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The University of Connecticut Philosophy Department Newsletter Vol. I, No. 2 December 1998

Edited by Margaret Gilbert, Anne Hiskes

Welcome to the second issue of Cogitamus! It reports on the period of November 1 1998 to December 15 1998.

Our aim is to provide summary information on the ongoing professional achievements and activities of members of our department, and to provide notice of upcoming events.

This issue highlights those of our graduate students who are on the job market this year.

Proposed items for inclusion in the next issue (expected publication date February 15) should be given or (preferably) emailed to AHiskes@uconnvm.uconn.edu.

The editors wish you all a happy holiday season...and a happy, healthy, and productive year in 1999!

FACULTY

Publications

Donald L. M. Baxter

  • "The Discernibility of Identicals," Journal of Philosophical Research, 24 (1999) (appearing in December 1998).

    Austen Clark's chapter on "Color perception" has just been published in Blackwell's Companion to Cognitive Science, edited by William Bechtel and George Graham (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1998). The book is now available in the United States.

    Joel Kupperman's book Value...And What Follows, has just come out from Oxford University Press.

    Joel writes that the book "is principally concerned with value in the narrow sense of what is worth pursuing or promoting (or avoiding) in life, and with the epistemology of judgments of value. Secondarily it examines the logical relations between judgments of value and judgments of how it is best to behave, and also examines "perfectionist" views of the role judgments of value can have in social policy."

  • Review of Antonio Cua, "Moral Vision and Tradition: Essays in Chinese Ethics," China Review International, vol. 5, no. 2, fall 1998, 60-62.
     
    

    Ruth Millikan

  • The 10th Annual Romanel Lecture on Philosophical Naturalism, called "How We Make Our Ideas Clear" appeared in the November Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association.

    Talks

    Margaret Gilbert presented

  • "Collective Guilt and Collective Remorse" at a colloquium hosted by the Philosophy Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign on December 11, 1998.

    Ruth Millikan gave

  • the annual Austin-Hemple Lectures at Dalhousie University in Halifax: "The Language Thought Partnership" Nov. 5 (Public lecture) "Abilities" Nov. 6.
  • an invited talk, "Reading Mother Nature's Mind," to which Dennett replied, at the three day Dennett Conference at Memorial University, Newfoundland, Nov. 7 (she also. chaired five out of the thirteen other invited Dennett Conference sessions, Nov. 8).
  • an invited Colloquium at the University of Western Ontario on "Abilities", Nov. 27.

    Conference participation

    Austen Clark will chair a session of contributed papers on color perception at the meeting of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association in Washington, D.C. (Session III, Tuesday afternoon.)

    Samples of Research in Progress

    Austen Clark is under contract to finish his third book A Theory of Sentience by 31 January 1999 and deliver it unto Oxford University Press, where it was accepted for publication last March. He volunteers that this is why he has recently not been around the office much, and why even when he has been around his mind has been elsewhere--whatever that means.

    Samuel Wheeler III is correcting typos in Essays on Deconstruction and Analytic Philosophy, which has been accepted for publication by Stanford University Press. This book consists of reworked versions of eight of Wheeler's previously published articles on deconstruction and its relation to analytic philosophy, as well as four unpublished pieces and an introduction explaining what the real truth is between Davidson and Derrida.

    Upcoming Events

    The Philosophy Department is pleased to welcome the very distinguished David Armstrong as a Visiting Professor for the Spring 1999 term. Professor Armstrong will lead a graduate seminar on Metaphysics on Wednesdays, 1:00 - 3:30 P.M in Rm. 227 Manchester Hall. Visitors and auditors are welcome.

    Professor Armstrong is emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney, and has held many visiting appointments in the U.S. He is the author or co-author of 13 books, including Perception and the Physical World (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961), A Materialist Theory of the Mind (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968), Universals and Scientific Realism (2 Vols. Cambridge UP, 1978), What is a Law of Nature (Cambridge UP, 1983), A Combinatorial Theory of Possibility (Cambridge UP, 1989), and A World of States of Affairs (Cambridge UP, 1997). He has published over 65 articles and numerous reviews. In 1993 Professor Armstrong was awarded the Order of Australia for services to Philosophy.

    GRADUATE STUDENTS

    Graduate Student Profiles

    Philosophy Ph.D. Students on the Job Market

    This year the philosophy department has a record number of 8 Ph.D. students who are finishing their Ph.D. dissertations and looking for permanent academic positions. The range of dissertation topics reflects the diversity and strengths of the department. We wish the following students the best as they finish their graduate work.

    Andrew Aavatsmark (e-mail AndrewAava@aol.com )

    Dissertation: "Explanation and Individuation in Cognitive Psychology: A Critical Discussion of Individualism in the Philosophy of Psychology".

    Major Advisor: Ruth G. Millikan.

