Search type


Research seminars

All are welcome to our philosophy research seminars, presented by visiting speakers, members of staff and PhD students.

All talks are in Roscoe, 1.001 at 3pm (with the exception of the Welcome Day event on Thursday 11 May, which will take place in University Place 5.211)

Download a campus map and view accessibility information.

Please contact Paula Satne ( if you have any queries.

2016-17: Semester Two

07 February 2017: Lubomira Radoilska (Kent)

Title: Self-Effacing Reasons for Action and the Epistemic Condition on Responsibility

Abstract: In this talk, I explore how and why a class of self-effacing reasons for action might be problematic, in light of the so-called epistemic condition on responsibility. Having distinguished between three kinds of self-effacement that could affect the class of reasons under consideration, content-, function- and circumstance-related self-effacement, I sketch a possible way of revisiting the role of knowledge in responsibility ascriptions, beyond the epistemic condition.

14 February 2017: Sylvia Barnett (Manchester)

Title: TBC

Abstract: TBC

21 February 2017: Lea-Cecile Salje (Leeds)

Title: Memory and Me

Abstract: Let’s say that the following is a conceptual possibility: an advanced team of neuroscientists succeed in identifying and removing the parts of your brain associated with a particular memory and transplanting them into my brain, such that I have an apparent memory of something that happened in your past. Such cases of ‘quasi-memory’ or ‘Q-memory’ are typically taken to undermine the claim that past-tensed first-person memory-based judgments are immune to error through misidentification. If we take immunity to error through misidentification to be an epistemic marker of forms of self-awareness in which we are aware of ourselves as ourselves, then cases like this threaten to challenge the idea that we are aware of ourselves as ourselves as things with temporal extension into the past.

In this talk I argue that a more biologically situated understanding of memory gives us reason to think that apparent memories in such Q-memory cases always uniquely refer to the memory transplant recipient. This gives us a way of holding on to the claim that memory is a form self-awareness in which we are each aware of ourselves in a distinctively first personal way. 

07 March 2017: Catharine Abell (Manchester)


14 March 2017: Jules Holroyd (Sheffield)

Title: Implicit Bias, Self-Defence, and the Reasonable Person

Abstract: The reasonable person standard is used in adjudicating claims of self-defence. In US law, an individual may use defensive force if her beliefs that a threat is imminent and that force is required are beliefs a reasonable person would have. In English law, it is sufficient that beliefs in imminence and necessity are genuinely held; but the reasonableness of so believing has an evidential role in establishing the genuineness of the beliefs. There is, of course, much contention over how to spell out when, and in virtue of what, such beliefs are reasonable.

In this paper, we [myself and Federico Picinali] identify the distinctive issues that arise when we consider that implicit racial bias might be implicated in the beliefs in imminence and necessity. Considering two prominent interpretations of the reasonable person standard, we argue that neither is acceptable. On one interpretation, we risk unfairness to the defendant - who may non-culpably harbour bias. On the other, the standard embeds racist stereotypes. Whilst there are formulations of the defence that may serve to mitigate these problems, we argue that they cannot be avoided in the presence of racist social structures.

21 March 2017: Alex Grzankowski (Birkbeck)

Title: Towards a Minimal Account of Propositions

Abstract: In recent years the classical view of propositional content has come under considerable scrutiny. The classical account consists of two theses, the Sui Generis Thesis and the Inheritance Thesis.

The Sui Generis Thesis:

Propositions are sui generis, abstract, intrinsically-representational entities that are the objects of our cognitive attitudes, such as believing and desiring.

The Inheritance Thesis:     

Those cognitive attitudes represent as they do in virtue of their propositional objects. 

On this view, propositions are the fundamental bearers of intentionality; our mental states represent derivatively. Recent criticisms of the classical view have largely focused on a particular aspect of (i) - namely, the question of how, if at all, an abstract entity could itself represent. Under the rubric of the problem of propositional unity, theorists such as Hanks, King, Soames, and Speaks have argued that it is mysterious how propositions as traditionally conceived could represent and this explanatory burden leads them to reject both theses of the classical view.

We believe that the story about propositions is simpler than this. The recent revisionary accounts of propositions offered by the aforementioned authors and others aren’t just incorrect; they are unmotivated. It turns out that the issue of whether or not propositions represent - intrinsically, or derivatively - is a red herring. Of much more importance is a clearer understanding of the nature of our cognitive relations to propositions – the nature of the propositional attitudes themselves. With a clearer understanding of the relevant relations, we motivate a minimal account of propositions according to which propositions are abstractions from mental states that represent the same.

