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“The Accrual of Reasons: Some First Thoughts” by Shyam Nair (Mar 12)

A popular idea in moral philosophy is that facts about what we ought to do are explained by facts about what we have reason to do. The idea is that in standard choice situations there are are often considerations in favor of some act x as well as considerations in favor of an incompatible act y. The act that ought to be done is the act that “wins in the competition among reasons”. In recent years, much progress has been made in moral philosophy, epistemology, and philosophical logic toward understanding the different ways reasons can “win out” and understanding how to precisely and non-metaphorically describe the mechanics of this “winning out” process.

But there are certain simple cases that are still not well understood. For example, sometimes we can have two reasons to do x and one reason to do y. And it can happen that each of the reasons to do x is individually worse than the reason to do y but somehow together the strengths of the individual reasons to do x “add up” to make x the thing that ought to be done. The main aim of this talk is to explain why it is challenging to understand these cases and to present some conjectures about how to meet this challenge. Throughout the talk, we will adopt a general perspective that considers not only the kinds of cases with this structure that arise in moral philosophy but also the kinds of cases with this structure that arise in epistemology.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 12 Mar 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Shyam Nair, Lingnan University
Moderator: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Picture1Shyam Nair is an assistant professor of philosophy at Lingnan University. His research concerns issues in moral philosophy, epistemology, and philosophical logic. Before coming to Lingnan, he completed his PhD at the University of Southern California.

Second Annual Triangular Graduate Student Conference on Asian Philosophy (Mar 6-8)

Graduate Student Conference 2.1

The Second Annual Triangular Graduate Student Conference on Asian Philosophy (2015) is jointly organized and sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, and Yale-NUS College. Annual Triangular Graduate Student Conference on Asian Philosophy is held on a rotational basis between The National University of Singapore, National Chengchi University, and Kyoto University. The first meeting was in 2014, in National Chengchi University.

Conference Programme

Friday 6 March

2:00-3:30 Yasuo Deguchi (KU): “Nishida’s Contradictory Self-identity Reconstructed” (Keynote)
3:30-3:45 Break
3:45-4:15 Ryo Tanaka (KU): “Two Images of the World: Sellars and Buddhism”
4:15-4:45 Masumi Aoki (KU): “Manshi Kiyosawa: A Case of the Reception of Western Philosophy in Japan”
4:45-5:00 Break
5:00-6:00 Phillippe Major (NUS): “The Tradition of Anti-Traditionalism: Transcendence in Sartre and Nishitani”

Saturday 7 March

9:30-11:00 Loy Hui Chieh (NUS): “A Divine-Will Conception of Ethical Foundations in the Mozi” (Keynote)
11:00-11:15 Break
11:15-12:15 Ellie Wang (NCCU), “On Xunzi’s View of the Transformation of Human Nature”
12:15-1:15 Lunch Buffet at FASS
1:15-2:15 Maiko Yamamori (KU): “A Mathematical Interpretation of I Ching”
2:15-2:30 Break
2:30-330 Taro Okamura and Kazuhira Watanabe (KU): “On the Notion of Self: Hume and Asian Thought”
3:30-3:45 Break
3:45-4:15 Daryl Ooi Shen (NUS): “Some Dance to Remember – Zhuangzi and the Problem of Suffering”
4:15-4:45 Lee Wilson (NUS): “Diluvian Discourses: Zhiyan and Therapeutic Scepticism in the Zhuangzi”
4:45-5:45 Mary Riley (NUS): “The Role of Ming and Ethics in the Zhuangzi”
8:00- Party at Jay’s and Blaine’s place

