Alabama Philosophical Society

46th Annual Conference
September 26-27, 2008



Hilton Beachfront Garden Inn
23092 Perdido Beach Boulevard
Orange Beach AL
334-974-1600


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 40-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.



Friday, September 26
12:00 noon
Registration
$40 registration fee payable at registration or to Nicholaos Jones during the conference (emeriti and students waived).
Island Bay IIsland Bay II
1:00-1:40 p.m.
Session A
Adam Podlaskowski (U. Connecticut)
Defending The Normativity Of Meaning
Liam Harte (Westfield State College)
Could New Terrorism Exist? A Critique of the “Expert Analysis”
1:50-2:30 p.m.
Session B
Joshua Spencer (Auburn)
Vagueness and Parthood
Morgan Rempel (U. Southern Mississippi)
Nietzsche on the Mystery Religions
2:40-3:20 p.m.
Session C
Kevin Kukla (U. Alabama)
The No Sharp Boundaries Paradox
Jeremy Schwartz (Committee on Social Thought)
Practical Analytic Judgments
3:30-4:10 p.m.
Session D
T. Allan Hillman (U. South Alabama)
Leibniz and Internal Monadic Determinism
Matthew J. Fitzsimmons (U. North Alabama)
On Max Horkheimer’s Critique of Pragmatic Nihilism
4:20-5:00 p.m.
Session E
Andrew D. Cling (U. Alabama Huntsville)
Prophylactics, Inflation, and Inappropriate Confidence: Bad Epistemic News from Cognitive Psychology
Steve Forrester (U. Montevallo)
Reply to Noël Carroll: Mental Simulation and Understanding Fictional Minds
5:10-5:50 p.m.
Session F
David Merli (Franklin & Marshall)
Moral Knowledge, Concepts, and Contingency
Christopher D. Meyers (Auburn)
GI, Robot
9:00Reception and Cash Bar (location TBA)


Saturday, September 27Island Bay IIsland Bay II
8:30-9:10 a.m.
Session G
William J. Melanson (U. Nebraska at Omaha)
The Role and Value of Epistemic Confidence
Michael Hunter (Texas Tech)
Home Runs, Baseball, and the Notion of the ‘Unfair and Unnatural Advantage’: Why Alleged and Actual Steroid Use in MLB is Neither an Unfair nor an Unnatural Advantage
9:20-10:00 a.m.
Session H
Nicholaos Jones (U. Alabama Huntsville)
A Problem for Ontological Pluralism
Roman Briggs (U. Arkansas)
‘Stopping Doing Philosophy’: Kant, Wittgenstein, and ‘the Unconditioned’
10:10-10:50 a.m.
Session İ
Ted Poston (U. South Alabama) & Michael Horton (U. South Alabama)
Alethic Functionalism and the Metaphysics of Reduction
Dennis Sansom (Samford U.)
Is Religion a Hindrance to Public Discourse in a Democratic, Pluralistic Society?
11:00-11:50 a.m.
Plenary Session 1
2008 Undergraduate Essay Prize Winner
Jonathan Cobb
(U. of Alabama)
Natural Evil and the Butterfly Effect
12:00-12:50 p.m.
Plenary Session 2
Presidential Address
Roderick T. Long
(Auburn)
Inside and Outside Spooner’s Natural Law Jurisprudence
Lunch & Business
Meeting
The Hangout (101 E. Beach Blvd. in Gulf Shores); from the hotel, head west (toward Gulf Shores) on Perdido Beach Blvd. (becomes E. Beach Blvd.) 3.67 miles.




Abstracts of Papers (alphabetical by Author)

‘Stopping Doing Philosophy’: Kant, Wittgenstein, and ‘the Unconditioned’, Saturday, September 27, Session H, Island Bay II, 9:20-10:00 a.m.
Roman Briggs (U. Arkansas)


I explore a commonality shared by Kant and Wittgenstein: the recognition that metaphysical speculation is a kind of obsessive neurosis, relief from which one must seek in disallowing thought and/or language from taking on a life of its own. I show that while the therapeutic conception of philosophy offered in Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations finds its inspiration in Kant’s consideration of the essence of the human being qua inquirer, the impetus of each therapy differs drastically. Whereas Kant seeks epistemic clarity and room for faith, Wittgenstein seeks deliverance from doing philosophy, itself.

