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April 2017

LSE PhD Student Session: Deren Olgun & Silvia Milano

26 April, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Deren Olgun: "Reasons make actions rational" Abstract: When is something a reason for you to act?  All existing answers to this question either run into conflict with ordinary language in the cases in which we are mistaken (e.g. 'non-psychologism') or in the cases in which we aren't (e.g. 'psychologism') or they fail to offer a univocal characterisation of the relation (e.g.…

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May 2017

Prejudice (the Forum)

3 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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With recent political events and a spike in the reporting of hate crime, the concept of prejudice has become prominent once more. But are we more or less prejudiced than at other points in our history? And is prejudice always wrong, or even avoidable? If it is avoidable, how can this be achieved? We put these questions to a philosopher, psychologist, sociologist, and activist.

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Casey D. McCoy (Edinburgh): “Interpretive Analogies Between Statistical and Quantum Mechanics”

8 May, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Philosophers have on occasion noticed various analogies between interpretive approaches to statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics. Probably the most often noted analogy is between the Boltzmannian approach to statistical mechanics and the de Broglie-Bohm approach to quantum mechanics. The possible and pertinent analogies do not end there however. The purpose of this talk is to draw them out in order to see what is suggested about the two theories' interpretation. The main lessons I draw are as follows. First, I claim that there is at least one interpretation available in statistical mechanics which has been so far overlooked and has a natural analogy in the Everettian interpretation of quantum mechanics. Second, I show that to a certain extent the interpretive choices in both theories depend importantly in how stochasticity is interpreted, a point which has not been seriously raised in the literature. Finally, I suggest that pursuing these analogies suggests the possibility of a kind of “measurement problem” in statistical mechanics.

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Celebrity (the Forum)

8 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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If video killed the radio star, how are we to understand celebrity in a world of Twitter, YouTube, and reality TV? Has the social function of celebrity changed, or are new kinds of celebrities performing the same function in different ways? Our panel will consider what celebrities are for, what their rights and responsibilities might be, and what our attitude towards celebrities ought to be.

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Hasok Chang (Cambridge): “If you can spray phlogiston, is it real? A pragmatist conception of reality”

9 May, 2:00 pm3:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Any statements we make in science are about some presumed entities (e.g., hormones, electrons, or the gross national product), unless it is a pure report of sensation within oneself. Entity-realism is prior to truth-realism, since it would not make sense to maintain that a statement about nature is true unless it speaks about real entities. Therefore it is necessary for realists to grapple with ontology in some basic sense. But how can we actually judge what is real? In a move partly inspired by Hacking, I propose a coherence theory of reality: we should, and usually do, consider as real the presumed referents of concepts that play a significant role in a coherent system of practice. This judgement of reality is internal to each system, and it is continuous with everyday usage as in “Ghosts aren’t real.” The demand for coherence rules out many things, but also rules in many things. In the absence of what else we might operationally mean by “real”, we should have the audacity to embrace the reality of many different kinds of things (as with Dupré’s “promiscuous realism”), even if the concepts referring to them belong to mutually incommensurable systems of practice. This is what we ought to do if we really take success as our only reliable guide in deciding what to be realist about.

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Christian List (LSE): “What matters and how it matters: A choice-theoretic representation of moral theories”

10 May, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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We present a new “reason-based” approach to the formal representation of moral theories, drawing on recent decision-theoretic work. We show that any moral theory within a very large class can be represented in terms of two parameters: (i) a specification of which properties of the objects of moral choice matter in any given context, and (ii) a specification of how these properties matter. Reason-based representations provide a very general taxonomy of moral theories, as differences among theories can be attributed to differences in their two key parameters. We can thus formalize several distinctions, such as between consequentialist and non-consequentialist theories, between universalist and relativist theories, between agent-neutral and agent-relative theories, between monistic and pluralistic theories, between atomistic and holistic theories, and between theories with a teleological structure and those without. Reason-based representations also shed light on an important but under-appreciated phenomenon: the “underdetermination of moral theory by deontic content”.

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Capitalism (the Forum)

16 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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For much of the early part of the twentieth century, political theorists debated the moral and economic merits of capitalism in competition with communism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites, and the triumph of the market economy, those on the political left briefly flirted with the idea of market socialism. But critics of capitalism are running out of alternative ideas, to the point that a placard at an anti-capitalism march proclaimed ‘Replace Capitalism with Something Nice!’. Are we stuck with capitalism? How far can it be modified? How far should it be modified?

