Inauguaral Address & Symposias
Brad Hooker (Reading)
Friday, 16th July 2021
Inaugural Address: Relationships and Well-Being
Title: Does Having Deep Personal Relationships Constitute an Element of Well-Being?
Deep personal relationships involve deep mutual understanding and strong mutual affection. This paper focuses on whether having deep personal relationships are one of the elements of well-being. Roger Crisp put forward thought experiments which might be taken to suggest that having deep personal relationships have only instrumental value as means to other elements of well-being. The different conclusion this paper draws is that having deep personal relationships is an element of well-being if but only if the other people involved have qualities that merit affection for these people.
Mill on Freedom of Speech: Nishi Shah (Amherst) & Robert Simpson (UCL)
Title: Why Censorship is Self-Undermining: John Stuart Mill’s Neglected Argument for Free Speech.
Two prejudices have hampered our understanding of John Stuart Mill’s central argument for free speech. One prejudice is that arguments for free speech can only be made in terms of values or rights. This prejudice causes us to miss the depth of Mill’s argument. He does not argue that silencing speech is harmful or violates rights, but instead that silencing speech is a uniquely self-undermining act; it undermines the ground upon which it is based. But even if we overcome this prejudice and appreciate the self-undermining character of Mill’s
Title: “Lost, enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect”: Mill’s exaggerated view of the relation between conflict and vitality.
Mill thinks our attitudes should be held in a way that’s active and ‘alive’. He believes attitudes that lack these qualities – those held dogmatically, or in unreflective conformity – are inimical to our well-being. This claim then serves as a premise in his argument for overarching principles of liberty. He argues that attitudinal vitality, in the relevant sense, relies upon people experiencing (and being open to) attitudinal conflict, and that this necessitates a prioritisation of personal liberties. I argue that contestation isn’t required for attitudinal vitality, pace Mill. I describe one species of attitudinal vitality that isn’t reliant upon conflict.
Panpsychism: Yujin Nagasawa (Birmingham) & Keith Frankish (Sheffield)
Title: A PANPSYCHIST DEAD END
Panpsychism has received much attention in the philosophy of mind in recent years. So-called constitutive Russellian panpsychism, in particular, is considered by many the most promising panpsychist approach to the hard problem of consciousness. In this paper, however, I develop a new challenge to this approach. I argue that the three elements of constitutive Russellian panpsychism—i.e. the constitutive element, the Russellian element and the panpsychist element—jointly entail a ‘cognitive dead end’. That is, even if constitutive Russellian panpsychism is true we cannot ascertain how it might solve the hard problem of consciousness.
Title: Panpsychism and the Depsychologization of Consciousness.
Panpsychism is a good answer to a bad question. The question is how to find a place in the natural world for a *depsychologized* form of consciousness -- a form conceptualized in terms of phenomenal feel rather than psychological function.If such a form of consciousness exists, then, as Yujin Nagasawa shows, there is a good case for thinking that it extends to the micro level and forms the intrinsic nature of microphysical entities. Such a view, we might say, takes the depsychologization of consciousness *seriously*. In doing so, however, it also vividly illustrates the perils of depsychologization. The challenge for the panpsychist is to explain macro-level, human consciousness. Having separated consciousness from psychology, how do we connect it back up? Nagasawa highlights one seemingly intractable problem here, and I shall argue that there are more lurking behind the scenes. Most seriously, panpsychism cannot explain why consciousness should matter to us. It consigns consciousness to a metaphysical limbo where it can have no psychological significance for biological organisms. The moral, I shall suggest, is that we should retrace our steps and question the depsychologized conception itself.
Toxic Speech: Lynne Tirrell (Connecticut) & Mari Mikkola (Amsterdam)
Title: Discursive Epidemiology: Two Models
Toxic speech inflicts damage to mental and physical health. This process can be chronic or acute, temporary or permanent. Understanding how toxic speech inflicts these harms requires both an account of linguistic practices and, because language is inherently social, tools from epidemiology. This paper explores what we can learn from two epidemiological models, a common source model that emphasizes poisons, and a propagated transmission model that better fits contagions like viruses.
