Alabama Philosophical Society
47th Annual Conference
October 2-3, 2009
Hilton Beachfront Garden Inn
23092 Perdido Beach Boulevard
Orange Beach AL
Each of the non-plenary sessions offers three (or in some cases two) concurrent papers in different 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.
Abstracts of Papers (alphabetical by Author)
Knowledge and Conviction, Friday, October 2, Session 4, Island Bay I, 2:40-3:20
David Anderson (Purdue University)
I develop an account of degrees of belief in terms of what I label conviction, which is just the strength with which a proposition seems true. I then argue that knowing a proposition requires more conviction than does mere belief.
The Youth and Immorality of Eros in the Symposium, Saturday, October 3, Session 9, Island Bay II, 9:20-10:00
Daniel Ansted (Florida State University)
Agathon in Platos Symposium states that Eros despises old age. Since love is associated with youthfulness one cannot completely deny Agathons claim; however, one also cannot accept that Agathons statement entails that an experience of Eros is impossible after a certain age, since this is contradicted by experience. One interpretation consistent with these seemingly contradictory aspects of Eros is that for Eros to despise old age means experiencing Eros induces a youthful spirit. I maintain that this interpretation of Eros is consistent not only with Socrates/Diotimas account of Eros in the Symposium, but also with our experience of Eros.
The Ideal Epistemic Agent: The Autonomous Knower, Saturday, October 3, Session 8, Island Bay II, 8:30-9:10
Nicholas Baima (Washington University St. Louis)
In Ethical and Epistemic Egoism and the Ideal of Autonomy Linda Zagzebski asserts that the ideal epistemic agent is not autonomous and epistemic autonomy has undesirable consequences for community life. I argue that Zagzebski is wrong. I address Zagzebskis first claim by arguing that obtaining knowledge autonomously is a greater achievement than obtaining knowledge socially; from this, I conclude that the ideal epistemic agent is autonomous. Following this, I respond to the second claim by criticizing Zagzebskis reasons for asserting that epistemic egoism has undesirable consequences for community life.
On the Possibility of Antithetical Reasonable Disagreement, Friday, October 2, Session 1, Island Bay I, 12:10-12:50
Erik Baldwin (Purdue University)
Antithetical disagreement is epistemic disagreement about whether some proposition or its negation is true. I think that it is possible for people who have a comparable cognitive grasp of the evidential considerations in a given evidential situation to engage in antithetical reasonable disagreement about their epistemic merits. I discuss four conditions on the possibility of antithetical reasonable disagreement and argue that, if these conditions are satisfied, then it is plausible to think that a given case of apparently antithetical reasonable disagreement, is in fact reasonable.
Internalism and Not Practicing What You Preach, Saturday, October 3, Session 8, Suite 221, 9:20-10:00
Jason Berntsen (Xavier University of Louisiana)
Consistently not practicing what you preach can lead people to doubt that you even believe what you preach. People will be even more suspicious if there is no sign of an internal struggle, no sign that you have any motivation at all to act in a manner consistent with your alleged moral beliefs. Russ Shafer-Landau, a leading metaethicist, has recently suggested that this phenomenon is prima facie evidence for motivational internalism, the view that being motivated to act a certain way is built-in to the very concept of having a moral belief. I argue here that while our reluctance to attribute a moral belief to someone who shows no sign of having a corresponding motivation may be prima facie evidence for some versions of motivation internalism, this is not true of any version a contemporary philosopher is likely to actually hold.
Constraint and Neutrality, Friday, October 2, Session 3, Island Bay I, 1:50-2:30
Eric Carter (The Ohio State University)
Crispin Wright argues that some truth predicates express an evidentially constrained concept of truth. He reasons from a schema about evidential constraint, namely, that if its true that p, then its ideally possible that p is epistemically justified. Wright maintains that there is no conflict between constraint and another schema, namely, that its not the case that either its ideally possible that is p epistemically justified, or its ideally possible that ~p is epistemically justified. However, I prove that these schemata are not both valid. Furthermore, I argue that Wright faces problems, whether he rejects the constraint schema, or he rejects strictly classical reasoning.