28 March 2017: Chris Hughes (KCL)

25 April 2017: Helen Beebee (Manchester)

02 May 2017: Pilar Lopez Cantero (Manchester)

11 May 2017: Fred Horton (Manchester) and Catharine Abell (Manchester)

Welcome Day for incoming MA/PhD students.

Please note: this is a Thursday, the event begins at 14.00, and the venue is University Place 5.211

14.00-15.00 - Fred Horton

  • Title: The Normativity of Deliberative Contractualism 
  • Abstract: Moral contractualism holds that we ought to act according to the code that we would agree to in certain hypothetical, idealised circumstances. Any such theory must provide a plausible account of the normativity of such agreements – that is, an explanation of agents’ reasons to comply with this hypothetical contract. Nicholas Southwood has offered a novel version of this kind of theory, called Deliberative Contractualism. Southwood argues that morality’s foundations are located in the common code we would agree to if we were deliberatively rational. To be deliberatively rational is to follow the deliberative norms that he takes to be presuppositions of the activity of deliberation itself. Our reason to comply with this common code is founded on the interpersonal account of practical reason Southwood develops. The idea is that the normativity of deliberative contractualist principles is implicit in his account of deliberative agency. To have the capacities that are constitutive of deliberative agency presupposes that we stand in an inescapable normatively significant relation to others, and that we have reasons to express the demands of this relation.This paper provides a brief overview of Southwood’s account and raises two worries, the first concerning the nature of the inescapable relation that Southwood claims all competent agents stand in to each other. It seems that either the relation is going to be too weak to establish the kind of normativity needed for the moral obligations Southwood wants to derive, or it would need to rely on some other source of normativity, which would undermine Southwood’s ambition to provide an ‘explanatory rock bottom’ account of morality’s foundations. Even if this can be met, and competent agents do stand in this inescapable relation, there is a second worry for Southwood, namely, whether this relation implies following the deliberative norms he identifies. This worry is all the more pressing given that these norms clearly have moral content. This needn’t be a case of vicious circularity, provided Southwood can show that we can have an independent grip on deliberative normativity. I question whether he manages to demonstrate this.

15.00-16.00 - Catharine Abell

  • Title: What is Fiction?
  • Abstract: What distinguishes works of fiction from works of non-fiction? I argue that works of fiction are distinguished by the institutional context within which they are produced. I draw on this account to illuminate both what it is to appreciate a work as fiction and the relation between fiction and the imagination.

Previous speakers

2016-17: Joel Smith (Manchester), Joey Montgomery (Manchester), Lydia Farina (Manchester), Michael Scott (Manchester) and Graham Stevens (Manchester), Paula Satne (Manchester), Stephen Ingram (Manchester), and Richard Yetter Chappell (York).

2015-16: Nikk Effingham (Birmingham), Al Mele (FSU), Jess Leech (Sheffield), David A. Nicolas (Jean Nicod), Michaela Massimi (Edinburgh), Catherine Z. Elgin (Harvard), Stacie Friend (Birkbeck), Lee Walters (Southampton), Finn Malcolm (Manchester), Tom Crowther (Warwick), Chris Ovenden (Manchester), Yu Gu (Manchester), Marcello Orieste Fiocco (UC Irvine), Nathan Duckett (Manchester), Helen Yetter Chappell (York), Luke Russell (Sydney), Thomas Smith (Manchester), Pila Lopez-Cantero (Manchester).

2014-15: Nicholas Jones (Birmingham), Emily Caddick Bourne (Cambridge), Kathleen Stock (Sussex), Debbie Roberts (Edinburgh), Christy Mag Uidhir (Houston), Peter Vickers (Durham), Johannes Roessler (Warwick), Heather Logue (Leeds), John Heil (Washington St. Louis), Matthew Smith (Leeds).

2013-14: Ian Proops (Austin), Daniel Whiting (Southampton), Ian Phillips (UCL), Jonathan Farrell (Manchester), Jason Turner (Leeds), Steinvör Thöll Árnadóttir (Stirling), Barry Dainton (Liverpool), Louise Richardson (York), Miranda Fricker (Sheffield), Jani Haikkarainen and Markku Keinanen (Tampere, Finland), Tom Smith (Manchester), Josh Parsons (Oxford), James Maclaurin (Otago).