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January 2017

Work: The Digital Economy and the Labouring Body (the Forum)

17 January, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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From the impact of de-industrialization to the emerging forms of labour generated by technological advances, we are witnessing a transformation of work. What impact does the digital economy have on our understanding of work? Does it alter our conception of the labouring body? Where should we look to make sense of work in the contemporary, globalized world?

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The Social Lives of Microbes (the Forum)

24 January, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What are microbial societies? In what ways do they resemble human societies and in what ways do they differ? Can the same ideas that explain cooperation in larger animals also explain cooperation in microbes? And what can we learn from microbes about what it is to be human? In this panel discussion, philosopher Maureen O’Malley and microbiologists Kevin Foster and Sara Mitri discuss the social lives of microbes.

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On Objects (the Forum)

31 January, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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We tend to pay more attention to living beings than objects, failing to notice the complexities of the things that surround us, neglecting the differences between "the obsidian fragment, the gypsum crystal, the capsicum pepper, and the propane flame" (Ian Bogost). But what if we are wrong to think of objects as inert and unimportant? What if objects can act? What if objects can help us to bridge the perceived gap between ourselves and the world around us? Our panel will consider the significance of objects between the personal and philosophical.

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February 2017

Michael Stuart (CPNSS): “A Dual Process Account of Scientific Imagination”

6 February, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Scientists need imagination. They use it to generate hypotheses, create models, design experiments, interpret data and occasionally, invent demons, travel through time and ride on light waves. To investigate the role that imagination plays in these actions, we need an empirically tractable characterization of imagination that is also amenable to philosophical discussion. In this talk I reject existing characterizations of imagination and present a new one based on the dual-process theory of cognition.

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Music and the Absolute (the Forum)

6 February, 6:00 pm8:00 pm
Shaw Library, Old Building, 6th Floor, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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In the film Amadeus, Mozart remarks that ‘his composition has the exact amount of notes’, hinting at some kind of Absolute. For contemporary composer Nimrod Borenstein, there is only one solution: the right number of notes at the right place, as if his music had always existed. Are there philosophical arguments that support such claims? We bring together a composer, a pianist, a piano, and a philosopher to explore this question.

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Jo E. Wolff (KCL): “Absolutism about Quantity – Decision by case study?”

13 February, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Recent work on physical quantities has focused on a debate over absolutism vs. comparativism about quantities. In this talk I will be interested in whether this debate can be decided by arguments from physics. I will look at several case studies from the physical sciences, some of which have been invoked to make a case for comparativism, while others seem suitable to support absolutism. I argue that none of the case studies succeeds as an argument in favour of comparativism. In the final part of the talk I turn to the question whether any of the case studies makes a decisive case for absolutism.

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The House that Philosophy Built (the Forum)

14 February, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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This panel will consider the ways in which philosophers have engaged with architecture and explores how architects have thought philosophically about their own work. Are there are philosophical ideals at the heart of civic building projects and social housing programmes? What are the principles of good design and how could a three dimensional space represent an idea? Is the primary purpose of a building aesthetic, social or moral? Do we judge a building on the beauty of its structure, the practicality of its form or the human interaction it enables? And how should we imagine the skyline of the future?

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Koen Decancq (Antwerp): “Non-parametric well-being comparisons”

15 February, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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We study the problem of making interpersonal well-being comparisons when individuals have heterogeneous – possibly incomplete – preferences. We present a robust – also incomplete – criterion for well-being comparisons that states that one individual is better off than another one if the intersection between the extended upper contour set of the better off individual and the extended lower contour set of the worse off individual is empty. We implement the criterion in the consumption-health space using an online survey with 2,260 respondents in the United States to investigate how incomplete the resulting interpersonal well-being comparison actually is. To chart the contour sets of the respondents, we propose a new “adaptive bisectional dichotomous choice” (ABDC) procedure that is based on a limited number of dichotomous choices and some mild non-parametric assumptions on the preferences. While the ABDC procedure does not reject that the preferences of a large majority of the respondents satisfy these assumptions, it has sufficient power to reject several standard parametric assumptions such as linearity or Cobb-Douglas preferences for an overwhelming number of respondents. Finally, we find that about one fifth of all pairs of respondents can be ranked in a robust way with the proposed criterion. A more complete version of the criterion is able to rank more than 60% of all pairs.

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Campbell Brown (LSE): “Priority vs. Equality: What’s the Difference?”

21 February, 2:00 pm3:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Prioritarianism is often considered a preferable alternative to egalitarianism. However, seeing exactly what distinguishes these two views can be difficult. Prioritarianism says it is better to benefit the worse off (other things being equal). Egalitarianism says it is better to reduce inequality (other things being equal). But by benefiting the worse off we narrow the gap between them and the better off, thereby reducing inequality. The two views thus seem to go hand in hand. So what's the difference? Parfit illustrates this with an analogy. People at lower altitudes can breath more easily than those at higher altitudes, but the ease with which a person breathes depends only on her own altitude, not that of anyone else. Similarly, on prioritarianism, benefiting people at lower levels of well-being matters more than benefiting those at higher levels, but the extent to which benefiting a person matters depends only on her own well-being level, not that of anyone else. Egalitarianism disagrees: benefiting a person at a given level matters more when others are at a higher level; that is, when doing so has the effect of reducing inequality. One aim of this paper is to spell out the analogy more precisely. I argue that one natural way of doing this commits the prioritarian to a view about the betterness of uncertain prospects or lotteries, a view sometimes called 'ex post prioritarianism'. This view faces significant objections. It violates 'ex ante' versions of two plausible principles, the Pigou-Dalton Principle and the Pareto Principle. A second aim is to consider some responses to these objections.