When Does Someone Act Against Their Best Judgment?, Friday, October 2, Session 4, Island Bay II, 2:40-3:20
Andrew Choi (The Ohio State University)
It is often taken for granted that one acts irrationally when one acts against ones best judgment. However, it isnt necessarily clear what it is to act against ones best judgment in the first place. In this paper, I present an account of what it is to act against ones best judgment. As I see it, the concept is more complicated that it initially seems. Moreover, a proper analysis of the concept will reveal a mistake that has led some, in recent years, to incorrectly suggest that sometimes one can act rationally even when one acts against ones best judgment.
Disagreement, Question-Begging and Epistemic Self-Doubt, Saturday, October 3, Session 11, Island Bay I, 11:00-12:00
David Christensen (Brown University)
No abstract available.
2009 Undergraduate Prize Essay:
Time and Qualia, Saturday, October 3, Session 9, Island Bay I, 9:20-10:00
Jonathan Cobb (University of Alabama)
No abstract available.
Critical Legal Studies vs. Dworkin, Friday, October 2, Session 1, Island Bay II, 12:10-12:50
John Coker (University of South Alabama)
No abstract available.
Transparency as a Model for Self-Knowledge, Friday, October 2, Session 7, Island Bay I, 5:10-5:50
Jeremy Cushing (University of Massachusetts)
In this paper, it is argued that confusion over transparency in self-knowledge results in part from conflation of different ideas of transparency. There is a genuine puzzle about transparency in the sense discussed by Gareth Evans only if it is claimed that we believe some P and believe that we believe some P on the very same grounds. Despite the more limited scope of the puzzle, it is argued that a solution to it generates an interesting and underexamined model for self-knowledge.
The Darwinian Problem of Evil: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering, Friday, October 2, Session 7, Suite 221, 5:10-5:50
Mylan Engel (Northern Illinois University)
The Darwinian problem is at root a version of the evidential argument from evil, for it maintains that the magnitude of animal suffering we find in the natural world suffering endemic to the evolutionary process provides compelling evidence that an all-good God does not exist and that theism is irrational in light of that evidence. Michael Murray has tried to undercut the problem by offering what he calls CD-explanations. A CD-explanation is an attempt to show that in light of our justified acceptances, we arent justified in believing that animal suffering is gratuitous and thus arent justified in taking such suffering to be evidence of Gods nonexistence. I examine the CD-explanations Murray offers and argue that all of them fail. I conclude that absent an adequate explanation of animal suffering theism is irrational.
On the Inadequacy of the Contextualist Answer to Skepticism, Saturday, October 3, Session 8, Island Bay I, 8:30-9:10
Kaplan Hasanoglu (University of Iowa)
The contextualist can either (i) deny that there are examples of beliefs that should never, under any conversationally-determined circumstances whatsoever, be considered knowledge, or (ii) concede such a thing. To claim (i) is to succumb to a reductio via easily constructible examples of beliefs that should never be considered knowledge. But to claim (ii) instead provides an easy avenue for skepticism. Skeptical scenarios, after all, are designed to illustrate that we can never non-dogmatically deny that our external world beliefs are of a poor epistemological sort, i.e., of a sort that should never be considered knowledge.
Aristotle on Friendship and Justice, Friday, October 2, Session 6, Island Bay II, 4:20-5:00
John Houston (Purdue University)
In book VIII of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle makes at least two controversial claims regarding the relation of friendship to justice. First, he claims that there is no need for justice among people who are friends. Second, he claims that the requirements of justice naturally increase with friendship. These claims raise difficult ethical questions regarding favoritism and justice. Further, they raise potential difficulties for interpreting the coherence and plausibility of Aristotles account of justice. The goal of this paper is to interpret and explain within the context of Aristotles ethical thought what he means by these statements.
