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Philosophy Speaker Series

Unless otherwise noted, all talks will be held in person, on Fridays at 3.30pm in South Ross 421. All are welcome! For more information contact or

September 30
Chike Jeffers, Dalhousie University
“Eloquent Responses; An Interpretation of Some Great Works of Ancient Egyptian Philosophy"

October 21
Allauren Forbes, McMaster University
"Scudéry’s Portraits: Gender, Agency, and Genre"

November 11
Rima Basu, Claremont McKenna College
"Epistemic Ethics: Methods, Motivations, and the Malcontents"

November 18
Sabine Tsuruda, Queen’s University
“The Right to Strike"

Past Events

November 27, 2020

Nikhil Krishnan (University of Cambridge)

Does Clarity Matter?

October 30, 2020

Michael Lynch (University of Connecticut)

Truth as a Democratic Value

October 19, 2020

Tim Connolly (East Stroudsburg University)

Doing Philosophy Comparatively with Zhuangzi

October 2, 2020

Emmalon Davis (University of Michigan)

A Tale of Two Injustices: Epistemic Injustice in Philosophical Discourse

September 25, 2020

Agnes Callard (University of Chicago)

Mandatory Questions

Fall Term Talks

September 13, 2019

Daniela Dover (UCLA) "Identity and Inquiry".

October 4, 2019

Bana Bashour (American University of Beirut) Title TBA.

October 25, 2019

Liam Murphy (NYU) "Nonlegislative Justification: Against Legalistic Moral Theory".

November 22, 2019

Devlin Russell, "The Three Dogmas of Action Theory"

Winter 2019 Talks

Wednesday, Jan 23, 4-6 pm

Sukaina Hirji (Virginia Tech)

"How Virtue is a Means to Contemplation"

Friday, Jan 25, 4-6 pm

Francey Russell (Yale University)

"Kantian Self-Conceit and the Two Guises of Authority"

Kantian self-conceit involves a ‘claim to self-esteem that precede[s] agreement with the moral law.’ There is a debate in the literature as to whether Kantian self-conceit essentially involves relations with other persons or is rather essentially self-involved and only contingently other-involving. That is, is self-conceit inter-personal or intra-psychic? I argue that self-conceit is both. I argue that for Kant self-conceit is fundamentally an illusion about authority, one’s own and any authority to which one stands in relation. Self-conceit thus refuses to recognize the authority of the law, any law. But crucially the law ‘shows up’ for us in two guises: one’s own reason and other persons. Thus self-conceit refuses to recognize both guises of the law. Hence the illusion of self-conceit is essentially double-sided, at once intra-psychic and inter-personal.

Friday, Feb 1, 4-6 pm

Nicholas Smyth (Fordham University)

"Structural Injustice and the Emotions"

Friday, February 8, 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Dale Matthew (York University)

"Racial Integration and the Problem of Value".

Friday, Feb 15, 3:30-5:30 pm

William Seager (University of Toronto)

"The Woke World: A Panpsychist Manifesto"

Friday, March 1, 3:30-5:30 pm

Charles Goodman (Binghamton University)

"Buddhism, Retributivism, and the Reactive Attitudes"

Friday, April 5, 3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Matthew Leisinger (PhD Yale, post-doc at Cambridge)

“Cudworth on Freewill”

Ralph Cudworth, the 17th-century Cambridge Platonist, attempts to develop an intermediate account of human liberty that avoids the opposing excesses of necessitarianism on the one hand and (a form of) libertarianism on the other, arguing both (against the necessitarians) that we possess genuine alternative possibilities and also (against some libertarians) that we necessarily will the greater apparent good. Some commentators have questioned whether Cudworth can maintain both of these claims consistently. I argue that he can, and examine the extent to which Cudworth manages to improve upon the form of libertarianism that he rejects.

Tuesday, April 23, 2:30 - 4:30 p.m.

