Sophie Allen (Oxford): What Matters in (Naturalised) Metaphysics


Can metaphysics ever really be compatible with science? In the past, metaphysics has been rejected entirely by empirically-minded philosophers as being too open to speculation and relying on methods which are not conducive to truth. But there is a less radical approach to these difficulties: naturalized metaphysics, which treats metaphysical theorizing as being continuous with science and restricts metaphysical methods to empirically respectable ones. In this paper, I investigate a significant difficulty for naturalized metaphysics: that it lacks the resources to comparatively evaluate competing metaphysical theories, or even to distinguish adequately between them. This objection is more acute when applied to realist versions of naturalized metaphysics, since the realist should be able to say which theory is true of the objective, mind-independent world. If this objection holds, then it seems that the commitment to naturalized metaphysics, or to realism, will have to be relaxed.

About the Speaker:

Dr Sophie Allen is College Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Oxford. She has published numerous articles, for instance in “Philosophy”, “Analysis”, “Journal of Consciousness Studies” and “British Journal for the History of Philosophy”.

Richard Gray (Cardiff): The Perceptual Representation of Natural Kind Properties


Two distinct and apparently conflicting approaches have been endorsed in discussions of the perceptual representation of natural kind properties, such as the property of being a member of a particular natural kind. Twin Earth style cases support the view that the representation of natural kind properties is not reflected in the phenomenal character of experience. Contrast cases support the view that the representation of natural kind properties is reflected in the phenomenal character of experience. I argue that the standard way to reconcile these two approaches is inadequate and offer an alternative approach.

About the Speaker:

Dr Richard Gray is Senior Lecturer at the University of Cardiff. His research interests are in the philosophy of perception, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. He published articles in The Philosophical Quarterly, The Journal of Consciousness Studies, Analysis, Philosophical Psychology, American Philosophical Quarterly.

William Child (Oxford): Knowing from One’s Own Case


What is the role of one’s own possession of experiences and mental states in one’s grasp of concepts of experiences and mental states?

One idea is that the first-person case plays a basic role in our grasp of mental concepts. So, for example, each of us knows what is it to be in pain from our own experience of pain. We understand what it is for someone else to be in pain by extension from the first-person case. That idea was famously rejected by Wittgenstein. It has recently been defended by Christopher Peacocke, who advances ‘the intuitive claim that one knows from one’s own case what it is for someone else to be in pain’ and that ‘one knows from one’s own case what it is to be a subject’ (Peacocke, Truly Understood, OUP, 2008,180).

I discuss Peacocke’s proposal. And I consider whether Wittgenstein might in fact be sympathetic to the idea that there is a way of thinking of pain that is available only to those who know what it is like to feel pain.

About the Speaker:

Dr William Child is University Lecturer, and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at the University College, Oxford. His research interests are in Wittgenstein, philosophy of mind, epistemology and metaphysics. He has published a monograph on Causality, Interpretation, and the Mind (OUP 1994), an edited collection (with David Charles) on Wittgensteinian Themes: Essays in the Honour of David Pears (OUP 2001), and numerous articles (for instance, in Philosophical Investigations, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Quarterly, and International Journal of Philosophical Studies).

James Tartaglia (Keele): Two Approaches to the Problem of Consciousness


Recent physicalist theories have combined physicalism with phenomenal concepts, thereby abandoning the phenomenal irrealism characteristic of 1950s physicalism. I argue that this is a mistake that leaves physicalism trying to reconcile itself to concepts appropriate only to dualism. I begin by showing that the possibility of combining physicalism with phenomenal concepts is not prima facie desirable, before arguing that phenomenal concepts cannot be introspective ways of thinking about physical properties. I explain the mistaken thought process that leads to a commitment to phenomenal concepts, and compare my rejection of phenomenal concepts to those of Derek Ball and Michael Tye.

About the Speaker:

Dr James Tartaglia is Lecturer in Philosophy in SPIRE. His research interests are in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology, metaphilosophy and Rorty. He published articles in The Monist, The International Journal for Philosophical StudiesThe British Journal for the History of Philosophy, Nous and Philosophical Books. He edited the 4-volume Richard Rorty: Critical Assessments of Leading Philosophers (Routledge 2009) and published Rorty and the Mirror of Nature (Routledge 2007).

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