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Archive for December, 2012

Modern Philosophy @ The Eastern APA

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27th

6:30-9:30 p.m.

  • I-A. Symposium: Early Modern Theories of the Passions
  • Chair:  Cathay Liu (University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill)
    • Speaker:   Amy Schmitter (University of Alberta)
    • Commentator:  Raffaella De Rosa (Rutgers University–Newark)
    • Speaker:  Eugene Marshall (Wellesley College)
    • Commentator:  Colin Marshall (University of Melbourne–Australia)

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28th

9:00-11:00 a.m.

  • North American Neitzsche Society: Richard Schacht’s Nietzsche: A 30th Anniversary Reappraisal
  • Chair: R. Lanier Anderson (Stanford University)
    • Speakers:
    • Maudemarie Clark (University of California– Riverside)
    • Helmut Heit (Technische Universität Berlin/ Institute for Advanced Study–Princeton)
    • John Richardson (New York University)
    • Richard Schacht (University of Illinois–Urbana- Champaign)

2:00-5:00 p.m.

  • III-I. Colloquium: Early Modern Philosophy
  • Chair: Elizabeth Goodnick (University of Notre Dame)
    • 2:00-3:00 p.m.
    • “‘Strings, Physies, and Hogs Bristles’: Objective Kinds in Locke”
    • Speaker: Allison Kuklok (Harvard University)
    • Commentator: Aaron Wilson (University of Miami)
    • 3:00-4:00 p.m.
    • “Hobbes on Gratitude and the Free Gift of Sovereignty”
    • Speaker: Sarah Meier (Emory University)
    • Commentator: Jamie Lindsay (Graduate Center–City University of New York)
    • 4:00-5:00 p.m.
    • “The Mind as an Idea in Spinoza’s Short Treatise”
    • Speaker: Colin Marshall (University of Melbourne-Australia)
    • Commentator: Christina Rawls (Duquesne University)

5:15-7:15 p.m.

  • International Berkeley Society: Berkeley’s Master Argument
  • Chair: Stephen H. Daniel (Texas A&M University)
    • “Berkeley’s Master Argument Revisited”
    • Speaker: Keota Fields (University of Massachusetts– Dartmouth)
    • “Representation and Intentionality in Berkeley’s Master Argument”
    • Speaker: John Grey (Boston University)
  • North American Kant Society
  • Author Meets Critics: Eckart Förster, The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy: A Systematic Reconstruction 
  • Chair: Robert B. Louden (University of Southern Maine)
    • Critics: Robert Hanna (University of Colorado–Boulder), Michelle Kosch (Cornell University)
    • Author: Eckart Förster (Johns Hopkins University)

7:30-10:30 p.m.

  • North American Spinoza Society: Spinoza and Free Will and Responsibility
  • Chair: Ursula Goldenbaum (Emory University)
    • “Crescas, Delmedigo, and Spinoza on Free Will and Responsibility”
    • Speaker: Jacob Adler (University of Arkansas)
    • Commentator:  Christopher Ryszard Kluz (Emory University)
    • “Is an Adequate Notion of Responsibility Available to Spinoza?”
    • Speaker: Tom Cook (Rollins College)
    • Commentator:  Ursula Goldenbaum (Emory University)
    • “Why Spinoza Doesn’t Need to Do Away with Responsibility ”
    • Speaker: Matt Kisner (University of South Carolina)
    • Commentator: Ericka Tucker (California State Polytechnic University–Pomona)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29th

9:00-11:00 a.m.

  • IV-A. Invited Papers: Colloquy on Reading Kant’s Geography
  • Chair: Sebastian Rand (Georgia State University)
    • Speakers:
    • Robert Bernasconi (Pennsylvania State University)
    • Stuart Elden (Durham University-United Kingdom)
    • Robert Louden (University of Southern Maine)

11:15-1:15 p.m.

  • Leibniz Society of North America
    • “Leibniz and Prime Matter”
    • Speaker: Shane Duarte (Stanford University)

1:30-4:30 p.m.

  • V-G. Colloquium: Kant’s Ethics
    • Chair: Lara Denis (Agnes Scott College)
    • 1:30-2:30 p.m.
    • “Promoting the Happiness of Others: Kantian Beneficence and Positive Psychology”
    • Speaker: Melissa Seymour Fahmy (University of Georgia)
    • Commentator: Daniel Murphy (Saint Peter’s College)
    • 2:30-3:30 p.m.
    • “A Problem with the Wide Scope View of the Hypothetical Imperative”
    • Speaker: Kelin A. Emmett (University of Toronto)
    • Commentator: Jordan MacKenzie (University of North Carolina– Chapel Hill)
    • 3:30-4:30 p.m.
    • “Can Positive Duties be Derived from the Formula of Universal Law?”
    • Speaker: Samuel Kahn (Stanford University)
    • Commentator: Terry Godlove (Hofstra University)
  • V-H. Colloquium: Leibniz
  • Chair: Joshua Horn (University of Kentucky)
    • 1:30-2:30 p.m.
    • “The Metaphysics behind Leibniz’s Change of Mind on Privation”
    • Speaker: Joseph M. Anderson (University of South Florida)
    • Commentator: Edward Glowienka (Emory University)
    • 2:30-3:30 p.m.
    • “Leibniz on Spontaneity and Teleology: Some Interesting Connections”
    • Speaker: Julia von Bodelschwingh (Yale University)
    • Commentator: Kristin Primus (Princeton University)
    • 3:30 4:30 p.m.
    • “‘An Accident that is Simultaneously in Two Subjects’: Leibniz and Some Predecessors on the Possibility of Two-Subject Accidents”
    • Speaker: Sydney F. Penner (Oxford University)
    • Commentator: Matt Shockey (Indiana University South Bend)

7:00-10:00 p.m.

