Our top picks for APA Pacific 2016 – Are You Ready?

This year’s American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meeting is drawing near. You’re likely combing through the program or app (yes, there’s an app!) squinting at the small font wishing you could split yourself in two in order to attend all the things you’d like AND be able to explore the beautiful city that is San Francisco.

We’re here to help. We’ve put together a list of our top picks – lectures, receptions, and more – to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the good stuff.

SF Haight Street

Day 1 // Wednesday

9am – noon

An Invited Symposium on Chinese Philosophy and Language will be chaired by recent Journal of Chinese Philosophy contributor Xinyan Jiang (University of Redlands).

Or, sit in on the APA Committee on Lectures, Publication, and Research, chaired by Louise Antony (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

If those don’t suit your fancy, we recommend attending the Book Symposium on Lori Gruen’s Entangled Empathy, chaired by Shelley Wilcox (San Francisco State University). Gruen (Wesleyan University) and Wilcox have both worked as editors of Hypatia.

noon – 1pm

Grab some lunch, then head over to the Wiley-Blackwell stand in the exhibit hall. We’re offering 20% off books (to take away or ship directly to you!), free copies of our renowned philosophy journals, and more. Say hello to our acquisitions editor and tell us what you think about the future of philosophy to get a $5 Starbucks gift card.

1 – 4pm

An Invited Symposium: Science and Pragmatism will be chaired by David Boersema (Pacific University). Boersema contributed to the recently published The Ultimate Star Trek and Philosophy: The Search for Socrates.

Also at this time, an APA Committee Session on The Moral Significance of Shame and
Disgust: Chinese and Western Perspectives will take place. Arranged by the APA Committee on the Status of Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies, this session is chaired by Justin Tiwald (San Francisco State University).

And, you may not want to miss the APA Committee Session on Trends in Brazilian Epistemology, arranged by the APA Committee on International Cooperation. This session is being chaired by Sven Bernecker (University of California, Irvine), author of the book Reading Epistemology: Selected Texts with Interactive Commentary.

4-6 pm

There are several great options to spend your afternoon.

First, a Colloquium on Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism will be chaired for the first hour by Journal of Chinese Philosophy author Nathan Carson (Fresno Pacific University), then chaired by Robin Wang (Loyola Marymount University) for the last hour. Wang has contributed essays to Philosophy Compass (see here and here) and the Journal of Chinese Philosophy (see here and here).

Or, enjoy a lively debate organized by the North American Kant Society. An Author-Meets-Critics session featuring Henry Allison’s Kant’s Transcendental Deduction will be chaired by frequent Wiley philosphy contributor Lucy Allais (University of the Witwatersrand and University of California, San Diego). You can read her past work in the Winter 2008 issue of Philosophy and Public Affairs here and two of her essays featured in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research here and here.

Last but not least, we recommend the APA Committee Session on LGBT Metaphysics. Arranged by the APA Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Transgender People in the Profession, this session is chaired by Ásta Sveinsdóttir (San Francisco State University). Sveinsdóttir recently wrote about the role of feminism in naturalism in The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism.

6 – 9pm

If you’re still up for more, the Experimental Philosophy Society is hosting a session on Experimental Work in Formal Semantics, chaired by Philosophy Compass author Seth Yalcin (University of California, Berkeley).

Or, the International Society for Comparative Studies of Chinese and Western Philosophy is hosting a session on Skepticism, Friendship, Perception, and Home: Views from Zhuangzi, Confucians, Montaigne, and Heidegger. This session is chaired by Eirik Lang Harris (City University of Hong Kong). Harris has contributed works to the Philosophy Compass and the Journal of Chinese Philosophy.

Our last pick in this timeslot is a session hosted by the Society for German Idealism. Chaired by Hypatia author Jeff Gauthier (University of Portland), this session will feature the presentation of papers such as, “Du Bois and Hegel on Social Freedom,” “Liberal Naturalism in the Post-Kantian Tradition,” and more.

