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philosophy-at-nus

“Valuable Asymmetrical Friendship” by Thomas Brian Mooney and John Williams (24 Apr)

Aristotle distinguishes three sorts of friendship. There are friendships of pleasure or of utility, in which the friend takes the other—even as an object of care—as a person qua bearer of characteristics conducive to pleasure or utility. Then there are much more valuable character friendships in which the friend cares for the other qua person for the other’s own sake. These are held by Aristotle and a variety of contemporary thinkers who broadly follow his account of friendship to involve various fairly strict equalities, or as we prefer to put it, symmetries between the friends. Roughly, such friends are fairly strictly symmetrically autonomous in relation to each other, fairly strictly symmetrical in their separateness of identity from each other, fairly strictly symmetrical in the degree to which they identify with each other, and are fairly strictly symmetrical in the degree to which they are virtuous. There is a fourth important sort of friendship that has been overlooked in the philosophical literature. We call this asymmetrical friendship. This is not friendship of pleasure or of utility, being much more valuable. Like character friendships but unlike friendships of pleasure or utility (that may also be largely asymmetrical) these involve each friend caring for the other for the others’ own sake. Unlike character friendships, they may be largely asymmetrical. So they are unlike Aristotle’s fairly strictly symmetrical and certainly valuable character friendships which seldom appear at all in our imperfect lives, lived as they are in an imperfect world.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 24 Apr 2014
Time: 2 pm – 4 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speakers: T. Brian Mooney, John Williams, Singapore Management University
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speakers:

BRIANMOONEYT. Brian Mooney is currently Associate Professor of Philosophy at Singapore Management University and has just been appointed as Professor of Philosophy and Head of School of Humanities and Creative Arts at Charles Darwin University.  Brian’s research interests are in Ancient and Mediaeval Philosophy, Moral Philosophy and the Theory and Practice of Education.  Brian is the author, co-author and co-editor of 9 books and over 50 articles in philosophy.

JOHNWILLIAMSJohn N. Williams (PhD Hull) works primarily in epistemology and paradoxes, especially epistemic paradoxes. He also works in philosophy of language and applied ethics. He has published in Acta Analytica, American Philosophical Quarterly, Analysis, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Philosophical Research, Philosophy East and West, Mind, Philosophia, Philosophical Studies, Religious Studies, Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, Synthese and Theoria. He is co-editor of Moore’s Paradox: New Essays on Belief, Rationality and the First Person, Oxford University Press together with Mitchell Green. He researches and teaches in the School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University.

 

“Are Modal Conditions Necessary for Knowledge?” by Mark Anthony Dacela (17 Apr)

I argue in this paper that modal conditions, particularly sensitivity and safety, are not necessary for knowledge. I do this by first investigating problem cases for both modal conditions, noting that they point to an internal glitch that even a revised similarity ranking or ordering of worlds, which others proposed, cannot fix. I then demonstrate, by way of a set theoretical profiling of the problem cases, and a set theoretical analysis of the modal semantics at work in both sensitivity and safety, that these modal conditions fail whenever necessary links that are constitutive of epistemic circumstances actually obtain but are not modally preserved; and since there are instances when knowledge only requires this, I conclude that modal conditions are not necessary for knowledge.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 17 Apr 2014
Time: 2 pm – 4 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Mark Anthony Dacela, De La Salle University – Manila
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

319712_392841890739992_440416927_nMark Anthony Dacela is Associate Lecturer of Philosophy at De La Salle University – Manila. He obtained his PhD at the same university and his research is primarily in the area of epistemology.

