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Tennessee Philosophical Association
48th Annual Meeting: Nov. 4-5, 2016
Vanderbilt University

 Keynote Speaker: Daniel Selcer, Duquesne University

Dr. Daniel Selcer is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from Oberlin College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from DePaul University. His research is grounded in early modern philosophy, especially Galileo, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Leibniz, but extends broadly into contemporary Continental thought, especially in the work of Foucault and Deleuze. Thematically, his interests revolve around the history and philosophy of science, philosophy's relation to and history within print culture, and the history of materialism. He is particularly concerned with early modern debates about matter and materiality and the revival of Epicureanism, exploring these areas in three directions: first, through research in the history and philosophy of science that focuses on the connections between the histories of early modern physics and ontology; second, through the attempt to synthesize work in the history of early modern print and knowledge-organization technologies with early modern philosophical historiography; and through investigations into the status of diagrams in early modern philosophical and scientific texts. His highly regarded Philosophy and the Book: Early Modern Figures of Material Inscription (Continuum, 2010) investigates the proliferation of early modern metaphors for print, inscription, reading, and knowledge organization, and explores the profound effects the exponential development of print technology and distribution had on the period's philosophical imagination; this work develops rich questions as to the problem of the materiality of philosophical discourse, which he addresses through the early moderns and then counterpoised to contemporary French approaches, and finally through a sketch of his own "ontology of the page." Several of his other recent and notable articles and essays include "From Scientia Operative to Scientia Intuitiva: Producing Particulars in Bacon and Spinoza;" "The Mask of Copernicus and the Mark of the Compass: Bruno, Galileo and the Ontology of the Page;" "The Uninterrupted Ocean: Leibniz and the Encyclopedic Imagination;" and "The Edges of Extension and the Limits of the Text: Leibniz, Materiality, and History." 

"Hobbes, Spinoza, and Political Ontology"

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


Sessions: Saturday, Furman Hall
9:00 am through 5:00 pm

9:00-9:55 a.m.

Leibniz’s Criteria for Closeness: Problematic?
Genevieve Wallace, Newbury College
Commentator: Norman Whitman, University of Houston, Downtown
Furman 007

The Epistemic Violence of Jeff McMahan’s Revisionist Just War Theory
Sabeen Ahmed, Vanderbilt University
Commentator: Shannon Fyfe, Vanderbilt University
Furman 109

The Nature and Significance of Acquaintance
Samuel A. Taylor, Auburn University
Commentator: Andrew Cling, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Furman 209

Agape and the Limits of Mutuality
Amber Carlson, Vanderbilt University
Commentator: Kevin Ryan, University of Memphis
Furman 217

10:00-10:55 a.m.

The Completeness of Kant’s Categories
Calista Lam, Purdue University
Commentator: Shouta Brown, University of Memphis
Furman 106

Sentimentalism and the Nature of Moral Concepts
John Jung Park, Clemson University
Commentator: Allen Coates, East Tennessee State University
Furman 007

The Place of Classical Indian Logic: Reflections on the Ethics of Debate
Ethan Mills, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Commentator: Ziqian Zhang, Temple University
Furman 217

Rorty on Democracy and Justification
Michael Hodges, Vanderbilt University
Commentator: Scott Aikin, Vanderbilt University
Furman 209

11:00-11:55 a.m.

Spinoza’s Use of Definition: A Historical Tool for Philosophical Emendation
Norman Whitman, University of Houston, Downtown
Commentator: Alexandra Alekseyeva, Vanderbilt University
Furman 217

Misplaced Paternalism and Other Mistakes in the Debate over Kidney Sales
Luke Semrau, Vanderbilt University
Commentator: Trevor Hedberg, University of Tennessee
Furman 109

Procedural Reasons and the Problem of the Criterion
Andrew D. Cling, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Commentator: Chris Lucibella, University of Memphis
Furman 007

Blame as a Technique of Control: A Response to Miranda Fricker
Amy L. McKiernan, Vanderbilt University
Commentator: Amber Carlson, Vanderbilt University
Furman 106

Confronting the Phantasmatico-Political: Kantorowicz and Derrida on Sovereignty
Ziqian Zhang, Temple University
Commentator: Fiacha Heneghan, Vanderbilt University
Furman 209

12:00-12:05 p.m.

Business Meeting:  Elections for President and Secretary;  Furman 109

12:05-1:25 p.m.

