Department of Philosophy

Auburn Philosophical Society

AUPS meeting

The Auburn Philosophical Society consists of a group of professors, students, guest speakers and other guests that meets approximately every other Friday.  A typical meeting, a paper is presented and is followed by a period of questions and discussions. Anyone who is interested is invited to attend and participate. Contact: Eric Marcus, 844-3626; HC 6090.

Current Schedule of Speakers and Papers

Spring 2019

March 1: Ralph DiFranco (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00 pm

“When Derogatory Language Goes Viral”, co-authored with Andrew Morgan (University of Alabama, Birmingham)

March 22: Peter Forrest (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00pm 

"The Limits of Perceptual Phenomenal Content", There is an ongoing debate in philosophy of mind and epistemology about whether perceptual experience only represents those “thin” features of our environment that are apprehended by our senses--colors, shapes, sounds, and so on--or whether, in addition to these, at least some perceptual experiences represent more complex, “thick” properties such as natural, artifactual, and social kinds.  In this talk I articulate and defend a novel argument against the thick view.

April 5 & 6: 11th Annual Philosophy Conference: Representation, Idealization & Explanation in Science

April 26: David de Bruijn (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00 pm

Fall 2018

August 24: Keren Gorodeisky (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00pm.

"On Liking Aesthetic Value" - We often describe our responses to films, novels, songs, buildings, landscapes, gardens, and other aesthetically valuable objects in terms of feelings: we “hate” them or “love” them, “admire” them, “enjoy” them, “detest” them, or find that they “leave us cold.” Most often, we communicate our aesthetic responses in terms of our likes and dislikes. Tradition has a succinct explanation of this way of speaking: aesthetic value is essentially connected to feeling, particularly to a certain kind of liking orpleasure. Is that true? Should we endorse a non-contingent connection between aesthetic value and a feeling of liking or pleasure? Call this The Affective Question.

September 7: Chris Buckman (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00pm.

"Sovereignty in Levinas and Hobbes" - In the preface to Totality and Infinity, Emmanuel Levinas asks whether philosophical lucidity requires “catching sight of the permanent possibility of war,” engaging with the claim that the threat of violence grounds the moral order. Surely one of his unnamed interlocutors here is Thomas Hobbes, who reduces morality to a function of positive law and argues that subjects must transfer all rights to an absolute sovereign to escape the war of all against all. This paper aims to make explicit Levinas’s critique of Hobbes. Both thinkers explain their theories of sovereignty through interpretation of the biblical passage 1 Samuel 8. The explication of this connection sharpens our understanding of Levinas’s political philosophy.

September 21: Mike Bertrand (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00pm.

"Two Concepts of Metaphysical Grounding" - The idea that some things ground, and so depend, on others looms large in contemporary metaphysics. Throughout its rapidly growing literature, it is widely assumed both that there is a single grounding relation doing the work we require, and that this relation is systematically analogous to causation. I argue for the existence of grounding double prevention cases and I claim that these cases reveal an intractable tension between these assumptions and other plausible claims about grounding. I think that we can best resolve the tension by giving up the assumption that there is a single grounding relation.

​October 19: Alan Baker (Swarthmore) in Ross 136 at 3:00pm.

"Do Mathematical Objects Play Any Epistemic Role?" - Mathematical platonists believe that abstract mathematical objects exist and that our core mathematical claims, such as 5 + 7 = 12, are literally true descriptions of these objects. In several books and papers, Jody Azzouni has formulated a challenge to platonism that he calls “The Epistemic Role Puzzle.” Azzouni argues that mathematical abstracta play no epistemic role in mathematical practice, hence we ought not to believe in their existence. In this paper, I evaluate Azzouni’s argument and connect it to various other contemporary epistemological arguments concerning mathematics. I conclude that a viable epistemological role for mathematical objects can be found if we move beyond pure mathematics and into the application of mathematics in science.​

October 26: Mike Milona (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00pm.

"Sentimental Perceptualism and the Armchair: A Sketch of a Comprehensive Moral Epistemology"​ - We seem to be able to acquire ethical knowledge by mere reflection, or "from the armchair."  But how?  This question is especially pressing for proponents of sentimental perceptualism, which is the view that ethical knowledge is rooted in affective experiences just as empirical knowledge is rooted in perception.  But while empirical knowledge seems partially explained by causal relations between perceptions and properties in the world, in armchair ethical inquiry, the relevant normative properties are typically not even present.  This paper shows how sentimental perceptualists can nevertheless provide a causal explanation of our reflective ethical knowledge.

November 8: Katharina Nieswandt (Concordia) in Mell 2550 at 4:00pm.

"Beyond Frontier Town: Private Property and Justice in Complex Economies" - The theories of Locke, Hume and Kant dominate contemporary philosophical discourse on property rights. This is particularly true of applied ethics, where these theories are used to settle issues from biotech patents to managerial obligations. I argue that this development is unfortunate because within these theories, the usual criticisms of private property aren’t even as much as intelligible. Locke, Hume and Kant, I attempt to show, develop claims about property considering people in a state of nature (a sort of ’frontier town’) and then apply these claims to a complex economy. This inference, I argue, has two problems: First, the two economies differ in important respects, so that very different claims about desert, fairness and social consequences will be plausible. Second, we’ll be considering the wrong kind of property: In Frontier Town, there only is self-sustenance property. Critics, however, object to private property in factors of production because they associate only this kind of property with systemic exploitation and an oppressive social order. I conclude that Frontier Town theories are unlikely to illuminate property issues in real economies.

November 9: Ulf Hlobil (Concordia) in Ross 136 at 3:00pm.

