2009 Intermountain West Student Philosophy Conference

2010 |

Thursday, March 26th

Lunch: 11:30-12:20 (CTIHB, Department of Philosophy, 4th floor)


Session Ia

The Ideal Actor Theory of Well-Being: Beyond Exemplars and Advisors

Nina Emery (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Graduate Student)

12:30 – 1:20 -   Tanner Library CTIHB 459

Chair-Keisha Ray

Ideal desire theories of well-being link a particular person’s well-being to the satisfaction of desires he or she would have if she were epistemically and rationally ideal. I argue that neither of the two standard ideal desire theories of well-being, the ideal exemplar theory and the ideal advisor theory, gives a plausible analysis of well-being. I propose a new ideal desire theory of well-being, the ideal actor theory. According to this theory, what is good for someone is what that person’s ideal self would desire, were the ideal self to imagine herself in that person’s situation.

Session Ib

“Mad Dog” Empiricism

John J. Craw (University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Graduate Student)

12:30-1:20- Conference Room CTIHB 402D

Chair-Matt Mosdell

In a recent article on the origins of concepts, Jesse Prinz argues that the pendulum in western philosophy is due to swing back from rationalism to empiricism.  Among the conclusions of his argument are that "concepts, and the core domains that organize them, are all learned."  In this paper I explore and evaluate a view according to which Prinz's conclusion is right, but this view requires that innate mechanisms constrain the learning process.  Another way to say this is that the domains themselves are learned, and their structure is innate.  My argument has two controversial premises.  One premise is that neural activity gives rise to Bayesian-style inferences occurring at an unconscious level of visual perception and cognition.  The other premise is that innateness has two necessary and jointly sufficient conditions, both of which are satisfied by even the strictest contemporary version of concept empiricism.

Feminism and Political Philosophy/Metaphysics

Session IIa

Women’s Lives, Women’s Choices: Relational Autonomy and Oppressive Socialization

Jennifer Warriner (University of Utah, Graduate Student)

1:30 – 2:20 - Tanner Library CTIHB 459

Chair –Monika Piotrowska

Recently, John Christman has defended a procedural account of relational autonomy. Feminist critics of procedural accounts claim that they fail to identify agents whose endorsement of their value commitments is authentic. In response, Christman argues that agents must engage in hypothetical reflection to establish this authenticity. I argue that Christman’s account fails because the kind of reflection necessary to render an agent’s endorsements authentic calls for an agent to set aside her value commitments. This poses a significant theoretical issue, for setting aside one’s value commitments is inconsistent with a relational conception of the self.

Session IIb

Realization and Reduction: A Critique of the ‘Dimensioned View’

Kevin Morris (Brown University, Graduate Student)

2:30 – 3:20 - Conference Room CTIHB 402D

Chair –Keisha Ray

Despite its prominent place in the development of nonreductive physicalism, recent accounts of realization have suggested that its nonreductive credentials are far from obvious. This paper takes up Carl Gillett’s contention that while the “flat” view of realization at work in functional reduction should be rejected, his preferred “dimensioned” account supports an alternative form of reductionism about realized properties. I first argue that the “flat” view of realization is more tenable than Gillett supposes and, further, that his “dimensioned” alternative faces at least one important challenge. I then argue, contra Gillett, that it is doubtful that the dimensioned view implies reductionism about realized properties.

Metaphysics/practical reason

Session IIIa

Do We Really Have Control? New Problems Facing Libertarian Free Will

Jorgen Hansen (Utah Valley University, Undergraduate Student)

2:30 – 3:20 - Tanner Library CTIHB 459

Chair –Keisha Ray

Neuroscientific evidence has important ramifications for the metaphysics of free will. Under this new evidence, I examine the two most advocated notions of Libertarianism: agent-causation and causal indeterminism. I argue that both of these models presuppose a misguided notion of what constitutes a free decision. I offer a more sufficient model, which I call the Architectural Archetype. I then contest this view by arguing that decisions are not consciously created (as Libertarianism presupposes) but are rather consciously discovered, which I outline under a new model: the Archaeological Archetype. On this view, Libertarian free will is undermined and requires revision.

Session IIIb

Is Practical Reason Really Necessary?

