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Dr. Neil A. Manson, University of Mississippi

Friday, March 1, 2024 3:30-5:30p.m. Location: ILC 203

“God, Fine-tuning, and the Multiverse: A Short  Philosophical Introduction”

The Fine-tuning Argument is currently the most popular scientific argument for the existence of God. Numerous discoveries in physics and cosmology indicate that the universe is a very special place. It is extremely unlikely that it would be the sort of place in which life could even arise. Some argue these discoveries indicate God created the universe. Others claim they show our universe is but one universe in an immensely large multiverse. The multiverse would explain fine-tuning because, just as you’ll probably get a good selfie if you take enough selfies, there’ll probably be a universe that is well-suited to life if there are enough universes. So which view is approach is better – God or the multiverse? Manson will lead the audience on a tour of the central issues involved in this deep and fascinating topic.

Saturday, March 2, 2024 11-1p.m. Location: ILC 204

“Theological Problems with the Fine-tuning Argument”

Since the Fine-tuning Argument (FTA) for the existence of God first appeared on the scene in the 1980s, both proponents and critics of it have neglected its theological aspects, focusing instead on the scientific, epistemological, and metaphysical issues it raises. Yet if the existence of a universe finely tuned for life is no more probable on the theistic hypothesis than the atheistic hypothesis, the FTA gets nowhere. In this paper Manson will first locate the FTA within the broader context of natural theology. Then he will focus on a particular theological question FTA raises: why should we think that the probability of a life-permitting universe if God exists (PLUG) is not extremely low? He will argue that constraints from traditional theology – specifically, from the notion that God is the absolutely perfect being – make it difficult to answer this question. He will then articulate and criticize a recent maneuver by prominent defenders of the FTA to sidestep this question. He concludes with a call for proponents of the FTA to engage much more thoroughly with theology.

Dr. Colin Marshall, University of Washington

Friday, Feb 2, 2024 3:30pm-5:30pm Location: ILC 303

“Compassion, Schopenhauer, and the Holy Grail of Moral Philosophy”

According to some philosophers (Blackburn, Street), the ‘holy grail’ of secular metaethics is to show that selfish and malicious people are somehow out of touch with reality. In this talk, I attempt to reach the grail by drawing on Arthur Schopenhauer’s view of compassion as affect-perception (with some discussion of human echolocation along the way). The result may not convince any bad people to change their ways, but it can offer metaethical reassurance to those of us who do feel compassion for our fellow creatures.

Saturday, Feb 3, 2024 11:00am-1:00pm Location: ILC303

“Moral Pluralism as Perceptual Pluralism”

According to partialists from Kongzi to Noddings, personal relationships directly shape our ethical obligations. According to impartialists from Mozi to Singer, our ethical obligations have no direct connection to our personal relationships. In this talk, I extend the neo-Schopenhauerian view defended in Marshall 2018 to make sense of the long-running partialist/impartialist standoff. I suggest that understanding compassion as revelatory perception can ground a limited but ineliminable pluralism on which each approach corresponds to a distinct objectively well-grounded perceptual state. Metaethically speaking, this suggests there is often no all-things-considered answer to the question of what we should do.

Dr. Ryan Wasserman, Western Washington University

Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 3:30-5:30 p.m. Location: ILC 302

“The Philosophy of Time Travel”

Abstract: The possibility of time travel raises important philosophical questions about a number of topics, including the nature of time, the direction of causation, and the threat of fatalism. But what exactly is time travel? What would it be for time travel to be possible? And why have so many philosophers rejecting this possibility as logically incoherent? We will explore these and other questions as we delve into the fascinating philosophy of time travel.

Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Location: ILC 302

“Counterfactuals under Determinism”

Abstract: If determinism is true, then the standard account of counterfactual implies that the past or the laws of nature would have been different, had I snapped my fingers just now. Since that is absurd, the standard account is mistaken. In this talk, I will defend the premises of this argument and then explore how the standard account might be adjusted in order to get around this problem.

Dr. Aleta Quinn, University of Idaho

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 4:30-6:30p.m. Location: Multipurpose Building Room 118

“Objectivity and Community Science”

Community science (or citizen science, participatory science) refers to participation of the general public in science as researchers. Natural scientists broadly celebrate the potential of community science to generate data at previously undreamed of scale (and at little cost). However, natural scientists have worried about the quality of research conducted by participants who lack scientific training, and question the objectivity of contributors who may be driven by value-laden goals. In this talk I analyze these worries, linking to philosophical models of objectivity and the appropriate relationship between science and social values.

Dr. Shieva Kleinschmidt, USC

Friday, April 21, 2023 3:30-5:30 Location: ILC 204

“Atheistic Prayer”

Can atheists pray to God?  And if they can, can they ever do it rationally?  I’ll argue atheists can!  Sometimes we can rationally direct communication to someone even when we disbelieve they exist – e.g., calling out to a rescuer even though you think there isn’t anyone else in the vicinity.  Similarly, an atheist can rationally direct communication to God even while disbelieving they exist.  There are complications with this – like whether these atheists thereby think God might exist, and whether that’s rationally incompatible with believing God doesn’t exist.  I’ll respond to that worry and show that this model shows that atheistic prayer is on a par with theistic prayer in many more ways than one might expect.

Saturday, April 22, 2023 11:00-1:00 Location: ILC 204

“Decompositional Plenitude”

I will present and motivate a new form of plenitude, called “Decompositional Plenitude”.  Usually, when we think about how things divide into parts, we think that if an object is completely made of some parts, then any part of that object overlaps with those parts.  For instance, since a table is completely made of its two halves, then any bit of the table (like a random one of its atoms, or one of the table’s legs, etc.) must overlap with at least one of those halves.  But… I’m going to deny this!  This view opens new options for the sort of metaphysics we may endorse in a wide range of areas, allowing us to avoid arbitrariness in many cases, and also giving us an option to capture wider variety in the fundamental constituents of our world.

