Alabama Philosophical Society

42nd Annual Conference

Radisson Admiral Semmes Hotel, Mobile, AL, October 29–30, 2004


Each session offers several concurrent papers in different meeting rooms. Sessions are 45 minutes each, with a 5 minute interval between sessions.


(Paper titles are linked to abstracts)


Friday, October 29

12:00 p.m



Registration fee of $15 payable at registration or to Chase Wrenn during the conference. Fee waived for emeriti.



Stateroom B


Stateroom C

Director’s Room


Session A

George Streeter

The Need for Virtue Theory in Epistemology

Darren Domsky

Tossing the Rotten Thing Out







Session B

Dina Garmong

Virtue Ethics: a Building Without a Foundation?

Jeff Green

Tragic Wars are Possible

Jon Cogburn

Notes from the Ungerground










Session C

Norvin Richards

Unobjectionable Acts of Selfishness


Nathaniel Goldberg

There's No Escaping it: Incommensurability and Concept Acquisition






Session D

Deborah Zeller

Socratic Courage Reconsidered

Charles W. Johnson

How I Got the Blue

Dennis Sansom

Probative and Prudential Arguments for Religious Faith






Session E

Torin Alter

What do split-brain cases show about the unity of consciousness?

Rodney Cupp

On an Argument for the Humean Theory of Motivation

Audrey L. Anton

Heidegger's Conception of Being






Session F

Margaretta Slabey

On the Nature of Sensory Systems

Chase Wrenn

Rationality for Ostriches, Wishful Thinkers and Other Deviants

Katherine Cooklin

Genealogy and Subjugated Knowledge






Plenary Session (Staterooms B&C)

Matthew Satcher, Winner of APS 2004 Student Essay Competition

Proper Functionalism, Religious Exclusivism and the Challenge of Religious Diversity


Dinner at Felix’s Fish Camp
1530 Battleship Parkway



Saturday, October 30




Stateroom B

Stateroom C


Session G

Nathan Segars

Can We Believe What We Want, After All?

Robert Beard

Empty Names


Plenary Session
(Staterooms B&C)

Presidential Address

Definition in a post-Quinean World

Eric Loomis


Plenary Session

(Staterooms B&C)

Memorial Session in Honor of James Rachels

Moral Individualism and Our Duties to Animals

Mylan Engel, Jr.


God and Human Attitudes: 33 Years Later

Roderick Long


Egoism and Morality

Lynn Stephens


The Road to Hell

Alastair Norcross


Business Lunch at The Blue Gill
3775 Battleship Parkway


Abstracts of Papers (alphabetical by Author)


What do split-brain cases show about the unity of consciousness?  Friday, Session E, Stateroom B, 3:50-4:35
Torin Alter

What do split-brain cases show about the unity of consciousness? Do they show only that access unity can break down? Or do they also undermine phenomenal unity? Bayne and Chalmers (2003) adopt the former view. I defend their position against Tye's (2004) arguments for the latter.

Heidegger’s Conception of Being  Friday, Session E, Director's Room, 3:50-4:35
Audrey L. Anton

In order to understand Being in general, Heidegger tries to construct a non-regional ontology. However, he limits his inquiry Dasein's Being, precluding the discovery of Being as such. Since we are Dasein and cannot escape our Being, we are forever limited to a more-general, but still regional, ontology.

Empty Names  Saturday, Session G, Stateroom C, 8:30-9:15
Robert Beard

    "Vulcan does not exist", "Santa Claus does not exist" and "There is no such person as George Bush"–these are negative existentials. The problem is that two of these sentences say something true, and the last, something false. So far as we know, neither Sherlock Holmes nor Santa Claus exist in the real world. It is equally obvious that what "George Bush does not exist," says is false, because the name "George Bush" mentions to a real person, and that person exists. So the denial that he exists must be false.
    It appears, nevertheless, that although what "Vulcan does not exist" and "Santa Claus does not exist," say are true, the names "Vulcan" and "Santa Claus" don’t mention anything at all, so we are saying nothing whatever about Vulcan or Santa Claus. In order to say of Vulcan or Santa Claus that they do not exist, we must refer to or mention them, and if there is nothing to refer to or mention, it seems we have said nothing at all.
    So every negative existential sentence either says something false, or nothing at all.

Notes from the Ungerground  Friday, Session B, Director's Room, 1:20-2:05
Jon Cogburn

Peter Unger's view that sorites susceptible predicates have empty extensions has been recently critiqued by Rosanna Keefe and Timothy Williamson, who argue respectively that this renders communication impossible and philosophy superficial. By appealing to the distinction between asserted and implicated content, I am able to undermine these criticisms and show Unger style nihilism to be at least more plausible than Williamson's epistemicism.

Genealogy and Subjugated Knowledge  Friday, Session F, Director's Room, 4:40-5:25
Katherine Cooklin

Foucault equivocates on power when he calls for an emancipation of subjugated knowledge. I argue that if we take seriously Foucault's thesis that power is productive, then the practice of genealogy emancipates neither subjugated knowledges nor those marginalized by a dominant discourse.

On an Argument for the Humean Theory of Motivation  Friday, Session E, Stateroom C, 3:50-4:35
Rodney W. Cupp

Michael Smith's argument for the Humean Theory of Motivation depends on the claim that no mental state can be both a belief and a desire. Smith's argument for this claim begs the question. In addition, we seem motivated to do what morality requires even if we desire not to.

Tossing the Rotten Thing Out: Eliminating Bad Reasons not to Solve the Problem of Moral Luck  Friday, Session A, Stateroom C, 12:30-1:15
Darren Domsky

The purpose of this paper is twofold: to hold a magnifying glass up to the problem of moral luck, to eliminate all doubt that the problem is there; and to dismiss unfounded fears concerning a particular (and particularly compelling) solution to that problem.

