2012 Abstracts

Alexander Ades

University of Miami

Redefining the Political in Political Liberalism

Abstract: The political liberalism of John Rawls, in an attempt to reconcile “the fact of pluralism” with the exigencies of liberal principles, places a premium on the notion of an overlapping consensus. I argue that this consensual model of politics underestimates the element of conflict inherent in the concept of pluralism, and therefore serves to undermine political liberalism, most notably in its struggle to incorporate citizens who subscribe to religious comprehensive doctrines. By formalizing the incompatibilities between these unique comprehensive views and political liberalism, and then illustrating them with an examination of the contested issue of same-sex marriage, I seek to demonstrate how Rawls’ view of the “special domain of the political” contains a latent tendency to exclude religious views, but is ultimately insufficient to garner the proper degree of stability required of a political conception of justice. Instead, I propose a redefinition of the political that retrieves the conflictual quality of liberal democratic politics and proscribes all interactions between religious comprehensive doctrines and political values. With such doctrines’ incompatibility with liberal principles serving as the grounds for their exclusion from an overlapping consensus, this approach preserves the fundamentals of political liberalism while defusing the threat that religion poses to the stability of its political conception of justice.

Cory Adkins
Duke University

Skepticism, Engagement and Detachment in the Zhuangzi

Abstract: Skepticism, Engagement and Detachment in the Zhuangzi
The aim of this paper is to provide an interpretation of the Zhuangzi that shows how three mutually undermining movements in the text — a three-way emphasis on expansive skepticism, on skillful engagement with the world, and on detachment from our perspectives and even ouridentities — in fact cohere with each other and elucidate the Zhuangzi’sbroader meaning.First, I provide a reading of the Zhuangzi that establishes a set of interpretative constraints that any good interpretation of the text must satisfy. Then, I provide an overview of David Wong’s interpretation of Zhuangzi as an “interrogative skeptic” and show how this position can be extended to fit the interpretative constraints I lay out. Then, I defend the position against two possible criticisms: that interrogative skepticism can undermine itself, and that interrogative skepticism is not psychologically plausible.

Danny Caputi
SUNY Stony Brook

The Extraordinary Nature of Consciousness

Abstract: The fact that we find ourselves in existence is astonishing.  Facing the mystery of conscious experience is a nauseating task, because it is hard to imagine how matter and energy can possibly arrange itself into forming a fixed identity pole that remains with us from birth to death.  In this paper, I make a case that consciousness will require new physical laws to be fully understood.  I point out that the hypothesis that consciousness is purely an emergent property of brain activity is very weak when faced with key points about what we know of the “self.”  With a mathematical analysis of what it means to have an identity pole, I speculate on where and how we may be able to someday solve the mystery of consciousness.

Christina Ceballos
Yale University

The Role of the Victim in Lies and Deception

Abstract: In this paper, I will discuss the role of a victim of a lie or of a deception. In the literature on lies and deception, it is a commonly-held assumption that the victim of a lie and the victim of a deception play very different roles and thus shoulder different degrees of responsibility. Jonathan Adler explicitly refers to this distinction in his paper, “Lying, deceiving, or falsely implicating,” when he argues that the victim of a deception feels more responsible than the victim of a lie (Journal of Philosophy). In my paper, I will argue that the distinction between the victim of a lie and the victim of a deception is ill-founded. When we closely examine the role played by the victim of a lie and the victim of a deception, we see that the situation is more complex than a simple black and white divide. Rather than ascribe responsibility on the basis of the lie/deception dichotomy, I will propose an alternative system for ascribing responsibility to the victim of a lie or deception.

Nikola Champlin
Yale University

Representing the “Symbolic Body”: Does the artistic subject have a moral right to privacy, and does immorality in art impact its aesthetic value?

