2014 Papers and Abstracts

Abstracts and Discussants:

To be a discussant for a paper, email Kaylee at mayka15@suny.oneonta.edu with requested paper. 

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Tyler Adkins

Grand Valley State

Effort Responsibility: A Reply to Robert Kane’s Theory of Freedom

Discussant: none yet

In the discussion of free action, including its existence and its compatibility with casual determinism, libertarianism is the view that affirms that we sometimes perform free actions and denies that an action’s being free is compatible with determinism being (at all times) true  in our world. Generally speaking, libertarians claim that for any action performed by some agent, if that action is free and one for which the agent is morally responsible, then it is not the case that the action’s being performed was necessitated or determined by any antecedent conditions. One prominent objection to libertarianism is that the so called ‘free’ actions are, in virtue of their being undetermined, a result of chance, luck, or randomness, and so are not actions for which the agent is morally responsible (See Kane, 2005, pp. 37-38). This objection has been appropriately dubbed ‘The Luck Objection’. Essentially, proponents of the luck objection assume a sort of incompatibilism concerning free will (action) and indeterminism. Robert Kane develops a libertarian theory of freedom and responsibility that is supposed to handle the luck objection. In this essay I first discuss Kane’s theory and explain how it is supposed to handle the luck objection. Second, I argue that, although Kane’s theory avoids the luck objection, it still fails to give a proper account of moral responsibility for the so called ‘free’ actions involved in his theory. Then, I outline the ways in which Kane might respond to this objection, using parts of his own view. To close, I demonstrate that these ways of response fail to handle my objection.

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Laura Arias

SUNY Oneonta

Feminist Existentialism

Discussant: Taylor Foye

It is a widely known existential idea that humans are always becoming. Even in a patriarchal society for instance, a woman is always becoming. The issue is that in such society, women’s becoming is programmed and conditioned by men. Though becoming in itself is inevitable and natural, this form of becoming is harmful because it encourages restrictive pre-determined essentialist ideologies of what a woman should embody. This piece analyzes the implementation of patriarchy as a means of maintaining a “functioning” society, the harmful effects of patriarchy on women’s personhood, the rejection of essentialism for a more egalitarian social system, and radical feminism as a solution to patriarchy. The essay not only presents the issue of women’s oppression in a patriarchal society but proposes how women can and are detaching themselves from standard female identities inspired by male-dominant societies.

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David Birkdale

Fordham

The Soul. Hylomorphism and Dualism

Discussant: Christopher Mark

In this essay, I examine Thomas Aquinas’s conception of the soul in its relationship to the body as laid out in his Disputed Questions on the Soul and Summa Theologiae against that of Rene Descartes. I begin by examining how their fundamental metaphysics of hylomorphism and dualism, respectively, determine their understandings of the soul-body relationship. I further show how they are in some respects reconcilable, but ultimately opposed due to basic metaphysical distinctions. I then argue that the form-matter distinction avoids the mind-body problem inherent to Descartes’s dualism, and support the concept of the person as unified mind-body subject with arguments David Braine makes about the relationship between the person and larger world.

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Daniel Cattolica

Boston College

For a Phenomenology of Emotion: The Moral and Cognitive Aspects of Epistemic Trust

Discussant: Hope Costa

In discussing the nature and the experience of emotions from a phenomenological point of view, there is a need for a clearer articulation of the relationship between emotion as a mode of “giving” the world through experience and emotion as a cognition, or evaluative judgment, of the world.  Anthony Steinbock contends the basic notion of Husserlian phenomenology that our engagements with the world are affective and based on perception/cognition, claiming that emotions are, in fact, primary to these engagements.  He points to a “distinctive structure of emotions” best exemplified by the emotion of trust, whose basic structure and mode of operation in experience suggest an emotional sphere that is essentially does not hold to the founding-founded relationship that Husserl proposed.  Steinbock’s astounding insight and clarity into the qualitative experience of trust is both elegant and rigorous; it is his particular attention to depth and detail that we demand in the philosophy of human emotion.  While the notion of epistemic trust is ultimately crucial in to a functional understanding of the way trust (and emotion in general) operates on the phenomenological level of human experience, the issue of what constitutes the ability to trust at all, which Steinbock altogether avoids, calls into question whether trust, as experienced in its emotional integrity Steinbock calls for, is truly an original mode of giving and not merely based on some prior, though perhaps latent, cognitive-normative appraisal.  I argue that Steinbock is not quite able to demonstrate a “distinctive structure of emotion” without also holding to emotion as completely non-cognitive, a position that even Steinbock would not be willing to take.  Thus the question still remains how trust has its own cognitive style, if it does at all.

