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Pellissippi State and Vanderbilt Present:

Tennessee Philosophical Association
37th Annual Meeting: November 4-5, 2005
Vanderbilt University 

Keynote Speaker: Mark Sagoff
University of  Maryland
School of Public Policy

''A Philosophical Autopsy of Environmentalism''

Friday, 7:30 P.M., 114 Furman Hall, followed by a spirited reception 

Sessions: Saturday, 9:00 A.M.- 3:55 P.M.

9:00 - 9:55 A.M.
Prophetic Pragmatism's Suspicious Religious Fellowship,
Caleb Clanton (Vanderbilt)
response: Brian Rabinovitz (Vanderbilt)     Furman 109

An Evidence Puzzle, Peter Murphy (UT Knoxville) and Allen Coates (ETSU)
response: Brian Ribeiro (UT Chattanooga)     Furman 132

Of Cats and Babies: when is a being self-aware? Talia Welsh (UT Chattanooga)
response: Todd M. Johnson (UT Knoxville)     Furman 217

10:00 - 10:55 A.M.
Clarke and Stroud on the Plane-Spotters,
Brian Ribeiro (UT Chattanooga)
response: Peter Murphy (UT Knoxville)     Furman 106

Family Resemblance: Metaphor and the Illusion of Essentialism, Diane Williamson (Vanderbilt)
response: Josh Houston (Vanderbilt)     Furman 109

Morality is a Dangerous Tool and Philosophers are so Naïve, David Howell (Pellissippi State)
response: Mark Michael (Austin Peay)     Furman 132

Kierkegaardian Transparency and Ethical Selfhood, J. Aaron Simmons (Vanderbilt)
response: Rick Ray (Northeast State)     Furman 217

11:00 - 11:55 A.M.
Dewey and Darwin: A Linkage Problem,
Richard M. Gale (UT Knoxville)
response: Peter Limper (Christian Bros. U.)     Furman 106

On Justifying a Morality Based on God's Commands, Dennis Plaisted (UT Chattanooga)
response: Charley Anderson (Pellissippi State)     Furman 109

Does Tolerance Matter? Liberalism, Fanaticism, and the Virtues of Democracy, Chris King (Vanderbilt)
response: Jordy Rocheleau (Austin Peay)     Furman 132

An Ethos of Absolute Negativity in Georges Bataille, Apple Igrek (Central Washington)
response: CJ Boyd (Vanderbilt)     Furman 217

12:00 - 12:05 P.M.
Business meeting ... with FREE LUNCH following     Furman 109

1:00 - 1:55 P.M.
Redemption, Justice and Mercy,
James Montmarquet (Tennessee State)
response: Justin Barnard (Crichton)     Furman 106

Wittgenstein and Philippa Foot: Illuminating the “Non-accidental” and “Inexpressible” Status of Value in Wittgenstein's TLP, Sam von Mizener (UT Knoxville)
response: Rick Ray (Northeast State)     Furman 109

Vanishing Planets and Cornucopianism, Jason Kawall (Colgate)
response: Dennis Plaisted (UT Chattanooga)     Furman 132

Animal Farm: The City of Pigs as a Platonic Ideal, Alan Kim (Memphis)
response: John Phillips (UT Chattanooga)     Furman 217

2:00 - 2:55 P.M.
How Removing Freud's Lamarckism Creates a Vacuum in Psycho-analysis,
Scott Borchers (Vanderbilt)
response: Talia Welsh (UT Chattanooga)     Furman 109

Unity of Science, Interfield Theories, and Scientific Communities, Todd M. Johnson (UT Knoxville)
response: Charles Cardwell (Pellissippi State)     Furman 132

Dignity, Agency, and Worth, Jill Graper Hernandez (Memphis)
response: Allen Coates (ETSU)     Furman 217

3:00 - 3:55 P.M.