Abstract: Vulnerability, raw emotion, or nudity—the candid photographer captures the complete experience of her subject, but the privacy of said subject is compromised when she is exposed without her consent. A subject may not consent to a public portrayal of herself that is false, untrue to her self-conception, or exposes her private life. At the same time, the artist has a right to capture truth, even painful truth that she observes in the world. There are many factors at work in the fluid relationship between the right to privacy and the right to honest artistic expression: the nature of artistic representation, what it means to endorse one’s public image, and how moral concerns may blind an audience to an artist’s intentions. The conflict of interest between the subject and the artist raises moral concerns about the creation of art rather than art’s content. “Representing the Symbolic Body” considers ethical arguments from philosophers Arthur Danto and Susan Sontag on one’s right to control one’s public image. Arguments for morality’s impact on artistic value posed by Noël Carroll and Matthew Kieran are examined in the context of the immoral creation of works of art. The paper argues that, where aesthetic value is influenced, arguably, by moral concerns, the immoral creation of a work of art has bearing on its aesthetic success.

Colin Gallent
Connecticut College

Anything Demons Can Do Dreams Can Do (Better)

Abstract: In this paper, I agree with Ruth Weintraub that the correct way to read Descartes is to see that he believes the skeptical argument of the dream and the skeptical argument of the demon do different philosophical work, however I disagree with both Weintraub and Descartes by denying that they actually do different philosophical work.  I argue instead that the Dream Argument gives us much more to be skeptical about than Descartes may have believed.  I attempt to express this, along with implications of this view.

David Hefer
Brown University

Sadists, Insensates, and Expressivism

Abstract: One of the major advantages to moral non-cognitivism is its fit with motivational internalism, the thesis that moral judgments necessarily reflect motivation. However, there are counterexamples to internalism that can be adapted into counterexamples to non-cognitivism. We find this in the figures of the insensate, the person who makes moral judgments but feels no emotion, and the Sadist, the person who makes moral judgments but whose emotions are opposite. This poses a problem for the non-cognitivist. How can moral judgments be expressions of emotion (or something similar) if we can make moral judgments without having any emotion in particular? My paper shows that these people do make moral judgments, and they do it without the requisite emotions. The non-cognitivist finds herself in a bind with no easy way to escape. She must find some emotion such that “x is bad, but I don’t feel that emotion” is incoherent.

Jared Henderson
Ohio University

Reconsidering the First Dogma

Abstract: If one is committed to a particular conjunction of naturalism and empiricism (which we might call “Quineanism”), then Quine’s refutation of the analytic/synthetic distinction holds true. But Quineanism is often times seen as problematic for modality, and so I reconcile the two by endorsing a type of modal fictionalism, in which all possible world talk is true within some sort of pretense, but not literally true.

Amanda Hutchens
Eastern Michigan University

Dark Energy: An Illogical Postulation

Abstract: In this paper I utilize the concept of naïve empiricism and the Akaike Information Criterion to illustrate how the assertion that dark energy is the cause of the accelerating expansion of our universe is unfounded.  I examine the process by which researchers arrived at the conclusion that dark energy exists, and critique their use of various assumptions including those based upon the HR diagram.  I will also critically examine the basic assumptions that lie within the field of astronomy that the equations used were based on.  Ultimately I determine that the existence of dark energy cannot be appropriately concluded by current scientific means.

Daniel Jackson
University of Hawaii

Things You Might Be Expected to Know about the Marriage of Apology and Excuse

Abstract: In this essay, drawing from the works of J.L. Austin A Plea for Excuses and How to Do Things with Words, I will examine the use of apology and excuse to see what can be said about how we hold people responsible in light of certain claims of extenuating circumstances, namely those of lack of knowledge. I will use as my example statements given by Rupert Murdoch during the News of the World phone hacking scandal, however this essay will not be concerned with the set of events surrounding the News of the World scandal or the individuals involved. Instead, the focus will be the ways in which apologies and excuses are concerned with what we know or are expected to know and how these expectations are linked to responsibility and blameworthiness. This discussion should provide the means for a comparison of characteristics, either shared or antithetical, and thus help answer the question of whether or not apology and excuse can peacefully coexist.

August Johnson
SUNY Oneonta

Lady Philosophy and Her Lovers’ Positions: On Philosophy, Derrida, Deconstruction, and the Rhetorical Tradition.

