Thursday, 6 August 2015

Women in Philosophy: Mentoring and Networking (2)

This is the second of two posts reporting on the Women in Philosophy workshop which was held on the 22nd and 23rd June at the University of York. This post will summarise the talks given on the second day of the workshop, you can read about the talks given on the first in a previous post.

Jules Holroyd (Nottingham), pictured above, opened the second day with a talk on Applying for Grants. Jules is currently the Principle Investigator of the Bias and Blame Project, for which she and her team received funding from the Leverhulme Trust. In her talk she gave very helpful information and advice on the grant application process.

Laura Frances Callahan (Oxford), pictured above, was the first mentee speaker of the day with her paper 'Evil: Only Sometimes Evidence against God'. Laura discussed a forthcoming paper by Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne, and Yoaav Isaacs which claimed that since the absence of evil would be evidence for the existence of God, the presence of evil must be evidence against it. Laura argued that given the way we actually learn about the presence of evil in the world, its existence does not in general disconfirm God's existence.

Next up was Umrao Sethi (Berkeley), pictured above, with her paper 'Objective Appearances and the Argument from Hallucination'. Umrao outlined three theses which have been taken to be jointly incompatible in the literature on philosophy of perception: Item Awareness, Mind-Independence, and the Common Kind Assumption. Philosophical accounts of perception have resisted the incompatibility by rejecting one of the three theses. Umrao took a different route, she suggested a way in which we might accept all three theses by appeal to her notion of constitutively over-determined appearances. 

After lunch mentee Natalie Ashton (Edinburgh), pictured above, presented her paper 'Feminist Epistemology as Mainstream'. Natalie began by pointing out that feminist epistemologies do not tend to be discussed in mainstream epistemology, she suggested that this may be due to a suspicion that political motivations cloud feminist epistemologies. Natalie argued that such a suspicion is misguided, and that many epistemologists (focusing in this paper on hinge epistemologists), are doing work compatible with feminist epistemologies. She also argued that hinge epistemologies would benefit from bringing feminist epistemologies into the mainstream.

Our final mentee talk was given by Julia Langkau (Konstanz), pictured above, with her paper 'Learning from Fiction'. Julia started with the claim that we can gain substantive knowledge from fiction. She argued that through fiction we can gain substantive counterfactual knowledge, in the same way that we gain such knowledge through the use of thought experiments. She focused on the role imagination plays in the gaining of such knowledge, and drew on empirical evidence to suggest that the counterfactual judgements we form when we read fiction are reliable ones.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Truths that We Would Rather not Know

This post is by Kevin Lynch, currently a Research Fellow at University College Dublin (pictured above). His research focuses on understanding self-deception and similar phenomena, and also has research interests in psychoanalysis, issues in metaphysics and epistemology, and the philosophy of information. Here he summarises his recent paper 'Willful Ignorance and Self-Deception' published in Philosophical Studies.

What is willful ignorance? The following passage from the memoirs of the high-ranking Nazi Albert Speer is often quoted as a good illustration of it. Here Speer recounts an occasion where his trusted friend and colleague, Karl Hanke, after visiting a concentration camp (probably Auschwitz), reportedly advised him never to accept an invitation to inspect one under any circumstances.

'I did not query him, I did not query Himmler, I did not query Hitler, I did not speak with personal friends. I did not investigate – for I did not want to know what was happening there … During those few seconds, while Hanke was warning me, the whole responsibility had become a reality again … For from that moment on, I was inescapably contaminated morally; from fear of discovering something which might have made me turn from my course, I had closed my eyes. This deliberate blindness outweighs whatever good I may have done or tried to do in the last period of the war … Because I failed at that time, I still feel, to this day, responsible for Auschwitz in a wholly personal sense' (Speer 1971).