Alabama Philosophical Society
45th Annual Conference
September 21-22, 2007
Hilton Beachfront Garden Inn
23092 Perdido Beach Boulevard
Orange Beach AL
Each of the non-plenary sessions offers two concurrent papers in two meeting rooms. Unlike APA sessions, APS sessions do not have commentators. So to accommodate the larger number of papers in a reasonable amount of time, we have scheduled 35 minute sessions with a 10 minute break between sessions. Presenters should do their best to finish within 25 minutes to allow time for discussion.
Paper titles are linked to abstracts.
Abstracts of Papers (alphabetical by Author)
Ignorance Is Not Enough: Why the Ignorance Hypothesis Fails to Undermine the Conceivability and Knowledge Arguments, Saturday, September 22, Plenary Session 2, Island Bay I, 10:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
Torin Alter (U. Alabama)
Daniel Stoljars (2006) ignorance hypothesis says that we are ignorant of a type of nonexperiential, experience-relevant truth: a truth that is not about experience but is an essential part of a set of truths that entail experiential truths. He argues that the ignorance hypothesis undermines the conceivability argument and the knowledge argument. I argue that it does not.
Subject Sensitive Invariantism and the Knowledge View of Assertion, Friday, September 21, Session F, Island Bay I, 4:45-5:20 p.m.
Mylan Engel Jr. (Northern Illinois U.)
The knowledge view of assertion [KVA] holds that knowledge is the norm governing assertion. According to this norm, one should flat-out assert that p only if one knows that p. John Hawthorne embraces the KVA and contends that the KVA supports subject sensitive invariantism [SSI] better than any competing account of the semantics of knowledge ascriptions. I argue that the KVA harmonizes rather poorly with SSI. I show that SSI falls prey to the problem of semantic ignorance vis-à-vis our knowledge ascriptions, because on an SSI semantics knowledge ascribers will often fail to know what propositions are expressed by their knowledge-ascribing sentences. This semantic ignorance, in turn, creates a serious problem for advocates of the KVA, at least with respect to asserting third-person epistemic propositions. The latter problem can only be avoided by abandoning the KVA or abandoning SSI. Either way, the KVA fails to support SSI.
An Ability to Appreciate Reasons: A Critical Look at an Assessment of the Asymmetry Thesis , Friday, September 21, Session C, Island Bay II, 2:30-3:05 p.m.
Robyn R. Gaier (St. Louis U.)
The Asymmetry Thesis (AT) is the thesis that morally good actions which are avoidable can be morally praiseworthy, while unavoidable morally bad actions are never morally blameworthy. Susan Wolf accounts for this asymmetry by suggesting that morally good actions are the product of a moral agents ability to appreciate appropriate reasons. I conclude that Wolfs assessment of this ability does not make it clear that this ability is absent in agents with deprived childhoods. This discussion is significant since moral theories which explain AT have a credit towards their adoption over moral theories which do not, ceteris paribus.
Reid and Condillac on Sensation and Perception: A Thought Experiment on Sensory Deprivation, Friday, September 21, Session F, Island Bay II, 4:45-5:20 p.m.
Giovanni Grandi (Auburn)
In order to illustrate the difference between sensation and perception, Reid imagines a blind man that by some strange distemper has lost all his notions of external objects, but has retained the power of sensation and reasoning. Reid argues that since sensations do not resemble external objects, the blind man could not possibly infer from them any notion of primary qualities. Condillac proposed a similar thought experiment in the Treatise on Sensations. I argue that Condillac can reach a conclusion opposite to that of Reid only by assuming that some particular collections of sensations do indeed resemble the qualities of external objects. Reid had considered a similar case in a manuscript, but he again notices that such complex collections sensations do not resemble the qualities of external objects.
Alethic Functionalism and Meaning, Friday, September 21, Session A, Island Bay I, 1:00-1:35 p.m.
Michael Horton (U. South Alabama)
In this paper I motivate Lynchs alethic functionalism by considering the scope problem and its relevance to truth-theoretic semantics. Doing so reveals we must supplement Lynchs theory in an important way, namely, by investigating and including platitudes involving reference.
Vegetarianism and Norms on the Margin, Friday, September 21, Session G, Island Bay II, 5:30-6:05 a.m.