Day 2 // Thursday

9am-noonpalmquist cover

Start your morning off right with a Book Symposium centered around Stephen Palmquist’s Comprehensive Commentary on Kant’s Religion Within the Bounds of Bare Reason, chaired by Robert Gressis (California State University, Northridge). See critics and author Palmquist (of Hong Kong Baptist University) discuss this new work, the first definitive, comprehensive commentary on Kant’s Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason.

Alternatively, we recommend the APA Committee Session on Justice in the City, arranged by the APA Committee on Public Philosophy. This session will be chaired by Shelley Wilcox (San Francisco State University).

noon – 1 pm

Don’t forget to stop by the Wiley-Blackwell booth in the exhibit hall! We’d love to chat with you about how you can be published in our journals. In fact, the European Journal of Philosophy is now publishing more pages in each issue – submit your paper ASAP.

1 – 4pm

Next, we recommend seeing the Invited Symposium on Post-Kantian Theories of concepts. Chaired by Mind & Language author Richard Zach (University of Calgary), we’re sure there will be lively discussion around papers such as, “Bolzano on Representations in Logic, Cognition, and Action,” and “The Abstractionist Theory of Concept Formation After Kant.”

Alternatively, observe the Invited Symposium on Women in the History of Philosophy of Religion. This session, chaired by Kristen Irwin (Loyola University Chicago), will debate papers such as, “17th Century Women on God’s Existence and Nature,” and the amusingly titled, “Medieval Women Didn’t Do Philosophy of Religion: So Why Am I Still Talking?” Irwin has contributed work to the Philosophy Compass.

4 – 5pm

Take a break at the Bay Area Feminism and Philosophy Reception taking place in the Italian Room at the Westin St. Francis. A selection of vegetarian canapés will be served, and everyone is welcome. This reception is made possible by the generosity of the Mortimer Fleishhacker Fund for Philosophy at the University of San Francisco.

4 – 6pm

We next recommend the Colloquium on Cognition and the Nature of Acts. Split into two, the first hour will be chaired by Journal of Social Philosophy contributor Jason Kawall (Colgate University), and discuss papers such as, “Knowledge in Action.” The second half of the session will be chaired by David Beglin (University of California, Riverside) and discuss the paper, “‘Philosophy of Action’ Is Not a Philosophy of Acts.”

Or, visit the session hosted by the Society for Philosophy of Creativity. There, you’ll discover a likely fascinating discussion on, “Why Does Art Matter? Reflections on an NEH Enduring Questions Grant,” chaired by Raymond D. Boisvert (Siena College). Boisvert has contributed pieces to The Southern Journal of Philosophy and Journal of Philosophy of Education.

6 – 9pm

The Society for Applied Philosophy is hosting an Author-Meets-Critics session featuring Leif Wenar’s Blood Oil: Tyruants, Violence, and the Rules That Run the World. Gillian Brock (University of Auckland) is chairing. (By the way, their February issue featuring a Singer and Kagan debate of speciesism is available now!)

For those interested in the philosophy of history, the Society for the Philosophy of History is hosting a session on “The Philosophy and Political Thought of Mark Bevir,” chaired by Robert Piercey (University of Regina). Piercey is a contributing author to the new A Companion to Hermeneutics.

We’re also looking forward to the session hosted by the Society

dr emily s lee

Image from the New York Times

 

for Women in Philosophy. There, “Confronting Racism and Violence: Philosophical Research and Teaching” will be chaired by Hypatia contributor Emily S. Lee (California State University, Fullerton). Papers discussed will include, “A New Paradigm of Anti-Racism: Why Discourses of White Privilege, Justice, and Equality Do Not Work,”, “The Revolution Will Not Be Journal(ized): Blogs, Op-eds, and Podcasts as Timely Philosophical Tools,” and more. This session is sure to be fascinating and timely.