Emmanuel Levinas on Husserl's Fifth Cartestian Meditations, Kristie Dotson (Memphis)
response: Aaron Simmons (Vanderbilt)     Furman 109

Thou Shalt Not Kill, Stephen Faison (Vanderbilt)
response: Steve Blakemore (Wesley Biblical Seminary)     Furman 132

Toward a Critical Contextualism in Social-Political Philosophy: A Deweyan Account of Experience as the Anti-foundation, Brian Rabinovitz (Vanderbilt)
response: J. Caleb Clanton (Vanderbilt)     Furman 217


Abstracts of papers


Scott F. Aikin (Vanderbilt) and Mark Anderson (Belmont)
Argumentative Norms in Republic I
      Socrates has a sophisticated theory of argumentation driving his method. First, Socrates' attitude is that critical discussion is a central feature of our lives - it is not some special enterprise cordoned off for special occasions, but is something we ought to and do engage in regularly. In this, the Socratic attitude is that conversational exchange is maximally argumentative. Second, Socrates requires that interlocutors have and cultivate a certain character, not just perform the right kinds of speech acts. Relatedly, the benefit of dialectic is one that is not limited to the overt discursive participants.

Scott Borchers (Vanderbilt)
How Removing Freud's Lamarckism Creates a Vacuum in Psycho-analysis
    Freud uses biogenetic-Lamarckism to address three fundamental questions.  Why do human beings have an unconscious?  How did it evolve?  And how does the evolutionary history of the species explain some of the workings of the unconscious, particularly repression?  Since both the biogenetic law and Lamarckism are untenable, these three questions remained unanswered.  If Freud cannot answer these questions he has little evidence that there is such a thing as the unconscious, at least as he describes it.

Caleb Clanton (Vanderbilt)
Prophetic Pragmatism's Suspicious Religious Fellowship
    Cornel West proposes his prophetic pragmatism - one which incorporates pragmatically reconstructed religion into the scope of political involvement - as an alternative to what he see as the politically impractical approaches of politico-religious separatists like Rawls and Rorty.  In this paper, I argue that West's proposed alternative fails to be a viable one insofar as it relies upon unethical relationships with traditional religious believers in African-American churches.

Kristie Dotson (Memphis)
Emmanuel Levinas on Husserl's Fifth Cartestian Meditations
    This paper tries to give a fuller account of what is at stake in Levinas' critique of Husserl's “pairing association” found in Husserl's theory of intersubjectivity.  Many suppose Levinas, when he explains Husserl reduces the other to the same, is simply offering a critique that is aimed at revealing Husserl's lack of respect for difference among people.  However, Levinas' critique goes beyond such an accusation.  Rather, Levinas' critique is aimed at showing that Husserl's method cannot hope to succeed without displacing the role and ability of the cogito.

Stephen Faison (Vanderbilt)
Thou Shalt Not Kill
    Terminators, humanoid cyborgs from the popular science-fiction film series, kill without remorse or pity, but are beyond the realm of moral critique because they are machines that simply obey their programming.  Astonishingly, Kierkegaard takes the same position with regard to Abraham in Fear and Trembling.  Kierkegaard contends that if the angel had not intervened, and Abraham had killed Isaac, his act would be objectionable on ethical grounds, but justified on religious grounds, since he was ordered by God to sacrifice his son.  This paper will discuss the disturbing similarities between Kierkegaard's interpretation of Abraham and the killer cyborgs in the Terminator films, and the obstacle Kierkegaard's defense of Abraham presents to our ability to explain why we should not “go around killing people.”

Richard M. Gale (UT Knoxville)
Dewey and Darwin: A Linkage Problem
    In his famous essay, "The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy," John Dewey argued that his instrumentalism, along with his view of philosophy as social criticism, is supported by the content and logical methodology of Drawin's theory of evolution. It is argued that this linkage claim is bogus.

Jill Graper Hernandez (Memphis)
Dignity, Agency, and Worth
    A contemporary criticism of Kantian ethics is that it fails to recognize the logically possible class of acts that are impermissible, but morally worthy.  This project articulates a substantive constraint on morally worthy acts, such that acts that are done from the best possible motive must respect the dignity of human agency, since the intent of moral requirements is to defend the inherent dignity of humanity.  To succeed, I will argue that the dignity of agency counts as a right-making characteristic of all morally right acts, that the dignity of agency properly constrains acts, and that the intrinsic worth of the human person is the ground for the absolute worth of right actions done from the best possible motive.

