are identical with themselves”, which is analytic. In this paper I will argue that synthetic identity statements appear necessarily true because of the logical necessity of identity statements and not because there is necessity in nature.

Tracey, David (MUN) Friday, Oct. 18, 2:30-3:20 CE 326

“On Personal Desire in Deleuze and Guattari’s Critique of Freud”

In Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari (D&G) critique Freud’s understanding of the human subject. While this critique is often warranted, I argue that it goes too far in its approach to personal desire. For Freud, our personal desires provide manifest and mediating access to the latent self that we truly are. Thus, say D&G, Freud overvalues personal desire in that he takes it to indicate an eternal, underlying subject. Following a long line of continental thought, D&G claim that persons and their desires emerge in history as a result of particular social and historical conditions processes, or, the personal emerges from the impersonal. Thus, they argue that what we experience as personal desire only obscures what we really are, namely, a set of inhuman and impersonal processes. Correspondingly, their proposed version of analysis sets out to analyze these impersonal processes rather than the individual’s personal desires. I claim that, if Freud overvalues the personal, D&G undervalue personal desire, and an accurate model of persons and their desires must lie at a middle ground somewhere between these two extremes. I propose that analysis would do better to conceive of persons not as personal subjects given as such and for all time, nor as purely impersonal and ever-changing processes. Rather, personal subjects and their desires emerge as temporary moments of relative stability within ongoing historical processes of becoming, and analysis ought to treat them as such. In contrast to the two theories discussed, I consider Jacques Lacan’s reading of Antigone in order to show that this middle-ground understanding of human beings better accounts for many forms of personal experience.

Viminitz, Paul (Lethbridge) Friday, Oct. 18, 2:30-3:20 CE 327

“A Begrudging Defence of Holocaust Denial and Epistemic Sloth”


I seem to have far fewer distant relatives than most of the people I know. I suspect this has something to do with events that took place in Europe between 1939 and 1945. So if I were a Holocaust denier, I’d have some fancy ‘splainin’ to do. And yet I find myself compelled to defend Holocaust deniers, not because I think they might be right, but because I think they have the right to be wrong. I also think they have the right to speak their ‘truth’, even if truth it’s not, because we have the right to hear it, yes, even at the risk of becoming apostates. I make my case reluctantly. But if every case had to be a delight to make, far too many of the accused would fall victim to our neglect. My defence of epistemic sloth, however, emerges as a mere spandrel. 


Wein, Sheldon (SMU) Sat., Oct. 19, 2:30-3:20 CE 313

“A Secular Reading of  Mark 2:27-28”

I explore the argument the Gospel According to Mark reports Jesus to have made at Mark 2:27-28. The argument is that because the sabbath was made for man rather than man for the sabbath the son of man is lord even over the Sabbath. My interpretation and partial defence are entirely secular (using only the device of what have come to be called public reasons). I defend the premise Jesus offers, claiming it to be both true and an important philosophical advance. I also argue that if we accept the view that Jesus was offering an argument it can be seen as valid (and hence sound) only if one accepts a narrow and implausible interpretation of the conclusion. Nonetheless, I offer a bit of evidence that this was an important advance in the history of thought which unfortunately was not much noticed (due, not doubt, to the fact that Jesus was seen as primarily a religious figure rather than a philosopher). I close with some speculation on why thinkers as great as Augustine and Aquinas failed to see the importance of Jesus’s radical claim here.


Wills, Bernard (MUN-Grenfell) Saturday, Oct. 19 Friday, Oct. 18 3:40-4:30 CE 315


“Notes on the Rhetoric of Trolling”


In the Sophist Plato expended much effort and ingenuity on the question of defining the nature of the sophist. Notes on the rhetoric of trolling attempts the same feat with the all too familiar figure of the internet troll. Is Trolling a form of Sophistry? What are the rhetorical techniques that mark out the troll from other figures such as the asshole? Is there a heuristic for trolls and is the troll curable or, as Plato would have it, a pure tyrant?