Alabama Philosophical Society

43rd Annual Conference

University of Montevallo, October 21-22, 2005

Tentative Schedule



Conference sessions will be held in Comer Hall on the campus of the University of Montevallo (see locations below). Regular sessions are 45 minutes, with a five minute interval between sessions. There is a 15 minute break before each of the plenary sessions Saturday.

Refreshments will be available in the Palmer Commons, Comer 202.

Paper titles are linked to abstracts.

Friday, October 21
1:00
Registration
Palmer Commons, Comer 202. Registration fee of $20 payable at registration or to Torin Alter during the conference. Fee waived for emeriti.
Comer 102Comer 104Comer 106
1:30-2:55
Session A
Roderick Long (Auburn)
Why Libertarians Believe There Is Only One Right
Nicholaos Jones (Ohio State)
Knowability, Undecidability and Progressive Epistemic Situations
2:20-3:05
Session B
Eric Weber (SIU-Carbondale)
A Human Right to Food?
Alan Clune (Sam Houston State)
Deeper Problems for Noonan on Abortion
3:10-3:55
Session C
Billy Sunday (U. Maryland)
Democracy as an Inconsiderate Procedure
Nathan Nobis (UAB)
Gibbard’s and Field’s Moral and Epistemic Irrealisms
Bach Ho (Arizona State)
Intention and Permissibility
4:00-4:45
Session D
Peter Celello (Bowling Green State)
Against Desert as a Promissory Notion
Charles Johnson (Molinari Institute)
Intuition Pumping for Fun and Profit
Eric Loomis (U. South Alabama)
Criteria and Defeasibility
4:50-5:35
Session E
Jorn Sonderholm (LSU)
Moral Realism, Supervenience and Logic
Giovanni Grandi (Auburn)
Thomas Reid on Color and the Perception of Visible Figure
Jeff Stedman (UC San Diego)
Two Conceptions of Self-Realization
5:40-6:25
Session F
Andrew Aberdein (Florida Institute of Technology)
Hybrid Pluralism
Mylan Engel (Northern Illinois U.)
Contextualism and the Problem of Knowing What One Says
Isaiah O’Rear (U. Georgia)
My Brain Made Me Do It
7:00–Special Edition Trivia Contest at The Eclipse


Saturday, October 22
Comer 102Comer 104Comer 106
9:00-9:45
Session G
David Merli (Franklin & Marshall)
Expressivism, Realism and the Parochiality of Moral Disagreement
Jason Thibodeau (Auburn)
The Standard Meter Bar and Performatives
Jill Hernandez (U. Memphis)
On the Possibility of Intersubjective Kantian Agency
10:00-10:45
Plenary Session
2005 Undergraduate Essay Prize Winner
Matthew Satcher
(U. Alabama)
Perdurance and Possible Worlds
(Comer 102)
11:00-11:45
Plenary Session
Presidential Address
Michael Patton
(Montevallo)
(Comer 102)
12:30–Business Lunch at The Eclipse


Abstracts of Papers (alphabetical by Author)

Hybrid Pluralism, Friday, October 21, Session F, Comer 102, 5:40-6:25
Andrew Aberdein (Florida Institute of Technology)


Pluralist solutions have been proposed to many problems in disparate contexts. This paper identifies a common concept of pluralism; restates it with greater precision; distinguishes it from, and establishes its independence of, some other notions with which pluralism is frequently confused; and briefly lays out some of the benefits that this more nuanced approach may yield for the debates in which it may be invoked.

Against Desert as a Promissory Notion, Friday, October 21, Session D, Comer 102, 4:00-4:45
Peter Celello (Bowling Green State)


In “How to Deserve,” David Schmidtz seeks to establish a promissory notion of desert to go alongside the conventional compensatory notion. Schmidtz argues that a person can deserve an endowment or opportunity based on what she does after receiving that endowment or opportunity. I dispute this claim and contend that Schmidtz’s own analogy between a person’s disposition to act in a particular way and salt’s dispositional property of solubility undermines his promissory notion. I conclude by discussing briefly the relationship between desert and merit, while making the case that some dispositions might give rise to merit and others to desert.

Deeper Problems for Noonan on Abortion, Friday, October 21, Session B, Comer 104, 2:20-3:05
Alan Clune (Sam Houston State)


In “An Almost Absolute Value in History” John T. Noonan criticizes several attempts to provide a criterion for when an entity deserves rights. These criteria, he argues are either arbitrary or lead to absurd consequences. Noonan proposes human conception as the criterion of rights, and justifies it by appeal to the sharp shift in probability of becoming human at conception. I argue that, even on a very charitable reading of Noonan’s argument, his criterion is also susceptible to charges of arbitrariness and absurdity. Moreover, the claim that probability has anything to do with moral status cannot be made coherent.

Contextualism and the Problem of Knowing What One Says, Friday, October 21, Session F, Comer 104, 5:40-6:25
Mylan Engel (Northern Illinois U.)