David Howell (Pellissippi State)
Morality is a Dangerous Tool and Philosophers are so Naïve
    The first part of the title suggests what happens in analysis, most basically, what kinds of questions one is led to ask when morality is viewed as a tool.  For whatever else it may be, it certainly is a tool.  So I ask, “What are the functions/jobs for which this tool has been designed?”  They are part of, though narrower then, the functions of practical reasoning generally, though practical reasoning is a tool as well.  More precisely, the primary job of morality is to 'fill in the gaps' in decision making and conflict of interest resolution, for which the other basic styles of practical reasoning do not suffice.  To try to identify these 'gaps', I ask, “What would the human world be like if morality, understood as a tool, had never been invented?”  I then describe two basic traditions, each with its own historical trajectory, in the history of moral philosophy.  The first I call the summum bonum tradition, which as a practical decision making tool rests all solutions/answers upon the logically impeccable basis of maximizing one's own 'real' interests.  This tradition is logically impeccable, but deficient in its practical usefulness, a disastrous deficiency in a tool whose function is to offer the 'knowledge' for social decision making in the society at large.  Without (or perhaps with) being too arrogantly elitist, the summum bonum answers are simply not usable as a tool for the great majority of human beings in any society that I have ever heard of.  The second tradition is the duty/ought/obligation/ rights tradition (DOOR).  The internal logic of this tradition demands that morality must be its own basis, irreducible to anything else, in particular to our 'real' interests.  When such a autonomous system is seen as doubtful, at least by one tradition and a growing tradition of philosophers, how can we avoid the conclusion that morality, thus conceived is anything other than a fraud or an illusion.  The problem is that the job to be done, to 'fill in the gaps' in practical reasoning for which DOOR morality was invented in the first place, that job still needs to be done.  So, I examine the other two basic sources of decision making, feelings (roughly Hume's sentiments common to all mankind) and cool self love, to see if these gaps can be narrowed or even eliminated.  I conclude that they can be narrowed but not eliminated, looking at modern contractarians as the jumping off point.  If the gaps cannot be eliminated, then I argue that the second kind of naïveté appears.  Despite the 'checkered' history of moralities as a sociological datum and the long history of failed moral theories proposed by moral philosophers, we somehow remain convinced that we can 'fix' morality and come up with the right/true theory which will explain how this tool is supposed to be made.  I conclude that this naïveté (or is it arrogance) arises from the sociological fact that tools, this tool very strongly, have their own unavoidable logic and that we philosophers have not been sufficiently aware of the power of this fact.  We remain convinced that we can impose the logic that we want upon the internal logic of the tool.  We can't.  It's time for Plan B, and the full acceptance of the power and danger inherent in the logic of the moral tool at least suggests what direction to head in.

Apple Igrek (Vanderbilt)
An Ethos of Absolute Negativity in Georges Bataille
    The logic of death, for Baudrillard, is entirely symbolic.  This is why his main criticism of Bataille is focused upon the social creation of limits: to the extent that Bataille presupposes a binary relationship between life and death, the symbolic and imaginary, he likewise posits an outside reality which exceeds the phenomenology of exchange, giving, and communication.  In defense of Bataille, I will argue that his distinction between primary and secondary expenditure (or what might be called the real and symbolic) does not imply, in any fashion, a pure return to nature.  It is in fact this distinction, surprisingly enough, which precludes the idealistic transcendence of social reality: the limit of death cannot be separated from ritualistic practices, but it nevertheless points to an outside negativity (that is, expenditure) which escapes the concrete determinations of life.

Todd M. Johnson (UT Knoxville)
Unity of Science, Interfield Theories, and Scientific Communities
    Originating from the positivists, the unification of science seeks to identify, or establish, the relationships between various areas of scientific inquiry. Initially, this project based itself on a principle of reduction. However, this idea remains highly contentious on both theoretical and practical grounds, and certainly, no convergence in the philosophy of science has been reached.
    There remains a seldom considered alternative method for obtaining unification in science, however, which I argue is both superior to reductionism and theoretically and practically feasible, called interfield theories. Along with their description and benefits, I provide a response on behalf of Darden and Maull to criticisms made by John Dupré against interfield theories, which have largely gone uncontested thus far. I conclude by offering a solution to the demarcation problem Darden and Maull intentionally avoid, further strengthening interfield theories as a viable unification of science mechanism.