Sunday 8 March

9:30-11:00 Lin Chen-Kuo (NCCU): “Perceiving thathatā as ālambana: On Chinese Yogācāra interpretations of Dignāga’s Investigation of the Percept” (Keynote)
11:00-11:15 Break
11:45-12:15 Wu Chih-YIng (NCCU): “How are Empty Words Used for Negation in Nāgārjunaa’s Vigrahavyāvartanī?”
12:15-2:00 Lunch (not provided)
2:00-3:00 Lin Fang-Min (NCCU): “Language in the Realm of Ultimate Truth: On Bhāviveka’s Theory of the Two Truths in the Treatise on the Jewel in the Hand”
2:30-2:45 Break
2:45-3:45 Hu Zhi-Chang (NCCU): “Saṃghabhadra’s Theory of Self-Cognition in the Abdhidharma-nyāyānusāra-śāstra”
3:45-4:45 Maikel Schmaeling (NUS) “Developing a moral taste–Rasa and Katharsis between Ethics & Aesthetics”
4:45-5:00 Closing Remarks

“Sustainability, Complex Systems, and the Greeks” by Mark Usher (Mar 5)

Proponents of sustainability and complex systems tend to present their ideas and prescriptions as new and innovative, and sometimes as conceptual insights and a set of values that have been recovered from non-Western traditions. On the first point, to the extent that sustainability studies and complexity theory utilize new technologies and scientific discoveries in their pursuits, they are indeed new and innovative. However, the fundamental tenets of sustainability—living within limits; imposing/encouraging limits and stewardship through social pressures/incentives and civic policies—are some of the hallmarks of ancient Greek culture and thought. As for systems thinking—the idea that no phenomenon is a discrete, isolated entity or event, but must be viewed as part of complex, interrelated wholes with physical, moral, social, and noetic dimensions—this is exactly the philosophic undertaking of the Presocratics and of the poet Hesiod, and, in their wake, of Plato and Aristotle, and, later, the Stoics, Cynics, and Epicureans.

This lecture is the first installment of Professor Usher’s new book project in which he traces the trajectory of modern ideas about sustainability and complexity theory back to the Greeks. Its aim is 1) to invigorate current thinking in these areas, and 2) to underscore the extent of the Greco-Roman contribution to these topics of contemporary, global concern.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 5 Mar 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Mark Usher, University of Vermont
Moderator: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Picture1M.D. Usher is Professor and Chair of Classics at the University of Vermont. In addition to academic books and articles, he has published three children’s books, original poetry and translations, and two opera libretti. The impetus for this project on sustainability and complex systems stems from his training as a Classicist specializing in Greek literature, his appointment as a Sustainability Faculty Fellow at the University of Vermont for 2010-11, and twelve years of hands-on experience as a farmer. (He and his wife built and operate Works & Days Farm, a small, diversified farmstead that produces lamb, poultry, eggs, and honey on 125 acres.)


Raffles Institution Inter-school Philosophy Dialogue 2015: Call for Facilitators

The Philosophy Department of Raffles Institution has been organising an annual inter-school philosophy dialogue for secondary school students for the past 11 years. The dialogue session have students engaging one another in small group discussions based on a variety of stimuli revolving around a number of philosophical themes.These discussion sessions are facilitated by teachers who are teaching philosophy in schools across Singapore, many of them alumni of NUS Philosophy. This year, in the spirit of SG50 and NUS 110, the Department of Philosophy, NUS, is sponsoring the event, with the aim of nurturing the art of philosophical discussion, as well as connecting with our alumni members at the event.

Event: Inter-School Philosophy Dialogue: SG50 Edition
Date: 30 May 2015 (Sat)
Time: 8.00 am – 12.30 pm
Venue: Raffles Institution (Year 1 – 4 campus)

The organisers have also extended an invitation for faculty members, graduate students and advance undergraduate students to join them as facilitators. If you are keen to join in this celebration of Philosophy, do sign up at: http://goo.gl/forms/AlJukGjplo and the organisers will get in touch with you with more detailed info at a later date.