8 – 10pm

The Society for the Philosophy of Human Rights is hosting a late evening session with several speakers: Elizabeth Ashford (University of St. Andrews), Adam Etinson (University of Chicago), Robert Simpson (Monash University), and James Nickel (University of Miami). Clearly this is to be a debate of the utmost relevance and is not to be missed!

10pm – midnight

Then, the APA Annual Reception will take place in the Colonial Ballroom (Mezzanine). Grab a glass or three, say hello to all your friends, and talk about what a wonderful time you’re having at the conference.

Day 3 // Friday

9am – noon

Start your morning off with Aristotle. A Colloquium on the Ethics and Politics in Aristotle will feature three parts. The first hour will cover “Aristotle’s Thumos as Dunamis and Pathos” and be chaired by Michael Ferejohn (Duke University), contributor to the Wiley-Blackwell A Companion to Plato. Hour two will be chaired by Bjorn Wastvedt (University of Arizona) and cover, “Aristotle’s Conception of the Political Life as an Imitation of the Divine.” Finally, the session will conclude with an hour discussing, “Aristotelian Sunaisthesis: A Synoptic View of Life” chaired by Emily Perry (University of California, Berkeley).

noon – 1pmbioethics cover

We invite you to stop by the Wiley-Blackwell table in the exhibitor’s hall. Leaf through the newest edition of Bioethics: An Anthology edited by Helga Kuhse, Udo Schuklenk, and Peter Singer.

1 – 4pm

Look no further than the Book Symposium on Duncan Pritchard’s Epistemic Angst: Radical Skepticism and the Groundlessness of Our Believing. This session will be chaired by Chienkuo Mi (Soochow University), with noted speakers such as Ram Neta (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Ernest Sosa (Rutgers University). Neta and Sosa are the esteemed editors of Noûs.

4 – 6pm

You won’t want to miss this year’s annual Dewey Lecture, chaired by editor of Virtue and Vice, Moral and Epistemic Heather Battaly (California State University, Fullerton). Linda Zagzebski (University of Oklahoma) will be speaking on “The Joys and Sorrows of Philosophy.” The reception will take place during the last thirty minutes.

 

7 – 10pm

Don’t miss the Society for Applied Philosophy’s second session, “Corruption and Accountability: Theory and Practice” chaired by Gillian Brock (University of Auckland). Subtopics to be discussed are “Corruption of Knowledge and the Pharmaceutical Industry,” “Think Tank Ethics: Theory Meets Practice,” and more.

Day 4 // Saturday

9am – noon

You’ll want to give yourself major kudos for having made it this far; you will surely be exhausted. Sleep in, get some breakfast – you’ll have earned it.

1 – 4pm

We’re excited about the Invited Symposium: Normativity of Meaning and Content. This session will be chaired by Kirk Ludwig (Indiana University Bloomington), editor of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and feature editors of Thought: A Journal of Philosophy Asa Wikforss (Stockholms Universitet) and Ralph Wedgwood (University of Southern) as speaker and commentator, respectively.

4 – 6pm

For your early evening, we recommend the Colloquium on Moral Normativity and Its Relation to Epistemic Normativity. The first half of this session will be chaired by Hypatia author Sharyn Clough (Oregon State University), and discuss, “Knowledge as Ability: A Constructive Critique.”

6 – 9pm

The International Society for Chinese Philosophy is hosting its second session on “Virtues, Roles, and Self-Cultivation in Confucianism”, and will discuss papers such as, “Agent and Deed in Confucian Thought” and more.

chris cuomoOr, see the International Society for Environmental Ethics’s second session chaired by Chris Cuomo (University of Georgia). Cuomo guest edited a special issue of Hypatia in 2014 on climate change. This session will debate environmental ethics, species extinction, and more.

8 – 10pm

Where did the time go? Stop by the Philosophy of Time Society’s session chaired by A Companion to the Philosophy of Time editor Adrian Bardon (Wake Forest University). Ask yourself, “Does It Really Seem to Us That Time Passes?” (A real paper title to be presesnted by Natalja Deng of University of Cambridge.)

