Tennessee Philosophical Association
38th Annual Meeting: November 10-11, 2006
Friday, November 10
7:30 PM: Keynote Address
The Care of the Common: Politics in an Age of Uncertainty
Hans Sluga, University of California, Berkeley
Spirited reception in the Buttrick Hall Atrium
Saturday, November 11
Commentator: John Phillips (University of Tennessee, Chattanooga)
Commentator: Mark Michael (Austin Peay State University)
Room 205: “Originality,
Creativity, and Constitutional Constraint,”
Michael Allen (East Tennessee State University)
Commentator: Phil Oliver (Vanderbilt University)
Commentator: Janae Sholtz (University of Memphis)
Commentator: Mason Marshall (Vanderbilt University)
Commentator: Max Maloney (Christian Brothers University)
Commentator: Arlette Barahona (University of Memphis)
Commentator: Forrest Perry (Vanderbilt University)
11:00-11:55: Session III
Commentator: Vaughn Huckfeldt (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
Commentator: James Montmarquet (Tennessee State University)
Commentator: Mathew Lu (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
Commentator: Michael Allen (East Tennessee State University)
1:15-2:10: Session IV
1:15-2:10: Session IV
Commentator: Paul Tudico (East Tennessee State University)
Commentator: Allen Coates (East Tennessee State University)
Commentator: John Fitzpatrick (University of Tennessee, Chattanooga)
Commentator: Sam von Mizener (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
2:15-3:10: Session V
Commentator: Remy Debes (University of Memphis)
Commentator: Gregory Bock (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
Commentator: Caleb Clanton (Vanderbilt University)
Commentator: Rickey Ray (Northeast State Community College)
Commentator: Jeppe von Platz (University of Pennsylvania)
Commentator: Irwin Goldstein (Davidson College)
Commentator: Deborah Zeller (University of Memphis)
Abstracts of papers
Two Dogmas of Environmentalism
Environmental philosophy is plagued by two dogmas: that of environmental methodism and environmental particularism. They yield vicious philosophical practice and richly deserve criticism.
Originality, Creativity, and Constitutional Constraint
In this paper, I extend the idea of originality in respect of constitutionalism beyond that of a founding event to the periodic “reconstitution” of the political order. In doing so, I shift the notion of the creative constituent power of the People from the founding event to ongoing public deliberation. I ground this redeployment of constituent power in an idea of the productive or enabling aspect of constitutional constraints.
Between Alcoff and Butler on the Question of Sexual Difference
One of the terms being constantly re-worked in feminism is the concept “Women.” In this paper I examine Alcoff’s attempt to ground sexual difference in objective sex categories based on a non-foundationalist metaphysics. I raise concerns about her proposal to rely on science to be the determining ground of sexual identity. By dwelling on her affirmation and critique of Butler’s stance on gender and sexuality I aim to question the attempt to found sex on a non-historical/non-political basis. In accord with Butler’s position, I offer reasons why we must keep the question of sexual difference in the historico-political sphere.
Intellectual Virtue and Knowledge
Linda Zagzebski defines knowledge as cognitive contact with reality arising from acts of intellectual virtue; these virtues are, to her, a subset of the moral virtues. John Greco criticizes her theory of knowledge arguing that these types of intellectual virtues are neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge, but I conclude here that his criticisms are only partially successful. He has shown that Zagzebski-type acts of intellectual virtue are not necessary, but I think they are sufficient. To demonstrate this, I explore the Aristotelian notion of becoming virtuous, drawing a parallel between moral virtues and intellectual ones.
What is it about abortion?
Abortion is popularly held to be immoral except in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the mother. In this paper, I seek a principled justification for these specific exceptions and suggest that moral consistency requires acceptance of abortion on demand. Since agreement on the exceptions is so widespread, one wonders why abortion is such a big deal. I suggest that the puzzle arises because exceptionally strong but wholly personal values are conflated with universal, moral ones.
Caleb Clanton (Vanderbilt)
Fallibility, Religious Reasoning, and Deliberative Democracy After Liberal Conversational Constraints
Mainstream liberal theorists generally think that citizens have a duty to refrain from voicing religious reasons in the public square and to employ secular “public” reasoning that is neutral among competing comprehensive doctrines. This view has come under considerable fire in the last few years in large part because the task of identifying a source of neutral "public" reason is at best difficult, if not impossible. Whereas the current debate over this issue centers on the source and hence content of the reasons citizens employ, I suggest here that we’d be better served to refocus the discussion on the manner with which citizens hold the beliefs that guide their political behavior. To that end, I argue that citizens should be prepared to hold their views fallibly when participating in the activities of the public square.
On the Value of Truth and the Nature of Belief
Minimalists hold that truth is not a substantive property, and so they cannot explain the value of truth by appealing to its nature. Thus they seem to face a dilemma: either abandon their minimalism or deny that truth is a value. They can evade this dilemma by offering an explanation of truth's value that does not appeal to its nature. In this paper, I offer such an explanation. In particular, I show that the value of truth may be explained in terms of the representational nature of belief.