Abstract: This paper will self-deconstruct in three sections; it seeks to clear the reputation of one of philosophies most misconstrued terms by providing an accurate account of Deconstruction as Jacques Derrida envisioned it. Using transcripts of interviews and video recording of Derrida’s philosophical discourse I reconstruct Derrida’s ideology from primary sources and offer revised definitions of deconstruction and difference. After establishing this conception of deconstruction this paper will argue for its own existence and for the necessity of rhetoric in philosophical discourse by consulting Platonic dialogues. Thus, proving that rhetoric is not contrary to philosophies mission and all philosophers should be versed in the rhetorical tradition.

Lindsey Johnson
Rochester Institute of Technology

Thin Spaces, High Spaces: Postmodern Architecture through Heidegger’s Building Dwelling Thinking

Abstract: This paper aims to reify precisely how Heidegger’s Building Dwelling Thinking can help us take an inspired look at postmodern architecture and buildings in general. His essay is here applied to both modern and postmodern buildings, using his etymology and the notions of cultivation and gathering to illustrate how the phenomenal aspects of the buildings that we live in shape our relationship to the Other and to the fourfold of earth, sky, mortal, and divine. This essay elaborates on what Heidegger’s piece seems to reveal to us in terms of the perceived failure of modernism in architecture.

Laura Jurewicz
SUNY Purchase

The Possibility of Authentic Being-a-Whole: The ‘Futural’ Temporality of Anticipatory Resoluteness in Heidegger’s Being and Time

Abstract: This paper deals with Martin Heidegger’s notion of Being-a-Whole as it appears in his major work Being and Time (1927).  I explore Heidegger’s various explications of Being-a-Whole in their relation to his idea of Anticipatory Resoluteness in an attempt to uncover certain paradoxes in his thinking.  Anticipatory Resoluteness is posed by Heidegger as the method by which one becomes able to authenticate the wholeness of one’s Being through an existential acceptance of one’s inevitable mortality.  However, some of the structures by which Heidegger seeks to define Being-a-Whole, such as his definition of ‘care’ as a pre-ontological phenomenon and his characterization of death as that which has the potential to reveal the existential totality of one’s Being, seem to deny the possibility of his assertion that one can grasp the totality of their own Being authentically.  Heidegger seeks to avoid these paradoxes through his reversal of temporality, which combines his notion of anticipatory resoluteness with the idea of being “ahead-of-oneself” through care.  The unchangeable facts of one’s past are thereby transformed into ‘futural’ potentialities.  However, anticipatory resoluteness thus becomes a highly individualistic approach which denies any possibility of common intelligibility.  By asserting that one’s potentiality-for-Being-a-whole is fundamentally non-relational in this way, Heidegger essentially undermines the notion of one’s social or political responsibility.  I believe that this philosophy is fundamentally dangerous, and seek to prove that with Heidegger’s explication of Being-a-whole, such a dangerous conclusion becomes inevitable.

Eian Kantor
SUNY Oneonta

The Sublime and Environmental Ethics

Abstract: The notion of the sublime – popularized by British and German philosophers, poets and literary critics – is, most generally, some type of quality of greatness and magnitude that is beyond all types of capacity or estimation. This paper gives two different accounts of the sublime. I first discuss Edmund Burke and his treatise, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. I then discuss Immanuel Kant, the famous German enlightenment thinker, and his views on the sublime in the Critique of the Power of Judgment. After providing a framework, showing that there is an array of different conceptions of sublime aesthetic experience, it seems to me that there is indeed something very special about this type of experience. The catalysts to sublime aesthetic experience – illuminated by Burke, Kant, Shelley in Mont Blanc, Wordworth in Tintern Abbey, Muir in Nature Writings, etc. – are, most generally, “natural” states of affairs, objects or entities. Thus, I contend that we ought to preserve those things that cause sublime aesthetic experience, which in turn calls for a pluralistic environmental ethics. I investigate the relationship of environmental ethics and the sublime by not posing a multitude of different ethics to potentially follow, but by rather showing why it is we ought to have such ethics focused around the environment to begin with.

