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Richard Joyce (Victoria University of Wellington): “Psychological Fictionalism”
Joyce (Unpub) Psychological Fictionalism (261 Kb)

Abstract: Fictionalist responses to potentially problematic subject matters (e.g., ethics, free will, modality) are varied. Sometimes fictionalism recommends taking an attitude akin to make-believe toward a subject matter that one can no longer in good faith believe in. One such subject matter is folk psychology. Eliminative materialists (e.g., the Churchlands) deny the existence of the entities spoken of in folk psychology (e.g., propositional attitudes). But could an eliminative materialist adopt a fictionalist attitude toward propositional attitudes? Any such psychological fictionalism seems to face a special problem, in that it recommends adopting a kind of attitude of which at the same time it denies the existence. Solutions are discussed.

Commentator: Victor Moberger (Uppsala)




Niklas Olsson-Yaouzis (Stockholm): “The Scylla and Charybdis of Analytical Sociology”

Olsson-Yaouzis (Unpub) The Scylla and Charybdis of Analytical Sociology (179 Kb)

Commentator: Katharina Berndt Rasmussen (Stockholm).




Samantha Vice (Rhodes): “Moral Pessimism and Human Value”
Vice (Unpub) Moral Pessimism and Human Value (303 Kb)

Abstract: My concern in this paper is with the value implications of human nature and our human presence in the world. According to one pessimistic view, the effect of our human presence is not overall good; things are going more badly than well, and are unlikely to get better. There is something perverse about human nature such that we systematically go wrong and such that our presence creates, overall, more disvalue than value. In the light of ongoing concern about anthropogenic climate change, ongoing wars and atrocities, and ongoing injustice and cruelty, pessimism seems to have some evidence in its favour, and fits with the Christian view of humans as fallen creatures, marked by original sin.

In the paper, I explore this kind of outlook from a largely secular perspective. I first offer an account of human nature and its value implications that I call Moral Pessimism, and give a brief defence of it as a reasonable and not obviously morally pernicious outlook. I then ask how this view affects one of our most basic and deep commitments – to humans having a special and unconditional value. I will suggest that if Moral Pessimism is a reasonable attitude, it creates, at the least, a tension in our view of this special value, and I explore the consequences of this tension for our moral commitments and our view of morality in general.

Commentator: Per Algander (Uppsala)


Mikael Pettersson (Stockholm): “Negative Images: On Photography, Causality, and Absences”

Pettersson (Unpub) Negative Images.pdf (1409 Kb)

Abstract: Many photographs seem to be images of privations, lacks and absences. Umbo’s /The Mystery of the Street/, for example, is primarily a photograph of shadows, and if shadows are absences of light, this image is a photograph of absences. In a different way, some photographs of Manhattan’s skyline, taken after 9/11, would seem to be photographs of the absence of the Twin Towers. But the very idea of photographs of absences is paradoxical, or at least puzzling. Photography is commonly held to be an essentially /causal medium/, and it is unclear how, or even if, absences can be causally efficacious. So can there really be photographs of absences? In this paper, I investigate various ways to unravel the puzzle.

Commentator: Emma Wallin (Stockholm).




David Plunkett (Dartmouth): “Conceptual History and Conceptual Ethics”

The Normative Relevance of Conceptual History

Abstract: Many philosophers have been drawn to the idea that facts about the history of our use of concepts (facts about what I call “conceptual history”) can have significant implications for normative inquiry. Many of the leading arguments given for the relevance of conceptual history are coupled with controversial positions in other parts of philosophy – e.g., views about the nature of concepts, normativity, or mental content. In this paper, I give an argument for the normative relevance of conceptual history that doesn’t take on board these views. My argument in this paper revolves around the following two basic ideas. First, some concepts are more apt for use in normative inquiry than others, and we should aim to use that are most apt. Second, knowing about the history of concepts can help us assess how apt (or not apt) for normative inquiry some concepts are likely to be now, or in the future. Put together, these two thoughts form the core of a straightforward case for why philosophers engaged in normative inquiry should take conceptual history seriously.

Commentator: Björn Eriksson (Stockholm).


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