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Jonathan Parry (Birmingham): TBC

17 May, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Jonathan Parry is a Birmingham Fellow in Global Ethics, specialising in moral and political philosophy. He is also Deputy Director of the University of Birmingham's Centre for the Study of Global Ethics.

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Workshop on Determinism, Probability and Agency

19 May, 1:45 pm7:15 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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On 19 May, this workshop will bring together faculty and graduate students to investigate the connections between probability, determinism and agency. Further information is available on the workshop website.

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Eleanor Knox (KCL): “Spacetime Functionalism and Non-Commutative Geometry”

22 May, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: Spacetime functionalism, the view that spacetime is as spacetime does, allows for an interesting interpretational perspective on both classical and quantum gravitational theories. In this paper, I'll explore the consequences of a particular kind of spacetime functionalism for a particular variety of non-commutative gravitational theory. The spacetime functionalism I advocate analyses the spacetime concept as a functional one, and…

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Film (the Forum)

23 May, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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"Film is made for philosophy", wrote Stanley Cavell, "it shifts or puts different light on whatever philosophy has said about appearance and reality, about actors and characters, about scepticism and dogmatism, about presence and absence". Does the language of cinema lend itself to questions of metaphysics and mortality? How can a character, a close up, or a cut represent a concept? In this panel, a filmmaker, a film critic, and a philosopher explore the ways in which film has engaged with philosophy and ask how far we might consider film itself a philosophical medium.

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Philosophy of Language for Decision Theory

25 May26 May
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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This two day workshop will explore the connections between philosophy of language and decision theory. Confirmed speakers include Richard Bradley, Chloé de Canson, Julien Dutant, Paul Egré, Terry Horgan, Rosanna Keefe, Harvey Lederman, Christian List, Ofra Magidor, Anna Mahtani, Daniel Rothschild and Robbie Williams.

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Jeff McMahan (Oxford): “Might We Benefit Animals by Eating Them?”

30 May, 2:00 pm3:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: Leslie Stephen once wrote that “The pig has a stronger interest than anyone in the demand for bacon. If all the world were Jewish, there would be no pigs at all.”  In recent debates about the ethics of eating animals, some have advanced the related claim that if people cause animals to exist and give them good lives in…

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Eden Lin (Ohio): “Future Desires, the Agony Argument, and Subjectivism about Reasons”

31 May, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: According to subjectivism about normative reasons for action, there is a reason for you to perform an action if and only if (and because) your performing it would promote the satisfaction of one of your desires. Presentist versions of subjectivism, on which present reasons are grounded in present desires, are threatened by Parfit's Agony Argument: they imply that there might…

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June 2017

Fifth LSE Graduate Conference in Philosophy of Probability

2 June3 June
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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This conference will bring together researchers and graduate students in Philosophy, Psychology/Cognitive Science, Physics, Medicine, Computer Science and related fields to discuss issues in the philosophy of probability. Keynote speakers: Maria Carla Galavotti (University of Bologna) Anna Mahtani (LSE) Julia Staffel (Washington University in St Louis) Sylvia Wenmackers (KU Leuven)   Further information is available on the conference website.

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Michael Stoeltzner (U South Carolina): “Model Choice and Crucial Tests. On the Empirical Epistemology of the Higgs Discovery.”

5 June, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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To quite a few observers outside the field of elementary particle physics, the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 appeared to be just the final step in a long series of discoveries and precision tests in which stronger and stronger accelerator experiments had confirmed all particles of the Standard Model (SM) and scrutinized their interactions. The present paper argues that this picture needs qualifications. They provide two important lessons for the role of crucial experiments in a theory-laden context and the operation of epistemic and pragmatic criteria of theory (or model) choice.

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Origins of Consciousness Workshop

7 June, 10:00 am5:00 pm

This one-day, interdisciplinary workshop will bring together philosophers, neuroscientists, experimental biologists and evolutionary biologists to discuss the origins of consciousness. Pre-registration is required. Further information is available on the conference website.

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Michael Spackman (GRI): TBC

7 June, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: TBC   #LSEChoiceGroup

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Heather Dyke (LSE): “Experience of Passage in a Static World” (BSPS Lecture)

12 June, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: The view that experience seems to tell us directly that time flows has long been accepted by both A-theorists and B-theorists in the philosophy of time. A-theorists take it as a powerful endorsement of their position, sometimes using it explicitly in an argument for their view, and other times more implicitly, as a kind of non-negotiable, experiential given. B-theorists…

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Anna Mahtani (LSE): “Betting scenarios and dilation”

14 June, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: TBC   #LSEChoiceGroup

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