Prophylactics, Inflation, and Inappropriate Confidence: Bad Epistemic News from Cognitive Psychology, Friday, September 26, Session E, Island Bay I, 4:20-5:00 p.m.
Andrew D. Cling (U. Alabama Huntsville)


Witnesses to a simulated crime who identify the perpetrator’s voice from an audio lineup are more confident in their identifications when they get confirming feedback about their identifications. A proposed confidence prophylactic that requires witnesses to make explicit judgments about their confidence before getting feedback reduces confidence-inflation in the short run, but not after one week. Confirming feedback thus puts us at risk of inappropriate confidence. Indeed, given any plausible account of the conditions that determine epistemically appropriate confidence, persons in such conditions almost never have an appropriate amount of confidence in the relevant propositions.

On Max Horkheimer’s Critique of Pragmatic Nihilism, Friday, September 26, Session D, Island Bay II, 3:30-4:10 p.m.
Matthew J. Fitzsimmons (U. North Alabama)


In this paper I outline Horkheimer’s critique of Dewey’s value theory as found in the Eclipse of Reason. In response to Horkheimer, I argue that Dewey is not a positivist as Horkheimer claims and that Dewey has a theory of value that champions human development and freedom that is in many ways similar to Horkheimer’s own position. Thus, it is my position that the charge of value nihilism leveled at Dewey by Horkheimer fails.

Reply to Noël Carroll: Mental Simulation and Understanding Fictional Minds, Friday, September 26, Session E, Island Bay II, 4:20-5:00 p.m.
Steve Forrester (U. Montevallo)


In the philosophy of literature, some thinkers (such as Gregory Currie) argue that the simulation theory of the mind helps us explain how we engage with the fictional minds of literary characters. However, other philosophers (like Noël Carroll) claim that the simulation theory plays no meaningful role in explaining this process. In this paper I reply to two of Carroll’s most important objections to the use of mental simulation in fictional contexts: (1) fictional situations do not present the same ‘pressure’ for simulating as do real-world situations, and (2) simulations add nothing new to our already imaginative engagement with fictional minds.

Could New Terrorism Exist? A Critique of the “Expert Analysis”, Friday, September 26, Session A, Island Bay II, 1:00-1:40 p.m.
Liam Harte (Westfield State College)


Many counterterrorism experts assert the existence of a “new” kind of violent non-state terrorist, represented in what I call the “expert analysis” as a fanatic who is willing to use all degrees of violence. I contend that the expert analysis has two fatal faults. First, it mistakes quantitative differences in destructiveness for qualitative differences between kinds of terrorism. Second, its notion of fanaticism is narrow enough to mistake extremely intense commitment to a cause for an unprecedented kind of motivation. Acts of new terrorism therefore cannot take place because the concept’s incoherence makes it incapable of describing any possible event.

Home Runs, Baseball, and the Notion of the ‘Unfair and Unnatural Advantage’: Why Alleged and Actual Steroid Use in MLB is Neither an Unfair nor an Unnatural Advantage, Saturday, September 27, Session G, Island Bay II, 8:30-9:10 a.m.
Michael Hunter (Texas Tech)


With the large amount of press, congressional hearings, and general agitation that recent events have caused, cheating in professional American baseball has galvanized a great number of individuals. However, upon a further look, is it really the case that Major League Baseball players have done something egregious? Should some of these players face scorn and disparagement for giving themselves an unfair or unnatural advantage over their peers? Simply put, have players who have taken anabolic steroids cheated in the same intolerable way as in the previous examples? This paper explores whether Major League Baseball players ought to be rightly blamed for cheating through two lines of reasoning – the analysis of whether or not steroid usage is unnatural; and the analysis of whether or not steroid usage in Major League Baseball is unfair.