Lunch:  On your own  (see insert in conference packet for local eateries)

1:30-2:25 p.m.

Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism and the Critique of Hegel
Fiacha Heneghan, Vanderbilt University
Commentator: Thomas Mether, Volunteer State Community College
Furman 106

Hastening Death for the Sake of Dignity
David B. Hershenov, University at Buffalo
Commentator: Luke Semrau, Vanderbilt University
Furman 007

Group Moral Testimony and Moral Epistemology
Chris Lucibella, University of Memphis
Commentator: Sandra Skene, Vanderbilt University
Furman 217

Quantificational Intentions
Benjamin Lennertz, Western Kentucky University
Commentator: Samuel A. Taylor, Auburn University
Furman 109

Morality and Choice in a Mediated Society
Michael Broderick, Arkansas Tech University
Commentator: Lyn Radke, Vanderbilt University
Furman 209

2:30-3:25 p.m.

Kant’s Causal Appearing Argument
Micah Bailey, University of Central Missouri
Commentator: Calista Lam, Purdue University
Furman 007

Moral Luck and Modal Closeness
Mark Anderson, Tarrant County College
Commentator: Glenn Trujilo, Vanderbilt University
Furman 109

Skeptical Theism and the Creep Problem
Brian Ribeiro, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Scott Aikin, Vanderbilt University
Commentator: Chris Conn, Sewanee: The University of the South
Furman 209

Jazz Solos and the Community of Interest: Aesthetic Appreciation and Evaluative Interests
Kevin Ryan, University of Memphis
Commentator: Hannah Lipkind, Vanderbilt University
Furman 217

 3:30-5:00 p.m.

Author Discussions

Regard for Reason: A Defense of Our Moral Minds
Josh May, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Respondents: Elizabeth Lanphier, Vanderbilt University; Lyn Radke, Vanderbilt University; and Luke Semrau, Vanderbilt University
Furman 109

Moby Dick as Philosophy
Mark Anderson, Belmont University
Respondents: Scott Aikin, Vanderbilt University; Kelly Swope, Vanderbilt University
Furman 106

Themed Panels

In Defense of Religious Literacy: A Response to Lewis
Alyssa Lowery, Vanderbilt University
Metaphysics and Epistemology on ‘Jacob’s Ladder’
Mark Coppenger, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Respondent: Rickey Ray, Northeast State Community College
Furman 209

A New Argument Against ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’
P. Roger Turner, Walters State Community College
Is Religion Necessary for Morality?
James Arnette, Independent Researcher
Respondent: Mark Hopwood, Sewanee: The University of the South
Furman 217

Abstracts of papers

9:00-9:55 a.m.

 Leibniz’s Criteria for Closeness: Problematic?: Genevieve Wallace
This paper will explore the unique view of closeness that Leibniz presents in the Monadology.  Focusing mainly on sections 60-62, I will show two possible ways to make sense of the word.  The first way operates on the level of monadic perception and has to do with distinct and obscure perceptions.  The second way operates on the level of matter and has to do with the affects of motion on bodies.  Taking each way and examining it separately, problems seem to arise.  However, taken together and with the Principle of Preestablished Harmony, Leibniz may be able to avoid certain complications.

The Epistemic Violence of Jeff McMahan’s Revisionist Just War Theory: Sabeen Ahmed
Jeff McMahan has drawn attention in recent years for his argument against the “Moral Equality of Combatants,” principally by arguing that just combatants are innocent and therefore not liable to attack. Accordingly, McMahan’s argument rests heavily upon the combatant’s responsibility to gauge her and her enemy’s liability to attack and determine whether or not she is, in fact, innocent. However, McMahan takes for granted the scope of epistemic resources and alternatives—what I will collectively call epistemic live options—that the combatant has at her disposal. From a postcolonial standpoint, this paper explores the normative implications of this negligence in revisionist just war theory.

The Nature and Significance of Acquaintance: Samuel A. Taylor
Appeals to acquaintance, or the given, are dismissed much too quickly in contemporary epistemology due to a vague impression that this relation is ‘mysterious.’ This is likely because many insist that acquaintance is sui generic and primitive. I eschew this sui generic understanding of acquaintance and consider three possible positive accounts of the relation: an epistemic, phenomenological, and attention based account. In the end I argue in favor of an account of acquaintance as the availability of a mental state for selection by our attention mechanisms.