  • North American Spinoza Society: Spinoza and Free Will and Responsibility
  • Chair: Ursula Goldenbaum (Emory University)
    • “Spinoza on a Supposed Right to Lie”
    • Speaker: Matt Homan (Emory University)
    • Commentator: Tom Cook (Rollins College)
    • “Free Will, Freedom, and Moral Responsibility: What Spinoza Can Contribute to the Contemporary Free Will Debate?”
    • Speaker: Christopher Ryszard Kluz (Emory University)
    • Commentator: Jacob Adler (University of Arkansas)
    • “On the ‘Terrifying if Unfrightened Multitude’: Spinoza’s Theory of Collective Freedom”
    • Speaker: Ericka Tucker (California State Polytechnic University–Pomona)
    • Commentator: Matt Kisner (University of South Carolina)

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30th

9:00-11:00 a.m.

  • VI-H. Colloquium: Kant’s Metaphysics
  • Chair: Tatiana Patrone (Ithaca College)
    • 9:00-10:00 a.m.
    • “Intellectualism and the Transcendental Deduction”
    • Speaker: Colin McLear (Cornell University)
    • Commentator: Huaping Lu-Adler (Georgetown University)
    • 10:00-11:00 a.m.
    • “The Refutation of Idealism and the Perception of Time”
    • Speaker: Katherine Gasdaglis (Columbia University)
    • Commentator: Michael Rohlf (Catholic University)
  • Hume Society
  • Chair: Miriam McCormick (University of Richmond)
    • “Hume and His Contemporaries on the Moral Significance of Self”
    • Speaker: Colin Heydt (University of South Florida)
    • “Private Virtue, Public Spirit: Hume’s Hopes for ‘Wise Laws and Institutions’”
    • Margaret Watkins (St. Vincent College)

1:30-4:30 p.m.

  • VIII-C. Symposium: Early Modern Theories of Modality
  • Chair:  Lewis Powell (University at Buffalo–State University of New York)
    • Speaker:  Dan Kaufman (University of Colorado–Boulder)
    • Commentator:   Samuel Newlands (University of Notre Dame)
    • Speaker:  Nick Stang (University of Miami)
    • Commentator:  Robert Hanna (University of Colorado–Boulder)
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Hobbesian revisions

I’m making plans to revise my Stanford Encyclopedia article on Hobbes. I already have some thoughts about this, but does anyone have any comments they want to share? All help appreciated!

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Privileged Perspectives

I’ve recently been making my way through Robert Pasnau’s Metaphysical Themes 1274-1671—it’s a great book, by the way—and started thinking about a claim that he makes several times with respect to the canonical seventeenth-century philosophers understanding of scholasticism. Here is how Pasnau puts it the first time the matter comes up:

One can also learn a great deal about the scholastics from reading their seventeenth-century critics. Although I will periodically complain that one or another criticism is misguided, I think in general that the famous figures of the seventeenth century get their scholastic forebears largely right, and that indeed they know this material better than we know it today. After all, they grew up with it. (p. 12)

Similar claims have been made in other domains. For example, in Christian scriptural exegesis Patristic scriptural interpretations are sometimes appealed to along with the claim that their interpretations should be privileged because they are much closer in time and culture to the authors who wrote the Christian Scripture. We might formulate the principle as follows:

  • If interpreter I1 is closer than interpreter I2 in time/culture to the context in which a given text was written, then, all else being equal, I1 has a privileged perspective in interpreting the text and her interpretation should be respected accordingly.

My sense is that this principle or something like it does some work in Pasnau’s interpretations both of scholastic figures and seventeenth-century figures such as Descartes and Locke. I’m also sympathetic to the principle, at least as I formulated it. The “all else being equal” clause, of course, takes a lot of the bite out of the principle. Perhaps Pasnau accepts a stronger version of the principle. He does not think that particular interpretations by a cultural contemporary need always be favoured, as the above quotation makes clear. But maybe there is some overall sense of a philosophical worldview where he thinks the cultural contemporary will always be in the advantage. He says in several places that the seventeenth-century philosophers understood the scholastic material “better than anyone does today.”

Questions about precisely how to formulate the principle aside, I’m not convinced that the seventeenth-century philosophers understood the scholastic material better than anyone does today and that’s because I don’t think that all else is equal. Here’s another principle that seems plausible to me:

  • If interpreter I1 is sympathetic to the positions taken in a given text while I2 deems the text worthy of little more than ridicule, then I1 is more likely to come to a good understanding of the text.

But, as we all know, many seventeenth-century philosophers love to write caustic diatribes about the scholastics who “cover their ignorance with a curious and inexplicable web of perplexed words, and procure to themselves the admiration of others by unintelligible terms, the apter to produce wonder, because they could not be understood” (Locke, Essay III.x.8). I, too, am acquainted with authors who I suspect are covering their ignorance with “curious and inexplicable web of perplexed words.” But even if my suspicions are correct, it seems to me that future authors would be rash to privilege my interpretations of texts by such authors on grounds that I am from the same time period and am broadly of the same culture. Similarly, it seems to me that many seventeenth-century philosophers such as Locke and Hobbes—whatever other virtues they may have had—lacked sufficient sympathy for scholastic philosophy to have a privileged perspective on it. In other words, I’m inclined to think that Pasnau himself understands scholastic philosophy better than Locke or Hobbes did.

But I’m curious what others think about this.

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