William Child (University of Oxford)

"Meaning, Use, and Supervenience"

Fall 2018 Talks

Sept 21: Nomy Arpaly (Brown) “Deliberation and Fetish”

Oct 19: C. Thi Nguyen (Utah Valley) “Games and Autonomy”

Oct 26: Lori Gruen (Wesleyan) “Challenging Disposability”

Nov 23: Daniel Silvermint (UConn) “Costly Bodies in an Ill-Fitting World”

Winter 2018 Talks

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Denis Buehler (University of Antwerp)

"Guidance of Visual Attention"

Friday, January 26, 2018

Kevin Lande (University of California, Los Angeles) "The Spatial Commitments of Perceptual Structure"

Monday, January 29, 2018

Ben Phillips (University of the Pacific) "Visual Perspective Taking and Gaze Perception"

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Jona Vance (Northern Arizona University) "Visual Precision and Representation"

Friday, February 2, 2018

Peter Epstein (Cambridge University), "A Priori Concepts in Spatial Experience"

Friday, March 9, 2018  (Talk cancelled due to the strike)

Vitaly Kiryushchenko (York University), "Signs, Maps, and Diagrams: Charles Sanders Peirce on Science, Virtuality, and Character"

Friday, March 23

Adam Pautz (Brown University), "Are Sensory Qualities in the Head or in the World?"

Friday, April 6

Daniela Dover (UCLA), "Conversation and Self-Constitution"

Fall 2017 Talks

Friday, Sept 22, 2017
Ron Mallon (Washington University, St Louis)
"Accumulation Mechanisms and the Construction of Social Kinds"

Abstract: I distinguish something I call an accumulation mechanism, a
mechanism that marks, aggregates, and amplifies past events of
classification and discrimination, has an important role to play in (a)
explaining the relevance of of certain psychological literatures
concerning the psychology of category-based discrimination, and (b)
justifying constructionist accounts of categories. On such a
constructionist account, accumulation mechanisms partially constitute
kinds that are produced by (initially mistaken) attempts at labeling them.

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017
Peter Langland-Hassan (University of Cincinnati)
"Attitude Agnosticism"

Abstract: Philosophers have discovered a surprising number of new mental states in recent years.  These include alief (Gendler, 2008), i-desire (Doggett & Egan, 2007, 2012), acceptance (Cohen, 1992; Bratman, 1992), religious credence (Van Leeuwen, 2015), belief/imagination mongrels (Schellenberg, 2013), and others.  A kind of gold rush is underway.  But it is not always clear how to understand the ontological implications of these discoveries.  Are we to view such states as discrete elements of an underlying cognitive architecture?  Or are they better understood as pithy restatements of folk psychological platitudes?  I argue that the latter is the case for the vast majority of these states, in contrast to what their proponents claim.  I then make a case for attitude agnosticism—the view that our current empirical evidence offers no reliable guide to the number of cognitive attitudes there may or may not be.  This view is motivated, in part, by reflection on the important role dissociations play in ontological disputes in other areas of cognitive science.

Friday, Oct 13, 2017
Laura Franklin-Hall (New York University)
"Why Are Some Kinds Historical, and Others Not?"

Abstract: One important fruit of the scientific project—arguably second
only to the formulation of dynamic theories—is the principled
organization of our universe’s constituents into categories and kinds.
Such groupings come in two principal flavors: historical and synchronic.
Historical categories group entities by their relationships to past
events, as when an organism’s species is a function of the population
from which it descended. By contrast, synchronic categories make group
membership depend exclusively on current features of the universe,
whether these are intrinsic or extrinsic to the things categorized. This
talk explores just why scientists deploy historical categories when they
do, and synchronic ones otherwise. After reviewing a number of examples,
I formulate a principle designed to both describe and explain this
feature of our scientific classificatory practice. According to this
proposal, a domain is apt for historical classifications just when the
probability of the independent emergence of similar entities (PIES) in
that domain is very low. In addition to rationalizing this principle and
showing its ability to correctly account for classification practices
across the natural and social sciences, I will consider the nature of
the probabilities that are at its core.

Friday, Oct 20, 2017
John Doris (Washington University, St Louis)
"Talking to Our Selves: Reflection, Ignorance, and Agency"

Abstract: Does it make sense for people to hold one another responsible
for what they do, as happens in countless social interactions every day?
One of the most unsettling lessons from recent psychological research is
that people are routinely mistaken about the origins of their behavior.
Yet philosophical orthodoxy holds that the exercise of morally
responsible agency typically requires accurate self-awareness. If the
orthodoxy is right, and the psychology is to be believed, people
characteristically fail to meet the standards of morally responsible
agency, and we are faced with the possibility of skepticism about
agency. Unlike many philosophers, I accept the unsettling lesson from
psychology. I insist, however, that we are not driven to skepticism.
Instead, we should reject the requirement of accurate self-awareness for
morally responsible agency. In Talking to Our Selves I develop a
dialogic theory, where the exercise of morally responsible agency
emerges through a collaborative conversational process by which human
beings, although afflicted with a remarkable degree of self-ignorance,
are able to realize their values in their lives.