Why Thinking about Emotion Means Rethinking Cognition, Means Rethinking Emotion
Since the appearance of Paul Griffith’s widely read book, What Emotions Really Are, philosophy has witnessed a sudden increase of interest in so called “basic emotions” or “affect programs,” the psychological theory that some emotions result from complex, automated response systems. However, philosophers arguably still lack a satisfactory understanding of these emotional “programs.” As a remedy, I analyze current affect program theory and the cognitive status of affect programs in particular. The result is a novel theory of “cognition” itself, and a possible solution to what Griffiths somewhat ironically helped reinvigorate, the tireless debate about what emotions really are.
Does the Individual Survive Death? Buddhist Insights Concerning Personal Identity, Personal Continuity, and Rebirth
The notion that a human individual is essentially an abiding self or soul is, and has long been, a common belief throughout the world. Indeed, this belief exists as a sort of primal intuition long before it is codified by religion or formalized by philosophy with its essentialist or substantialist theories of the self. One of the core tenets of Buddhist philosophy, however, denies the reality of any purported substantial self or soul. Nonetheless, most Buddhists also endorse the notion of rebirth or “reincarnation”. Prima facie, there may appear to be an inconsistency here: if there is no substantial self or soul, how could there be rebirth? We explain how Buddhists reconcile this apparent inconsistency, and argue that, on Buddhist principles, these two notions are indeed consistent.
The Virtues of Utilitarianism
Assuming that liberal utilitarians can answer the rights based objections raised by Rawls and others are their good reasons to believe that their utilitarianism offers a viable theory of justice? As Rawls notes the most fundamental goal of a human society is to advance the good of its members. If liberal utilitarianism appears to provide a just and efficient vehicle for the distribution of goods in a society, then it should be given closer scrutiny than it has received. In this paper I will offer five reasons for thinking this may be true.
1. Utilitarians are members of the reality-based community.
2. Utilitarianism is sensitive to opportunity costs.
3. Utilitarians are not prone to false dichotomies.
4. Liberal utilitarianism is sensitive to both negative and positive rights.
5. Utilitarian ethics is objective, rather than absolutist or relativistic.
Solipsism and the Solitary Language User
The other minds skeptic supposes there may be no minds other than his. The external world skeptic thinks there could be no world external to him. Some philosophers think a person can refute the skeptic and prove that his world is not the solitary scenario the skeptic supposes his could be. In this paper I examine one argument some people think refutes solipsism. These people appeal to the Wittgenstein thesis that it is impossible for there to be a language only one person understands. I show people do not refute the skeptic with the Wittgensteinian, language-necessarily-is-shared principle.
Environmental Virtue and Hume’s Sensible Knave
Near the end of his second Enquiry, Hume imagines a character who poses a serious threat to Hume’s moral sentimentalism. This “sensible knave” is shamelessly effective at pursuing his self-interest, taking advantage of others’ inclinations to be moral. Here I propose that Hume’s depiction of the conflict between knaves and non-knaves provides a useful analogy for confronting the environmental ethical dispute over prudentialism and nonanthropocentrism. Following Hume’s response to knavery, I suggest that an appropriate response to prudentialism is to affirm the ecological effects of acting virtuously, since those effects reveal that many environmental values escape reduction to prudentialist motives.
Solipsism and the Universality of Reasons
Justifying the universality of reasons would allow each of us to criticize the reasons of others, yet this significant principle of practical reasoning has received relatively little discussion in contemporary literature. I first explain the universality of reasons, including its powers and limits, focusing on what I call a ‘community of reasons’. The subsequent portions of this paper examine and criticize Thomas Nagel’s justification for the universality of reasons. Nagel bases his justification on considerations about what it would mean to avoid solipsism, but I will show that Nagel’s argument actually assumes, rather than justifies, the universality of reasons.
The intuitionist’s epistemological project, once divorced of its metaphysical entanglements, is salvageable. This paper is part of a program to establish a naturalized account of the intuitive aspect of human cognition. Philosophy is wrought with ‘intuitionisms’ but these are subject to criticisms - also of their epistemological grounding. I argue that a naturalized account of intuition that is philosophically rigorous and consistent with cognitive science can overcome these criticisms.
Kantian Ethics and the Demands of Special Concern
I examine the reasons behind the hostility of Kant (and Kantianism) to the moral legitimacy of demands of special concern (i.e. demands for action that arise from deep loves and loyalties). I argue that the root of the problem lies in the way that Kant understands the good will, collapsing the distinction between the (good) will and practical reason. I suggest, but for reasons of space cannot fully articulate, how a different Frankfurtian conception of the will can offer a way out of the dilemma, allowing us to have an autonomous will nonetheless partially determined by loves and loyalties.