A Defense of a Nihilistic Perspective Regarding Practical Reasoning

Tyler Stoehr (University of Utah, Graduate Student)

3:30 – 4:20 -Conference Room CTIHB 402D

Chair-Joel VanZanten

During the latter half of the 20th century (and especially during the last decade or so) the number of theories being defended in the field of practical reason has proliferated dramatically. This proliferation, however, threatens to undermine the entire aim of practical reason in general, for if different theories of practical reason yield different practical inferences and we don't have a method for choosing between them, then doesn't that make our choices (even if they were made after some sort of rational deliberation) completely arbitrary? In this presentation I will defend this conclusion against three philosophers who would argue to the contrary.

Practical Reason/feminism and Political Thought

Session IVa

Taking a closer look at the Standards of Practical Rationality: A Response to Candace Vogler's Reasonably Vicious

Meg Bowman (University of Utah, Graduate Student)

3:30 – 4:20 - Tanner Library CTIHB 459

Chair –Marissa Fischer

In Reasonably Vicious, Candace Vogler offers a defense of “the standard picture of practical reason” in which all such reasoning possesses a means-end or part-whole form. Central to her thesis are two arguments purporting to show that, since both intentional action and intention must possess this form, so also must the principal models for practical justification and deliberation. This paper attempts to undermine Vogler’s thesis by questioning the apparent closeness of that link, thus setting the stage for a rejection of her end-based account of practical rationality. I will argue that the ubiquitous phenomenon of agents abandoning long-term goals presents a real threat to her standard picture, and sketch an account of deliberation in which goals have a distinct function beyond that of acting as the mere stopping point for means-end reasoning.

Session IVb

Feminism and the Politics of History and Resistance

Aaron Ellis (Baylor University, Undergraduate Student)

1:30-2:20- Conference Room CTIHB 402D

Chair-Jenifer Warriner

A feminist discussion of possibility ought to include, in its attempts to redress inequality and marginalization, a holistic approach to (historical and political) authority's ordering of knowledge, value and action.  In our globalizing world, re-writing an oppressive history and advocating greater access to political, economic and social spheres, must consider fundamental epistemological and axiological suppositions upon which such spheres subsist. In this paper I attempt to apply liberation within the feminist context, and its knowledge of strictures, binds and paradigms, to the experience of the objectified, devalued personalities of our post-industrial world.

Session V: Keynote

Candace Vogler (University of Chicago) 4:45-6:15- Tanner Library CTIHB 459

6:30 - Dinner Party at the home of Dr. Leslie Francis, Department Chair

Friday, March 27th


Session VIa

Athletes aren’t the only People Who Take Performance-Enhancement Drugs: A Discussion of Drug Behavior in Sports and Music

Keisha Ray (University of Utah, Graduate Student)

11:00-11:50 -Tanner Library CTIHB 459

Chair –Stephanie Shiver

The use of performance-enhancement drugs amongst professional athletes has created a social phenomenon in America with college students, parents, coaches, and even the federal government weighing in. Most objections to performance-enhancement drugs falls into one of the following categories: the quality and reputation of sport is damaged, an unequal playing field is created, the reputation of the league is damaged, these drugs send a negative message to young fans, and the player and other players may be harmed. The same ethical reasons for the regulation of steroid use in sports will be applied to the music industry (and briefly the film industry) and determined if the reasons are even applicable to this profession. Some questions that will be asked throughout this paper are “what would a drug regulatory agency for the music industry look like?”, “should professional athletes be held to different drug standards than musicians?”, “can illicit drug use by musicians be considered performance-enhancement drug use?” and  “does the media reflect the public’s disinterest with drug use among musicians but it’s distaste for drug use in sports?”.

Session VIb

Foucault and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)

Emily Gillespie (Utah Valley University, Undergraduate Student)

11:00-11:50 - Seminar Room CTIHB 406

Chair –

Michel Foucault discusses the unattainable desire our society has for normality in his book Discipline and Punish:  The Birth of the Prison.  The notion that disciplining/treating deviants guides them back toward the norm is completely rejected by Foucault.  He cites three mechanisms (hierarchical observation, normalizing judgment, and the examination) used in an attempt to fix abnormal behavior.  Mental health professionals have employed these mechanisms for decades as they have compiled volumes on different levels of mental disorders.  The DSM-IV is meant to help diagnose and classify, but as Foucault would argue, it is only successful in encouraging more disorders.

1:00-1:50   LUNCH 

W.V. Quine/Metaphysics

Session VIIa

Quine and Pragmatism

Andrew Delunas (University of California at Santa Cruz, Graduate Student)

1:00-1:50- Tanner Library CTIHB 459

Chair –Judy Shi

W.V. Quine famously states in “Two Dogmas in Retrospect,” “I [have been] widely classified as a pragmatist. I don’t object, except that I am not clear on what it takes to qualify as a pragmatist.” Despite such claims to the contrary, I maintain that there is ample evidence of pragmatic thought throughout Quine’s corpus, but particularly in his works on epistemology, ontology, and indeterminacy of translation. This essay will endeavor to prove that Quine deserves a place of honor in the annals of this venerable American philosophical tradition.