Agape and the Limits of Mutuality: Amber Carlson
Christian love emphasizes self-sacrifice, implicitly disparaging and sometimes explicitly rejecting regard for the self. Many feminists criticize self-sacrifice, and instead suggest an ethic of mutuality. Mutuality is a promising reformulation primarily because it requires both parties’ active involvement.  I argue that mutuality is susceptible to critiques similar to those brought against agape. Specifically, I argue that an ethic of mutuality still pressures women to adopt self-sacrificial behavior, it presupposes reciprocity that is often absent, and—like agape—mutuality is an unattainable ideal with devastating implications for women.

10:00-10:55 a.m.

The Completeness of Kant’s Categories: Calista Lam
In this paper, I bring attention to an undertreated aspect of Kant’s criticism of Aristotle theory of categories, namely that any scheme of categories must be complete. Much more needs to be said, however, either by Kant or on Kant’s behalf, as to how exactly how the completeness of a scheme of categories should be understood, and whence its philosophical value. I attempt to make progress on this question by arguing that the completeness of Kant’s categories should primarily be understood as the ground of the possibility of objective experience instead of some sort of logical unity.

Sentimentalism and the Nature of Moral Concepts: John Jung Park
Jesse Prinz adopts sentimentalism, which will be understood here as the view that all moral concepts in genuine moral judgments are constituted by sentiments and at times by emotions.  In this paper, I criticize Prinz’s most recent a posteriori contention for sentimentalism.  Next, I develop a new functionalist method that can be the basis for empirically determining whether or not sentimentalism is true.  I contend that this methodology provides a more firm ground for Prinz’s argument for sentimentalism.

The Place of Classical Indian Logic: Reflections on the Ethics of Debate: Ethan Mills
I use the word ‘place’ in two senses: in the sense of the pakṣa (place, subject) within the formal inference developed in classical Indian philosophy, but also in the sense of the importance of logic and argumentation within the classical Indian tradition.  The first sense reveals an important feature the second sense.  The pakṣa grounds discussion in a mutually agreed upon subject/place, which allows for a more fruitful and virtuous debate.  The place of logic in classical India encourages reflection on ways in which we might keep our debates grounded, rational, and respectful.

Rorty on Democracy and Justification: Michael Hodges
I argue that Rorty’s discussion of Rawls in “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy” aims to displace the traditional categories of the Enlightenment project of justification.  Properly understood it does not take up a position within that project as Robert Talisse has argued.  Rorty wants to forge a new discussion that avoids foundationalism or antifoundationalism and as a result is misconstrue as leading to a “hopeless view” in which democracy is no better than tyranny as Talisse claims.

11:00-11:55 a.m.

Spinoza’s Use of Definition: A Historical Tool for Philosophical Emendation: Norman Whitman
Whereas Spinoza’s philosophical method seems to validate an ahistorical truth, this paper will show that Spinoza’s understanding of definition and reason is primarily concerned with historical context.  Departing from Hobbesian and Cartesian concepts of definition and reason, Spinoza argues that the intrinsic meaning in definitions must express historical and immanent causes. Rather than comporting to an eternal ground, definitions provide specific perspectives on historical reality by which to adequately and immanently express those conditions. Properly understanding Spinoza’s conception of definition enables us to better comprehend Spinoza’s philosophy and appreciate Spinoza’s critical response to his philosophical and historical context. 

Misplaced Paternalism and Other Mistakes in the Debate over Kidney Sales: Luke Semrau
Erik Malmqvist offers a novel argument to the conclusion that the prohibition on kidney sales is not unjustifiably paternalistic. The ban on sales is justified on his view, as necessary to protect non-autonomous others from unchosen harms. This, he claims, is permissible group soft paternalism. I argue that Malmqvist has failed to make his case. In the course of doing so, I identify two significant mistakes common in the literature on kidney sales. First, Malmqvist proceeds from a mistaken understanding of harm, and second, he operates with an empirically false picture of the operation of a regulated market.

Procedural Reasons and the Problem of the Criterion: Andrew D. Cling
The problem of the criterion is an epistemic regress problem. It assumes that justification requires justified criteria of truth that are reasons for belief. I provide an account of criteria of truth that supports this assumption. Paradigmatic criteria of truth provide sufficient conditions of (probable) truth. Other principles can be criteria of truth including (i) propositions stating that belief-forming procedures are reliable and (ii) epistemic principles. All of these would provide us with procedural epistemic reasons for belief by underwriting the reliability of the ways in which we activate our beliefs.