Michael Lindquist
SUNY Oneonta

The Ethics of the Euthanasia of Companion Animals: A Case Study

Abstract: In the United States, after an animal attack, it is not un common for the attacking animal to then be killed, whether it is by people hunting for a wild animal that attacked someone, or if it’s a companion animal that had caused someone great harm.  In this paper, it is argued that the euthanasia of companion animals, even after attacking someone, is unethical based on Tom Regan’s concept of moral agents and moral patients.  The moral asymmetry with which people and the law view attacks by animals as opposed to attacks by humans is examined through a case study.

Grace Kay Matelich
Vanderbilt University

OMNE TOTUM EST MAIUS SUA PARTE: Aristotle on Virtue as it Relates to the Individual and the Community

Abstract: In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle establishes an account of the good life as it relates to virtue and human flourishing, or eudaimonia. Living the good life, however, requires that one live a life of active virtue by way of developing good character, and good states of character are those formed through habit. Within the context of this account, virtue is also defined in relation to the doctrine of the mean, which determines virtue as the intermediate between two deficiencies, or vices. Overall, the relationship between virtue and eudaimonia is as follows: eudaimonia requires a life of active virtue which, in turn, appears to require certain external goods–namely, friends and family. In this paper, I will outline Aristotle’s notion of virtue as found in Nicomachean Ethics and explore how this notion as it relates to the individual impacts the community ethic. At length, I will argue that Aristotle presents a concept of virtue that is not only practical and implementable for the individual, but one that also reinforces notions of universality and community in ethics. Ultimately, Aristotle’s concept of virtue reveals itself to be sustainable for the individual only insofar as it is sufficient for the whole. Thus, we shall see that Aristotle’s application of virtue as particular to the individual is necessary for a cohesive, right-minded, and ethical community.

Andrew Molas
University of Toronto

Responses to the Objections of Act Consequentialism

Abstract: How does one live a morally wholesome life? What kinds of actions should we perform in order to live a morally good life? And while we agree that a successful theory of morality must require us to help others, what is the extent of our obligations to assist those who need? This paper examines two objections to act consequentialism, a theory of morality that explains that the right kinds of actions one ought to perform are those that will promote the best state of affairs overall. The first objection is from distributive justice and it claims that act consequentialism is unsuccessful as a theory of the right because it is only concerned for maximizing the welfare of the aggregate, which may result in an unfair distribution of goods or resources. And the second objection against act consequentialism is that it is simply too demanding to be a successful theory of morality, and that the issue of non-compliance of others places a greater burden on those who comply with the principles of the theory. This paper ultimately argues that both objections are unsuccessful.

Daniel Pepe
Villanova University

Transgressive Play: Finding the Use of Vanity in Hegel

Abstract: The following paper is the introduction to a yearlong thesis project.  This project has its roots in problematizing Hegel’s concept of desire by means of Hegel’s conception of vanity.  In this way, the groundwork is set by reading Hegel against himself and consequently opening up the concept of desire and the subjectivity to which it is married.  Vanity ushers in a play of desire in contradistinction to the labor that Hegel ascribes to desire.  Desire’s play in vanity implicates a transgressive aesthetic praxis that results not in the self-reification that labor yields, but in confronting a subjectivity consumed by its own recurring death(s).

Timothy Perisho
Seattle Pacific University

A Natural if Not Quite “Naturalized” Development in Epistemology

Abstract: In his paper, “Naturalized Epistemology”, Quine argued that based upon his holistic theory of meaning, no rational reconstruction of the sciences could ever be completed and thus that there is no longer any advantage in keeping epistemology free from all empirical influence. Ultimately, he argued that we should replace the old epistemology with a naturalized one in which we study the inferences people actually make based upon their limited sense experience. Kim argued that no such “naturalized epistemology” is in principle possible since epistemology as such is necessarily normative. Kim’s explicit motivation was to make followers of Quine who were eager to incorporate more empirical results into epistemology, reconsider the implications of attempting to naturalize completely.  However, even accepting Kim’s counsel, there is still valuable room to consider empirical results in forming our epistemic notions, which I argue by highlighting a few of the interesting questions that various empirical results raise for our conventional normative standards of knowledge.