Session VIIb

Quasi-Realism, The Embedding Problem, and Some Pragmatic Implications

Aaron Schroeder (Augustana College, Undergraduate Student)

1:00-1:50- Seminar Room CTIHB 406

Chair –Stephanie Shiver

Friedrich Nietzsche/Immanuel Kant

Session VIIIa

Nietzschean Eudaemonism: Science in the Service of Life

Nicholas Guardiano (The New School for Social Research, Graduate Student)

2:00-2:50- Tanner Library CTIHB 459

Chair –Joel VanZanten

In this paper I attempt to identify an eudaemonism peculiar to Nietzsche’s philosophy in his work Human, All Too Human and to investigate its standing in connection to his optimistic view of science (wissenschaft). I conclude that the science of “human, all too human” is conceived as a practical discipline having a remedial effect. Despite Nietzsche’s attempts not to bootstrap science to a theory of teleology, he features it as a moral tool that is beneficial to the good life. The sickly character of the Nietzschean “free spirit” who passionately practices the cold reasoning of science in a disposition of joy will find health and happiness.

Session VIIIb

Sacrifice and the Sublime in Kant’s Critique of Judgment

Meredith Trexler (University of Kansas, Graduate Student)

2:00-2:50- Seminar Room CTIHB 406

Chair –Matt Mosdell

In order to argue for his thesis that “beauty is a symbol of the morally good,” Kant uses analogy as a recurrent theme throughout his third critique. Although Kant does not specifically discuss or argue for the further analogy that I will present in this essay, this analogy does indeed provide additional support for his thesis. Kant explains that the “moral law…reveals itself aesthetically only through sacrifice, which is a deprivation – though one that serves our inner freedom…” This sacrifice is made by the imagination as it is confronted with sublimity. I argue that the sacrifice made by the imagination during an experience of the sublime symbolizes the sacrifice made by the will during a moral choice. This additional feature of the symbolic relationship between aesthetic experience and morality leaves us with reason to believe that elements in or reflections of the morally good are indeed present in aesthetic experience.

Moral Responsibility/Ethics

Session IXa

Lucky Assassins:  On Luck and Moral Responsibility

William Simkulet (University of Kansas, Graduate Student)

3:00-3:50 - Tanner Library CTIHB 459

Chair –Keisha Ray

The problem of moral luck threatens to undermine the concept of moral responsibility. Intuitively, one is only morally responsible for those things she has control over. However because everything is contingent, a matter of luck, it seems as if no one can be responsible for anything! In this paper I argue that luck plays no role in determining one's moral responsibility. First I critique Michael Zimmerman's proposed solution to the problem of moral luck. Then I argue that agents are only morally responsible for their actions, not the consequences of their actions (themselves a matter of luck).

Is the Ecological Crisis a Common Doom?

Saladdin Ahmed (Carleton University, Graduate Student)

3:00-3:50- Seminar Room CTIHB 406

Chair –Jack Anderson

My paper provides a Marxist account of ecology and the ecological crisis. The central question is whether the ecological crisis is “a common doom,” which is an expression Rosa Luxemburg uses in a speech in 1918. I argue that capitalism is unjust even in the distribution of its injustices.  Is the ecological crisis a crisis that will harm everyone, or like many other crises will only harm the poor and benefit the rich?  I discuss whether the ecological crisis is actually a crisis of capitalism, a crisis within capitalism, or a crisis by and for capitalism.

Philosophy of Religion

Session X

The Return of the Logical Problem of Evil

Thomas Metcalf (University of Colorado, Graduate Student)

4:00-4:50- Seminar Room CTIHB 406

Chair –Keisha Ray

I defend a new version of the logical problem of evil, according to which the known facts of evil are logically incompatible with the existence of the God of theism. I amend the well-known logical problem of evil by adding two additional plausible premises: that an omnipotent being has every genuine power and that the ability to reduce evil in the world successfully is a genuine power. It follows that God, an omnipotent being, has this power. But he has not reduced evil successfully, which is logically inconsistent with his moral perfection. Therefore, God’s existence is logically incompatible with the facts of evil in the world.

For any other questions, please contact Keisha Ray