Blame as a Technique of Control: A Response to Miranda Fricker: Amy L. McKiernan,
I argue that Miranda Fricker’s account of ‘Communicative Blame’ focuses excessively on the motivations of the blamer. Although it makes sense to focus on second-personal exchanges, it seems to me that Fricker pivots to speech act theory too quickly. Because she frames communicative blame as an illocutionary act aimed at inducing remorse with the perlocutionary point of transforming the moral reasons and behavior of the wrongdoer, Fricker thinks of blame almost exclusively in terms of the blamer’s desire to control the wrongdoer. Fricker acknowledges this problem and attempts to address it. However, her response, I argue, is insufficient.

Confronting the Phantasmatico-Political: Kantorowicz and Derrida on Sovereignty: Ziqian Zhang
In this paper I compare Kantorowicz’s and Derrida’s views on the phantasmatic nature of political sovereignty. Kantorowicz construes the concept of sovereignty as a merely imaginative (or ideological) fiction that precedes the proper foundation of politics (as revealed in de Lubac’s mentality-oriented interpretation of corpus mysticum [mystical body]). However, sovereignty for Derrida could only be a fiction performatively structured, and thus, as I will argue, the Derridean sovereignty hinges on the éclat (radiance) of the performing sovereign, that is, the brilliance that emanates from the sovereign’s Gewalt (violence), as elucidated in Marin’s Le Portrait du roi.

1:30-2:25 p.m.

Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism and the Critique of Hegel: Fiacha Heneghan
I argue in this paper that F.W.J. Schelling’s criticism of Hegel found in his later work is foreshadowed in his early System of Transcendental Idealism. By doing this, I hope to shed light on Schelling’s critique of Hegel in general with an eye towards Schelling’s relevance as a critic of Hegelian metaphysics. In doing so, I also draw out further connections between Schelling and the contemporaneous literary and philosophical movement of Early German Romanticism (Frühromantik).

Hastening Death for the Sake of Dignity: David B. Hershenov
David Velleman provides a justification of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide that appeals to Kantian-inspired considerations of patient dignity. Velleman argues for hastening the deaths of some patients on the grounds that mind-destroying injuries and diseases degrade patients as they undermine their rationality-based dignity. I argue that not only does his project fail internally for the dignity and interests that he’s trying to protect can’t do the lethal work he wants them to do, but his conception of dignity can’t even able to provide reasons to cure the extremely demented who are reduced to childlike or comatose states.

Group Moral Testimony and Moral Epistemology: Chris Lucibella
The epistemological question of moral testimony concerns the conditions under which individuals can be justified in forming moral beliefs solely on the basis of another individual’s say-so. In this paper, I address the debate over moral testimony in contexts where groups testify to the rightness of certain moral beliefs—specifically, in cases involving ethics committees and institutional research boards. I argue that, in such cases, group moral testimony can be a legitimate testimonial source of moral beliefs for a hearer, and in fact can be a more legitimate source than individual speakers.

Quantificational Intentions: Benjamin Lennertz
In this paper I argue for the existence of a new kind of intention called a quantificational intention.  This results in a three-fold taxonomy of kinds of intentions – simple intentions, conditional intentions, and quantificational intentions.  There is a natural way of arguing for the conclusion that conditional intentions are a different sort of attitude from simple intentions.  I propose that this sort of argument also favors accepting that there are quantificational intentions.  I close by investigating the relevance of the existence of quantificational intentions to debates in the philosophy of law and the philosophy of mind and action.

Morality and Choice in a Mediated Society: Michael Broderick
American philosopher John Lachs blames mediation—“the phenomenon of one’s action being performed for one by another”—for psychological and moral ills. Lachs would have us respond to those ills by radically reforming education at all levels. This paper argues that (1) Lachs’s vision of what education should be promises to allay any psychological ills of mediation but could incur serious unintended costs; (2) Lachs’s vision has much less to offer in terms of repairing the damage done by mediation to morality; (3) we can best address the damage to morality by removing wherever possible rules and regulations that severely restrict or replace individual choice, leaving those directly involved in moral decisions to exercise their own judgment.

2:30-3:25 p.m.