Thursday, Oct 26 and Friday, Oct 27
Workshop on Normative Folk Psychology: Tad Zawidzki (George Washington University), Raymond Mar (York), Victoria McGeer (Princeton, ANU), Kristin Andrews (York), Shannon Spaulding (Oklahoma), Heidi Maibom (Cincinnati)

Friday, Nov 10, 2017
Ishani Maitra (University of Michigan)

"Lying and Deception: A Happy Marriage"

Abstract: What is it to tell a lie? There’s a long history, going back at least to Augustine, of taking lying to involve an intention to deceive. More recently, that tradition has been challenged by several classes of counterexamples, such as bald-faced lies and coerced lies. In this talk, I defend the intent-to-deceive tradition against some of these challenges.

Friday, Nov 17, 2017
Sandford Goldberg (Northwestern University)
"Value-Reflecting Reasons"

Abstract: It has been alleged that the demands of friendship conflict with the norms of epistemology – in particular, that there are cases in which the moral demands of friendship would require one to give a friend the benefit of the doubt, and thereby come to believe something in violation of ordinary epistemic standards on justified or responsible belief (Baker 1987, Keller 2004, Stroud 2006, and Hazlett 2013). While it appears that moral considerations deriving from friendship can put pressure on one to be epistemically partial to one’s friends, I argue that appearances are deceiving. The burden of this paper is to defend this contention and to explain these appearances away. I do so by appeal to a kind of reason that has been insufficiently appreciated in the literature on this topic: value-reflecting reasons. I contend that the impression of epistemic partiality in friendship dissipates once we acknowledge this category of reasons.

January 20, Michael Hannon, Queen’s University
"What's the Point of Understanding?"


What is human understanding and why should we care about it? I propose a method of philosophical investigation called 'function-first epistemology' and use this method to investigate the nature and value of understanding. I argue that the concept of understanding serves the practical function of identifying good explainers, which is an important role in the general economy of our concepts.
This hypothesis sheds light on a variety of issues in the epistemology of understanding, including the role of explanation in understanding, the relationship between understanding and knowledge, and the value of understanding. I argue that understanding is valuable and yet knowledge plays a more important role in our epistemic life.

Wednesday, Jan 25, at 2:30 pm in Ross S 421, Shyam Ranganathan (York University)
Interpretation vs. Explication; Truth vs. Objectivity


It is commonly assumed that philosophers can engage in investigations when the topic of investigation is within the cultural tradition of the scholar and that the moment we venture past this, we must pass off the study of alien philosophy to social scientists, such as scholars of religion, linguists or philologists, who are expert in the alien tradition. This seems to be an entirely different scruple from skeptical worries about the objectivity of philosophy in general, and the objectivity of moral theory in particular. However, if philosophy and its various fields, such as theoretical ethics, are objective, then philosophy should straightforwardly facilitate the study of philosophy regardless of its cultural origin for the object would be the same regardless of cultural origins: philosophy. In this talk I make a case for the objectivity of philosophy as something that treats the study of philosophy as continuous with the study of philosophy from diverse traditions. I argue that the failure to prioritize objectivity over truth in the study of philosophy leads to skeptical worries, but also to the depiction of alien thought as mysterious, arcane and religious. The prioritization of truth over objectivity in the study of philosophy is irrational.

February 3, Anandi Hattiangadi, Stockholm University
"Is  Intentionality Determined by Phenomenology?"


Intentionality is the capacity to represent something in some way; it essentially involves the instantiation of semantic properties, such as meaning, reference, truth or content. One of the central issues in the philosophical study of intentionality is this: what makes it the case that an arbitrary representation has the semantic properties that it does rather than some other semantic properties or none at all? The question asks for the metaphysical foundations or grounds of intentionality, it asks what constitutes intentionality, what determines the semantic facts.

This paper explores the limitations of an approach to this issue that has recently been gaining in popularity: Phenomenalism, according to which intentionality is ultimately determined by phenomenology-the 'what it is like' of conscious mental life. I will present a challenge to Phenomenalism, and argue that intentionality is not grounded in phenomenology.

March 3, Dorit Bar-On, University of Connecticut
"Crude Meaning, Brute Thought (Or: What Are They Thinking?!)"