Can Anyone Ever Consent to the State?, Friday, October 2, Session 2, Island Bay II, 1:00-1:40
Charles Johnson (Molinari Institute)
I defend a strong incompatibility claim that anything which could count as a state is conceptually incompatible with any possible consent of the governed. Not only do states necessarily operate without the unanimous consent of all the governed, but in fact, as territorial monopolies on the use of force, states preclude any subject from consenting even those who want it, and actively try to give consent to government. If government authority is legitimate, it must derive from an account of legitimate command and subordination; any principled requirement for consent and political equality entails anarchism.
Cartwrights Capacities, Coulombs Law, and Hydrogen Bonds, Saturday, October 3, Session 18, Suite 221, 8:30-9:10
Nick Jones (University of Alabama Huntsville)
Coulombs law is a recurring example in Nancy Cartwrights advocacy for including capacities in the metaphysics of science. It is one of Cartwrights paradigms for a scientific hypothesis that is true despite having apparent exceptions. After briefly reviewing the laws status within the scientific community and Cartwrights interpretation of the law, I shall argue that her interpretation fails to show that putative exceptions to Coulombs law do not disconfirm that law.
Left-Libertarianism, Class Conflict, and Historical Theories of Distributive Justice, Friday, October 2, Session 5, Island Bay II, 3:30-4:10
Roderick T. Long (Auburn University)
A frequent objection to the historical (in Nozicks sense) approach to distributive justice is that it serves to legitimate existing massive inequalities of wealth. I argue that, on the contrary, the historical approach, thanks to its fit with the libertarian theory of class conflict, represents a far more effective tool for challenging these inequalities than do relatively end-oriented approaches such as utilitarianism and Rawlsianism.
Analyticity, Friday, October 2, Session 5, Suite 221, 3:30-4:10
Eric Loomis (University of South Alabama) and Cory Juhl (University of Texas at Austin)
We introduce two related notions of analytic truth that are compatible with a variety of contemporary semantical theories. Our notions are modeled on the case of explicit stipulation, and are compatible with the claim, made by Kripke, Evans, and others, that some statements can be stipulated and yet contingent. We defend our notions of analyticity against some traditional objections to analytic truth by Quine and Harman.
Skeptics Without Borders
Kevin Meeker (University of South Alabama)
You Cant Buy Much With Intellectual Credit, Friday, October 2, Session 5, Island Bay I, 3:30-4:10
William Melanson (University of Nebraska at Omaha)
Over the past decade, a number of prominent of epistemological theorists (including Riggs, Greco, and Sosa) have suggested that we can account for the special value of knowledge by appealing to intellectual credit. They suggest that when an agents belief is sensitive to the truth by being the result of a reliable disposition that is both stable and well-integrated, then the agent deserves credit for this achievement. Unlike the value associated with being the product of a reliable belief-forming process, the value of intellectual credit is not swamped by the value of truth. To help motivate this solution, proponents of intellectual credit have most often relied upon metaphors and analogies. In what follows, I shall demonstrate the shortcomings of such metaphors and analogies and pose a more general problem for intellectual credit explanations of the value of knowledge. Overall, I argue that the intellectual credit approach does not posit a substantial enough value to explain the extent to which we care about knowledge.
Some Reflection on the Therapeutic Obligation, Friday, October 2, Session 7, Island Bay II, 5:10-5:50
David Merli (Franklin & Marshall) and Joshua Smith (Central Michigan University)
The therapeutic obligation (TO) requires that a physician prescribe the best available treatment for her patients. This obligation has received philosophical attention for its apparent conflict with randomized trials. Here, we examine some problems for two popular solutions to this apparent conflict. We argue that both fail for similar reasons: they cannot make sense of intuitively permissible treatment choices. In particular, they fail to make sense of doctors choices of innovative and relatively unproven treatments in light of uncertainty about patient outcomes. We conclude by suggesting how to make the TO consistent with medical practice.
