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February 2017

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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Yitzhak Benbaji (Tel Aviv University) & Susanne Burri (LSE): “Civilian Immunity without the Doctrine of Double Effect”

15 March, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: Civilian Immunity (“Immunity”) is the legal protection that civilians enjoy against the effects of hostilities under the laws of armed conflict. On the one hand, Immunity involves an absolute prohibition against directly targeting civilians. On the other hand, it states stringent conditions for the permissibility of harming civilians incidentally. Immunity thus distinguishes between two different ways of inflicting harm…

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Craig Callender (UCSD): “Pouring A Little Cold Water on Black Hole Thermodynamics”

16 March, 6:00 pm7:30 pm
KCL, Norfolk Building G.01, King's College London, Strand campus
London, United Kingdom
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Abstract: Black hole thermodynamics (BHT) is regarded as one of the deepest clues we have to a quantum theory of gravity. It motivates scores of proposals in the field, from the thought that the world is a hologram to calculations in string theory. The rationale for BHT playing this important role, and for much of BHT itself, originates in the…

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Citizen Science (the Forum)

16 March, 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 medicine and GMOs to cyber-security and climate change, scientific research is vital to modern life. On the other hand, many of us struggle to get to grips with its increasingly complexity. How does this fit with our ideals of democracy? And in an era of mistrust of experts, does science have a legitimacy problem? Our panel considers a radical proposal to rethink the distinction between scientist and citizen.

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Nora Boyd (Pittsburgh): “Daedal Data: The Problem of Empirical Adequacy”

20 March, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Whatever else our theories about the natural world are, they ought to be consistent with the evidence produced by our interactions with it – our theories ought to be at least empirically adequate. This is the minimal commitment of empiricism. Yet the central notions of evidence and empirical adequacy have not been satisfactorily elucidated. Prominent accounts of evidence treat it as detachable from the manner in which it was produced. However, considered as detached results, the corpus of empirical evidence appears to be contradictory and discontinuous. Empirically derived parameter values evolve, sometimes radically, over time and the very concepts used to interpret evidence change between epistemic contexts. It would be a fool’s errand to try to make our theories adequate with respect to evidence in this sense. In this talk, I lay the groundwork for a new empiricist philosophy of science by furnishing a non-detached characterization of evidence and an epistemology of empirical adequacy appropriate to it. I illustrate these accounts using case studies from astrophysics and cosmology, including observations of the Hulse-Taylor pulsar, historical observations of supernovae, and the history of measurements of the Hubble parameter.

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Ben Groom (LSE): “Discounting the Future: Comparing Expert Views of Economists and Philosophers”

22 March, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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This paper will compare expert views from economics and philosophy across the different quantitative measures on individual determinants of the SDR. This will allow drawing conclusions on how representative those economic experts with policy influence are. Besides these quantitative analyses, we will put a specific focus on comparing the qualitative issues raised by both experts groups, which may point in important directions where scientific research on discounting may be undertaken in the future and policy might have to be revised.

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Philosophy and Nazism (the Forum)

23 March, 6:00 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Nazism pervaded every level of German society, and philosophers were not immune. While much scholarship has understandably focused on recriminations of key figures, tonight’s panel reflect on some broader questions raised: Can philosophy help us understand the nature of evil? And does thinking philosophically really help us live better lives?

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April 2017

Johanna Thoma (LSE): “In Defence of Preference Cycles”

25 April, 2:00 pm3:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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I argue that acyclicity of preference cannot be defended as a general requirement of instrumental rationality. The standard instrumentalist defence of the requirement to have acyclical preferences, namely the money pump argument, relies on a fatal equivocation about the standard of instrumental rationality. Instead, I show that on the most plausible view of the standard of instrumental rationality, acyclicity can be justified as a conditional requirement of instrumental rationality: It turns out to be a requirement of instrumental rationality for agents who have a desire to have choice dispositions that are stable over time and across different choice contexts. For the rest of us, instrumental rationality is more permissive.

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Hypocrisy (the Forum)

25 April, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, 99 Aldwych
London, WC2B 4JF United Kingdom
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Why do we tend to judge hypocrites more harshly than those whose actions, however bad, appear consistent with their beliefs? Is hypocrisy better understood as inevitable weakness of the will or as inexcusable deception? In this event, the panel will ask: Is hypocrisy a moral dead-end or a step on the path to better behaviour? Is there such a thing as ‘honest’ hypocrisy? Which contemporary issues tend to make hypocrites of us, and are we, the hypocrites, really all that bad?

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