“Affectivity and the scaffolded mind” by Giovanna Colombetti (Feb 12)

In this talk I present some work in progress on the notion of “affective scaffolding”. I first introduce Kim Sterelny’s (2010) concept of “scaffolded mind” and present it as a more productive framework than the more famous “extended-mind thesis” for analysing the relationship between mind and world. Then I apply the notion of the scaffolded mind to affective phenomena, with particular attention to the way in which material items scaffold our affective states. I distinguish various senses in which material scaffolds can be incorporated into our affective lives. We can talk, for example, of “physiological incorporation”, but also of “incorporation into the body image” and perhaps of other forms of affective incorporation as well. A further related issue I address concerns the extent to which incorporation requires the transparency of incorporated objects – namely, whether objects that are (affectively) incorporated are necessarily always absent or un-noted in experience.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 12 Feb 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Giovanna Colombetti, University of Exeter
Moderator: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Picture1Giovanna Colombetti is Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology of the University of Exeter (UK). She studied philosophy and cognitive science in Florence, Birmingham, and Sussex, and held research positions in Toronto, Trento, and Boston. She also held various visiting fellowships across Europe, and in Sydney. Her primary research area is the so-called “embodied” approach developed in the philosophy of cognitive science (including related views according to which cognition is “embedded”, “enactive”, and “extended”), and philosophical and scientific approaches to emotion and affect. From 2010 to 2014 she was Principal Investigator of a project funded by the European Research Council, titled “Emoting the Embodied Mind”. While on this project she worked to show the implications of taking an embodied-mind approach for the conceptualisation of a variety of affective phenomena. She has published articles in British Journal of Philosophy of Science, Inquiry, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, Philosophical Psychology, Philosophical Studies, and chapters in books edited by MIT Press and Oxford University Press. She co-edited, with Evan Thompson, a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies on “Emotion Experience”, and is the author of The Feeling Body: Affective Science Meets the Enactive Miind, published in 2014 by MIT Press.

“An Austrian Economic model of Wittgenstein’s Philosophies of Language and Mind” by Richard McDonough (Feb 5)

Most scholars understand para. 608 of Wittgenstein’s Zettel (Z608) to propose that language might emerge out of chaos at the neural centre.  These scholars see in Z608 one or another neural theory, causal indeterminism, or connectionist processes, or even the possibility of a pile of sawdust at the neural centre. But these contradict Wittgenstein’s basic views that the philosopher must not advance theories and that the relevant phenomena are “always before one’s eyes” (Philosophical Investigations, pgh. 129; Culture and Value, p. 63). The paper proposes an Austrian economic model of Z608 that better coheres with Wittgenstein’s fundamental views. For example, the Austrian philosopher-economist, Hayek argues that the price of a commodity emerges out of the chaos of activities at the centre of gravity a free market. He proposes no theories about hidden mechanisms but only a description of the economic activities right “before one’s eyes.” Whereas Wittgenstein claims language arises, not out of physical chaos in the brain, but out of the chaotic behaviour in human forms of life, Austrian economists hold that the natural price arises out of the chaotic behaviour in human forms of economic life. Finally, the paper shows how this Austrian economic model of Z608 clarifies Kripke’s suggestion that the Austrian economic calculation argument against socialism parallels Wittgenstein’s “private language argument”.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 5 Feb 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Richard McDonough, James Cook University, Singapore
Moderator: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

RichRichard McDonough received his BA in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971, his MA in philosophy from Cornell in 1974, and his Ph.d. from Cornell in 1975.  He is the author of two books, about 50 articles in internationally referred journals, several encyclopedia and dictionary entries, 11 book reviews and has acted as a guest editor of Idealistic Studies.  He has taught previously at Bates College, National University of Singpaore, University of Tulsa, University Putra Malaysia, Overseas Family College, PSB Academy, University of Maryland, Arium Academy, and James Cook University.   In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, general humanities and writing courses.

Graduate Student Conference Call for Paper

659px-Shiba_Kokan_A_meeting_of_Japan_China_and_the_West_late_18th_centuryThe second annual NUS-National Chengchi University (Taiwan)-Kyoto University Triangular Graduate Student Conference on Asian philosophy will be hosted here at NUS 6-8 March. This is a friendly, informal conference where students of these three universities share ideas and work in progress. The conference will commence with keynote addresses by Profs Loy Hui Chieh, Lin Chen-Kuo of Chenching National University and Yasuo Deguchi of Kyoto University.

Students are invited to submit proposals for either short (20 minute) talks or full (50 minute) talks for this conference. It is a great opportunity to share ideas and to meet fellow students from around Asia. Please send a title and abstract to Jay Garfield (jay.garfield-at-yale-nus.edu.sg) and Michael Pelczar (phimwp-at-nus.edu.sg) by 14 February.

