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FA20 Philosophy Day

December 11, 2020 @ 3:00 pm - 7:30 pm

The Department of Philosophy will hold its biannual Philosophy Day! symposium on Friday December 11th from 3:00pm–7:30pm. Unfortunately, with the pandemic still in full effect, we will have to abandon our usual group dinner. Talks will be held via zoom. To mitigate zoom fatigue, we will have a slightly shorter program this year with the hope of coming together in SP21 in person.


3:00pm–4:30pm: Keynote Speakers

Laura Schroeter & François Schroeter (University of Melbourne)
‘Strict and relaxed concepts’

  • Abstract: We take concepts to be ways of keeping track of a topic in thought and talk. Your concept of Obama, for instance, is a way of keeping track of a particular individual. Your concept is what binds together your beliefs about his presidency with an ability to recognize him by sight, your political appraisal of his legacy, and your standing emotional and evaluative attitudes towards him. All of these attitudes seem guaranteed to pertain to the same person: Obama. Concepts also seem to be sharable with others: it seems obvious that you’re thinking and talking about the very same person, Obama, with other people—even those who have very different beliefs and evaluations of him. In this paper, we introduce our so-called ‘jazz model’ of concepts, and we will apply this model to some concepts that have attracted philosophical controversy, like those pertaining to morality and gender. We will suggest that some concepts, like your concept of Obama or of moral rightness, should be construed as strictly referential: they always have precisely the same reference. But others, like the concept of silliness or of being blue, or perhaps the concept of womanhood, may have a more relaxed representational function, which must be sharpened in different conversational contexts.
4:30pm–5:00pm: Break / spillover Q&A
5:00pm–5:40pm: Graduate Student Research Presentation
Caitlin Mace (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Is the search for memory engrams ruthless?’
  • Abstract: Ruthless reductionists in the philosophy of neuroscience aim to demonstrate a reductive “link” between cellular or molecular processes and mental phenomena. This direct link is illuminated in practice as neuroscientists use tools to intervene at the cellular or molecular level and measure behavioral output; further evidence for such a link is gathered from what neuroscientists themselves report on their experiments. John Bickle (2019) has recently argued that optogenetics is such an intervention directly linking neuronal ensembles with behavior in the search for memory engrams—roughly, the hypothetical entity that encodes, stores, and retrieves memories. However, this claim requires that a neuronal ensemble functions as a memory engram that is causally linked to behavior, thereby putting undue constraints on engram theory. I argue first that, even on Bickle’s metascientific grounds, optogenetics is not uncovering engrams, and, further, that the search for engrams is not ruthless.

5:40pm–5:50pm: Short Break

5:50pm–6:30pm: Graduate Student Research Presentation

Tanner Whitlow (Cal State Long Beach)
‘What is sexual orientation? An analysis’
  • Abstract: Sexual orientation is something most people think they have; but when asked what it is, most people end up stumped. In this presentation, I will examine several contemporary accounts of sexual orientation, including Robin Dembroff’s (2016) bidimensional dispositionalism, Esa Diaz-Leon’s (forthcoming) desire theory, and Kathleen Stock’s (2019) orthodox account. I will argue that none of these views is explanatory enough to capture what sexual orientation actually consists in, and through my objections to these views, I will develop a framework in which we can attempt to craft our own explanatory view of sexual orientation.

6:30pm–7:30pm: Zoom Reception
Speakers and participants invited!


December 11, 2020
3:00 pm - 7:30 pm