Fall 2017 Colloquium Series

Talks are held at the Burnaby Campus in room WMC 3510 from 3:30 - 5:00 p.m., unless otherwise indicated.

They are free and open to the public.

Talk titles, abstracts and room info are posted below.

Sept 15:     John Campbell, UC Berkeley
Sept 22:     Karen Detlefsen, Penn 
Sept 26:     Jacqui Broad, Monash University (note: 4:30pm in room AQ 6106
Oct 6 :        Anjan Chakravartty, Notre Dame 
Oct 27 :     Alex Guerrero, Rutgers 


Friday, September 15 :: WMC 3510
John Campbell (UC Berkeley): The Mind-Body Problem in Psychiatry

This paper proposes a way of reframing the mind-body problem.  Insofar as it is explicitly formulated, the mind-body problem is usually thought of in terms of some belief in the unity and comprehensiveness of science:  the idea is that mentalistic phenomena must be covered by science, and that science must be thought of as unified. Then the main options are thought to be some kind of physicalist reduction of the mental, or some (e.g. panpsychist) expansion of fundamental science to accommodate the mental.
When it’s set up in this way, the mind-body problem faces some obvious lines of dismissal.  One is to say that the mental is not properly thought of as an object of scientific study at all.  The other is to say that there can be no a priori presumption of the unity of science; perhaps science is pluralistic, even if there are sciences of the mind.
These ways of framing the mind-body problem and the lead responses to it seem to me to miss the inescapable problem:  what to make of mind-body causation.  We know how to interpret talk about physical causation of the mental, or mental causation of the physical, in terms counterfactuals about what would have happened under interventions.  But we also seem to need a conception of cause in terms of processes and mechanisms. And while we can make sense of the idea of specifically mental processes, and we can make sense of idea of specifically physical processes, we have no way of explaining what might be meant by physical-mental causal processes.
This issue comes up anyway, but it comes up with particular force in psychiatry, where we need to be able to talk in terms of physical-mental causal processes.  And the problem is not addressed by either panpsychist dualism or reductionist identities. We need a third way of thinking about causal processes.

Friday, September 22 :: WMC 3510
Karen Detlefsen (Penn): Emilie Du Châtelet on Methodology in Natural Philosophy

A number of entries in Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers are replicated virtually verbatim from Emilie Du Châtelet’s works. Perhaps most famous among these is the entry on hypotheses. Du Châtelet’s evaluation of the proper nature and role of hypotheses in natural philosophy puts her at odds with many of her contemporaries, especially given the influence of Newtonian thought in eighteenth century France. In this paper, I examine Du Châtelet’s claim that both Cartesians and Newtonians have taken stances toward hypotheses that impede natural philosophy – Cartesians make excessive, and improper use of them while Newtonians wrongly eschew the use of them altogether. Her resulting theory of the proper nature and use of hypotheses is among the first scientifically powerful accounts of hypotheses in the history and philosophy of science.
More information:  https://philosophy.sas.upenn.edu/people/karen-detlefsen

Tuesday, September 26 :: AQ 6106
Jacqueline Broad (Monash University): U
ndoing Bayle’s Scepticism: Astell’s Critique of the Pensées Diverses
Today, historians of philosophy are divided into those who think that the French thinker Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) is a coded atheist, someone whose reasoning ineluctably leads to atheist conclusions, and those who construe Bayle as a fideist, someone who embraces religious beliefs on the basis of faith alone and not reason. Some scholars believe that Bayle will remain an enigma largely because of his Academic Scepticism. Like the ancient sceptics, he uses reason as a negative methodological tool to examine, question, and ultimately annihilate any reason-based position—religious or otherwise. In this paper, I examine English feminist Mary Astell’s unique argumentative strategy against Bayle in a little-known manuscript source: her marginal notes in Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s personal copy of Bayle’s Pensées Diverses (1682). Scholars have long known that Astell (1666-1731) wrote a short diatribe against Bayle in the opening flyleaf of this book. But it is not so well known that the same volume contains hundreds of annotations in Astell’s handwriting, on 160 of 312 printed pages. Taken as a whole, this 7000-word commentary constitutes a lengthy critique of Bayle’s text. In my analysis of this commentary, I show that Astell aims not only to unmask Bayle as an atheist but also to turn his own destructive use of reason against him. More specifically, I demonstrate how Astell uses philosophical argument to ‘undo’ Bayle’s religious scepticism by pointing to at least three different errors in his reasoning: the straw man fallacy, the fallacy of equivocation, and the problem of dialectical self-refutation. The rediscovery of this marginalia is valuable, I maintain, for shedding light on a little-known Anglican response to Bayle in the early modern era, but also for enhancing our appreciation of Astell as an astute philosophical reader of her contemporaries.

Friday, October 6 :: WMC 3510
Anjan Chakravartty (Notre Dame): 
Belief and the Rationality of Scientific Disagreement
Even among those whom we might regard as epistemic peers, scientists often disagree. Some philosophers hold that given some evidence and assuming epistemic peerage, there is only ever one rational option regarding what to believe. One might thus infer that either there is significant irrationality in scientific practice, or the uniqueness thesis is false. I distinguish two cases for thinking about this: relatively transient disagreement (RTD); and relatively intransient disagreement (RID). I suggest that cases of RTD are better characterized in terms of things like contrary hopes, best bets, and heuristic commitments than contrary beliefs per se. In cases of RID, I argue that disagreement does not generally take the form of contrary beliefs but rather contrasts between belief and agnosticism, which point to underlying commitments that are not themselves propositional or evidential but that are nonetheless rational. The upshot is the falseness of uniqueness and the rationality of much scientific disagreement.