Philosophy & Bioethics Staff Seminar Series

Time: Seminars are held on Fridays at 2.15pm (unless otherwise noted)

Location: Room E561, 5th floor East, Building 11 (Menzies), Clayton campus (unless otherwise noted)

Convenor: Bob Simpson |

Upcoming Seminars – Semester 2, 2015

August 28: Ema Sullivan-Bissett (Birmingham): Unimpaired abduction to alien abduction: lessons on delusion formation

Abstract: In this paper I argue that an investigation into alien abduction beliefs can inform and support my preferred version of the one-factor account of delusion formation. Although I remain neutral on whether alien abduction beliefs are delusions, I argue that the formation and maintenance of these beliefs can be explained by a one-factor account, and that this account can explain paradigmatic monothematic delusions in the same way. If alien abduction beliefs are not delusions, we can still take an important lesson from this case into the delusion formation literature. . If alien abduction belief can be explained by a one-factor account, so too I argue, can (other) monothematic delusions, since there are no differences between alien abduction belief and monothematic delusions which indicate the need for additional explanatory factors. Additionally, whilst alien abduction belief can be readily explained using a one-factor framework, the two-factor framework needs adjusting to give an explanation in this case My conclusion is that the delusion formation debate—specifically, a defence of the one-factor account—can be informed by an investigation into alien abduction belief, a much under-discussed case in the literature on delusion formation.

September 4: Robbie Arrell (Monash): Should we biochemically enhance love?

Various authors have raised the possibility of morally enhancing loving relationships via hormonal or genetic manipulation (Savulescu and Sandberg 2008). The most immediate objection to ‘love drugs’ suggests that even if they promote the kinds of contingent good effects our loving relationships conduce to when we are appropriately disposed towards our loved ones, they will not promote the appropriate disposition itself. Indeed, the mere fact your partner requires biochemical manipulation to promote their provision of loving care would already seem to imply they are not appropriately disposed to love you in the way most of us want to be loved. Thus, a love that requires biochemical intervention to be sustained would seem but a thin simulacrum of the rich good of love we typically desire (Nyholm 2015). But this is too quick. Few would want their partner’s love for them to be caused or sustained by a love drug, but if the lover’s tendency to bestow loving care robustly is there but impaired by some feature that may be biochemically manipulated into submission, then this objection loses much of its force. The fact is that even otherwise loving partners sometimes lie, and sometimes they cheat. If, as neuroscientific research suggests, the impulsion to lie or cheat is in part biologically determined and we could attenuate it via biochemical manipulation, should we? I think we should not. Loving someone renders you vulnerable to being hurt by them. Ordinarily, knowing with sufficient certainty that they are appropriately disposed to accord your interests their deliberative due in a way that restricts their choice-sets in relevant situations attenuates such vulnerability. In this paper, I argue that since biochemical intervention would impair your ability to know with sufficient certainty that your enhanced partner acts out of an appropriate disposition (e.g. to be honest and faithful to you) and not because they are biochemically enhanced (irrespective of what the fact of the matter is), a probabilistic reduction in your partner’s propensity to lie or cheat will not entail a corresponding reduction in your vulnerability to being lied to or cheated on. In fact, since folding love drugs into the causal mix will tend to preclude whatever attenuation of vulnerability conventional relationship therapy methods yield, on consequentialist grounds we ought to prefer relationship therapy to relationship therapy plus biochemical enhancement.

September 11: Laura Schroeter (Melbourne): Semantic deference vs semantic coordination

Abstract: It’s widely accepted that social facts about an individual’s linguistic community can affect both the reference of her words and the concepts (or idiolect meanings) those words express. Putnam and Burge took these social dependence claims to constitute a radical departure from traditional accounts of the determination of reference and the individuation of representational state types. But theorists sympathetic to the internalist tradition have argued that they can explain the data without altering their core theoretical commitments. All that Putnam and Burge have shown, they contend, is that some concepts are deferential: the subject’s criteria for applying the concept appeal to facts about her actual social environment. On this view, semantic facts still depend in a straightforward way on an individual’s internal states. In this paper, I sketch a different explanation of social dependence phenomena, according to which all concepts are individuated in part by facts about the subject’s social and historical environment. This account, I suggest, fits better with the epistemic motivations behind the original externalist arguments.

September 18: Philosophy Honours Presentations

September 25 and October 2: Mid-Semester Break

October 9: Norva Lo (LaTrobe): Title TBC

October 16: Katrina Hutchison (Monash): Title TBC

October 23: Jacqueline Broad (Monash): Title TBC

October 30: Jennifer Windt (Monash): Title TBC

November 6: Alan Hajek (ANU): Title TBC

November 13: Justin Clark-Doane (Columbia): Title TBC