Dr. Michael Huemer – University of Colorado-Boulder

“A Proof of Reincarnation”

Abstract: If time is infinite in both directions, and if persons could only live once in all of time, then the probability that I would be alive now would be zero. But I am alive now. Therefore, either time is finite, or persons can live more than once. I elaborate and defend this argument, then discuss its implications.

  • Date: Friday, November 11, 2022 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Location: ILC204

“Virtue and Vice Among the Infinite”

Abstract: When is an infinite series impossible? Three wrong answers: (a) There can be a potential infinity but not an actual infinity; (b) an infinite series cannot be completed by successive addition; (c) there cannot be an endless series in which each member depends upon the following member. Correct answer: An infinite series is impossible when it requires the instantiation of an infinite intensive magnitude. This answer, unlike the three previous answers, accommodates intuitive examples of vicious and benign infinite series.

  • Date: Saturday, November 12, 2022 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Location: ILC204

Dr. Joshua Spencer – University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin

“Divorce ‘n One’s Self”

  • Date: Friday, November 4, 2022 3:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
  • Location: ILC 301


My parents were separated around the time I was born and divorced shortly thereafter. I lived in poverty with my mom. It seems clear to me that I would have been a very different person if I had grown up with my dad instead of my mom. And yet it still would have been me who grew up with my dad. After all, I am the one who would have been different. But how could I have still been me and yet have been a different person? In this paper, I formalize these ideas into a puzzle. In order to answer the above question and solve the puzzle, I develop a novel theory of the self. The theory I develop here will have significant further philosophical implications about the essence and composition of one’s self.

“Essentially Vague”

  • Date: Saturday, November 5, 2022 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Location: ILC 301


The Ship of Theseus was originally constructed of planks B1 … B100. But it could have been originally constructed of C1, B2 … B100. And if it had been originally constructed of C1, B2 … B100, then it could have been originally constructed of C1, C2, B3 … B100. And so on. But the Ship of Theseus could not have been originally constructed from C1 … C100. This is “Chisholm’s Paradox”. In this paper, I present a solution to the paradox according to which some of the conditional modal propositions in the Paradox are metaphysically indeterminate. But that metaphysical indeterminacy must be rooted in something. I propose that the metaphysical indeterminacy is rooted in vague essences.

Dr. Maegan Fairchild – University of Michigan

Date: Friday, February 26, 2022 3:30-5:00 p.m.

TikTok: Algorithms and Authenticity

Like many other feed-based social media apps, TikTok relies centrally on a recommendation algorithm: a system that generates a personalized “For You” page, based on each user’s engagement patterns. We’ve got many reasons to be worried about the political and epistemic effects of (often opaque) recommendation engines. However, in this talk I suggest that despite these risks, algorithmic feeds might be uniquely valuable for informing philosophical questions about social identities, authenticity, and self-discovery. I take TikTok’s “For You” page — and the ways that users relate to it — as a case study for exploring some of these questions. (Disclaimer: I am entirely too old for TikTok.)

Date: Saturday, February 27, 2022 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Incredible Ontology

Should it be a constraint on metaphysical theories that we can believe them? I’ll suggest that it needn’t be; that “incredible” theories might nonetheless be serious contenders. I’ll take as my foil Lewis’ Maxim of Honesty: you ought not defend a theory that you yourself cannot believe.  On the face of it, the Maxim functions like a kind of ‘common sense’ constraint on metaphysics, but gives belief a radically different role in theory choice than other more familiar Moorean appeals. In this talk I explore three varieties of incredible metaphysics, and argue that even Lewis’ minimal constraint oversteps. Along the way, I hope to cast some light on the vexed relationship between “ordinary belief” and metaphysical theorizing.


Dr. Heather Battaly – University of Connecticut

“Closed-mindedness and Arrogance”

Friday, February 21, 2020, 3:30-5:15 p.m. ILC Room 203

Are closed-mindedness and arrogance the same thing? Or, are they different things that are usually found together but sometimes come apart? Here, I propose analyses of closed-mindedness and arrogance that allow them to come apart, while also explaining why they are so often found together. Section I identifies closed-mindedness with being unwilling to engage seriously with intellectual options or unwilling to revise one’s beliefs. Section II identifies arrogance with under-owning one’s cognitive shortcomings and over-owning one’s cognitive strengths. Section III focuses on a sub-set of cases in which closed-mindedness and arrogance come apart. Examples include academics, who engage with flat-earthers, and activists, who engage with white supremacists, while being unwilling to revise their own beliefs that the earth is round and that people are people. The final section explains why we should nevertheless expect closed-mindedness and arrogance to be found together.

“Quitting, Procrastinating, and Slacking Off”

Saturday, February 22, 2020, 11:00-12:45 p.m. ILC Room 203

This chapter focuses on the traits of quitting, procrastinating, and slacking off, which are different ways to lack the trait of intellectual perseverance. The first section draws on recent work in virtue epistemology to provide an account of intellectual perseverance.  It distinguishes between the trait of intellectual perseverance and the virtue that goes by the same name, arguing that the trait of intellectual perseverance is not a virtue when one has it to excess—roughly, when one doesn’t know when to quit. Sections II through IV propose working definitions of the traits of quitting, procrastinating, and slacking off, as deficiencies of, or ways of lacking, the trait of intellectual perseverance. I examine why these traits are intellectual vices when they are, while leaving open the possibility that they sometimes fail to be intellectual vices and might even be intellectual virtues.