LEM Forum Spring Programme 2017

Monday 23 January 2017

LEM ─ Logic, Epistemology & Metaphysics Forum

Spring 2017 Programme

Tuesday 31/01

Antony Eagle (University of Adelaide)

Title: Regionalism and Physical Qualities

Abstract: By ‘physical qualities’, I include such things as mass, shape, and charge, as well as the more exotic properties describe by contemporary physics. Regionalism is the thesis that every physical quality just is a property of a region of spacetime. I will clarify regionalism, and offer some arguments in its favour, both from physics and metaphysics.

Tuesday 28/02

Marie Guillot (UCL)

Title: What kind of phenomenal concept might the self-concept be?

Abstract: The concept of self is the concept each subject uses when she thinks of herself as herself. In accounting for the way that this concept works, a number of authors (including, but not only, Castañeda, Kapitan, Bermúdez, O’Brien) rely on the idea that subjects have a basic experience of self, and that the self-concept is rooted in this experience. However, these writers differ on several key points, including the nature of the relevant self-experience, the mechanism through which the self-concept is grounded in this experience, and the strength of the dependence of the concept on the experience.

In this paper, I propose that the framework of phenomenal concepts, made familiar by discussions of ordinary perceptual experiences, can be a helpful tool to disentangle different possible dependence claims, and to clarify and compare the options. I end by tentatively proposing one interpretation of the phenomenal-concept model which might fit the self-concept. Along the way, I discuss the extent to which the approach can shed light on the semantic and epistemological features traditionally associated with the use of the self-concept.

Tuesday 14/03

Ghislain Guigon (University of Geneva)

Title: Structural Parsimony

Abstract:  Many metaphysicians often appeal to Hume’s dictum (HD), according to which there are no necessary connections between distinct entities (or states of entities), in order to resist theories that commit us to such connections. Some have argued that HD is an unsupported dogma of metaphysics. But theories that commit us to necessary connections between distinct goings-on can also be resisted by invoking a normative twist on HD, which I call the Humean Solvent (HS): “Do not connect distinct entities (or states of entities) beyond necessity”. HS is a principle of structural parsimony – assuming that a theory is structurally more parsimonious than another when the latter is committed to a more connected ontology than the former is. Just as Ockham’s ‘razor’ encourages us to cut down superfluous ontological commitments, the Humean ‘solvent’ encourages us to dissolve dispensable metaphysical glue: we ought not to glue elements of our ontology beyond necessity. HS has both a qualitative and a quantitative dimension: qualitatively, it encourages us to avoid using metaphysical glues that are unnecessarily strong, the strongest of which being metaphysically necessary connections; quantitatively, it encourages us not to metaphysically glue things that need no gluing. Thus, given HS, other things being equal, what is worst is a theory that entails that everything is metaphysically necessarily connected to anything else and what is best is a theory that leaves all things loose and separable. In this paper, I will first compare HD and HS as grounds for paradigmatic Humean doctrines in contemporary metaphysics, then I will argue that structural parsimony is neither a variety of ontological nor of ideological parsimony; finally, I will offer an argument for HS. 

Tuesday 15/03 (MOVED FROM 07/03

Joshua Armstrong (UCLA)

Title: The Evolution of Non-Natural Meaning

Abstract: In the talk, I will present an evolutionary challenge to a Gricean perspective on meaning and interpersonal communication. This evolutionary challenge, as I shall develop it, turns on both
comparative data on animal communication systems and on the kinds of selective pressures that would drive a population of agents to be capable of SPEAKER MEANING.  In the first half of the talk, I argue that this challenge is serious—affecting Grice’s original 1957 position, as well as subsequent refinements on Grice’s ideas such as the Relevance Theoretic framework and the pragmatic framework of Robert Stalnaker. In the second half of the talk, I argue that the challenge is nonetheless surmountable. In particular, I develop a perspective on meaning and communication that centers on a primitive socio-cognitive relation that I call EPRESENTATIONAL COORDINATION, and I outline how this socio-cognitive relation can play the requisite roles in our understanding of the evolution of meaning and interpersonal communication.