Research seminars

This year we intend to have most of our seminars in person, and on campus. (Any exceptions to this will be noted below). Most seminars will take place on Wednesdays from 15.15-16.50, with a 5 minute break between the talk and the Q&A (Any exceptions to this will be noted below). The location is Roscoe 2.3.

If you have any queries, please contact Dr Stephen Ingram.

2021-22: Semester One

13 October 2021: Dr Frederique Janssen-Lauret (University of Manchester) and Ajinkya Deshmukh (University of Manchester)

Title: Caste, Material Origins, and Anti-Essentialism

Abstract: We argue that Indian speakers' discourse about caste represents a counter-example to the popular Kripkean essentiality of material origins. Material-origin essentialists contend not only that persons have the property of coming from the two particular gametes they actually came from essentially, but also that competent ordinary-language speakers find this intuitively compelling and consider statements which contradict it as either confused or clearly necessarily false. It follows they would predict that speakers the world over treat genetically-determined properties (species, biological sex, inherited disabilities) as essential, while treating characteristics such as class, religion, and caste as accidental, because it is intuitively obvious that the latter have no genetic basis. We adduce evidence from Indian speakers' discourse, both ordinary-language remarks about caste and published literature about the nature of caste, to falsify this prediction. Some Indian speakers treat caste as biologically essential, others treat caste as a temporary property of the person while treating the person herself as essentially mental, not as essentially the product of two gametes. We argue that although biological caste essentialism does not stand up to scrutiny, the second view, of persons as mental entities, is clearly coherent and not obviously necessarily false. We consider two alternatives to Kripkean material-origin essentialism which account for Indian speakers' discourse. One is mental essentialism, according to which persons are essentially mental and only accidentally embodied or biological. Versions of this view exist in both the Indian and Western traditions. But we argue against it in favour of a modally inconstant anti-essentialism, according to which what properties count as essential to an object and what properties count as accidental is not fixed but varies according to a given inquiry.

27 October 2021: Dr Rob Trueman (York)

Title: A Fictionalist Theory of Universals

Abstract: Universals are putative objects like wisdom, morality, redness, etc. Although we believe in properties (which, we argue, are not a kind of object), we do not believe in universals. However, a number of ordinary, natural language constructions seem to commit us to their existence. In this paper, we provide a fictionalist theory of universals, which allows us to speak as if universals existed, whilst denying that any really do.

17 November 2021: Professor Siobhan Chapman (University of Liverpool)

Title: Alice Ambrose, Margaret MacDonald and the Problems of Ordinary Language

Abstract: Alice Ambrose (1906-2001) and Margaret MacDonald (1907-1956) are recorded in the history of analytic philosophy largely in terms of their relationship to Ludwig Wittgenstein. They took notes at his Cambridge lectures and discussion groups in the 1930s, which became some of the most important sources of information about his thinking in the period of transition between his earlier and later work. In this paper I will argue that both need to be recovered and reconsidered as significant philosophers in their own right, who have important contributions to make to the familiar problems posed by ordinary language in relation to philosophy. Ambrose worked mainly in mathematics and symbolic logic, but she also brought clarity to the various ways in which ordinary language featured in contemporary philosophical discussion, and identified the centrality of ‘linguistic innovation’ to much philosophical practice. MacDonald argued that many philosophical problems can be solved by understanding how language is ordinarily used, and published her case before more celebrated ‘ordinary language philosophers’, most notably J. L. Austin. She also set out ideas and terminology which were later to be associated with Austin’s speech act theory in her contributions to ethics and aesthetics. Both Ambrose and MacDonald contributed to and extended the application of the study of natural language in analytic philosophy in ways which deserve to be recovered and to be subjected to further philosophical scrutiny.

08 December 2021: Dr Jessie Munton (University of Cambridge)

Title: Base Rate Neglect in the Service of Modal Knowledge

Abstract: Are there ever good epistemic reasons to misrepresent base rates? I investigate this question in the context of recent legislation restricting the presentation of gender stereotypes, and the representation of minority groups in children’s books. I argue that our hesitancy around certain base rates makes sense in the context of a more general epistemic dilemma we face: between knowledge of actuality and knowledge of possibility. Given this dilemma, there are sound epistemic reasons to behave in ways the may involve wariness or misrepresentation of base rates. This approach has implications for the way in which ethical and epistemic norms interact with one another.

15 December 2021: Benedetta Magro (University of Manchester)

*** Please note that this seminar will run from 15.15-16.00, and will take place on Zoom only ***

Title: TBC

Abstract: TBC


Previous speakers

2020-21: Joe Morrison (Queen's University Belfast), Oliver Spinney (Manchester), Leonie Smith (Manchester), John Schwenkler (Florida State University), Simon Walgenbach (Manchester), Natasha McKeever (Leeds), Elisabeth Camp (Rutgers), Emile Chan (Manchester), Alex Silk (Birmingham), Justina BerškytÄ— (Manchester), and Andre Carus (LMU).

2019-20: David Liggins (Manchester), Luke Russell (Sydney), Sonia Roca Royes (Stirling), Nakul Krishna (Cambridge), Jonathan Mitchell (Manchester), Wesley Buckwalter (Manchester), and Tom Smith (Manchester).

2018-19: Stephen Ingram (Manchester), Andreas De Jong (Manchester), Catharine Abell (Manchester), Samuel Lebens (Haifa), Stephen Gardiner (Washington), Marie Guillot (Essex), Joseph Kisolo-Ssonko (Nottingham), Graham Stevens (Manchester), Leonie Smith (Manchester), Penelope Orr (Manchester), Jeroen Smid (Manchester), Thomas Uebel Manchester), Rachael Wiseman (Liverpool), Jani Jakkarainen (Tampere), Dawn Wilson (Hull), and Jon Bebb (Manchester).

2017-18: Abigail Connor (Manchester), Sean Crawford (Manchester), Frederique Janssen-Lauret (Manchester), Francois Recanati (Institute Jean Nicod), Andy Kirton (Manchester), Sophie Grace-Chappell (Open University), Richard Christian (Manchester), Kevin Mulligan (Lugano), Roberta Ballarin (University of British Columbia), Fraser MacBride (Manchester), and Sean Crawford (Manchester).

2016-17: Lubomira Radoilska (Kent), Sylvia Barnett (Manchester), Lea-Cecile Salje (Leeds), Jules Holroyd (Sheffield), Alex Grzankowski (Birkbeck), Chris Hughes (KCL), Helen Beebee (Manchester), Pilar Lopez-Cantero (Manchester), Fred Horton (Manchester), Catharine Abell (Manchester), 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).

01 December 2021: Professor Helen Beebee (University of Manchester)


Title: TBC


Abstract: TBC