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Jason Cline

SUNY Fredonia

Dehorning the Threat of the Subject Perspective Objection against Weak Internalism

Discussant: Tyler Adkins

In this essay I object to Michael Bergmann’s argument in his paper “Phenomenal Conservatism and the Dilemma for Internalism”. Internalism is divided into two forms, strong and weak. Bergmann proposes two objections to Strong and Weak Internalism and argues that Phenomenal Conservatism falls short, failing to protect Internalism against his “two horned dilemma”. I argue against his attacks on Weak Internalism. Bergmann asserts Subject Perspective Objection, originally an argument against Externalism, is also an issue for Weak Internalism and is unprotected by Phenomenal Conservatism. I argue that Bergmann’s objections are ineffective attacks on Internalism and Subject Perspective Objection (SPO) is no threat for Weak Internal Phenomenal Conservatism. I show that his objections are ineffective because he fails to create legitimate objections that attack Phenomenal Conservatism. I then show the ineffectiveness of his SPO objection based on Internalist beliefs about justifying mental states. I conclude that Weak Internal Phenomenal Conservatism, by definition, is incapable of falling victim to SPO and the connection between a seeming and belief does not need to be known for one to be justified in a belief. Finally, I express Phenomenal Conservatism as the best available option for justifying Internalism and beliefs.

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Daniel Dillman

SUNY Oneonta

Barthean Perspectivism: The Problem of Peirce in Eco’s Theory of Semiotics

Discussant: Meaghan Haugaard

The role of Roland Barthes in terms of semiotics presents theory with a double agenda.  On one hand, Barthes uses his version of semiotics to understand the cultural constructs of his day from a unique, neo-Marxist perspective.  On the other, Barthes uses semiotics to critique the ideological formation called Myth Today.

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Mackenzie Foster

Belmont

An Odd, Odd Place To Be

Discussant: Christine Mazzola

This paper seeks to explore music as a way to express the inexpressible. Specifically, musician Holley Maher’s song entitled “Odd Place to Be” is used to illustrate what Jean-François Lyotard describes as the inexpressible: a “differend.” A differend is essentially an argument between at least two parties that lacks a rule of judgment that can be equally applied to both parties; thus, it is an argument that cannot be resolved. Maher’s song, through its lyrics, musical composition, and scatting, reveals key features of a differend and demonstrates what must be done upon confrontation with the inexpressible.

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Tylor Foye

Mercyhurst

Rogue Ethics of Just War Conduct

Discussant: Camera Walrond

In this essay I use the large scale military campaigns of the United States during WWI and WWII as a backdrop for 20th century just war conduct. After tracing the moral slide that occurred from WWI’s naval blockade of Germany to Nagasaki, which was wrought by military drift, I identify 20th centuries’ just war conduct moral failure not to be solely with large scale civilian killing. Rather the moral failure of the 20th century happened because of a stigma regarding civilians. In prior centuries the principle of civilian immunity acted to guard lay society, but during the 20th the principle was forgotten. Therefore, I distinguish between active and passive civilians to combat this stigma. Furthermore, I suggest avenues to mitigate indiscriminate wars in the 21st century. This essay is heavily influenced by, ethical philosopher, Jonathan Glover’s Humanity: A Moral History of the 20th Century, and can be read as an extension of his work.

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Jason Goldfarb

SUNY Binghamton

Lacanian Desire and Abortion

Discussant: Robert Tracey

The right to life is not absolute. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, it is unreasonable to think that every time we wash our hands and kill millions of cells, we are responsible for genocide. It is, likewise, unreasonable to argue that it is acceptable to kill three-year-old babies. The task is to locate an area in-between these two extremes. Thus, the relevant moral question regarding abortion, is not whether the fetus has a right to life, but rather, why and when should we respect a right to life in the first place.