Kevin Ryan
Villanova University

Cognition and the Extended Mind

Abstract: The contemporary approaches to cognition as an embedded, embodied, extended, and enactive phenomenon have led to several debates in philosophy of mind and cognitive science.  The purpose of this paper is to examine one particular debate between extended and enactive approaches to cognition regarding “extended functionalism”.  In what ways are enactive and extended approaches similar, and in what ways are they different?  What is implied by an extended functionalist account of cognition?  What distinguishes an extended functionalism vis-à-vis other forms of non-extended functionalism?  By working through these questions, I will present an argument in defense of both the extended mind thesis and extended functionalism.

Grant Sendlewski
SUNY Oneonta

Axiological Comments on Derelict Spaces

Abstract: Derelict spaces – built places that have been abandoned and left to decay – display curious features. A critical examination of these features leads to interesting and valuable conclusions. With the help of ideas brought forth by Martin Heidegger, a set of observations in support of the value of derelict spaces will be contended. These observations are both existential and ontological in nature. Derelict spaces act as agents for the realization of the finite nature of beings (and Being). This realization forces one to think meditatively, a type of thinking that is uncommon and therefore indicative of axiological significance. These spaces are also valuable in and of themselves. They are representative of a type of entity that is neither equipment nor art; this fact, though limited to the aesthetic considerations of Martin Heidegger, is not limited in its significance.

Sarah Sgro
Hamilton College

Kripke and Millikan

Abstract: In “Truth Rules, Hoverflies, and the Kripke-Wittgenstein Paradox”, Ruth Millikan claims to craft a straight solution to the Kripke-Wittgenstein rule-followingpuzzle. Kripke and Wittgenstein adopt skeptical solutions that look toward external, societal conventions when considering why we follow standard rules over deviant ones. In contrast, Millikan justifies standard rule-following by biological purposing and applies a normative notion of truth to rules unrelated to mathematics. Despite her aim to depart from Kripke and Wittgenstein, Millikan’s rejection of other straight solutions as well as the tenuous nature of her concept of truth defends their skeptical solution more than it does revise it.

Jonathan Soderholm
Belmont University

An Investigation in Incommensurability: Hegel & Confucius

Abstract: It is a wonder to think of how large a role the family, taken as a term designating the first immediate unit constituted of human relationships, has had in the lives of countless peoples. Here this role is to be explored through an analysis of both Confucius, characteristic of an eastern tradition, and Hegel, a western philosopher. Through this analysis a typology including false and real similarities, as well as real differences, between these philosophers is to be exposed and subsequently an explanation is to be given for the results of such a typology along with how these may find their root in incommensurabilities sprouting from the ends toward which these two philosophers direct their theories.

William Steidle
SUNY Purchase

Crossroads of the Dao: Comparing, Contrasting, and Unifying Confucius and Zhuangzi

Abstract: The philosophical structures of Confucianism and Daoism were of central importance to the development of China, and their influence has proven to be broad, penetrating, and lasting.  These two systems are often understood to have conflicting core precepts, Confucianism advocating a structured society in which individuals are guided by ritual propriety in order to promote harmonious relationships, while Daoism instead recommends a ‘forgetting’ of such concepts and a return to nature.  Despite what are fundamental differences, it is possible to gather elements of each philosophy, and synthesize them into a novel system that addresses the problems each faced in actual execution.  Focusing primarily on the style of life laid out by each philosophy and the social structures that can be inferred from this prescription, this paper first outlines some important tenets of each system, provides critiques to the beliefs and their application, and then ultimately seeks to answer these criticisms by combining elements from Confucius, founder of what became Confucianism, and Zhuangzi, one of the most influential and interesting Daoists, into a unified approach.