    Abstract: Recent arguments by individualists in the philosophy of psychology seem to show that mental states such as beliefs and desires cannot have a place in a mature psychological theory because such states are not causally explanatory of behavior. These types of states are individuated in part by what they are about, but such semantic differences need not make a causal difference from a physical point of view. Consequently psychological theories must ignore ordinary semantic and other relational properties in the individuation of mental kinds. These arguments ultimately derive from the assumptions that scientific individuation schemes in general must individuate kinds by their causally explanatory properties, and that only local, nonrelational properties of the mind are causally explanatory. Some individualists attempt to remove the sting of their position by proposing that mental states could be individuated by "narrow" contents, but as the dissertation argues, narrow content theories always fail. It is further shown that individualists are committed to reductionism.

    An argument against individualism is developed by rejecting the image of explanation assumed by individualists. It is argued that in biology, functional categories in anatomy, physiology, and ethology are individuated by evolutionary history. As a result they are respectable scientific posits. These functional kinds figure in two types of biological explanations. In explanations by function, citing the function of some item explains its existence. In functional-causal explanation, events can be explained by citing their causes, individuated not by causally relevant properties, but rather by their biological functions. Psychological types, such as belief and desire, seem to have biological functions, and have their commonly attributed (relational) contents as a matter of these functions. On such a functional interpretation, it is argued, beliefs and desires enable us to produce explanations for behavior that merge the two types of biological explanation: beliefs and desires - individuated by their relational contents - tell us what caused a behavior, and they simultaneously tell us its function or purpose. Thus, by understanding psychology on the model of biology, we can see how mental states can at once have contents and also be explanatory of behavi or.

    Mr. Aavatsmark is the author of "Projectibility and Functional Categories", presented to the Department of Philosophy, University of Connecticut, April 1997.

    Eric A. Anderson (E-mail eander1270@aol.com )

    Dissertation: "Liberalism, Pluralism, and the Separation of Church and State".

    Major Advisor: Diana T. Meyers.

    Abstract: The dissertation solves the problem of how best to interpret the separation of church and state once the ideal of liberal neutrality has been shown to be unattainable.

    It is argued that state neutrality toward religion remains viable as a regulative ideal to be approximated in practice. To show how neutrality is best approximated in different practical contexts, a new conception of autonomy is developed, followed by a discussion of the proper role of religious discourse in political deliberations. Lastly, the dissertation defends an interpretation of the Establishment Clause of the First Ammendment that allows religious organizations to receive public support on equal terms with analogous secular organizations, and defends the practice of granting constitutionally-compelled exemptions under the Free Exercise Clause.

    Mr. Anderson is the author of "Group Rights, Autonomy, and the Free Exercise of Religion", forthcoming in Groups, Rights, and Democracy, Eds. Christine Sistar, Larry May, and Leslies Francis (Univ. of Kansas Press), and of several conference papers.

    William Cornwell ( e-mail wcornwel@drew.edu )

    Dissertation: "Knowledge without Justification"

    Major Advisor: Ruth G. Millikan

    Abstract: I first argue that epistemological foundationalism and coherentism are defective. I then examine reliabilism, the theory that the epistemic justification of a belief correlates with the reliability of the process that produced the belief. I argue that any measurement of reliability that admits of degrees of reliability involves an ineliminable reference to contextual factors such as the interests of the people passing judgment. Other naturalized epistemological theories (including evolutionary epistemology) are equally unable to eliminate pragmatic considerations from epistemology. Nonetheless, epistemology should not be divorced from science. Epistemologists make pragmatic judgments about how biologically adapted cognitive systems operate in response to natural and cultural influences. Thus, epistemologists should develop their theories in light of scientific knowledge.

    Mr. Cornwell is the author of "Ethical Nonobjectivism and Social Pluralism", Conference on Value Inquiry Studies Series (part of the Value Inquiry Book Series), Netherlands: Rodopi (forthcoming), another article and several conference presentations.

    Paula J. Droege ( e-mail droege@bard.edu )

    Dissertation: "Inner Sense".

    Major advisor : Austen Clark.

    Abstract: The dissertation advocates the inner sense theory as a solution to the problem of consciousness arguing that a mechanism in the brain, an inner sense, turns otherwise unconscious sensory states into conscious states. The theory differs from previous inner sense theories by advocating a flat rather than higher-order representational structure. That is, our conscious states represent things in the world rather than other mental states. In the standard case we are conscious of external things, not our sensations.

    Ms. Droege is the author of "Reclaiming the Subject: A View from Here", forthcoming in Feminist Interpretations of John Dewey, Ed. Charlene Haddock Seigfried ( Penn State Press), and has also presented several conference papers.

    Keya Maitra ( e-mail kem94001@uconnvm.uconn.edu )

    Dissertation: "Our Knowledge about Our Own Mental States: An Externalist Account".