“Preferring to Go On” by Meghan Sullivan (Jan 22)

In my talk, I will identify some structural parallels between preferences that we form about prolonging our natural lives and preferences that we form about whether we hope to have an afterlife. I’ll argue that the two cases (taken as cases of forming rational preferences) are similar in ways which are often overlooked. I’ll then consider some norms that rational agents might follow in adopting preferences about “going on” more broadly conceived. I’ll argue both sets of “going on” preferences (life extension and afterlife) are preferences that can be guided by rational deliberation. And I’ll argue for a particular principle for forming these preferences.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 22 Jan 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Meghan Sullivan, University of Notre Dame
Moderator: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Picture1Meghan Sullivan is the Rev John A O’Brien Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.  She specializes in metaphysics and topics where it overlaps with semantics, logic, epistemology and practical reason.  She’s currently on leave writing a series of papers on issues at the intersection of the metaphysics of time and diachronic rationality, supported by grants from the University of Sydney and UC Riverside.  Meghan holds a PhD from Rutgers University and a B.Phil from Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

“Moral obligations of collective beneficence” by Anne Schwenkenbecher (Jan 8)

The world is an imperfect place. Many of its imperfections have people live worse lives than they could live. And many of those lives could be substantially improved if we collectively worked on solutions to them. But when are we morally required to do that?

This paper examines the idea of moral obligations of collective beneficence – obligations we have to collectively help others in need where we bear no responsibility for their need. Acts of collective beneficence can either provide so-called threshold goods or contribute to incremental goods. For incremental goods, every contribution counts and the more we contribute the better. However, this paper will focus on moral obligations to collectively produce threshold goods, that is, goods the production of which requires a minimum number of contributions. Providing such goods may require all available agents to assist (joint necessity) or only a subgroup of them (overdetermination cases). When moving away from uncontroversial threshold cases towards more complex scenarios, it will become apparent that duties to contribute to collective beneficence are less stringent the greater the number of agents involved. While the case for moral obligations of collective beneficence can be convincingly argued for small-scale threshold scenarios, such duties are more difficult to justify once the problem in need of remedy exceeds a certain scale and complexity.  This may mean that such obligations – in their most stringent form – can only be held by agents in relatively small groups.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Thursday, 8 Jan 2015
Time: 2pm – 4pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Anne Schwenkenbecher, Murdoch University
Moderator: Dr. Qu Hsueh Ming

About the Speaker:

Picture1Anne Schwenkenbecher is a Lecturer in Philosophy in the School of Arts. Before joining Murdoch University in June 2013, she held appointments at The University of Melbourne, the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Australian National University, and the University of Vienna. Her PhD in Philosophy (2009) is from Humboldt University of Berlin. Anne’s research focuses on a range of topics in normative and applied ethics, as well as political philosophy and action theory. These include the possibility and normative significance of collective agency, the ethics of political violence, and ethical problems arising from climate change. Her book “Terrorism: A philosophical enquiry” was published with Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.

Languages courses at YNC open to NUS students

UPDATE: A poster for the Classical Chinese class is now available.

* * * * *

This is from the instructor (Dr. Green Steven James):

You may be interested to learn that Yale-NUS will be running a beginners’ course in Ancient Greek this coming semester. This is, as far as I’m aware, the first time that such a course has been delivered here, and we are pleased to be able to offer it as an elective more widely across NUS.

The course, which assumes no prior knowledge of ancient Greek, will enable students to read right from the start adapted text drawn from the rich variety of Greek literature, including Plato, Greek historiography, and Athenian comedy (Aristophanes). For this reason, we feel that it might provide students with a very interesting and meaningful complement to their study of Philosophy.

A poster and information sheet is attached for your interest.

This course has only just been added to the general catalogue of electives, and so it is possible that students are not fully aware of it. I would be most grateful if you could draw it to the attention of interested parties, and do tell them to get in touch with me by email if they have any further queries.

There is also information that a Classical Chinese class may be in the works as well…