“Procedural Fairness and the veil of Ignorance” by Anantharaman Muralidharan (15 Apr)

Rawls’s veil of ignorance is supposedly justified because it makes the initial choice situation procedurally fair. It supposedly does this by preventing parties from using morally irrelevant information about the persons they represent to obtain an unfair bargaining advantage over others. The success of this argument rests crucially on the idea that at least some rational mutually disinterested parties without a veil of ignorance would in fact successfully use information about the persons they represent to obtain an unfair bargaining advantage over other parties. I will argue in this paper that even in a choice situation identical to Rawls’s Original Position except for the lack of a veil of ignorance, no party has any bargaining advantage over the other. I analyse the notion of a bargaining advantage in terms of the best alternative to negotiated agreement (BATNA) and the propensity towards unacceptable outcomes. A difference in BATNA between two parties is necessary in order for there to be a bargaining advantage of one over the other. Also, plausibly, outcomes that are unacceptable to only some of the parties contra-indicates equality of bargaining power. I show that all parties in a choice situation without a veil of ignorance have equally bad BATNA. I will show that the veil of ignorance is neither necessary nor sufficient to prevent unacceptable conceptions of justice from being agreed to in the Original Position. If the analysis of the Original Position is correct, there is no reason to think that a choice situation without a veil provides some parties a bargaining advantage over others. The analysis of Rawls’s argument also suggests an alternative justification of the veil of ignorance: that it is an appropriate simplification of another choice situation which would necessarily deliver the correct principles of justice.

Graduate Seminar Series.
Date: Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014
Time: 2 pm – 3 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Anantharaman Muralidharan

About the Speaker:

murali anna 2Murali’s thesis is concerned with trying to find a more general justification for the Rawlsian framework. He isinterested in broadly trying to derive and defend a free-standing theory of justice. At the same time he isinterested in democracy and justifications for it. He is also interested in social epistemology and its implications for democracy.

 

“Temporal Experiences & their Parts: the Modal argument” by Philippe Chuard (10 Apr)

According to the Lockean conception of temporal experiences (experiences of succession, duration, change, etc.), such experiences do reduce to mere successions of their temporal parts. However, as Michael Tye (2003) has suggested, there’s a familiar modal consideration undermining the identity of a whole experience of a temporally extended event with the succession of its temporal parts: the two have different modal properties (if the succession couldn’t have occurred without some of its parts, the whole could have, the argument goes) and hence, by Leibniz’s Law, cannot be identical after all. Fortunately, there’s a familiar response, suggesting that the argument equivocates the relevant modal properties (typically, the point is made via so-called “abelardian predicates”).  Still, does the response really stand up to further scrutiny? I try to argue that there’s no reason to think it doesn’t.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 10 Apr 2014
Time: 2 pm – 4 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Philippe Chuard, Southern Methodist University
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

chuardpageNow an associate professor in philosophy at SMU (Dallas, TX), I work mostly in philosophy of perception, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science, with some mild forays into epistemology and metaphysics. I obtained my PhD at the ANU, after studying in Sydney and Geneva (Switzerland) before that. I’ve published a various papers in various journals mostly on the conceptual content of perceptual experiences, and some on the nature of epistemic norms and the nature of perceptual appearances (and the non-transivitity of look-statements).

“Reasonableness in Rawls’ Political Liberalism” by Nicholas Cai (8 Apr)

The idea of reasonableness is one of the key ideas in Rawls’ Political Liberalism. I begin by highlighting Rawls’ main aim in the latter and some key features of his political conception of justice, followed by a brief exposition of three aspects of reasonableness. Specifically, I will elaborate on the rarely mentioned aspect of reasonable persons as having the desire to act from reasonableness and to be recognized (by other reasonable persons) as reasonable. I attempt to show the coherence of reasonableness with other aspects of Rawls’ Political Liberalism, and the role it plays within it. By doing so, I hope to indicate how we can begin responding to the usual worries about the possibility and relevance of Rawls’ Political Liberalism.

Graduate Seminar Series.
Date: Tuesday, 8 Apr 2014
Time: 3 pm – 4 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Nicholas Cai
Moderator: Philippe Major

About the Speaker:

nicNick’s primary interests are in the areas of Political Philosophy and the history of Political Philosophy. His honors thesis was a Rawlsian defense of Liberal Neutrality, focusing on the notion of Public Reason. His other research interests include Moral philosophy, German Idealism and Ancient Greek Philosophy, especially the connection between Politics, Religion, and Philosophy.