Egoism, Competition, and Fairness, Saturday, October 3, Session 13, Island Bay II, 3:20-4:10
Chris Meyers (University of Southern Mississippi)
Most philosophers see egoism as a threat to common sense morality. Unfortunately, egoism is stubbornly resilient. A standard objection is that the egoist cannot consistently endorse other people pursuing their self-interest at his expense because that would undermine his goal of pursuing his own interest. The defense of egoism points out that a lover of competition could consent to others also acting egoistically even if he prefer that others not. I, however, will argue that at least that some moral constraints are rationally required. In particular, the egoist is rationally compelled to accept constraints that demand fair-play and equal opportunity.
Knowledge Without Evidence, Saturday, October 3, Session 12, Island Bay I, 2:30-3:10
Andrew Moon (University of Missouri)
In this paper, I will present counterexamples to the evidence thesis, the thesis that S knows that p at t only if S believes that p on the basis of evidence at t. The outline of my paper is as follows. In Part I, I defend two propositions. The defense of these propositions will be necessary for the success of the counterexample against the evidence thesis in Part II. In Part III, I discuss what I think are the best ways to respond to my argument.
Semantic Pluralism and Semantic Functionalism, Friday, October 2, Session 2, Island Bay I, 1:00-1:40
Adam Podlaskowski (Fairmont State University)
Truth can best explain the semantic properties of some expressions, but perhaps not all of them. The same goes for inferential role. Rather than resisting such accusations, I accept them as motivation for semantic pluralism: there are several ways in which an expression can be meaningful. I further argue for a brand of semantic functionalism, where different expressions are meaningful in different ways while still being instances of the same property.
Is There an I in Epistemology?, Saturday, October 3, Session 10, Island Bay I, 10:10-10:50
Ted Poston (University of South Alabama)
No abstract available.
The Genocidal Morality of Heinrich Himmler: A Reply to Bennett, Friday, October 2, Session 3, Suite 221, 1:50-2:30
Morgan Rempel (University of Southern Mississippi)
In an influential 1974 paper, Jonathan Bennett explores the struggle between the human sympathies and the bad morality of SS leader Heinrich Himmler. I do not deny that Bennetts basic distinction good sympathies / bad morality accurately reflects one aspect of the Reichsführer SSs morality and conscience. What my paper does contend, however, is that Bennetts narrow use of Himmlers 1943 Posen speech essentially bypasses other, more problematic aspects of Himmlers genocidal morality. A more thorough examination of this infamous speech reveals that the entire matter of the morality and conscience of Himmler is considerably more complicated and philosophically interesting than Bennetts influential paper suggests.
The Paradox of Self-Legislation and the Requirements of the Rational Will, Friday, October 2, Session 3, Island Bay II, 1:50-2:30
Bob Robinson (Purdue University)
Terry Pinkard argues that Kants pivotal concept of self-legislation entails a paradox: there must be a reason that the will self-legislates or binds itself to the obligations of the moral law and yet no reason can be offered that does not overturn the concept. Two claims are advanced in this paper. First, I contend that Henry Allisons interpretation of self-legislation cannot defend against the paradox. Second, I show that Kant believes that the law is self-legislated as a rational requirement of an agents approval or disapproval of a course of action. Consequently, an agent does not need a reason to self-legislate the law, since, for Kant, she does so in exercising her practical rationality.
Autonomy Within Hierarchical Jobs, Saturday, October 3, Session 12, Island Bay II, 2:30-3:10
James Rocha (Louisiana State University)
While there is much literature on autonomy and the conditions for its attainment, less has been written on how those conditions reflect on the lives of people in careers that seem to endanger autonomy. For workers, who ordinarily follow orders they dont agree with (and, often, can hardly understand), the average workday involves a great deal of activity that we normally wouldnt count as autonomous. In developing a new autonomy theory, instead of undermining the possibility that these agents should count as autonomous, I argue autonomy requires much less independence and/or endorsement of ones motives, than is ordinarily thought.