Charles Johnson (Molinari Institute)
Although humans do have substantial ethical obligations toward non-human animals, which are substantial enough to forbid slaughtering cattle, pigs, chickens, or other beasts for food, the arguments commonly advanced to defend something like my conclusion often oversimplify the argument and depend on an impoverished metaphysical view. As an example, I consider the much-ballyhooed Argument from Marginal Cases, and the ways in which ethical vegetarians have misunderstood replies based on species normality. A defensible argument for vegetarianism will require detail work and a more nuanced account of the mental criteria and virtues involved in the notion of moral standing.
Belief Revision and Coherence Without Foundations, Friday, September 21, Session G, Island Bay I, 5:30-6:05 p.m.
Nicholaos Jones (U. Alabama Huntsville)
Sven Ove Hansson and Erik Olsson argue that, because AGM theory represents belief states as logically closed, it is inconsistent with what they call Classical Coherentism. They conclude that any theory of belief revision that is compatible with Classical Coherentism should use only a subset of the elements of a belief state in representing that state. But there is an alternative, namely, restricting the support relations with respect to which the representation of belief states are logically closed, in a way that does not require giving epistemic priority to a subset of elements in belief states.
Modal Realism and Its Discontents, Saturday, September 22, Plenary Session 1, Island Bay I, 9:15-10:25 a.m.
Justin Litaker (U. South Alabama)
I argue that David Lewiss theory of modal realism implies fatalism. Fatalism holds that the future is determined in such a way that there is no possibility of affecting its outcome. Specifically for modal realism, this means that if a proposition is true at some world, it is always true at that world. In order to demonstrate my thesis, I show how the availability of trans-world comparisons indicates that the elements composing each world are necessarily determined as the conditions that make such comparisons possible.
On Making Small Contributions to Evil, Saturday, September 22, Session H, Island Bay II, 1:00-1:35 p.m.
Roderick T. Long (Auburn)
Do we have a moral duty to refrain from making small contributions to evil? Acknowledging such a duty appears to require excessive sacrifice; but denying such a duty appears to make our moral requirements too lax. I argue that while we do have such a duty, it is only an imperfect duty, and in fact an instance of the imperfect duty to contribute to public goods. I then deal with an objection designed to show that since this duty may legitimately be made legally compulsory, it must be a perfect duty.
Rule-Following and Feasible Dispositions, Friday, September 21, Session C, Island Bay I, 2:30-3:05 p.m.
Adam Podlaskowski (U. Connecticut)
According to Kripkes Witttgenstein, while rules guide our actions for an indefinite number of cases, our dispositions are only finite and cannot establish how we should act. We offer a partial solution to Kripkes skeptical paradox, focusing on the problem of finitude. Instead of appealing to all of ones dispositions in order to determine which rule is being followed, or just all of those under optimal conditions, we focus on those dispositions (under optimal conditions) that are operative in any fragment of a rules use.
Similarity & Acquaintance: A Dilemma, Saturday, September 22, Session H, Island Bay I, 8:30-9:05 a.m.
Ted Poston (U. South Alabama)
There is an interesting and instructive problem with Richard Fumertons acquaintance theory of noninferential justification. Fumertons explicit account requires acquaintance with the truth-maker of ones belief and yet he admits that one can have noninferential justification when one is not acquainted with the truth-maker of ones belief but instead acquainted with a very similar truth-maker. On the face of it this problem calls for clarification. However, there are skeptical issues lurking in the background. This paper explores these issues by developing a dilemma for an acquaintance theory.
Embodiment, Incorrigibility and Moral Imagination, Friday, September 21, Session B, Island Bay II, 1:45-2:20 p.m.
Kalynne Pudner (Auburn)
Sensation (particularly pain) claims are generally understood to be incorrigible, yet there are cases in which they seem mistaken. This presents a moral puzzle as well as an epistemological one: what is the morally appropriate response to such claims? Applying Peter Singers Obligation to Assist argument, I argue that embodiment, which serves as principle of individuation, analogy and expression, not only directs moral imagination, but sets the parameters of incorrigibility. When embodiment drops out (as in some electronic interaction), so does incorrigibility; moral imagination tends to perceive the other as either an extension of the self or an impersonal item of data.
Nietzsche, Epicurus, and Real Redemption, Friday, September 21, Session E, Island Bay II, 4:00-4:35 p.m.