Joel MacClellan (UTK)
Rational and Animal Natures: Kantian Ethics and The Problem of Non-rational Beings
The Kantian grounding of morality in rational nature creates a tension in accounting for the moral considerability of non-rational animals. In “Rational and Animal Natures”, Joel MacClellan attempts a reconciliation of Kantian ethics and direct duties towards non-rational beings. Against Allen Wood, MacClellan endorses Wood’s “personification principle” and provides a Kantian argument for the moral considerability of animals using a ‘minimalist’ criterion of universalizability in the spirit of Onora O’Neill. It is argued that Skidmore’s objection in “Duties to Animals: The Failure of Kant's Moral Theory” fails to recognize the distinction between the formal and material conditions of rational agency.
Problems with the Standard Readings of Plato’s Timaeus
I argue that it is too objectionable to affirm the standard view that the Timaeus is supposed to convey cosmological beliefs Plato holds and the reasons for which he thinks readers should share those beliefs. On the one hand, there are overwhelming problems with the case Timaeus makes for the claim that the world was crafted, yet Plato would face overwhelming problems in saying that the world is ungenerated. On the other hand, we cannot rightly deny that Plato sees both of those sets of problems, and neither can we rightly say that he means for readers to overlook them.
An Apparently Inconsistent Triad: Notes on Robert Adams’s “The Virtue of Faith”
Can faith be required – if belief (as such) cannot be? In “The Virtue of Faith” Robert M. Adams appears to hold that faith can be required (to hold that unbelief is a ‘sin’) in part because true belief can be required, appearances to the contrary not withstanding. On the closer examination of Adams’ text and of the relevant considerations here, I try to show that, for Adams, it is hope, or an aspect of hope – and not belief – that ultimately forms the central requirement of faith.
Freedom, work, and educative solidarity
A movement aiming at what Dewey calls “social control of industry” should be characterized by what I call “educative solidarity,” an affective and imaginative form of interacting with people that is to be cultivated by transforming one of the main obstacles to movement-building—namely, differences between social groups—into opportunities for education (as education is understood in a broad, Deweyan sense). In making this argument, I discuss the relationship between work and what Dewey calls “full education,” and I recommend that we pay special attention to cross-class solidarity.
Crossing boundaries and Reconceiving Limits: Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray and Gilbert Simondon
In this paper I attempt to bring three thinkers together who are not normally associated with one another, Judith Butler, Luce Irigaray and Gilbert Simondon, concerning the issues of boundaries and limits. The reconceptualizations of limits and boundaries implied by their philosophies share common traits, namely that the limit is never fixed and boundaries are places of exchange and negotiation rather than impenetrable markers of discrete regions. My thesis is that reconceiving boundaries and limits in this way has important implications for the way that we understand the interaction between bodies, bodily limits and subjectivity, and the ethical responsibilities that we have towards others.
From Wyschogrod to Bonhoeffer: Is Postmodern Prescriptivity Possible?
In this paper, I argue that much of the contemporary continental discussion of politics is unable to make the all-important move from proscription (negative critique) to prescription (visions for how to move forward). After offering criticism of two such discussions, those of Mark Dooley and John Caputo, I suggest that we are indeed able to locate a notion of postmodern prescriptivity by expanding on Edith Wychogrod’s conception of a “postmodern saint.” In addition to devoting one’s life to the care of other people, I articulate the need to live the tension between ethics (infinite obligation) and politics (decision and adjudication between those obligations). I conclude by suggesting that Dietrich Bonhoeffer might fit the bill of just what such an “ethico-political exemplar” would look like.
Isidoro Talavera (Vanderbilt)
Aristotle’s Twofold Conception of Time
Traditionally, the relationship of time (skewed as entirely a function of change) and motion (understood as a form of change) is captured in Aristotle’s definition of time as the measure or number of a continuous motion. I will sketch an alternate reading that suggests that by taking time as a function of both change and constancy in Aristotle’s account, not only is time measured by change as well as change by time, but time is measured by constancy as well as constancy by time. I hope to show that to bring to light Aristotle’s overall account of time one must also take constancy to be a function of time and maintain that underlying Aristotle’s bifurcated account of time is some general conception of true time.
A Reductio Ad Absurdum of Austere Interpretations of the Tractatus
The verifiability criterion of meaning is not plain nonsense, notwithstanding the fact that it violates its own criterion of meaning. To argue that the theory is outright, plain, or “austere” nonsense would be a serious mistake. Yet I believe that a similar type of error is made by those who contend that the propositions in the Tractatus ought to be regarded as out and out nonsense. On my view, there are many insights that a careful study of the Tractatus repays. In this article I argue only that it is a mistake to think that Wittgenstein’s ‘propositions’ are ultimately plain nonsense.
Jeppe von Platz (University of Pennsylvania)
Feinberg’s Challenge: Feinberg’s Challenge: Why we need a Mixed Theory of Legal Punishment
Using Feinberg’s analysis of desert I argue that our current practice of legal punishment cannot be justified in the frameworks of either pure instrumentalist or pure retributivist theories of punishment. I thus conclude that the practice must be justified from within the framework of a mixed theory.
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