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Austin Heath

Hamilton College

Mathematical Infinity and the Presocratic Apeiron

Discussant: Daniel Pinto

The ἄπειρον or apeiron, a recurring theme in the history of Greek philosophy, is first mentioned in fragments of Anaximander, whose abstract characterization of the word has been the source of some contention in Presocratic scholarship. Ostensibly, the word is taken to mean “unbounded”, “unlimited” or “unfinished” and, in accordance with the variety of translations, the word is put to a variety of uses within the interpretation of its function in Presocratic philosophy. In its earliest observable form, the word appears in context of cosmogony, but it is clear that since its historical origin, the Unbounded has played many philosophic roles – as a divine progenitor, a fundamental substance, or a quantitative entity, to name a few – for many different philosophers in the progression of Greek thought. As such, this paper will focus on an examination of several different uses of the Unbounded in Presocratic philosophy, albeit through the unusual lens of the modern mathematical infinite, as delineated within set theory.

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Tyler Lutz

Chicago University

Objective Values

Discussant: none yet

Abstract: John Mackie cites the existence of profound differences in ethical commitments and behavior between individuals and societies as motivating the idea that moral values—informally, things like goodness or evil—cannot be fully objective features of reality and hence cannot be objects of knowledge. This paper refutes Mackie’s claim by considering a particular class of candidate values which, despite being fully objective, would still be consistent with observed moral differences and disagreements. In particular, we contend that Mackie’s argument is only convincing for an unrealistically narrow set of objective values, namely objective values which act over what we will call objective concepts: it has no force whatsoever to deny the existence of objective moral values acting over subjective concepts. Indeed, we argue on the contrary that the latter type of possible objective values offers a compelling means of accounting for the observed prevalence of moral disagreement.

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Blake Miller

University of Hawaii

Truth and Aesthetics: An Anti-realist Approach

Discussant: none yet

To find a connection between truth and beauty, we start by looking at how to determine the truth-value of the statement ‘X is φ,’ where X is a work of art and φ is an aesthetic characterization. Aesthetic realism, which Philip Pettit argues for, is the view that the truth-value of this sort of statement is either strictly true or strictly false. I argue against Pettit and aesthetic realism since there is no fully objective truth-value to such a statement; an aesthetic characterization is dependent on a viewer’s reaction and interpretation to the work. Thus we must adopt the view of aesthetic relativism. Concrete examples of aesthetic characterizations that provide problems for aesthetic realism include “well-made” and “creative”, both stemming from something other than the objective aspects of a work of art. By understanding that aesthetic characterizations are essentially perceptual and perceptually elusive, we can take a deeper look at how interpretation, perspective, and perception all affect the statement ‘X is φ.’ Through this exploration, we find that the perception of a work is altered depending on the individual, and that interpretations may change. Therefore, we cannot assign a straightforward truth-value to the statement ‘X is φ,’ and we take on the viewpoint of aesthetic relativism.

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Benjamin Markley

Boston College

Toward a Christian Refutation of Unconditional Antinatalism 

Discussant:  Noah Johanneson

Unconditional antinatalism, most recently advocated by David Benatar in Better Never to Have Been, proposes that coming into existence is always a harm. Consequently, Benatar declares procreation an unethical act. After laying out Benatar’s theory and some potential Christian responses to it, I mean to show that the Christian tradition can properly refute this theory by employing what I call the eschatological compensation argument. After establishing a reasonable preference for conscious existence over non-existence, I argue that Benatar’s central concepts of “harm” and “advantage” are superficial. UsingBenatar’s principle of asymmetry, I proceed to argue for an eschatological perspective, tracing the thought of the Apostle Paul and Boethius, that shows earthly harm to be superficial and bearable in light of the infinite goodness of heavenly afterlife.