Day 5 // Sunday

9am – 6:30pm

Still wanting more philosophy? ArtSense Taste and Community project have organized open workshops that will analyze how cultural artifacts acquire meaning and value as an example of the process by which communities establish shared terms of reference.

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Philosophy of Science: How do gravitational waves confirm general relativity?

black holes
Image credit: The SXS (Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes) Project

Last month, this New York Times article announced that a team of scientists “had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.” This, according to the physicists, is the “first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago…complet[ing] his vision of a universe in which space and time are interwoven and dynamic, able to stretch, shrink and jiggle.”

This had us thinking…what are philosophical implications of this recent discovery?

For answers, we turned to Valia Allori, Philosophy Compass philosophy of science editor. Here’s what she had to say.


 

How do gravitational waves confirm general relativity?

By now everybody knows that gravitational waves have been detected, and everybody says that this is another confirmation of general relativity. But does everybody know what general relativity is, what gravitational waves are, why they are a consequence of the theory, and in what sense the theory is confirmed by their detection?  I believe that many who believe they can answer with a ‘yes’ to the first three questions, will not be so sure about the last question. So let us talk about that, even if somewhat informally.

Commonsensically, people believe that experimental data can support theories: if the result predicted by the theory obtains (it is a positive test), then the theory is confirmed by it. General relativity is a theory according to which space-time is not a passive container of matter as Newton believed, but it will be modified by the presence of matter. Just like when a lake’s surface ripples if a stone is dropped in it, and a wave propagates outwards, so space-time ripples around matter and a wave propagates outward: these are gravitational waves. The intuitive idea is that the detection of these waves supports the general theory of relativity, it confirms it. But what exactly does that mean?

One popular account of confirmation is the so-called hypothetico-deductive theory of confirmation, or HD-confirmation. The basic idea is that a theory is confirmed whenever the positive result is logically entailed by the theory. In fact, testing a theory is comparing a logical implication of the theory to the world, and if what one expects turns out to be the case, then the theory is confirmed. This is exactly what happened for general relativity and gravitational waves: the existence of gravitational waves is a logical consequence of general relativity, they looked for them, and finally found them. Because of this, they confirm general relativity. Nonetheless, HD-confirmation has some problems. If some evidence E confirms a theory T, then it will also confirm T&D, where D is some irrelevant statement, namely a statement which has no role in deriving E. For instance, gravitational waves HD-confirm general relativity, but they will also HD-confirm the conjunction of general relativity and that there is life on Mars, which seems wrong.  In addition, it seems that confirmation is not a matter of logical entailment like the HD-confirmation is suggesting. Rather, confirmation seems to be fundamentally about the credibility of a theory: to say that E confirms T is to say that the credibility of T increases because of E.

This is where another popular theory of confirmation, Bayesian confirmation theory or BCT, comes from. The idea is that confirmation is fundamentally about the degrees of belief that people have about a theory, and that evidence can affect such degrees of belief in ways determined by theorems in probability theory, such as Bayes theorem. In particular, a theory T is B-confirmed by evidence E if E increases the degree of belief in T. For instance, assume that scientists believe general relativity to be true with a probability, say, of 0.7. This probability P(T) is called prior probability of general relativity. After the detection of gravitational waves, scientists suitably update their degrees of belief in T. That is, they now assign to T a new probability in light of the new evidence E. This updated probability is called the posterior probability of T given E, and is commonly indicated by P(T/E). BCT says that E confirms T if the posterior probability of T is greater than the prior probability of T. Continuing with the previous example, if the updated degree of belief in T given E is now 0.8, then E confirms the theory T. But how are the degrees of belief updated? BCT says that Bayes theorem provides the link between prior and posterior probabilities. Formally, the posterior probability of T, P(T/E), is given by the prior probability of T, namely P(T), multiplied by the ratio between the likelihood of E, P(E/T), and the expectedness of E, P(E).  The likelihood of E is the degree of belief in E given T: for deterministic theories like general relativity this is 1, but for probabilistic theories it is the physical probability assigned by the theory. The expectedness of E expresses the degree of belief in E regardless of whether T is true. This is supposed to be connected with how ‘surprising’ the evidence is, and the idea is that the less the evidence is expected, the more it confirms the theory. Technicalities aside, BCT is extremely popular because it seems to capture many intuitions about confirmation that HD-confirmation could not account for. In addition of considering confirmation in terms of theory credibility, for instance BCT avoids the problem of irrelevant conjunction because T&D has a lower prior probability than T alone, and therefore is less confirmed by E.