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The “Universe” Starring Man? The Impact of Scientific Revolutions on Humankind’s View of Itself (CPNSS at the LSE Literary Festival)

22 February, 1:00 pm2:00 pm
NAB 2.04, New Academic Building
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Many people unreflectingly think that "Man" plays a special role in the Universe. Although this view was endorsed by Aristotelian cosmology, revolutionary developments in science, particularly those associated with Copernicus and with Darwin, seem to have made it entirely untenable. So what does science teach us about our place in the Universe?

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Donald MacKenzie (Edinburgh): “A Material Sociology of Markets: the Case of ‘Futures Lag’ in High-Frequency Trading” (Auguste Comte Memorial Lecture)

23 February, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, 99 Aldwych
London, WC2B 4JF United Kingdom
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It is very tempting to think of today’s financial system as abstract and virtual, to imagine that globalisation has led to a “flat world” and “the end of geography”, and assume that both time and space have shrunk. MacKenzie’s talk will cast doubt on those assumptions by focusing on the physicality of finance.

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Existentialism is Easy (the Forum at the LSE Literary Festival)

24 February, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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"Why are there beings at all instead of nothing?", asks Martin Heidegger in his Introduction to Metaphysics. In this panel, we explore the ideas of being and nothing as described by existentialism’s most famous thinkers: Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus. We ask what is the allure of the existentialists that their reputations should endure in popular and contemporary culture? And how is it that existentialist philosophy can be, at once, avidly consumed by modern audiences and unapologetically esoteric? Coffee, French cigarettes, and black polo necks not provided; intelligent discussion and provocative questions most definitely are.

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To Be Born: Birth, Existence, and Responsibility (the Forum at the LSE Literary Festival)

25 February, 11:00 am12:30 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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In this event, world-renowned philosopher Luce Irigaray will speak about her new book, To Be Born, which reflects upon the nature of human existence through an analysis of birth. Examining the mysteries of human origins, Irigaray will discuss the ways in which, despite the accidents of our birth, we can take responsibility for our own lives. Respondents Tanja Staehler and Mahon O’Brien will consider the philosophical, practical, and political implications of Irigaray’s claims.

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The Future of Humanity (CPNSS at the LSE Literary Festival)

25 February, 1:00 pm2:30 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What kind of future do we want to create and why? This panel explores the philosophical implications of scientific advancements like artificial intelligence and human enhancement, which have the potential to revolutionize our world. Is fear overriding optimism in our approach to the future?

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March 2017

Bart Engelen (Tilburg): “Nudging and Rationality”

1 March, 5:30 pm7:00 pm

The literature on nudging has rekindled normative and conceptual debates surrounding both the aims liberal and democratic governments can aim for and the means they can employ. An oft-heard criticism is that nudging governments, by exploiting people’s psychological mechanisms, manipulate them and insufficiently respect their rational decision-making capacities. Bypassing and/or perverting people’s rational capacities, nudges are said to undermine agency. In this paper, I analyze and deflate these criticisms. After disentangling the different conceptions of rationality that pervade the arguments of both nudging enthusiasts and critics, I critically assess to what extent different nudging techniques can be said to undermine, pervert, bypass or strengthen people’s rationality in the different meanings of that notion. Only in a limited set of cases, I will argue, does it make sense to criticize nudges for making people less rational than they are, can and should be. Crucial in this respect will be the distinction between (different versions of) outcome-rationality and process-rationality.

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The Minds of Whales (the Forum)

2 March, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What is it like to be a whale? How do they think and what do they feel? How are their social groups structured, and how do whale ‘cultures’ arise? And how has human thought and human culture been influenced by interaction with whales? In this dialogue, two internationally recognized whale experts — prize-winning author Philip Hoare and marine biologist Luke Rendell — discuss the inner lives of whales.

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Stephan Leuenberger (Glasgow): “Scrutability and the Problem of Cross-Family Quantification”

7 March, 2:00 pm3:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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In Constructing the World, David Chalmers aims to defend strong reductionist claims he calls “scrutability theses”. One such thesis says, roughly speaking, that every truth about the world could, in principle, be “read off” a complete list of the physical facts and the facts about conscious experience. However, his strategy for establishing such scrutability theses faces a fairly basic logical problem that has not previously been recognized: what I call the “problem of cross-family quantifications”. I argue that the problem is pervasive, and discuss potential ways to overcome it, including the assumption that the fundamental structure of the world lacks certain symmetries.

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To Infinity and Beyond: Psychoanalysis, Philosophy, Literature (the Forum)

7 March, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What does the infinite mean to us as finite beings? Can we root our thinking in the finite, or does the idea of the infinite always return? Does thinking philosophically about the infinite inevitably lead us to theology? Thinkers from philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literary studies will assess whether the idea of the infinite is something that we should cultivate, avoid, or simply try to understand.

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LSE PhD Student Session: Todd Karhu & Philippe van Basshuysen

8 March, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Todd Karhu: "Not All Killings Are Equally Wrong" Abstract: TBC   Philippe van Basshuysen: "Game theoretic models: use and usefulness" Abstract: TBC   #LSEChoiceGroup

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Karim Thébault (Bristol): “Cosmic Singularity Resolution via Quantum Evolution” (BSPS Lecture)

13 March, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: Classical models of the universe generically feature a big bang singularity. That is, when we consider progressively earlier and earlier times, physical quantities stop behaving in a reasonable way. A particular problem is that physical quantities related to the curvature of spacetime become divergent. A long standing hope is that a theory of quantum gravity would "resolve" the big bang…

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