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Daniel Pinto

Potsdam

Black and O’Leary-Hawthorne: Bundle Theory of Substance and the Identity of Indiscernibles

Discussant: none yet

In this paper I explore Max Black’s counter-example and John
O’Leary-Hawthorne’s defense of Leibnitz’s Identity of Indisceibles. The
Identity of Indiscernibles states that sameness of property entails
sameness of thing. Differently put, it is impossible for two distinct
objects to have all the same properties. If two objects have all the same
properties, down to the property of occupying the same space, it is
impossible for there to be two objects at all. Max Black draws this law
into question. His counter-example involves two numerically distinct but
qualitatively identical metal spheres in the center of a symmetrical
universe. Black claims to construct a counter-example where two objects
have all the same properties but are not the same thing, and thus provides
a seeming counter-example to the Identity of Indiscernibles. This can be
taken as a devastating blow to the bundle theorist because they are
usually seen as committed to the Identity of Indiscernibles. John
O’Leary-Hawthorne defends the Identity of Indiscernibles in the context of
Black’s counter-example by an appeal to the bundle theory of substance and
an immanent conception of universals. O’Leary Hawthorne proposes that
there are not two spheres in Black’s counter-example—Black really gives an
account of one bundle of universals is in an exact relation to itself.
Both positions are evaluated, and it is deemed that O’Leary Hawthorne’s
response does not provide an adequate dissolution of Black’s
counter-example.

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Charles Rutter

DePaul

Foucault- Transgression to Confession: Language, Limits, and Sexuality from “Preface to Transgression” to The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction

Discussant: Lynn Golan

In the text The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction Michel Foucault makes several claims regarding the nature of power and the way in which subjects are produced, performing a genealogical account of the role that sexuality has in the process of the reification and reproduction of the structures that produce the subjects as such. The text seems incomplete without finding answers to the questions; why sexuality? What allows for the structures that produce discourse (including “silences”) on sexuality to function in a way that covers over their very existence? In this instance there is a thread of continuity that exists between this later work after Foucault has taken up the issue of power and an earlier text in which Foucault takes up the same problem (sexuality) but abstracted and only in terms of theoretical examinations of the nature of sexuality. The text in question, “Preface to Transgression” on the author Georges Bataille, offers the opportunity to answer the questions left from The History of Sexuality and helps attain a more complete understanding of both texts as well as Foucault’s broader project as a whole.

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Chad Shipman

Hartwick

Faith-Based Belief-Forming Mechanisms and Cognitive Efficiency: A Response to Armin Schulz

Discussant: none yet

In his paper “The adaptive importance of cognitive efficiency” Armin Schulz concludes that humans have evolved to have beliefs and desires rather than just reflexes due to the former being more cognitively efficient.  The reasons for this are that beliefs and desires allow decisions to be made faster and with less errors, as well as to save cognitive and energetic resources. However, in his paper Schulz does not consider the various belief-forming mechanisms (such as a faith-based belief-forming mechanism and an empirical-based belief-forming mechanism) that are available to humans, and how these mechanisms may affect cognitive efficiency according to that model.  In this paper I will argue that the role belief-forming mechanisms have in Schulz’s model are crucial to his conclusion that people have belief/desire architecture due to them being more cognitively efficient.

To do this I will explicate Schulz’s paper, including his explanation of the question he aims to answer (namely: why do we have beliefs and desires) as well as his understanding of the standard account of that question. In section II, I will use memetics to help explain how a faith-based belief-forming mechanism would fit into his alternative account.  This will illustrate, in section III, how beliefs acquired in this way, specifically religious beliefs, ultimately inhibit cognition rather than make cognition more efficient, particularly when cognitive dissonance takes place.  Lastly, in section IV I will examine the consequences this may have on either Schulz’s conclusion and/or how we understand religious beliefs. Section V is the conclusion to this paper.

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Daniel Silliman

From Mirroring to Merging: The Power and Pitfalls of a New Identity-Theory of Truth

University of Hawaii

Discussant: Daniel Dillman

The following paper seeks to investigate and discuss the primary features of the correspondence theory of truth, as well as some of the more general problems commonly associated with the theory.  To this end, a brief discussion of the necessary parts of traditional correspondence theory (truth bearer, truth maker, etc.), as well as an example from one Dr. Bertrand Russell are used to illustrate said points. The primary critiques are addressed via the philosopher Gottlob Frege.  The paper ends with a discussion of contemporary identity theory with conjecture as to how this nascent theory might be able to overcome some of the same problems which correspondence theory faces.  There are, as it turns out, a few problems unique to the identity theory.