Morgan Rempel (U. Southern Mississippi)
Dozens of references to Epicurus and Epicureanism can be found throughout the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Yet no scholarship has been devoted to what I consider one of the more interesting aspects of Nietzsches thinking on the topic; its particular interest in Epicureanisms relationship to Christianity. One motif within Nietzsches ruminations on this larger topic is the valuable opposition Epicureanism is said to have offered to the notion of personal immortality circulating among antiquitys mystery religions and nascent Christianity. This paper examines Nietzsches highly original portrayal of Epicureanisms struggle with these rival redemption doctrines. While perhaps not as exciting as teachings of immortality and posthumous recompense, Nietzsche concludes that Epicurus calm, straightforward denial of such ideas was, in fact, real redemption.
Quine, Colyvan, and the Coherence of Naturalizing Mathematics, Friday, September 21, Session B, Island Bay I, 1:45-2:20 p.m.
Jeffrey Roland (Louisiana State U.)
Naturalism has become the default position in much of philosophy over the last several decades. Attempts to extend naturalism to mathematics have recently intensified. This paper considers (i) a prima facie formidable argument for the claim that mathematics can be naturalized only by violating core tenets of any reasonable naturalism and (ii) a Quinean response to that argument based on an argument advanced by Mark Colyvan.
Is It Ontologically Profligate to Posit Determinable Properties? Can They At Least Earn Their Keep?, Friday, September 21, Session E, Island Bay I, 4:00-4:35 p.m.
Robert Schroer (Arkansas State U.)
Under the subset account of determinable properties (developed by Sydney Shoemaker), the causal powers contributed by (and individuating) a determinable property are a proper subset of the causal powers contributed by (and individuating) its various determinates. Carl Gillett and Bradley Rives have argued that given this conception of determinable and determinate properties, it is ontologically profligate to posit any properties beyond maximally specific determinate properties. In this paper, I show that the argument that Gillett and Rives provide for this conclusion is incomplete. I then explore the question of how well a commitment to determinable properties meshes with various other metaphysical commitments. In particular, Ill examine how well it meshes with a commitment to viewing causation as counterfactual dependence and a commitment to viewing causation as the transference of energy.
Weak Knowledge, Critical Thinking and Testimony in Education, Saturday, September 22, Plenary Session 1, Island Bay I, 9:15-10:25 a.m.
Anthony Shiver (U. South Alabama)
Can teachers legitimately expect students to gain knowledge from bald assertions? In this paper I argue that Alvin Goldmans (1999) view on teacher testimony that teachers are sometimes not required to provide justification for their assertions to students is false, by arguing that students must have an awareness of independent evidence for their teachers assertions if they are to gain knowledge from them in any strict sense.
Having Fun With the Periodic Table: A Counterexample to Reas Definition of Pornography, Friday, September 21, Session C, Island Bay II, 2:30-3:05 p.m.
Jorn Sonderholm (National Autonomous U. of Mexico)
In a recent paper, Michael C. Rea considers the question of what pornography is. First, he examines a number of existing definitions of pornography and after having rejected them all, he goes on to present his own preferred definition. In this short paper, I suggest a counterexample to Reas definition. In particular, I suggest that there is something that, on the one hand, is pornography according to Reas definition, but, on the other hand, is not something that we would intuitively describe as being an instance of pornography.
Innateness in Platos Meno, Friday, September 21, Session A, Island Bay II, 1:00-1:35 p.m.
Billy Sunday (U. Maryland College Park)
In the Meno, Plato argues that seeking and learning are in fact nothing but recollection in an attempt to explain how obtaining knowledge is possible. How exactly this doctrine of recollection operates has been significantly disputed. In this paper I will argue in favor of a particular interpretation of how precisely such knowledge comes from within an individual and when recollection actually takes place as well as contend that this interpretation can help us draw a number of useful parallels between Platos doctrine of recollection and the work of more modern innateness theorists.
The Unreality of Realization, Friday, September 21, Session D, Island Bay I, 3:15-3:50 p.m.
Chase Wrenn (U. Alabama)
This paper argues against the realization principle, which states that lower-level properties bear the realization relation to higher-level properties. It reviews some principles of naturalistic metaphysics, and then it criticizes some popular reasons for embracing the realization principle. Finally, it argues against the principle directly. The principle itself turns out to be false because the realization relation fails the naturalistic test for reality; the realization relation makes no causal difference to the world.