Jason Kawall (Colgate)
Vanishing Planets and Cornucopianism
    Many economists argue that there are no in-principle limits to resource availability on the Earth.  In this paper I develop an argument against such a position (“cornucopianism”), showing that it would - in its strong forms - entail the absurd result that we could achieve infinite resources from a small lump of iron.  In its weaker forms, we find that much more evidence would be needed to justify the cornucopian position.  I respond to potential objections to the argument, and briefly touch on additional problems for the cornucopian position.

Alan Kim (Memphis)
Animal Farm: The City of Pigs as a Platonic Ideal
    In Republic II, after Socrates has constructed the smallest conceivable city answerable to the demands of Necessity, Glaucon dismisses it as unfit for human habitation. The lack of luxurious food, in the first place, makes life in such a town unpalatable to him: “If you were founding a city of pigs, Socrates, wouldn't you fatten them on the same diet?” (Rep. 372de). Without further ado, the “true city” is abandoned and Socrates and his interlocutors spend the rest of the Republic discussing the etiology, diagnosis, and possible treatment of the chronic “fever” afflicting the city of luxury. Socrates's uncomplaining turn away from the “true city” is remarkable. If it is indeed the true city, he should defend it, but he does not. Prominent commentators such as Bloom, Reeve, and Annas have seen nothing strange in this, believing as they do that it is merely a forerunner of the producing class of the Kallipolis (Reeve); that it has “no clear place in the Republic's moral argument” (Annas); or that it is “obviously impossible” (Bloom). On this general view, it seems, the Kallipolis is a downright practical and hardheaded alternative to Socratic pie in the sky. Against this position, I take seriously Socrates's belief that the City of Pigs is the true city. I begin by describing what I call its “political economy,” that is, the economic (and hence political) structure of a community based on technology. I then discuss how the political-economic model established in the City of Pigs reappears in the structure and virtue of the Kallipolis. Finally, I show that, given my preceding discussion, the City of Pigs plays a central role in the Republic, namely as a quasi-medical paradigm of ideal communal balance, an ideal that even the Kallipolis never achieves, and to which its rulers, the guardians, must constantly look in performing their political craft.

Chris King (Vanderbilt)
Does Tolerance Matter? Liberalism, Fanaticism, and the Virtues of Democracy
    Tolerance is often held in high esteem in democratic, pluralist societies. However, various forms of liberalism that promote an idea of tolerance do so on the basis of a specious moral and epistemic theory referred to here as value pluralism. This essay examines the way in which this theory manifests itself in different accounts of tolerance in democratic societies. I argue that at least within political liberalism, the ideology of tolerance will tend to promote more intolerance as opposed to less in democratic, pluralist societies.

Sam von Mizener (UT Knoxville)
Wittgenstein and Philippa Foot: Illuminating the “Non-accidental” and “Inexpressible” Status of Value in Wittgenstein's TLP
    Wittgenstein's stance regarding value (in his TLP and “Lecture on Ethics”) is illuminated by Philippa Foot's position in her article “Morality as a System of Hypothetical Imperatives”. I suggest that in speaking about “value” as “absolute” and “non-accidental” Wittgenstein means what Foot means in saying that ethics has a prima facie “categorical” quality.  Wittgenstein concludes that value must lie outside the world, and is thus inexpressible, whereas Foot suggests that we relinquish the “magical force” that seems to attach to ethical claims. Grounding ethics in the world is to give value a “relative” or “trivial” (hypothetical) status according to Wittgenstein.

James Montmarquet (Tennessee State)
Redemption, Justice and Mercy
    'If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so?  And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person instead?' (C.S. Lewis)  Here I argue against the theories of atonement offered by Lewis himself and Richard Swinburne - in fact, against any conception of a planned atonement of God with sinful humanity, through the suffering and death of an innocent.  Insofar as the suffering and death of Jesus is redemptive, I argue, these must have involved been unplanned - yet able to evoke divine mercy.