Kant’s Causal Appearing Argument: Micah Bailey
Some argue Kant’s distinction between appearances and things in themselves is ontological (i.e. between kinds of objects or properties).  Others argue it is purely epistemic (i.e. between ways of considering objects).  Kant seems to endorse the causal appearing argument (hereafter ‘CAA’), which entails the distinction is ontological: (P1) we cognize appearances; (P2) our cognition of appearances is caused by things in themselves; (C) things in themselves exist.   I argue Kant does not endorse CAA.  First, Kant restricts the concept of causality to appearances, but (P2) violates that restriction.  Second, careful reading of the text indicates Kant is actually rejecting CAA.

Moral Luck and Modal Closeness: Mark Anderson
 In this paper, I argue that, despite recent developments in the literature, moral luck is still best defined in terms of lack of control.  Recent attempts to add a condition of modal closeness appear to distract from the heart of the issue.   This is especially clear when we consider the variety of metaphysical views on our natures, which create havoc with how we conceive of moral luck when modally defined, but not with moral luck as classically defined by Nagel.

Skeptical Theism and the Creep Problem: Brian Ribeiro and Scott Aikin
Skeptical theism is the view that human knowledge is severely limited, compared to that of the divine.  The view is deployed as an undercutting defeater for evidential arguments from evil.  However, skeptical theism has broader skeptical consequences than those for the argument from evil.  The epistemic principles of this skeptical creep are identified and shown to be on the road to global skepticism. Indeed, we argue that there are at least three distinct routes from skeptical theism to global skepticism.

Jazz Solos and the Community of Interest: Aesthetic Appreciation and Evaluative Interests: Kevin Ryan
Stefan Caris Love (2016) argues for an aesthetics of improvised jazz solos grounded in a soloist’s navigation of two virtues: compositional skill and a commitment to the spirit of improvisation. I argue that a purported tension between the virtues is dissolved if we consider the development of a “community of interest” and distinguish appreciation and evaluation (Ziff 1962). More specifically, the tension can be addressed since evaluation and appreciation track the two respective virtues and insofar as playing for an existing “community of interest” or working to establish a new one are two different paths one can take.

3:30-5:00 p.m.

In Defense of Religious Literacy: A Response to Lewis: Alyssa Lowery
In Thomas Lewis’ recent work, How Philosophy Matters for the Study of Religion and Vice Versa, his final chapter is provocatively titled “Against Religious Literacy.” Drawing on recent research in religious studies, Lewis develops his argument against religious literacy through a critique of Stephen Prothero and his popular book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t. I examine Lewis’ arguments against Prothero and develop a twofold critique, concluding that not only does the language of religious literacy continue to be beneficial, it is also itself necessary for the very conversation Lewis wants.

Metaphysics and Epistemology on ‘Jacob’s Ladder:’ Mark Coppenger
Philosophers can be impatient with those working at opposite ends of the ladder of abstraction, which runs from ground level empiricism to the most sweeping worldviews. Logical empiricists simply dismissed the “upper rungs” as nonsense; in contrast, grand scheme thinkers such as Spinoza and Hegel weren’t anxious to provide testable “cash value” for their claims. Employing the biblical image of Jacob’s Ladder, and playing off a wide range of thinkers (e.g., Berkeley, Kuhn, Plantinga, James, Dewey, Abraham, Chisholm, Descartes, Wittgenstein, Sacks) this paper argues for the importance framing systems with activity at both ends. It’s written as personal intellectual narrative.

A New Argument Against ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can:’ P. Roger Turner
 In ethics, there is a widely held principle that if you are morally obligated to do something, then this means you can do the thing you’re obligated to do.  This is the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’.  Though this principle is plausible, I think that it is false; and I think most philosophers should agree.  My argument for this claim begins with the assumption that most philosophers reject the divine command theory of ethics, and this for reasons having something to do with the famous Euthyphro Dilemma.  But, as I’ll argue, these Euthyphro-driven reasons for rejecting divine command theory should lead us to conclude that it is false that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’.

Is Religion Necessary for Morality?: James Arnette
Divine Command Theory (DCT) holds that an act is morally required just because it is commanded by God, and immoral just because God forbids it.  This theory of morality has been met with numerous criticisms, but in this paper I argue that these criticisms fail because of a flawed assumption: that a perfect God cannot be an arbitrary God.  I demonstrate that the Judeo-Christian tradition and scriptures depict an arbitrary God; thus, DCT cannot be defeated via the traditional arguments.  I suggest another approach that avoids this flaw but still manages to defeat DCT.

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Furman Hall --Photograph by Neil Brake

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