Leibniz and Internal Monadic Determinism, Friday, September 26, Session D, Island Bay I, 3:30-4:10 p.m.
T. Allan Hillman (U. of South Alabama)


An old problem having to do with Leibniz’s account of monadic internal determinism is here reconsidered, and a one-one correspondence between the nature of an individual substance and its complete concept is defended. The primary difficulty concerns so-called miraculous states of a substance, and the fact that by Leibniz’s own definition, such states go beyond the natural powers of substantial natures. Against the readings of several commentators, I argue that miraculous states of substances are (at least partially) causal products of the nature of individual substances themselves.

A Problem for Ontological Pluralism, Saturday, September 27, Session H, Island Bay I, 9:20-10:00 a.m.
Nicholaos Jones (U. Alabama Huntsville)


The ontologies of scientific theories include a variety of objects: point-mass particles, rigid rods, frictionless planes, flat and curved spacetimes, perfectly spherical planets, continuous fluids, atoms, quarks and gluons, ideally rational agents, and so on. According to Paul Teller, sometimes we can be justified in regarding competing ontologies as real. In this paper, I argue that Teller’s view is incomplete, and I suggest an alternative view about what justifies a group in regarding a theory’s ontology as real or unreal – a view that better accommodates attitudes prominent within the scientific community.

The No Sharp Boundaries Paradox , Friday, September 26, Session C, Island Bay I, 2:40-3:20 p.m.
Kevin J. Kukla (U. Alabama)


In this paper I demonstrate that Wright’s No Sharp Boundaries Paradox is invalid in virtue of employing two inconsistent inference rules. Consequently, I argue that the proper characterization of first and second-order vagueness involves two distinct extensions of classical negation along with a borderline predicate

The Role and Value of Epistemic Confidence, Saturday, September 27, Session G, Island Bay I, 8:30-9:10 a.m.
William J. Melanson (U. Nebraska at Omaha)


Assessments of epistemic confidence tend to play a larger role in our lives than assessments of justifiedness or even assessments of knowledge. It is far more common to ask, “Are you sure?”, than to ask, “Do you know?”, “Are you justified?”, or “What’s your evidence?”. In this paper, I examine the role that epistemic confidence plays in our lives and explain how well-placed confidence can be of great epistemic value. In particular, I argue that epistemic confidence is a great source of cognitive efficiency and cooperative efficiency. Moreover, thinking of knowledge in terms of having a right to be sure can help to solve some longstanding epistemic problems.

Moral Knowledge, Concepts, and Contingency, Friday, September 26, Session F, Island Bay I, 5:10-5:50 p.m.
David Merli (Franklin & Marshall)


Moral knowledge presents us with a philosophical problem. We think we know some moral claims to be true, but these claims are rejected by reasonable and well-informed interlocutors who appear to have as much support for their position as we have for ours. This epistemic symmetry undermines knowledge. In this paper I suggest that our norms for attributing moral concepts are an important source of the difficulty. I outline why some responses in the literature are not satisfying, and I argue that one plausible response involves reforming our intuitions about which speakers are making genuine moral judgments.

GI, Robot, Friday, September 26, Session F, Island Bay II, 5:10-5:50 p.m.
Christopher D. Meyers (U. Southern Mississippi)


In this paper I consider the moral issues raised by the prospect of deploying robotic soldiers in the field, a project currently under development by the U.S. Department of Defense. My argument is developed through a discussion of traditional philosophical principles of “just war” theory and an application of these principles to the use of robotic troops. I argue that such devices will make fighting a war too easy for the U.S. A disregard for the lives of enemy troops is likely to result, increase the likelihood of wars waged for trivial reasons, violating the principles of proportionality and necessity.