“A Critique of the use of public political culture in Rawls’ Political Liberalism” by Li Qingyi (8 Apr)

John Rawls argues in Political Liberalism that a conception of justice has to be freestanding, and theorizing ought to begin from the public political culture of a democratic society: a shared fund of fundamental ideas that is implicitly affirmed by the citizens in a democratic state. Conceptions of justice based on one comprehensive moral or philosophical doctrine will be oppressive to people who do not share that particular comprehensive doctrine.

In this presentation, I will offer criticisms against Rawls’s use of the public political culture in his theory. I argue that (i) Rawls is unable to offer any justification for liberalism in states that needs liberalism most, (ii) Rawls makes problematic assumptions about the fundamental ideas of a democratic society, and (iii) Rawls’s liberal prescriptions are already assumed when the fundamental ideas are drawn from a democratic society. The success of my arguments will pave the way for the possibility of establishing moral foundations for public reason liberalism.

Graduate Seminar Series.
Date: Tuesday, 8 Apr 2014
Time: 2 pm – 3 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Li Qingyi
Moderator: Melvin Ng

About the Speaker:

croppedQingyi is working towards his M.A. in Philosophy and his area of interest is in political philosophy. His dissertation project examines the moral foundations of political philosophy, more specifically liberal neutrality. Other topics of interest in political philosophy include: liberal theory, methodological concerns in political philosophy, distributive justice and global justice. His interests also extend to moral philosophy.

The Daoist Yin-Yang Cosmology and Deleuze’s Ecological Ethics (3 Apr)

This lecture proposes to delve into the Daoist yin-yang cosmology by referring to the etymological make-up of a number of compound-nouns, i.e. 经验 (experience), 关系 (relation) and 体会 (bodily-recognition), etc. in the Chinese language. Through an analysis of these pairings which emulate certain foldings or overlapping of 虚 (empty) / 实 (solid), and finally summated into the Deleuzian transcendent/ empiricism, this lecture aims at a bringing together the concept of yin-yang and Deleuze’s philosophy of becomings within the context of human/ nature relation. Meanwhile, the lecture will follow Deleuze’s dic-tum to “connect, conjugate and differentiate” in detailing how a new materialism under the banner of posthumanism can be used to orchestrate a harmonic duet with Daoism, particularly in terms of how eco-logical aesthetics moves into ecoethics.

Chair : A/P Yung Sai-Shing (Department of Chinese Studies)
Date : Thursday, 3 April, 2014
Time : 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Venue : AS7/03-30 (Chinese Studies Meeting Room)

About the Speaker:

Prof. Wong Kin Yuen is the Head and Professor of English Department at Hong Kong Shue Yan Universi-ty. He is also the Director of the Technoscience Culture Research and Development Centre at SYU. Be-fore coming back to Hong Kong, Prof. Wong taught in Comparative Literature Department at University of California, San Diego and Foreign Language and Literature Department at National University of Taiwan. Prof. Wong taught in the English Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong for 20 years and later founded the Modern Languages and Cultural Studies Department. He has also taught literature, East-West comparative poetics, cultural studies, science fiction, ecological ethics, technoscience culture, film studies and visual arts at various Hong Kong universities. Topics of his published works include Posthu-man culture, cyberculture, aesthetics, hermenuetics, film theory as well as Deleuze studies.

“Solving the Moorean Puzzle” by Michael Blome-Tillmann (3 Apr)

This talk addresses and aims to resolve an epistemological puzzle that has attracted much attention in the recent literature—namely, the puzzle arising from Moorean anti-sceptical reasoning and the phenomenon of transmission failure. I argue that an appealing account of Moorean reasoning can be given by distinguishing carefully between two subtly different ways of thinking about justification and evidence. Once the respective distinctions are in place we have a simple and straightforward way to model both the Wrightean position of transmission failure and the Moorean position of dogmatism. The approach developed in this article is, accordingly, ecumenical in that it allows us to embrace two positions that are widely considered to be incompatible. The paper further argues that the Moorean Puzzle can be resolved by noting the relevant distinctions and our insensitivity towards them: once we carefully tease apart the different senses of ‘justified’ and ‘evidence’ involved, the bewilderment caused by Moore’s anti-sceptical strategy subsides.