Anti-Luck Epistemologies and Necessary Truths, Friday, October 2, Session 6, Island Bay I, 4:20-5:00
Jeffrey Roland (Louisiana State University) and Jon Cogburn (Louisiana State University)
That believing truly that p as a matter of luck does not generally constitute knowing that p has become epistemologically commonplace. Accounts of knowledge incorporating this anti-luck idea frequently rely on one or another of a safety or sensitivity condition. Sensitivity-based accounts of knowledge have a well-known problem with necessary truths, to wit that any believed necessary truth trivially counts as knowledge on such accounts. In this paper, we argue that safety-based accounts similarly trivialize knowledge of necessary truths.
Inferentialism and Conservativeness, Friday, October 2, Session 6, Suite 221, 4:20-5:00
Marcus Rossberg (U. Connecticut)
In this paper, I present a difficulty that inferentialist approaches to a theory of meaning face. I show that third-order logic is not conservative over second-order logic: there are sentences of pure second-order logic that are theorems of third-order logic, but cannot be proven in second-order logic. The challenge is that this inability to demonstrate the truth of such second-order sentences using the inference rules of second-order logic alone seems to refute the inferentialists claim that the meaning of the quantifiers is determined by their inference rules: such sentences being truths of third-order logic should be true in virtue of the meaning of the logical vocabulary. I discuss possible lines of response that are available to the inferentialist to meet the challenge thus posed.
Temporal Versions of the Consequence and Mind Arguments, Friday, October 2, Session 1, Suite 221, 12:10-12:50
Anthony Shiver (Western Michigan University)
I argue that the Consequence and Mind arguments, two arguments that together entail fatalism (the thesis that no one is free), can be formulated using mutually consistent assumptions and inferences rules, despite well established arguments that they are incompatible. The assumptions and inference rules I use are based on plausible temporal assumptions, and are defended against actual and potential criticisms. I also try to show that the move from a modal formulation to an explicitly temporal one renders the new arguments more plausible than other recent versions and poses a serious challenge to those who would argue against fatalism.
A Wittgensteinian Critique of Perfect Being Theology, Saturday, October 3, Session 13, Island Bay I, 3:20-4:10
Alden Stout (Purdue University)
In this paper I argue that Wittgensteins philosophy of language implies that perfect being theology, as traditionally practiced, is incoherent. Wittgensteins philosophy of language precludes the viability of perfect being theology because, according to Wittgenstein, there is no perspective from which we can articulate properties outside of any context. It is argued that perfect being theology requires that absolute perfections are non-contextual and as such cannot be part of any language game. As such if Wittgensteins account of language games is correct, then there cannot be any meaningful discourse concerning those absolute perfections that transcend the language games we use.
On Virtue and Flourishing, Friday, October 2, Session 2, Suite 221, 1:00-1:40
Josh Watson (Purdue University)
Rosalind Hursthouse claims that a character trait qualifies as a virtue if it is a trait generally useful for the flourishing of its possessor. In this essay I argue that this analysis results in the implausible possibility that intrinsically bad character traits may qualify as virtues in certain environments. This result is not consistent with plausible intuitions about virtue and intrinsic badness. The goal of this paper is to support these intuitions and thereby to motivate a rejection of Hursthouses analysis of virtue.
Truth Is Not Instrumentally Valuable, Friday, October 2, Session 4, Suite 221, 2:40-3:20
Chase Wrenn (University of Alabama)
The usual assumption is that truth is at least instrumentally valuable, although there is controversy as to whether truth is valuable in any further way. This paper challenges that assumption by arguing that truth cannot be instrumentally valuable in the way usually supposed. To be instrumentally valuable, the truth of our beliefs would have to be causally relevant to the success of our actions. Other properties screen truth off from such causal relevance, though, and so truth is not instrumentally valuable after all.