Defending The Normativity Of Meaning, Friday, September 26, Session A, Island Bay I, 1:00-1:40 a.m.
Adam Podlaskowski (U. Connecticut)


That meaningful expressions have correctness conditions is often cited as grounds for the thesis that meaning is normative. This view has recently faced several objections. I resist them by viewing correctness conditions through the lenses afforded by a distinction familiar to philosophers of language, between one’s actions being guided by a rule and one’s actions merely conforming with one.

Alethic Functionalism and the Metaphysics of Reduction, Saturday, September 27, Session İ, Island Bay I, 10:10-10:50 a.m.
Ted Poston (U. South Alabama) & Michael Horton (U. South Alabama)


Alethic functionalism, as developed by Michael Lynch, is the view that truth is an explanatorily significant but multiply-realizable property. According to this view the properties that realize truth may vary from domain to domain, but the property of truth is a single, domain-insensitive property. In this paper we argue that alethic functionalism faces a similar challenge to the one that Jaegwon Kim laid out for the multiple realization thesis (MR) in the philosophy of mind. As it applies to alethic functionalism the challenge is that truth turns out to be an explanatorily idle disjunction of realization bases. This seriously undercuts the ability of alethic functionalism to solve the problems motivating the view. Moreover, a plausible response to Kim’s argument fashioned by Jerry Fodor, fails to carry over to alethic functionalism on account of significant differences between alethic functionalism and psychological functionalism. The upshot of our argument is that, while mental functionalism may survive Kim’s argument, it mortally wounds alethic functionalism.

Nietzsche on the Mystery Religions, Friday, September 26, Session B, Island Bay II, 1:50-2:30 p.m.
Morgan Rempel (U. Southern Mississippi)


This paper examines several passages in which Nietzsche considers the foreign “mystery cults” that flourished alongside the state religions of ancient Greece and Rome. One recurring theme in his writing is early Christianity’s apparent indebtedness to the beliefs and practices of the mystery cults, particularly the cult of Mithras. My paper contrasts the middle-period Nietzsche’s treatment of this theme with his final musings on the matter. I make the case that while some of Nietzsche’s end-of-career accusations in this area are indeed exaggerated, they nonetheless reveal considerable insight into a topic that continues to generate much scholarly interest.

Is Religion a Hindrance to Public Discourse in a Democratic, Pluralistic Society?, Saturday, September 27, Session İ, Island Bay II, 10:10-10:50 a.m.
Dennis Sansom (Samford U.)


The introduction of religion into the public discourse of a pluralistic society is always problematic but not totally impermissible. To help sort out this issue, I use the logical structure offered by Stephen Toulmin’s The Uses of Argument to make the case that religion as well as other fundamental claims about reality and for morality can serve as a Backing but not a Warrant for public discourse in a pluralist society.

Practical Analytic Judgments, Friday, September 26, Session C, Island Bay II, 2:40-3:20 p.m.
Jeremy Schwartz (Committee on Social Thought)


The analytic/synthetic distinction is traditionally applied only to theoretical judgments. However, an application of this distinction to practical judgments would have widespread implications for our understanding of hypothetical and categorical imperatives. Kant’s own opinion (left unexplained by Kant) is that this distinction can be applied to practical judgments, but this position has been roundly criticized by Kant interpreters. In this paper, I defend Kant’s use of the analytic/synthetic distinction in the practical sphere, but I argue that the distinction requires the postulation of a practical formal logic. Indications for such a practical formal logic are discovered in Kant’s Groundwork.

Vagueness and Parthood, Friday, September 26, Session B, Island Bay I, 1:50-2:30 p.m.
Joshua Spencer (Auburn)


Many believe that if the locution ‘is a part of’ is vague, then ‘is identical to’ is vague as well. But, clearly, some sentences of the form ‘α is part of β’ are vague. In order to avoid accepting the vagueness of ‘is identity to’, many say those sentences are vague in virtue of the vagueness of their singular terms. I argue that even if the singular terms in a sentence of the form ‘α is part of β’ are vague, the locution ‘is a part of’ is vague as well. After presenting the argument, I consider a rather radical response.




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