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Philosophy Day! Symposium FA23

December 8, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 5:30 pm

CSULB’s biannual Philosophy Day! symposium will be held on Friday December 8th from 12:00pm–5:30pm in room LA3–106. Please join us for some talks and community.


12:00pm: Opening Remarks

12:00pm–1:30pm: Alumni Speaker
Andrew Bollhagen (University of California San Diego)
‘Expanding on ‘experimental dead-space”
  • Abstract: This talk expands upon an idea that I floated, but did not develop, in my paper ‘The inchworm episode: reconstituting the phenomenon of kinesin motility’. There, I used the term ‘experimental dead-space’ merely to refer to a set of alternative hypotheses between which researchers could not adjudicate using a particular experimental tool. In this talk, I expand upon the idea, extracting it from the details of the case and characterizing it in more general terms. As I show, it can be understood as a form of what has been called ‘practical underdetermination’. While philosophers have given short shrift to this form of underdetermination relative to those that problematize realist interpretations of our best scientific theories, I argue that practical underdetermination, as embodied in an experimental dead-space, is key to understanding how experimental practice in science can develop in genuinely novel ways.

1:30pm–1:45pm: Short Break / Spillover Q&A

1:45pm–2:30pm: Graduate Student Research Presentation
Brandon Beller (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Defending collective moral autonomy: a response to David Zoller’
  • Abstract: When considering how moral responsibility ought to be distributed at the collective level, there are some who believe that the collective entity as such (a corporation, government, firm, etc.) can properly bear that responsibility and others who believe that only the individual human persons who constitute such entities can bear that responsibility. For simplicity’s sake, I refer to the former camp as ‘collectivists’ and the latter as ‘individualists’. The collectivist view is appealing insofar as it affords us a straightforward means of delegating moral responsibility to groups; however, for its opponents, the collectivist view comes with the undue ontological burden of accepting collective entities as moral agents. This burden, I suggest, is generated from two main concerns: (a) that collectives are not the sorts of entities which can appropriately be considered moral agents and (b) that the collectivist view leaves open the possibility that morally culpable individuals could pass up blame or responsibility to the collective entity that they constitute. Because responses to (a) saturate the literature on this debate, my presentation will focus on neutralizing (b). I argue first that the collectivist view is not actually susceptible to this concern, and second that the individualist view is itself still vulnerable to what David Zoller refers to as an ‘accounting problem’—despite various attempts to resolve it. My aim, ultimately, is to tip the scales in favor of the collectivist view.

2:30pm–3:00pm: Longer Break / Socializing

3:00pm–3:45pm: Graduate Student Research Presentation
Toko Dougherty (Cal State Long Beach)
‘Ontological brute facts, understanding, and epistemic bruteness’
  • Abstract: Facts that lack an explanation (‘brute’ facts) are either epistemically brute or ontologically brute. Epistemically brute facts are facts that lack an explanation because the explanation (which presumably exists) is not known. Ontologically brute facts are facts that, due to their putative metaphysical fundamentality, lack an explanation simpliciter. In this presentation, I build upon recent philosophical work (Barnes 1995; Fahrbach 2005) on brute facts in two ways. Firstly, I offer an account of exactly how knowledge that some fact is ontologically brute contributes to a better understanding of p despite such knowledge not constituting an explanation of p. I argue that a fact of the form ‘p is ontologically brute’ is a description of the necessary and sufficient conditions of a maximal explanation of p. Learning that p is ontologically brute therefore gives a kind of reflexivity towards one’s understanding of p; one now knows that they know all facts necessary to explain p. Second, I argue that the commonly offered definition of ‘epistemic bruteness’ should be revised. This definition not only conflicts with Fahrbach’s account of brute facts but also violates the intuition that the claims of epistemic bruteness, as epistemic, should only be true in virtue of one’s epistemic state, i.e., in virtue of one’s lack of knowledge of p.

3:45pm–4:00pm: Short Break / Spillover Q&A

4:00pm–5:30pm: Keynote Speaker
Paul Franco (University of Washington)
‘A history of metaethics and science and values’
  • Abstract: What is the nature of values and value judgments in science? Recently, Matt Brown has claimed, ‘[t]he implicit model of values that most philosophers of science work with, whether or not they think that science ought to be value-free, is generally an emotivist or at least noncognitivist one’. Brown suggests that this implicit model is traceable back to logical positivism’s outsized role in shaping philosophy of science. The first part of my talk pursues this historical suggestion by looking at early work on science and values from the 1940s to 1960s. During this time, numerous philosophers of science made explicit their conceptions of value judgments—some of which were cognitive but others noncognitive—or at least gestured towards the need for a fuller examination of the nature of value. In light of this history, the second, more speculative part of the talk considers the relationship between metaethics and science and values, particularly in relation to recent calls for philosophers of science to more fully articulate their conceptions of values and value judgments.

6:00pm–8:00pm: Reception and Dinner
Speakers and participants invited! [If you would like to attend the dinner afterwards, please let organizers Marie Jayasekera and Nellie Wieland know aforehand so that they have an accurate headcount.]

Come join us and celebrate some of the many student accomplishments and other successes. For example, the department welcomed two new CLA Equity Scholars, Camille Wold and Sarah Nolte. Congratulations also to MA students Manuel Rojas, who was awarded the OGS Graduate Fellowship for AY23–24 and Cody Spjut, who received one of the AY23–24 Sally Casanova Predoctoral Fellowships. Raley Zurcher joined the faculty as a new lecturer, and Marie Jayasekera joined the faculty as tenure-track assistant professor. Joe Gordon has been hard at work running the very successful Nietzsche Reading Group. Congratulations also to the AY23–24 scholarship winners: Frank Mendoza, who was awarded the Whittington, and Bryson Lancaster, who won the Friends of Philosophy competition.


December 8, 2023
12:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Event Category:


Private: LA3–106


Marie Jayasekera
Nellie Wieland