Contextualists maintain that the semantic standards governing knowledge ascriptions of the form “S knows that p” are a function of the salience of p-falsifying error possibilities. They contend that when p-falsifying error possibilities become salient in a given conversation, the semantic standards governing ‘knows that p’ rise in response, often to the point where S ceases to satisfy those standards. I show that contextualism has the implausible result that knowledge ascribers frequently fail to know what they are saying when they are saying it. In particular, I demonstrate (i) that Cohen’s version of contextualism entails that knowledge ascribers often don’t know the semantic content of their knowledge ascriptions, until after they have uttered them, and (ii) that on DeRose’s version of contextualism, knowledge ascribers don’t know whether their knowledge-attributing utterances even have any semantic content, until after they have uttered them.

Thomas Reid on Color and the Perception of Visible Figure, Friday, October 21, Session E, Comer 104, 4:50-5:35
Giovanni Grandi (Auburn)


In his Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764), Thomas Reid considered sensations as non-intentional states of mind. Sensations are dissimilar from the perceptions we have of primary qualities. However, he admitted that a particular sensation always precedes the perception of each primary quality. Visible figure seems to be an exception to his theory: according to Reid, there is no sensation “appropriated” to visible figure. A sensation “appropriated” to a quality must be both a necessary and sufficient condition for the perception of that quality, but sight presents one case in which we do have a sensation of color but no perception of visible figure. The perception of visible figure is the result of a complex mechanism involving a material impression on the retina, the experience of different and coexistent colors, and a particular law of nature on the direction of visual field.

On the Possibility of Intersubjective Kantian Agency, Saturday, October 22, Session G, Comer 106, 9:00-9:45
Jill Hernandez (U. Memphis)


I argue that the Kantian agent is more complete, and intersubjectively connected, than the critics suggest. Since communicability in judgments of taste partly depends on the intersubjectivity among agents, then communicability is also connected to morality, since morality for Kant demands respect for the dignity of others. My project will conclude that: criticisms of Kantian agency based on a gap between the Critiques are amiss; Kantian agency requires social connectivity and sympathy; and the intersubjective agent of the 3rd Critique functions to complete the notion of agency instantiated in Kant’s metaphysical and ethical writings.

Intention and Permissibility, Friday, October 21, Session C, Comer 106, 3:10-3:55
Bach Ho (Arizona State)


Judith Thomson is known for claiming that belief and intention are irrelevant to permissibility. More recently she has claimed that belief and intention are irrelevant also to virtue. I refute her claims about permissibility and virtue. I argue that one’s available choices are limited by one’s beliefs and intentions. In denying belief and intention are relevant to moral judgment, Thomson treats the unchosen as open to moral judgment. This conclusion is clearly false, for only the chosen can be open to moral judgment.

Intuition Pumping for Fun and Profit, Friday, October 21, Session D, Comer 104, 4:00-4:45
Charles Johnson (Molinari Institute)


Intuitions may be an indispensable tool in philosophical reasoning, but they are also a blunt one and too rarely examined given how often we rely on them. This leads to confused blame for arguments that use them as much as confused praise; an excellent example can be found in Moore’s Two Planets argument against ethical hedonism and Hutcheson’s Dying Benefactor argument against psychological egoism. Both rely completely on intuition-pumping to do their work; both are routinely dismissed as crass question-begging. But an asymmetry in our intuitions in each of these arguments reveals that the charge is unjust; they ought to be just as decisive for skeptics as for converts, and that tells us not only that hedonism and egoism are false, but also something interesting about the nature of philosophical intuitions.

Knowability, Undecidability and Progressive Epistemic Situations, Friday, October 21, Session A, Comer 104, 1:30-2:55
Nicholaos Jones (Ohio State)


The knowability principle, according to which all truths are knowable, is a central thesis of semantic anti-realism. The paradoxes of knowability and undecidability seem to show that the knowability principle implies that there is no unknown truth and that there is no statement the truth-value of which is yet to be decided. I present a solution to these paradoxes that appeals to epistemic situations, conceived of as what Philip Kitcher calls knowledge bases. This solution does not exclude certain kinds of statements from the purview of the knowability principle, in the way that syntactic restriction solutions do.

Why Libertarians Believe There Is Only One Right, Friday, October 21, Session A, Comer 102, 1:30-2:55
Roderick Long (Auburn)


Libertarians believe we have a right not to be aggressed against (the Positive Thesis). They also believe that this is the only right we have (the Negative Thesis). The Negative Thesis strikes non-libertarians as far less plausible than the Positive Thesis. I argue, however, that the Positive Thesis entails the Negative Thesis. In addition, I argue that, given the Positive Thesis, a libertarian system of property rights is more defensible than a welfare-state system. Hence libertarianism as a whole stands or falls with the Positive Thesis.

Criteria and Defeasibility, Friday, October 21, Session D, Comer 106, 4:00-4:45
Eric Loomis (U. South Alabama)


With his notion of a criterion, Wittgenstein proposed a form of non-inductive evidence which would partially constitute the meaning of those statements for which it serves as evidence. Providing a cogent explication of the notion of a criterion has proven a long-standing challenge. I argue that our best hope for making sense of the notion remains the simple one of treating criterial evidence as logically entailing the truth of certain statements in the absence of a defeater. I show how more contemporary developments in fallibilist epistemology can help us to clarify this idea.