Peter Murphy (UT Knoxville) and Allen Coates (ETSU)
An Evidence Puzzle
    This paper introduces a puzzle about evidence. A person is told that in the future they will acquire evidence for some proposition, P. After arguing that this puts the person in a position to have a justified belief that P before they have acquired the evidence, we focus on the later time when they acquire the evidence. At the later time, what happens to the earlier justification for believing P? There are only two possibilities: either it no longer contributes to the person's overall justification for believing P, or it still contributes. We present arguments against each possibility.

Dennis Plaisted (UT Chattanooga)
On Justifying a Morality Based on God's Commands
    Critics have frequently argued against divine command theory that we cannot justify acceptance of it unless we can determine that God is good or that God's commands are morally acceptable.  Making such a judgment would require that we possess a moral standard--namely, our own moral intuitions--prior to accepting divine command theory, which, it is claimed, implies that God's commands cannot be our ultimate moral standard.  I maintain that this implication fails, for it presupposes either a highly questionable view of the role our intuitions play in normative theory justification or an unnecessarily strong conception of divine command theory.

Brian Rabinovitz (Vanderbilt)
Toward a Critical Contextualism in Social-Political Philosophy:  A Deweyan Account of Experience as the Anti-foundation
    In this paper I argue that Dewey's philosophical approach provides important resources for developing an account of social-political inquiry and criticism that is anti-foundational, but also allows for contextualist standards of rationality and value.  I first discuss the way in which Dewey's conception of experience is both anti-foundational and contextualist.  Second, I discuss how inquiry and criticism, and the standards and criteria of rationality and value for inquiry and criticism, can be developed from within experience.  Finally, I point toward ways in which this account of inquiry and criticism can be employed in social-political philosophy.

Brian Ribeiro (UT Chattanooga)
Clarke and Stroud on the Plane-Spotters
     The radical skeptic is faced with the problem of understanding the relation between his skeptical views on the one hand and our everyday knowledge-claims on the other.  In this paper I criticize one highly influential account of how the skeptic should understand this relation-due to Thompson Clarke (1972) and Barry Stroud (1984)-and propose an alternative account that I believe more precisely reconstructs the skeptic's point of view.

J. Aaron Simmons (Vanderbilt)
Kierkegaardian Transparency and Ethical Selfhood
    In this paper I offer a close reading of the first few pages of Kierkegaard's Sickness Unto Death in order to demonstrate the ontological stakes that lie behind Kierkegaardian ethics.  This paper is, thus, meant to be a supplement to the recent literature arguing for the ethical and political relevance of Kierkegaard's thought.  Ultimately, I contend that if the Kierkegaardian self is not an isolated and egoistic being, as suggested by such thinkers as Brand Blanshard and Emmanuel Levinas, but is rather constitutively ruptured by alterity, then ethics is not a mere add-on to his otherwise “religious” thought, but is actually inscribed in it from the outset.

Talia Welsh (UT Chattanooga)
Of Cats and Babies:  when is a being self-aware?
    Until the 1970s, models of early infancy tended to depict the young child as internally preoccupied and incapable of processing visual-tactile data from the external world.  Meltzoff and Moore's groundbreaking studies of neonatal imitation disprove this kind of characterization of early life:  they suggest that the infant is cognizant of its external environment and is able to control its own body.  Taking up these experiments, theorists argue that neonatal imitation provides an empirical justification for an innate ability to engage in social communication.  Since later imitation is taken as a benchmark for self and other-awareness, theorists claim that a proto- or primitive self must exist in the infant.  I argue this confuses “awareness” with “self-awareness.”  Given that we do not make such leaps with research in animal behavior, I question the overdetemination of infant behavior.  I conclude by questioning whether or not the new research in neonatal studies does call into question the significance of language for any sense of self.

Diane Williamson (Vanderbilt)
Family Resemblance: Metaphor and the Illusion of Essentialism
     Wittgenstein's theory of family resemblance can be best understood as a theory of language as metaphor.  My interpretation challenges the idea that family resemblance only applies to some terms like “language” and “game” and not to all concepts, and the idea that words can be defined by a closed set of definitions.  I compare Wittgenstein's theory to Nietzsche's, Davidson's and Ricoeur's theories of metaphor to uncover its political and epistemological implications.  A theory of transcendental linguistic essentialism helps Wittgenstein escape the problem of polysemy, but puts him at odds with his own criticisms of essentialism and philosophy.      

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