Can there be thought before language? Two influential philosophers – Paul Grice and Donald Davidson – have famously endorsed conflicting theses on this matter, despite sharing a broadly rationalist perspective on the relation between thought and language. Roughly, for Grice, thought of an especially complex sort is a precondition of linguistic meaning, whereas for Davidson, there can be no thought without language. I argue that, transposed into an evolutionary key, both views present us with unpalatable alternatives concerning the natural origins of objective thought and meaningful language. I use insights from Grice and Davidson to lay out some broad desiderata for a viable intermediate position on the relation between language and thought, indicating why several extant anti-rationalist proposals fail to meet these desiderata. In the final section, I turn to certain forms of nonlinguistic communication of which both prelinguistic children and languageless animals are capable – viz., expressive communication. I propose that a proper appreciation of the character and function of expressive communication can help us mark the contours of the relevant space for the desired intermediate position.

March 10, Alex Miller, University of Otago
"Rule-Following Quietism"


In "Inside and Outside Language: Stroud's Nonreductionism about Meaning” (2011), "Primitive Normativity and Skepticism about Rules" (2011) and "Meaning, Understanding and Normativity" (2012), Hannah Ginsborg develops what she describes as a "partially reductionist" account of meaning. Ginsborg's account is intended as a middle-ground alternative to non-reductionism about meaning and the kind of reductive dispositionalism attacked in Kripke's Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. In this paper I will attempt a critical evaluation of Ginsborg's fascinating proposal.

March 31, Charles Siewert, Rice University
"Consciousness and Self-Expression"


I propose a way of introducing the notion of consciousness (and "phenomenal character") via an interpretation of "what-it’s-likeness." I maintain this helps clarify what consciousness is, and helps us to address questions about it without assuming what should be initially left open. My interpretation turns on the idea that the possession of some features is suited for an essentially subjective type of understanding or curiosity. Features that have this status non-derivatively are phenomenal features—and their instances are states of consciousness, or subjective experiences.

Against this background I consider disputes about how "cognitively rich" the phenomenal character of experience is. Is conceptual understanding included in the phenomenal character of the experience we have in comprehending speech? One’s answer can have significant consequences. It can bear on views about the explanation of consciousness, its epistemic role, its place in our values, and how it figures in the mind generally. Tye and Wright have proposed an argument for a negative response to this foundational question (and against "cognitive phenomenology"), in support of a theory that would explain consciousness as a special form of non-conceptual representation. I argue that their case depends on questionable assumptions about the way thought and experience occur in time. An alternative view of the temporality of thought is favored by considering the experience of spontaneous self-expression. This also supports an "inclusive" view—conceptual understanding is not to be stripped from the subjective character of our experience. Experience is, in this sense, cognitively rich.

All talks will be held from 3.30–5.30 pm in Ross Building S421.

Johann Frick (Princeton), "Conditional Reasons and the Procreation Asymmetry"

Friday, October 7, 3:30-5:30 pm in Ross S 421

Sharon Street (NYU), "Meditation, Metaethics, and the View from Everywhere"

Friday, October 14, 3:30-5:30 pm in Ross S 421

Paul Katsafanas (Boston), "Fanaticism and Sacred Values"

Friday, November 4, 3:30 - 5:30 in S421 Ross

Krister Bykvist (Stockholm), "Values, Norms, and Changing Attitudes"

Friday, November 11, 3:30 - 5:30 in S421 Ross

Friday, September 25, 2015, 3:30 - 5:30 p.m., 010 Vanier College, Senior Common Room
Barry Stroud, Univesity Of California At Berkeley
"Davidson And Wittgenstein On Meaning And Understanding"

Friday, October 9, 3:30-5:30, S421 Ross Building
Victor Kumar, University of Toronto
"Empirical Vindication of Moral Luck"

Friday, November 6, 3:30-5:30, S421 Ross Building
Stephen Yablo, MIT
"How (not) to Derive an Is from an Ought"

Friday, November 13: Full day symposium (in S421 Ross)
Title: Beyond Critical Thinking

Catherine Hundleby, University of Windsor
Michael Gilbert, York University
Chris Tindale, University of Windsor
Harvey Siegel, University of Miami

Tuesday, November 17, 4:00-5:30, S421 Ross Building
Wayne Sumner, University of Toronto
"The Worst Things in Life"

Friday, November 27, 3:30-5:30, S421 Ross Building
Julia Nefsky, University of Toronto
"Individual Consumption and Collective Impact"