Title TOXIC SPEECH: A DISTORTION OR ‘OUR’ DEFAULT?
This paper considers Tirrell’s analysis of toxic speech using examples epitomising speech that are misleading, outright false, and without compelling justification. They are toxic in polluting and eroding democratic functioning. However, I argue that Tirrell’s two epidemiological models (the common source model exemplified by poisons, and the propagated transmission model that viruses exemplify) fail to make good sense of my examples, which are deeply insidious without being overtly invidious. The limitations of the epidemiological models suggest that toxicity is part of our default form of thinking and talking, rather than being an ‘outside’ pathology like a poison or a virus.
Modal Metaphysics: Agustin Rayo (MIT) & Penelope Mackie (Nottingham)
Title: Beta-Conversion and the Being Constraint
Modal contingentists face a dilemma: there are two attractive principles of which they can only accept one. In this paper I show that the most natural way of resolving the dilemma leads to expressive limitations. I then develop an alternative resolution. In addition to overcoming the expressive limitations, the alternative picture allows for an attractive account of arithmetic and for a style of semantic theorizing that can be helpful to contingentists.
Title: Sortals, Timelessness, and Transcendental Truth
I discuss the application, to the case of sortal concepts, of Kit Fine’s conception of the species of necessary truth that he characterizes as ‘transcendental truth’. I argue for scepticism about Fine’s thesis that substance sortals are associated with transcendental truths about contingently existing individuals. My discussion has implications for the interpretation of the type of necessity that is involved in the attribution of essential properties to contingent existents. In addition, it has implications for the question whether there are sortal predicates that are ‘timeless’ in their application to contingently existing individuals.
Blame: Catriona Mackenzie (Macquarie) & Maria Alvarez (KCL)
Title: Culpability, blame and the moral dynamics of social power
This paper responds to recent work on moral blame, which has drawn attention to the ambivalent nature of our blaming practices and to the need to ‘civilise’ these practices. It argues that the project of civilising blame must engage with a further problematic feature of these practices, namely that they can be implicated in structures of social oppression, and distorted by epistemic and discursive injustice. The paper also aims to show that engaging with this problem raises questions about the Strawsonian equation of moral responsibility with liability to praise or blame.
Title: P.F. Strawson, Moral Theories and ‘the Problem of Blame’: ‘Freedom and Resentment’ Revisited.
After nearly sixty years, the influence of Peter Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’ remains strong in discussions of moral responsibility. However, as the paper has become more remote in time and in intellectual climate, some of those influences have turned into amplifications of ideas and claims that are misinterpretations or distortions of the paper, while other notions have been projected onto it. I try to make the case for this charge specifically in relation to what has become accepted as Strawson’s ‘response-dependent’ theory of moral responsibility and to an allegedly problematic conception of blame said to be at the centre of that theory. Against that background, I comment on the current philosophical project to ‘civilise’ blame.
Virtue and Particularity: Constantine Sandis (Herfordshire) & Sophie Grace Chappell (OU)
Title: Virtue Ethics and Particularism
Moral particularism is often conceived as the view that there are no moral principles. Its most fêted accounts focus almost exclusively, however, on rules regarding actions and their features. Such action-centred particularism, I argue, is compatible with generalism at the level of character traits. The resulting view is a form of particularist virtue ethics. This endorses directives of the form ‘be X’ but rejects any implication that the relevant x-ness must therefore always count in favour of an action.
Title: To live outside the law you must be honest
Abstract I states Sandis’ view in his paper (particularism for actions, generalism for dispositions); II describes and begins to criticise Dancy-style particularism; III applies these criticisms to Sandis’ view; IV delineates an alternative view (my own) about actions, dispositions, and the particularism/ generalism debate; V raises and considers a further puzzle, about how in general we should understand virtue-ascriptions anyway.