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Philosophy Day! Symposium SP22

May 6 @ 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Yes, we’re back! Our biannual Philosophy Day! symposium will be held on Friday May 6th from 12:00pm–5:00pm. The symposium will be held in PSYC–150. If you would like to attend the dinner afterwards, please let organizer Nick Laskowski know aforehand so that he has a headcount.]


12:00pm–12:45pm: Graduate Student Research Presentation
Pedro Rapallo Zubillaga (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Impossibly immoral fictions and how to understand them’
  • Abstract: The problem of imaginative resistance concerns our difficulty with make-believing certain kinds of fictions. This is especially prevalent in the moral realm, where morally abhorrent elements in fictional stories can quickly impact our willingness or ability to imagine them. Why is it that we have no trouble make-believing events a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, but we have reservations over make believing the moral goodness of slavery? I tackle the problem by identifying two variants: (i) the weak problem, which concerns our unwillingness to engage with morally abhorrent fictions, and (ii) the strong problem, which concerns our inability to imagine morally abhorrent fictions as if they were objectively morally correct. I then draw on Kendall Walton and Kathleen Stock to sketch out a tentative solution to the strong problem: that there exist relations of supervenience between moral and natural facts which hold even in fictions. I present Tamar Gendler’s potent objection to this solution, which comes in two parts. Firstly, we have no trouble make-believing conceptual impossibilities. Secondly, why can’t we just make-believe the relations of supervenience to be something else other than what they are? After all, we frequently debate about morality in the actual world. I present a metaethical counterargument to this objection. Moral facts cannot be groundless; they must be anchored by actual facts in relations of supervenience. Otherwise, they do not make sense, and then we cannot make sense of the fiction. Through these arguments, we can make a case for our inability to make-believe morally abhorrent elements as if they were morally correct.

12:45pm–1:00pm: Short Break / Spillover Q&A

1:00pm–1:45pm: Graduate Student Research Presentation
Raley Zurcher (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Defending color adverbialism against the temporal and many-properties problem’
  • Abstract: A problem in color theory is the tension between the subjective and objective nature of color. There are reasons to think color is not wholly subjective (colors have public agreement, they have surface spectral reflectance, etc.), but also reasons to think that it is not wholly objective (colors are specific to the number of cones of a species’ visual system, color is not necessarily constant, etc). Mazviita Chirimuuta gives an account of color that can accommodate the ‘inner-relatedness and outer-directedness of color’ while also aligning with the empirical data of human vision. She names this view ‘color adverbialism’. Color adverbialism has two related charges against it. Firstly, if color is the interaction between the viewer and the stimulus, this necessarily seems to include time (and not only color). Secondly, it seems that some properties of an interaction are inextricably attached to each other such as color and shape. In this talk, I defend color adverbialism and argue that questions regarding time and color events are ill-posed. Color adverbialism can overcome both the temporal and many-properties problem.

1:45pm–2:00pm: Short Break / Spillover Q&A

2:00pm–2:45pm: Graduate Student Research Presentation
Chavva Olander (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Rough heroes in fiction and real life: how aesthetic devices prescribe audience admiration of immoral characters’
  • Abstract: In our everyday experiences, we are securely fastened to our sociality and our morality. These factors inform our emotional responses, actions, and judgments. When we involve ourselves in the goings on of the actual world, our reactions are tinged with the knowledge that our fellow actual world inhabitants are impacted by these events. This is not so when we believe ourselves to be immersed in a fictional narrative—particularly one in which the protagonists are so-called ‘rough heroes’, that is, character to whom we are endeared, not in spite of, but because of their morally problematic behavior. In such works, we get to experience the thrilling tension of moral compromise without any of the actual ill-effects. Our compromised moral judgments are bracketed within the fictional work and have no bearing on our real-world ethical stances. Were we to become wrapped up in similar fashion with an individual in the real world who undermined our morality in this way, we would bear the consequences of moral compromise in the actual world. I think there are examples of such occurrences, and will aim to demonstrate that the same aesthetic devices used to create the fictional characters that allow for a rich and complex engagement with a work of fiction are similarly employed outside the fictional realm with observable detrimental effects.

2:45pm–3:00pm: Short Break / Spillover Q&A

3:00pm–5:00pm: Keynote Speaker
Carolyn Dicey Jennings (University of California Merced)
‘Does consciousness emerge?’
  • Abstract: The concept of emergence is central to many scientific theories of consciousness, including GWT and IIT. Yet, ’emergence’ is an evolving term. Its different meanings allow some to claim that emergence is ubiquitous in nature while others see it as unscientific. That is, ‘weak’ or ‘epistemic’ emergence is often seen as ubiquitous, whereas ‘strong’ or ‘ontological’ emergence is often seen as unscientific. The former can be applied anytime a pattern is irreducible to its components, whereas the latter can be applied only in the case that a new causal power is borne by the emergent entity. In this talk, I will discuss different contemporary uses of the concept of emergence and how they intersect with theories of consciousness. Singer (2001), for example, focuses on ‘the emergence of ordered spatio-temporal activity patterns that could serve as substrate’ for consciousness. Edelman (2003) argues that ‘consciousness is not a thing but […] a process that emerges from interactions of the brain, the body, and the environment’. Hoel, Albantakis, & Tononi (2013) suggest ‘quantifying causal emergence as the supersedence of a macro causal model over a micro one’. Finally, Baars, Gold, & Kozma (2021) describe the task of GWT to determine how ‘a serial, integrated and very limited stream of consciousness emerge[s] from a nervous system that is mostly unconscious’. I argue that all of these uses fall in between the more traditional forms of ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ emergence. I then assess the evidence for these different types of emergence with respect to consciousness.

5:00pm–7:30pm: Reception and Dinner
Speakers and participants invited!


May 6
12:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Event Category:


Nick Laskowski