Philosophy Seminar Series.
Date: Thursday, 3 Apr 2014
Time: 2 pm – 4 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Michael Blome-Tillmann, McGill University and University of Cambridge
Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

About the Speaker:

tilman-cropMichael Blome-Tillmann is Associate Professor of Philosophy at McGill University and Marie Curie Experienced Researcher at the University of Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at the University of Oxford and his research is primarily in the areas of epistemology and philosophy of language.

“A Proposal for the European Voters” by Elena Ziliotti (1 Apr)

In May, the citizens across the 28 European countries will elect their new 751 representatives at the European Parliament. What the Europeans will decide in May and in the near future is more than ever crucial for the Continent. Europe indeed needs to solve difficult issues, such as a stagnant GDP, high youth unemployment, together with diverging economic trajectories among the member states. The thorny situation can be solved only by specific, efficient and tough decisions, but are the European voters ready to do their duty? A recent survey casts doubt on the competence of the European voter.

Following, the recent commentary in WordPost, “Should Voters be tested?”, co-written with Prof. Daniel Bell, I propose to introduce a multiple choice test in order to improve the political knowledge of the European voters. I then i) defend our proposal from two objections, the “Communitarian argument” and the “Egalitarian argument”, and ii) explain some of the advantages of the test over two alternative solutions.

Graduate Seminar Series.
Date: Tuesday, 1 Apr 2014
Time: 3 pm – 4 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Elena Ziliotti
Moderator: Jane Loo

About the Speaker:

IMG_0878Elena is a PhD student in the Join Program between NUS and King’s College London. Elena holds an M.A. in Analytic Philosophy from University of Barcelona UB (Spain) and an M.A. in Philosophy from University of Parma (Italy). As an undergraduate, she studied philosophy at the University of Parma and was a visiting student at the Radboud University in Nijmegen (Netherlands). Elena’s main area of research is Political Philosophy. Her PhD dissertation will focus on Political Meritocracy, investigating the relation among this form of governance and the main strains of thought in Western political philosophy.

“Is “Modern Confucianism” an Oxymoron?: Liang Shuming’s Attempt at Resolving the Tension between the Modern and Confucian Conceptions of Time during the New Culture Movement” by Philippe Major (1 Apr)

Confucianism can be seen as a tradition which is essentially nostalgic. To the socio-political instability of the Spring and Autumn period (春秋時代, 771-476 BC) at the end of which he lived, Confucius’ (孔子, 551-479 BC) response was to promote a return to the ways of the Zhou (周朝, 1046-771 BC). This, the gentleman-scholar had to achieve by studying and embodying the rites of the Zhou. Modernity, on the other hand, betrays a forward-looking mentality. Emancipation being posited as the telos of history, the modern individual must strive towards this goal by breaking free of the shackles of tradition.

How did modern Confucianism attempt at resolving the tension between the Confucian and modern conceptions of time? In this presentation, I will discuss Liang Shuming’s (梁漱溟, 1893-1988) work Eastern and Western Cultures and their Philosophies (東西文化及其哲學, 1921), which is often seen as the first work of philosophy produced by Modern Confucianism, and which I see as China’s first attempt at resolving the tension between the modern and Confucian conceptions of time emerging during the New Culture Movement (新文化運動, 1915-1927).

Graduate Seminar Series.
Date: Tuesday, 1 Apr 2014
Time: 2 pm – 3 pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3 #05-23)
Speaker: Philippe Major
Moderator: Nicholas Cai

About the Speaker:

PhilippeCROPPhilippe is a PhD student in the Philosophy department of the National University of Singapore. He holds a Master’s degree in History from National Taiwan University. His Master’s thesis consisted of a study of the consciousness of time of New Culture Movement (1915-1927) intellectuals such as Liang Shuming and Chen Duxiu, as well as the redefinition of modernity which was inherent in their views of time. His PhD dissertation will focus on how modern Confucian thinkers, whom inherited a tradition rooted in the idea that individual development is informed by, and achieved through, a given socio-historical context, reacted to a modern definition of the self which is to a great extent atomistic, being alienated from both community and tradition.