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Corey Steiner

Boston College

Mood and Emotional Response to Heidegger’s Thrownness

Discussant: Charles Rutter

The German term Stimmung, literally translated as Being-attuned, is used in Heidegger’s Being and Time to represent the concept of having or being in a mood. In Heidegger’s argument, human beings (Dasein) always and necessarily experience moods as a reaction to their presence in the world. The fact that Dasein is thrown into the world, experiencing “thrownness”, creates a constantly present and ever-changing emotional response which is ontologically prior to cognitive thought. Through a different lens, Sartre echoes Heidegger’s sentiment of the emotional captivity of consciousness as a necessary condition for human experience in his discussion of psychology in Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions. Both philosophers signify the potential for development in the field of psychology after the indoctrination of a phenomenological theory. Heidegger furthers the discussion of the ontology of emotion through his analysis of anxiety as Dasein’s attempt to flee from itself in section 40 of Being and Time. Anxiety stems from the indefinite nature of being in the world and a sense of being which is “not-at-home”. Like moods in general, anxiety is an essential characteristic for humans in a primordial sense which preconditions our state of “Being-there”.

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Robert Tracey

Hartwick College

Nietzsche’s Love of Fate and Eternal Return: The Impossible Ideal, or the Key to Life?

Discussant: Laura Arias

Sometimes life can simply suck. Despite countless hours of preparation, things do not always turn out as we would like them too. Some claim that this is ‘coincidence’, while others say it is ‘bad luck’. Nietzsche asserts it is not luck, or coincidence; instead he claims that it is fate. We are all destined to accomplish and fail in life (Ulfers and Cohen, 2007). Life is comprised of both good and bad experiences. Throughout life we experience happiness and sadness, joy and despair, prosperity and suffering.  Nietzsche’s theory of amor fati, which means love of fate, claims that we should embrace our fate, because we will experience it again and again in the eternal return forever (Ulfers and Cohen, 2007). However, what happens if our fate leads to something painful or bad? Do we have the power to change our fate? Do we love our fate, out of necessity because we are powerless to change it? Is it possible to reach self actualization, and accept Nietzsche’s eternal return without the conceptions of amor fati?

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Katrina Vega

Ithaca College

ADHD

Discussant: Doug Goldberg

In recent decades, the controversy surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children has become a widely debated and hotly contested issue, not only within the field of psychology, but also within philosophy. This is in large part due to the staggering increase in the number of children in the United States who are receiving not only psychiatric diagnoses but also pharmaceutical treatments for mental disorders such as ADHD. Although the diagnosis of ADHD does at least in part appear to have an objective and scientific component, as a result of its standardized description within the DSM, its diagnosis and treatment nevertheless retain subjective and value-laden components.

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Marlena Wescott

Richard Stockton NJ

Adorno’s Application of Freud: Contemporary Politics and Women

Discussant: Devin Williamson

In this paper, I will give a foundation of Freudian theory. Specifically, I will give an expository explanation of Freudian concepts that pertain to this paper. I will specifically discuss the id, ego, super-ego, the Oedipus complex, and the image of the father. I will then discuss Adorno’s article “Freudian Theory and the Pattern of Fascist Propaganda”. I will specifically focus on the construction of the masses and the construction of the leader. After I analyze the article, I will use Adorno and Freud to discuss contemporary politics. I discuss the masses libidinal and narcissistic relationship with the leader. I also discuss how the leader is constructed in contemporary politics. I will discuss how both Adorno and Freud’s concepts can be applied to discuss the construction of the masses and political leaders today. At the end of the paper, I analyze how or if women are affected by the construction of the masses and contemporary political leaders.

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Devin Williamson

SUNY Oneonta

The Ethics of Happiness

Discussant: Kaylee May

if one were to adapt a philosophy of Internal and External happiness, one could be able to live a fulfilling life. In living a life like this, I believe one’s life can be better enjoyed. Just go out and try something new; do something once a week and see how good it makes you feel. Have a favorite meal every Friday; have a movie night every other weekend; go try skydiving! There are plenty of things you can do to increase happiness. Only please make sure that you are happy with yourself before you spread the wealth. If you can be at peace with yourself, then you can also spread it to the outside too.

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