Geoffrey van der Woude
SUNY Potsdam

On Imitative Poetry in Plato’s Kallipolis

Abstract: Plato’s Republic gives an account of justice and morality, and in doing so Plato attempts to set out a blueprint for the perfect state, the Kallipolis. In going about this task, Plato, via several dialogues between Socrates, Glaucon, and Adeimantus, offers a commentary on poetry and whether or not it should be permitted into his Kallipolis. These dialogues are primarily located in Books II, III, and X: Books II and III allowing for some poetry to be admitted, Book X seems to proclaim that no imitative poetry may be admitted into the Kallipolis. In this paper I examine Plato’s arguments for and against poetry in Books II, III, and X of the Republic and argue that Plato’s arguments, rather than contradicting each other, as they appear to do at first glance, are both consistent and complementary. In support of my thesis, I offer Socrates’ contemplation in Book X of a hypothetically admissible type of poetry and the criteria for admissible poetry found in Books II and III. Finally, I conclude by testing the Republic against Plato’s own standard of admissible poetry.

Evan West
Michigan State University

Would-Be Counterfactual Dependence, Binary Causation and the Causality of Absences

Abstract: Metaphysics has long taken for granted that causation is a binary relation.  Recently, theories have arisen which challenge this claim.  Such theories claim that some metaphysical problems regarding causation can be solved by taking causation to be ternary or quaternary.  I respond to an argument that a quaternary formulation of causation can help resolve the causality of absences paradox (CAP).  I reject this claim and propose an alternative solution to the CAP which I argue is both consistent with a binary formulation of causal relations and preferable to the solution which a quaternary formulation allows for.

Ross Whitehurst
Ursinus College

Hallucination and the Veil of Perception

Abstract: Within the philosophy of perception, one is faced with very difficult and pressing questions: the first being how does a human being perceive the world around him, and what is his relation to that perceived world? The second question, once one has answered the first, asks what are the epistemological consequences? What does the way in which man perceives the world say about what we can and cannot ever truly know and what is his relationship with the external world? The purpose of this analysis is to examine three prominent theories within sensory perception that attempt to answer these questions: direct realism, sense data theory and intentionalism. I will show that direct realism proves to be an incomplete theory when faced with the more phenomenal occurrences within sensory perception; phenomena which are better handled by sense data theory and intentionalism. However, based on the representational nature of these theories they leave themselves open to the objection of epistemological skepticism. I will examine this objection in depth and show that the issue of skepticism within perception should not condemn these theories but reconcile the fears most have about the external reality possibly being unperceivable.

Tharanga Yakupitiyage
Hampshire College

Famine in Theory and Action

Abstract: According to the 1975 edition of Journal Science, “In statistical terms, [famine] can be defined as severe shortage of food accompanied by a significant increase in the local or regional death rate.” (Devereux, 2007; 26) Oxfam on the other hand, define famine as a “triple failure” of food production, food access and political response (“Famine in Somalia”). Why do these definitions differ? What exactly is a famine then? Since the 1800s, the literature and understanding of famine has evolved and expanded immensely. This literature review will go through the various famine theories by Thomas Malthus, Amartya Sen, Stephen Devereux and Jenny Edkins among many others. This will act as a foundation to understanding Somalia’s current humanitarian crisis which is occurring in a globalized world of communication and technology. The current famine has been shaped by a number of events and actors which will be detailed in this review.

Philip Yaure
University of Chicago

Counterfactuals and the Problem of Old Evidence

Abstract: In this paper, I consider the Problem of Old Evidence, which is meant to undermine the theory of confirmation Bayesianism uses to explain the role of evidence in science. The problem maintains that the Bayesian definition of evidence cannot include facts known before a theory is introduced (but whose relation to the theory is unknown at the moment of introduction). I argue that this problem can be diffused by the introduction of counterfactuals, which specify conceivable scenarios in which the fact is discovered after the theory is introduced. I consider several sorts of objections to this view, and contend that we have good reason to reject them in their own right, and that the other alternative solution in the literature does not offer a sufficient solution the problem, further compelling us to face the objections, if we are to maintain a Bayesian confirmation theory.


The Undergraduate Philosophy Conference is funded by
the Ninash Foundation, the Student Association, Oneonta Philosophy Studies,
the Philosophy Department, the Provost, and the President of SUNY Oneonta.


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