Let us now go back to the original question: what about the case of gravitational waves? Whether their detection B-confirms general relativity fundamentally depends on whether the expectedness of gravitational waves is low. That is, it depends on our degree of belief that there are gravitational waves, regardless of whether general relativity is true: if gravitational waves are a surprising finding, then general relativity is B-confirmed by them. On first thought, this seems not the case: we expected to detect gravitational waves, we have been looking for them for a very long time, we have spent a lot of money to build suitable detectors and screen off all possible interferences, and we were not very surprised that they were finally detected. Nevertheless, we expected them only because we already believe in general relativity. As such, the expectedness of gravitational waves is low, and so they B-confirm general relativity.

But all that glitters isn’t gold: also BCT has problems. One is that ‘old’ evidence does not B-confirm a theory. In fact, if a piece of evidence E is known, then its expectedness P(E) is going to be 1. Because of this, the posterior probability of T will not be greater than the prior probability of T, and thus old evidence does not confirm the theory. But this is extremely counterintuitive: that Mercury’s perihelion had an anomalous precession has been known for a very long time, so it was old news; nevertheless, when it was shown that general relativity could account for it, it was taken as confirming evidence for the theory. Even if this is not the case of gravitational waves, where the evidence is indeed new, it is still a problem for who is trying to figure out what this elusive notion of confirmation really is….


About the Author

valia alloriValia Allori is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University. She has worked in the foundations of quantum mechanics, in particular in the framework of Bohmian mechanics, a quantum theory without observers. Her main concern has always been to understand what the world is really like, and how we can use our best physical theory to answer such general metaphysical questions.

In her physics doctoral dissertation, she discussed the classical limit of quantum mechanics, to analyze the connections between the quantum and the classical theories. What does it mean that a theory, in a certain approximation, reduces to another? Is the classical explanation of macroscopic phenomena essentially different from the one provided by quantum mechanics?


About Philosophy Compass

Unique in both range and approach, Philosophy Compass is an online-only journal publishing peer-reviewed survey articles of the most important research from and current thinking from across the entire discipline. In an age of hyper-specialization, the journal provides an ideal starting point for the non-specialist, offering pointers for researchers, teachers and students alike, to help them find and interpret the best research in the field.

Read the Philosophy Compass here.

 

Virtual Roundtable Discussion on Migration and the Refugee Crisis

 

At the end of 2014, there were an estimated 19.5 million refugees worldwide. This crisis was drawn once again into sharp light as Syrian refugees flooded Europe in recent months. Many of these people are families with children, forced to flee their homes or risk their safety.

Join us Friday, October 16, 12:00pm – 1:00pm EST for a virtual roundtable discussion on migration and the refugee crisis. Our panel of experts span the social sciences and humanities to examine issues of refugees and migration ranging from ethics, family studies, and geo-political. Register today as seating is limited!

Our Panelists

Immanuel NessDr. Immanuel Ness is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. Editor-in-Chief of The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration, Ness’ research focuses on labor, urban political economy, migration, imperialism, and social mobilizations, worker insurrections, strikes, solidarity in Global North and Global South.