Virtue Ethics: a Building Without a Foundation?  Friday, Session B, Stateroom B, 1:20-2:05
Dina Garmong

In this paper I argue that virtue ethics lacks a standard of value. I first indicate some evidence for this lack of a standard. Then I argue that making "virtue" the primary ethical concept, the distinctive strategy of virtue ethics, is circular - because that standard is missing.

There's No Escaping It: Incommensurability and Concept Acquisition  Friday, Session C, Director's Room, 2:10-2:55
Nathaniel Goldberg (and Matthew Rellihan)

The incommensurability thesis has been controversial ever since Kuhn and Feyerabend introduced it; Davidson goes so far as to claim that incommensurability is conceptually impossible. Nonetheless we intend to show that the possibility of incommensurable conceptual schemes is inescapable. We start by distinguishing different forms of incommensurability, some of which have been previously ignored. Then we deploy an analysis of concept acquisition to show that incommensurability is inescapable. We show that there are only two possible accounts of such acquisition: newly acquired concepts are either constructed from those already possessed, or they are not. Next we demonstrate that each of these accounts implies the possibility of at least one form of incommensurability. We conclude that anyone who has defended a view of concept acquisition is committed to the possibility of their being incommensurable conceptual schemes. There's no escaping it; even Davidson himself must allow it.

Tragic Wars are Possible  Friday, Session B, Stateroom C, 1:20-2:05
Jeff Green

Contemporary Just War Theory holds that tragic wars are impossible. In this paper I argue that such wars are possible. First, I explore the relationship of overlapping political communities. Next, I show that the unique nature of civil wars is what makes tragic wars possible. Finally, I respond to objections.

How I Got the Blue  Friday, Session D, Stateroom C, 3:00-3:45
Charles W. Johnson

Hume infamously counterexamples his own copy principle with the Missing Shade of Blue--then seems to proceed as if nothing happened. I examine some possible solutions to the puzzle, and develop a solution with intriguing implications for Humean skepticism and the possibility of a humble empiricism.

Unobjectionable Acts of Selfishness  Friday, Session C, Stateroom B, 2:10-2:55
Norvin Richards

I argue that acts of selfishness can lose the qualities that make them objectionable when they occur within relationships of mutual devotion. I also argue that this is particularly significant for decisions made at the end of life, when a particular choice might be very costly to loved ones.

Probative and Prudential Arguments for Religious Faith  Friday, Session D, Director's Room, 3:00-3:45
Dennis Samson

This paper shows that a prudential rather than a probative argument for religious belief more successfully responds to the challenges of skepticism. It presents this thesis by showing the failure of Descartes "ontological argument" for God’s existence and the plausibility of Pascal’s wager.

Proper Functionalism, Religious Exclusivism and the Challenge of Religious Diversity  Friday, Plenary Session, Staterooms B & C, 5:30-6:15
Matthew Satcher

In this paper, I will argue against a philosophical position called religious exclusivism. Exclusivism may be defined as the belief that the tenets of one religion are true, while those of all other religions are false. The particular brand of exclusivism I am concerned with is defended by Alvin Plantinga in his essay "A Defense of Religious Exclusivism" using an epistemological theory called proper functionalism. According to Plantinga, specific religious beliefs can be properly basic and meet the criteria necessary for warrant. Working within the framework of proper functionalism, I will attempt to demonstrate that particular religious beliefs cannot be warranted as they fail to meet the "proper environment" criterion of warrant.

Can We Believe What We Want, After All?  Saturday, Session G, Stateroom B, 8:30-9:15
Nathan Segars

In this paper I follow the argument of what I consider to be Louis Pojman's stronger case against voluntarism for belief. In defense of his argument, Pojman suggests two means of staving off counter-examples to his more controversial premise. I reject both of those suggestions.

On the Nature of Sensory Systems  Friday, Session F, Stateroom B, 4:40-5:25
Margaretta Slabey

In "On Sensory Systems and the "Aboutness" of Mental States," Kathleen Akins argues that sensory systems are not veridical, but narcissistic. I argue that Akins equivocates on the concept of a sensory system, and suggest an alternative concept that satisfies both the empirical data and the traditional view.

The Need for Virtue Theory in Epistemology  Friday, Session A, Stateroom B, 12:30-1:15
George Streeter

This paper presents the outlines of a theory about knowledge and virtue. The core idea is that the nature of knowledge is best understood by reflecting on its role in intellectual practice. I argue that knowledge is distinguished from true belief by the way it is rooted in virtuous modes of inquiry and related to the aim of understanding.

Rationality for Ostriches, Wishful Thinkers and Other Deviants  Friday, Session F, Stateroom C, 4:40-5:25
Chase Wrenn

Let S be an ideally rational agent. Each of the following five statements is plausibly true of S: (1) S desires her beliefs to be true. (2) S's desires are closed under entailment and conjunction. (3) If S desires a certain conditional true, and she knows its antecedent is true, then she desires its consequent true. (4) S knows what her beliefs are. (5) S does not desire a contradiction true. Along with the principle that knowledge entails truth, (1)-(5) imply that S never believes p while desiring ~p; she never thinks things are other than she desires. (1)-(3) imply that, if S were to know p and desire ~p, S would also desire to have no belief as to p; she would desire less knowledge than she has. Even when we take strength of desire into account, these five principles have counterintuitive consequences, but it is not clear which of them is to blame.

Socratic Courage Reconsidered  Friday, Session D, Stateroom B, 3:00-3:45
Deborah Zeller

The Socratic view taken in the Protagoras, that courage is knowledge of what is and what is not to be feared, may seem a reductio ad absurdum of Socratic intellectualism about the virtues. This paper shows that a recognizably Socratic courage stands as one plausible form of the virtue.