    Major Advisor: Ruth G. Millikan

    Abstract: It is often argued that 'self-knowledge' poses the greatest threat to externalism -- the theory that the content of one's mental states is determined by factors external to one's body. The dissertation provides an externalist account of self-knowledge using the evolutionary externalism advanced by Millikan. Some of the recent worries about the compatibility of externalism and self-knowledge are shown to be misplaced, and it is argued that a proper account of self-knowledge should incorporate ideas from recent psychological research on children's acquisition of self-ascriptive concepts.

    Ms. Maitra is the author of several articles and conference papers, including "Leibniz's Doctrine of Error" to be delivered at the APA, Eastern Division Conference, Dec. 27-30, 1998.

    Elise Springer (E-mail els94001@uconnvm.uconn.edu )

    Dissertation: Habits and Virtues of response: A naturalistic ethics of evaluation

    Major Advisor: Joel J. Kupperman

    Abstract: The dissertation focuses on the processes by which moral agents redirect one another, and frames genuine moral challenges as lying mostly in this domain rather than that of moral knowledge. Many moral theorists take for granted the soundness of our practices of moral reaction without attending to their contingent historical origins. The account developed here suggests that the demands of moral virtue or competence amount in surprisingly large measure to the complex task of "tuning" our reactive strategies and emotions, which are the coarse product of broad evolutionary processes involving not just genetic but cultural and individual development as well).

    Realizing the importance and difficulty of being broad-minded and effective social agents in response to moral provocation moves us away from static moral judgments of particular actions, and towards concern for effects upon larger social patterns and policies. This shift will help us think well about cultural diversity and evolving social contexts while providing an interesting new perspective on moral realism.

    Ms. Springer is the author of "Linguistic Turning and Ethical Bearings", presented at the 20th World Congress of Philosophy, International Society for Value Inquiry, Aug. 1998.

    Xinli Wang ( e-mail Xinli.Wang@trincoll.edu )

    Dissertation: "Truth-value Gaps, Ontological Commitments, and Incommensurability".

    Major Advisor: Anne L. D. Hiskes.

    Abstract: According to the standard interpretation, incommensurability is due to a meaning-referential relation between scientific languages and renders them mutually untranslatable. Incommensurability therefore threatens scientific rationality, progress, and realism. Contrary to the standard meaning-reference approach, the dissertation proposes an ontological interpretation of incommensurability. Incommensurability is signified by a truth-value gap between two competing presuppositional languages due to an ontological disjointedness. This ontological interpretation not only establishes the tenability of the notion of incommensurability, but also avoids its many alleged unattractive consequences.

    Mr. Wang is the author of several published articles and presented papers, including

    "Is the Notion of Semantic Presupposition Empty?", forthcoming in Dialogos.

    Virgil Whitmyer (e-mail vgw93001@uconnvm.uconn.edu )

    Dissertation: "Perceiving, Representing, and Acting".

    Major Advisor: Ruth G. Millikan.

    Abstract: Many models of mind posit the existence of mental representations which serve as proxies for that which they represent. Because properties of mental representations pose serious challenges to naturalistic accounts of the mind, the debate has centered around the question "is the mind a representational system?" The dissertation focusses on the logically prior but unanswered question of what counts as a representational system. After rejecting several theories for distinguishing between representational versus nonrepresentational systems, representational systems are presented as those systems which posit a first-order isomorphism between brain and world. Since the use of isomorphisms in a theory of mind poses problems which have to date been ignored, the notion of isomorphism is examined at length in order to provide a suitable formulation which is also necessary for the concept of isomorphism to continue playing an important role in theories of content determination.

    Mr. Whitmyer is the author of "Ecological Colors", under revision for Philosophical Psychology, and of the conference paper "Weiss vs. Bernstein on Biological Function" delivered at Penn State University.

    Other Items of Interest

    A profile of conservationist Ricardo Rozzi appeared in the UConn Advance of Monday, December 7, 1998. It explains that "Rozzi is enrolled in a Ph.D. program in ecology with a focus on conservation, and a master's program in philosophy, with a focus on environmental ethics." His philosophy advisor is Scott Lehmann. For more details of Rozzi's background and interests in conservation see The Advance.

    notesMiscellaneous

    The editors thank all those who commented favorably on the inaugural issue of newsletter. (No one commented unfavorably!) Margaret will be on leave in the spring semester 1999, working on a book on political obligation. So Anne will be in charge of the spring semester issues.

    We should like to encourage alumni of the department to let us know what they are doing. We heard through the grapevine that Kevin Brodie is introducing philosophy to his high school students, and look forward to more details.

     
     
    

    This newsletter was designed by the Philosophy Department's Administrative Assistant Shelly Burelle. Please visit our website at: http://vm.uconn.edu/~wwwphil where this Newsletter is located for miscellaneous links, including links to abstracts, and colloquium updates. Any questions or comments should be directed to Shelly at philos1@uconnvm.uconn.edu.


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