He is a labor activist who founded the New York Unemployed Committee, Lower East Side Community-Labor Coalition and labor organizer for several unions.

 

Serena ParekhDr. Serena Parekh is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northeastern University, where she also holds the position as Director of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program. Her primary research interests are in social and political philosophy, feminist theory, continental philosophy, and the philosophy of human rights.

Dr. Parekh has contributed to noted journals such as Hypatia, Philosophy Compass, and The Southern Journal of Philosophy. She is also the Editor of the APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy.

 

Reenee SinghDr. Reenee Singh is a family therapist based in London at the House Partnership. She is also Co-Director at the Tavistock and UEL Family Therapy and Systemic Research Centre as well as Editor of the Journal of Family Therapy.

Singh holds a particular interest in the intersection of therapy, race and culture. She attributes her personal history and cultural context, growing up in India and having lived and worked in Singapore, as an influence her approach to therapy, research, supervision and training.

Video Abstract: The Epistemology of Religious Diversity in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion

This video abstract accompanies the Philosophy Compass article The Epistemology of Religious Diversity in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion by Amir Dastmalchian.

New ‘Mind & Cognitive Science’ Editor for Philosophy Compass

We’re delighted to announce the appointment of the new editor of the Mind & Cognitive Science section of Philosophy Compass, Michelle Montague, taking over from Tim Bayne. A hearty welcome to Michelle and our thanks to Tim for his sterling work!

Michelle is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol, UK.  Her primary interests are philosophy of mind, philosophy of language and metaphysics; recent publications include “The phenomenology of particularity” (2011) in T. Bayne and M. Montague (eds) Cognitive Phenomenology; “Recent work on Intentionality” (2011) in Analysis; “The Logic, Intentionality, and Phenomenology of Emotion” (2009) in Philosophical Studies; and“Against Propositionalism” (2007) in Nous. She is currently working on a book on mental content, with particular reference to the relationship between intentionality and phenomenology.

New Feminist Philosophy Section for Philosophy Compass

We are delighted to announce that we have launched a new Feminist Philosophy section of Philosophy Compass. This new section will be headed up by Alia Al-Saji (bio below), who is currently commissioning articles to be published in 2013.  In the meantime, the section homepage will feature previously-published Philosophy Compass articles that touch on aspects of feminist philosophy. Welcome aboard, Alia!

Section Editor Bio: Alia Al-Saji

Alia Al-Saji is Associate Professor of Philosophy at McGill University.  Her research brings together and critically engages 20th century phenomenology and French philosophy, on the one hand, and contemporary critical race and feminist theories, on the other.  She has published articles and chapters in such venues as Continental Philosophy Review, Philosophy and Social Criticism, Research in Phenomenology, Southern Journal of Philosophy, and the Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, as well as in anthologies in German, French and English.  Alia is currently a co-editor of the Symposia on Gender, Race and Philosophy, and she is completing a term as member-at-large on the executive committee of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy.

Feminist Philosophy section homepage

Alia’s faculty profile

New Naturalistic Philosophy Editor for Philosophy Compass

We’re delighted to announce the appointment of the new editor of the Naturalistic Philosophy section of Philosophy Compass, Edouard Machery.

Edouard is Associate Professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, a Fellow of the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (Pittsburgh-CMU). His research focuses on the philosophical issues raised by psychology and cognitive neuroscience with a special interest in concepts, moral psychology, the relevance of evolutionary biology for understanding cognition, modularity, the nature, origins, and ethical significance of prejudiced cognition, and the methods of psychology and cognitive neuroscience. He has published more than 60 articles and chapters on these topics in venues such as Analysis, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Cognition, Mind & Language, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Philosophical Studies, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and Philosophy of Science. He is the author of Doing without Concepts (OUP, 2009), and he has been an associate editor of The European Journal for Philosophy of Science since 2009. He is also involved in the development of experimental philosophy, having published several noted articles in this field.