Wednesday, May 11 at 3:30 pm, in Ross S 421

Regina Rini (New York University), "The Science of Values and the Values of Scientists"

Thursday, May 19 at 3:30 pm, in Ross S 421

Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij (University of Kent, Canterbury), "Procedural Justice and the Problem of Intellectual Deference"

Wednesday, May 25, 3:30-5:30 pm in Ross S 421

Wesley Buckwalter (University of Waterloo), "Epistemic Injustice in Social Cognition"

Monday, June 6, 3:00 pm, in Ross S 421

Kourken Michaelian (University of Otago), "Collective Mental Time Travel: Ontology and Epistemology"

Wednesday, April 6, 3:00-5:00 pm in Ross S 421

Paul Simard Smith (University of Connecticut), "Pluralism As A Bias Mitigation Strategy"

Monday, April 11, 3:00-5:00 pm in Ross S 421

Janelle Derstine (Rutgers University), "Material Object Metaphysics and the Special Composition Question"

Monday, April 18, 3:00-5:00 pm in Ross S 421

Gülberk Koç Maclean (Mount Royal University), "Bertrand Russell's Bundle Theory of Particulars"

Wednesday, June 8, 2:30 pm in Ross S 421

Sarah Vincent (York University), "Death's Harm and the Subject's Life"

Friday, June 10, 2:30 pm in Ross S 421

Alex Manafu (University of Paris-1), "Is the Theory of Everything a Theory of Every Thing?"

Wednesday, September 10, at 3:00 in S421 Ross Building
Otavio Bueno, University of Miami
"What does a mathematical proof really prove?"
(joint session with the Cognitive Science Speaker Series)

Friday, September 12, at 3:30 in S421 Ross Building
Christoph Lumer, University of Siena
"An epistemological approach to argumentation-the practical theory of

Friday, September 19, at 3:30 in S421 Ross Building
Michael Bratman, Stanford Univerity
"Acting and Thinking Together"

Friday, November 7, at 3:30 in S421 Ross Building
Stefan Sciaraffa, McMaster University
"Collectivist Authority: It's Not Personal"

Friday, November 14, at 3:30 in 001 Vanier College, Senior Common Room
David Copp, University of California at Davis
"Normative Concepts; Natural Properties"
(co-sponsored with Vanier College)

Friday, February 6, 3:30-5:30 pm, Ross Building S421*
Ernie Lepore (Rutgers University)
"On the Perspective-Taking and Open-Endedness of Slurring"

Wednesday, March 25, 3:30-5:30 pm, Ross Building S421* CANCELLED

Peter Pagin (Stockholm University)
"Semantic Theory and Linguistic Processing"

Friday, March 2

Workshop: Wittgenstein and Davidson on Mind and Language

William Child (University of Oxford)
Kathrin Glüer (Stockholm University)
Paul Horwich (New York University)
Asa Wikforss (Stockholm University)
Meredith Williams (Johns Hopkins University)

October 4, 2013: Frank Cunningham (University of Toronto)

October 11, 2013: Susan Haack (University of Miami)

November 6, 2013: Rick Benitez (University of Sydney)

November 8, 2013: Harvey Cormier (State University of New York, Stony Brook)

November 15, 2013: Workshop on Intuitions and Reference
Hermann Cappelen (University of St. Andrews)
Daniel Cohnitz (University of Tartu, Estonia)
Imogen Dickie (University of Toronto)
Jussi Haukioja (Norwegian University of Science and Technology)

December 6, 2013: Stephen White (Northwestern University)

January 24, 2014: Jason Bridges ( University Of Chicago)

January 31, 2014:  Robert McCauley (Emory University)

February 12, 2014: Marc Champagne (York University)

March 5, 2014:  Roslyn Weiss (Lehigh University)

March 14, 2014: Slobodan Perovic (University of Pittsburgh/University of Belgrade)

March 28, 2014: Henry Jackman (York University)

September 14, 2012: Kirk Ludwig (Indiana University)

September 19, 2012: John Heil (Washington University, St. Louis)

October 26, 2012: Dan McArthur (York University)

November 16, 2012: Christine Tappolet (University of Montreal)

January 25, 2013: Kerah Gordon-Solmon (Queen's University)

March 6, 2013: Hakob Barseghyan (University of Toronto)

March 22, 2013: Victor Tadros (University of Warwick)

April 5, 2013: Tyler Burge (University of California, Los Angeles)