Expressivism, Realism and the Parochiality of Moral Disagreement, Saturday, October 22, Session G, Comer 102, 9:00-9:45
David Merli (Franklin & Marshall)


An adequate account of our moral discourse must explain how diverse interlocutors share terms and concepts. This requirement has raised problems for moral realism: critics argue that eccentric speakers cannot share the requisite connections to common properties. The same basic argument also applies to expressivism, since the conative state at the heart of a fully developed expressivist theory need not be shared by all competent moral speakers. I suggest that the objection’s force comes from a gap between the commitments of these theories and our norms for attributing moral concepts.

Gibbard’s and Field’s Moral and Epistemic Irrealisms, Friday, October 21, Session C, Comer 104, 3:10-3:55
Nathan Nobis (UAB)


While moral irrealisms are common, epistemic irrealisms are rare. Allen Gibbard and Hartry Field, however, are self-proclaimed epistemic irrealists: Gibbard is an epistemic expressivist and Field a kind of epistemic relativist. They both hold that epistemic judgments – about what’s epistemically rational, or justified, or ought to be believed, and so on – are never literally true. I argue that their positions are false and their arguments unsound. This implies that their arguments for moral irrealism are unsound also.

My Brain Made Me Do It, Friday, October 21, Session F, Comer 106, 5:40-6:25
Isaiah O’Rear (U. Georgia)


In this paper I look at the implications of neurological facts for our concepts of moral responsibility. I argue that two languages must be used and carefully delineated. One is a “brain-based” language that incorporates neurological facts. The other is an “agent-based” language that incorporates the necessities of moral reasoning. These cannot be used interchangeably. Translation between the two languages is only possible in specific instances and must be done with extreme care.

Moral Realism, Supervenience and Logic, Friday, October 21, Session E, Comer 102, 4:50-5:35
Jorn Sonderholm (LSU)


Simon Blackburn’s supervenience argument against moral realism has been widely discussed since its first appearance more than thirty years ago. A number of different suggestions have been made as to how the argument can be countered. In his review of Blackburn’s Spreading the Word, Crispin Wright comments on the argument and rather briefly points out some technical difficulties with it that arise from the formula used in the definition of supervenience. In this paper, I present Blackburn’s original argument, clarify it and try to show, building on Wright’s criticism, that the Moorean realist can meet Blackburn’s explanatory charge.

Two Conceptions of Self-Realization, Friday, October 21, Session E, Comer 106, 4:50-5:35
Jeff Stedman (UC San Diego)


David Brink has recently developed a perfectionist account of the good which is rooted in T.H. Green’s notion of Self-Realization. According to this account, the good consists in the development and exercise of our capacities for rational deliberation. I consider two possible interpretations of this notion of Self-Realization, and argue that neither is ultimately defensible. Without a story to tell about what counts as proper or successful practical deliberation, the Brink/Green account is incapable of giving any real guidance about the good life. Also, the view is ill-suited to account for our considered judgements about pleasure and pain.

Democracy as an Inconsiderate Procedure, Friday, October 21, Session C, Comer 102, 3:10-3:55
Billy Sunday (U. Maryland)


In his essay, “Democracy as Equality, ” Thomas Christiano argues that democracy can be supported by means of various egalitarian considerations. However, by seeking equal advancement of interests Christiano fundamentally mistakes what it is that equal consideration of interests entails. His understanding of equal consideration as mere equal advancement of interests belies the importance of bearing in mind the relevant differences in people’s interests. Consideration of an interest and advancement of an interest are simply different notions. To take seriously the idea of equal consideration of interest requires more than equal means of participation in affecting the outcome of a collective decision.

The Standard Meter Bar and Performatives, Saturday, October 22, Session G, Comer 104, 9:00-9:45
Jason Thibodeau (Auburn)


I argue that the initial utterance of “This bar is one meter long” was a declaration that established the meaning of ‘meter.’ As such it is not a claim about the length of the bar and is not true nor false. I defend this view against Quinian criticisms leveled by Quine himself and more recently by Paul Boghossian. Both Quine and Boghossian argue that the performative nature of an utterance does not prevent it from having assertoric content. Their views are based upon a deep misunderstanding of the logic of performatives that I diagnose and correct.

A Human Right to Food?, Friday, October 21, Session B, Comer 102, 2:20-3:05
Eric Weber (SIU-Carbondale)


The notion of a human right to food is critiqued in this paper for two basic. In one sense, a human right to food is too general, since there are many different problems peoples face regarding food. In another, the notion is too specific to be applied to the category of human rights, since the basic rights as examined by the two major political thinkers discussed here, John Rawls and Amartya Sen, are understood far more loosely. In sum, this paper will show a number of ways in which the concept of a human right to food is problematic.


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