"The Taking Condition and the Guise of the Good" - Aquinas famously distinguishes between human actions, which are the result of practical inference, and mere actions of humans, which are not the result of practical inference (ST, Ia-IIae, q1a1). Using that distinction, I argue that human actions are always performed under the Guide of the Good. To that end, I draw on Boghossian’s Taking Condition for inference, which says that inference requires that the reasoner takes her premises to support her conclusion and draws her conclusion because of that fact. First, I use the Taking Condition to argue that human action requires that the agent takes her premises, i.e. her reasons, to speak in favor of her action and performs her action because of that fact. I argue in a second step that actions are good, i.e. have moral worth, if they are done for good reasons, i.e. for reasons that support them. Putting both points together, it follows that human action requires that the agent takes something to be the case that implies that her action is good.  That is the version of the Guise of the Good that I defend.  It compares favorably to other prominent versions of the Guise of the Good.

November 30: Philip Atkins (Temple) in Ross 136 at 3:00pm.

"The Varieties of Russellianism" - Russellianism is the view that the meaning of a proper name is the individual designated by the name. Together with other plausible assumptions, Russellianism entails the following: Sentences containing proper names express Russellian propositions, which involve the individual designated by the name as a direct constituent, and which can be represented as sets of individuals and properties. Moreover, as they occur in ordinary belief reports, ‘that’-clauses designate Russellian propositions. Such belief reports are true if and only if the subject of the belief report bears the belief relation to the proposition designated by the ‘that’-clause. In defending this doctrine, some Russellians appeal to propositional guises, which, roughly speaking, are ways of grasping propositions (see, for example, Nathan Salmon’s influential Frege’s Puzzle). However, some Russellians don’t appeal to such entities (see, for example, Jonathan Berg’s recent Direct Belief). In this paper, I explain the varieties of Russellianism and then argue for Modest Russellianism: Believing a Russellian proposition is essentially mediated by guises, so that an agent can’t believe a Russellian proposition without standing in some appropriate relation to both the proposition and a guise. Nonetheless, guises don’t feature in the semantics of ordinary belief reports, so that an adequate account of the meaning of such belief reports needn’t invoke guises. 

Spring 2018

January 19: Jennifer Lockhart (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00. 

"Might there be an antinomy of practical reason?" - In which it is argued that, absent the postulate of God, Kantian morality amounts to a form of self-sabotage.

February 9: James Shelley (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00.

"Beauty, Subjectivity, Disinterest" - Some people claim that judgments of beauty are subjective, by which they mean that beauty depends on the feelings of the person judging it and is not a property residing in the object. Some people claim that judgments of beauty are disinterested, by which they mean that such judgments do not give us reasons for action. I argue against each claim on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the fact that we can acquire reasons to experience beautiful objects we have not already experienced.

February 16: Alisa Bokulich (Boston University) in Ross 136 at 3:00.

Auburn Aesthetics Forum micro-conference:

  • March 1: C. Thi Nguyen (Utah Valley) and Matthew Strohl (Montana) in Mell 2250 at 4:00. "Cultural Appropriation and the Intimacy of Groups" - We chart a middle path between overly restrictive and overly permissive normative views concerning cultural appropriation. The most restrictive normative position holds that, except under special conditions, we ought to defer to appropriation claims. We argue that this position threatens to undermine the capacity of groups to self-determine the dissemination of their own practices. We suggest that the normative importance of appropriation claims is best understood as deriving from group intimacy. We offer an account of group intimacy that expands on Julie Inness’s work on interpersonal intimacy. We propose that certain cultural practices are intimate practices for a group, and cultural appropriation can breach group intimacy. However, the intimacy account militates against blanket presumptions for or against cultural appropriation and supports instead attending to the wishes of each particular group.  We conclude by raising a difficulty: many intimate groups are sub-agential and do not have clear procedure expressing their wishes. 
  • March 2: Matthew Strohl (Montana) in Ross 136 at 3:00.                                                                 "Games and the Art of Agency" - Some games constitute a distinctive art form, whose medium is agency. Those games offer us the opportunity to temporarily manipulate basic features of our practical agency, taking on temporary ends and temporary abilities. This allows for a distinctive aesthetic form, in which designers create agencies and environments for the sake of aesthetic experiences of the player’s practical reasoning and practical action. The fact that we can play such games illuminates a distinctive human capacity. We can take on ends temporarily, for the sake of the experience of pursuing them. But though such temporary ends are adopted instrumentally, we cannot treat them as such during game-play. In order to sustain the absorbed and committed experiences characteristic of game-play, we must entertain these temporary in-game ends as final. Playing games requires that we adopt temporary sub-agencies. Thus, game-playing demonstrates a significant fluidity of human agency.

March 23: Jeremy Fix (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00.

"Two Sorts of Constitutivism" - I first distinguish between two sorts of constitutivism. On the nature first view, something is subject to a certain normative standard because it is a particular of a certain genus. On the norms first view, something is a particular of a certain genus because it is subject to a certain normative standard. I argue that only the nature first view is fit for the explanatory goals of constitutivism in practical philosophy. This view needs a distinctive conception of the nature of certain genera in order to explain why only their particulars are by nature subject to normative standards. I spend the rest of that essay spelling out that view of the nature of those genera and showing the work in practical philosophy that it can do.

10th Annual Auburn Philosophy Conference April 5th and 6th

April 20: Elay Shech (Auburn) in Ross 136 at 3:00.

"Historical Inductions Meet the Material Theory" Historical inductions, viz., the pessimistic meta-induction and the problem of unconceived alternatives, are critically analyzed via John Norton’s material theory of induction and subsequently rejected as non-cogent arguments. It is suggested that the material theory is amenable to a local version of the pessimistic meta-induction, e.g., in the context of some medical studies.


You can find a list of speakers and papers from previous years here.

Last Updated: March 19, 2019