Philosophy Department - Postgraduate Seminars - Archive
Monday, April 27:
"Moral Particularism: how Kant might respond"
Abstract: In this paper I address three key claims made by Particularists - (i) that moral considerations are context dependent, (ii) that there must be room for exceptions, and (iii) the insistence that morality needs to be agent-centred - and then contrast these with Kant's notion of moral deliberation. I contend that if we embrace the Particularist position much is to be lost. In particular, there are three features of Kant's moral theory, viz., his understanding of moral freedom, human dignity and virtue, that will be severely compromised if a particularist stance is adopted.
Monday, May 4:
"The epistemic significance of actual disagreement"
Abstract: According to the principle of conformism, when neither party to a disagreement has an identifiable epistemic advantage over the other - evidential, cognitive, or otherwise - both parties should revise their beliefs about the disputed matter towards 'the middle-ground', so that their disagreement is either diminished or eliminated. Thomas Kelly rejects conformism because, he says, it implies that actual disagreement is epistemically significant in a way that merely possible disagreement is not, and this claim is absurd. In this paper I consider how conformists might respond to Kelly's objection.
Monday, May 11:
"What is the point of casting doubt on religion?"
Abstract: Religions are not just bodies of doctrine, but they typically make truth claims, such as the claim that the world was created by an all-good, all-powerful deity. These claims often appear doubtful, to say the least, but what is the point of casting doubt on them in public discussion and debate? After all, many people find these claims comforting; some may be inspired by them to do good works. However, there are also legitimate reasons to challenge the truth claims of religion, not least when religious leaders seek deference in the political sphere.
Monday, May 18:
"Gödel's first incompleteness theorem"
Abstract: This talk requires no prior knowledge of logic or mathematics! So please read on ... In this talk I intend to demystify Gödel's first incompleteness theorem. The theorem is the relatively simple syntactic fact that in one particular formal system there exists a proposition that cannot be proven, and nor can its negation. The significance of the result is not so much the success in constructing such a proposition for this system, but more the method of construction itself since it can obviously be adapted to any (comparable) formal system. Such a proposition is called an "undecidable" proposition. I will begin by discussing what it is for a system to be "formal", and a proposition to be "decidable", by appealing to everyone's intuitive understanding of a computer's operation. I will then, time permitting, walk through Gödel's construction of an undecidable proposition, and here too the concept of a computer will be very useful.
Monday, May 25:
"A measured look at Grunbaum"
Abstract: In his 1951 paper, "A consistent conception of the extended linear continuum as an aggregate of unextended elements" Adolf Grunbaum explains that Standard Analysis is not threatened by Zeno's Mathematical Metrical Paradox of Plurality. He explains how Standard Analysis is able to consistently deny the claim that the sum of any finite or infinite number of dimensionless magnitudes must necessarily be zero. In this presentation I offer an exposition of Grunbaum's argument that I then critically analyse. I also present some considerations that motivate a conception of the number line that includes non-standard elements.
Monday, June 1:
"Philosophy: Still autonomous after all these years. A defense of the use of intuition in philosophical inquiry"
Abstract: I review some recent challenges to the use of intuition as evidence in philosophical argumentation and take issue in particular with an argument put forward by Robert Cummins to the effect that philosophical intuition is epistemologically useless..