Women Intellectuals in Antiquity

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Dr Katharine O’Reilly will be co-organising a conference on Women Intellectuals in Antiquity at the University of Oxford next month (14th-15th Feb). The symposium aims to bring together scholars from across the humanities disciplines to discuss women intellectuals in Antiquity and will feature keynote lectures from Dr. Danielle Layne and Dr. Sophia Connell, and a panel discussions led by Armand D’Angour.

Katharine notes: “The event is really a first, and many of the women philosophers we’re discussing are mostly unknown outside a very small circle, so we’re very excited to be running this”.

To see the event announcement on PhilEvents, click here.

The programme for the event is here and to register, click here.

Registration, including lunch and coffees, is free for students.

King’s is one of the few philosophy departments to offer a course dedicated to Women Thinkers in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Hopefully this symposium will call greater attention to this research in this field.

For any questions, please email WomenIntellectualsInAntiquity@gmail.com

This event is jointly organised by Jenny Rallens, Peter Adamson, Katharine O’Reilly, and Ursula Coope with the support of Keble College Oxford, the British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP), The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), Oxford University, the Department of Classics at King’s College London, and LMU Munich.  

Reading Groups this Term

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This term will see a host of reading groups, some familiar, some new, all open to everyone. So why not drop by? 

Philosophy of Action

Monday 1pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building

Focus: Go beyond the ‘Standard Story’?

Email:  daniel.elbro@kcl.ac.uk, william.meredew@kcl.ac.uk or chengying.guan@kcl.ac.uk

Philosophy of Medicine

Thursday, 4pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building

Email: harriet.fagerberg@kcl.ac.uk

Philosophy of Race

Thursday, 10am, Room 508, Philosophy Building

Email: mirjam.faissner@kcl.ac.uk

(Mostly) Metaphysics  Reading Group

Wednesday, 12:30-2pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building

Email: roope-kristian.ryymin@kcl.ac.uk

Philosophy of Mind

Wednesday, 11am, Room 508, Philosophy Building  

Email: patrick.butlin@kcl.ac.uk

Phenomenology in Analytic Philosophy

Wednesday 3pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building

Email: gregor.boes@kcl.ac.uk

Minorities and Philosophy

Venue varies

Email: alice.c.wright@kcl.ac.uk 

A Spirit of Trust

Time and place to be determined [starting after the reading week]

Email: fintan.mallory@kcl.ac.uk

King’s History of Philosophy Workshop: Self, Soul and World in the History of Philosophy

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The department will be hosting a workshop on the theme ‘Self, Soul and World in the History of Philosophy’ on Friday the 13th of March.All are welcome, but please sign up here: 

The programme is as follows:

10.00-11.15 John Callanan: Kant’s Metaphysics of the Self

Abstract: Kant is traditionally viewed as a critic of the metaphysics of the soul and a proponent of a non-metaphysical conception of selfhood. In recent decades however, many commentators have interpreted Kant as being committed to a metaphysics of the self. I review some of these recent interpreters and consider how their views might be reconciled with the Critical project’s approach to metaphysical explanation. 

11.30 -12.45 Mark Textor: Lotze’s Master Argument: From the Unity of Consciousness to the Soul

Abstract: Influential 19th century German philosophers of mind promoted the idea of ‘a psychology without a soul’. Hermann Lotze is their main opponent. He argued that this project is doomed. In my talk I will assess his main argument.

Lunch break (own arrangements)

14.15-15.30 Rory Madden:  Frege on Idealism and the Self

Abstract: It is not widely known that Frege’s ‘Thought’ contains an argument which, in the tradition of Kant’s Refutation of Idealism, aims to refute a sceptical or idealist hypothesis on the basis of premises about self-consciousness.  In this talk I reconstruct and assess Frege’s argument.

15.45 – 17.00 Nilanjan Das: Can we Coherently Deny the Existence of the Self?

Abstract: Indian Buddhist philosophers defended the thesis that there is no substantially or ultimately real thing such as a self. The non-Buddhist Brahmanical philosophers resisted this claim. In this essay, I focus on one such philosopher: the 6th century Nyāya philosopher, Uddyotakara. He argued that the Buddhists cannot coherently deny the existence of the self, i.e., that the statement “The self doesn’t exist” involves a contradiction. Here, I unpack Uddyotakara’s arguments for this surprising thesis. I show that the thesis follows from three distinct components of his philosophy of language: (i) his semantics of negative existentials, (ii) his theory of how the first-person pronoun works, and (iii) his view that simple expressions of language must have referents.

Philosophy and Medicine Colloquium

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There are two Philosophy and Medicine Colloquia coming up. 

Induction and Necessary Connections in Medical Research

Marius Backmann, London School of Economics

21 January 2020 – 17:30-19:00

Bush House (S) 2.02, Strand Campus


Some necessitarians have claimed that they could justify induction by introducing necessary connections. By analysing the reasoning in randomised clinical trials (RCTs), I argue that this view does not accurately represent scientific practice.

The basic model of necessitarian solutions to the problem of induction is as follows: First we infer from the fact that all Fs have so far been Gs via an inference to the best explanation (IBE) that there is a necessary connection between F-ness and G-ness. We then deductively infer from this necessary connection that all Fs are Gs.

Nancy Cartwright and Eileen Munro offer an idealised reconstruction of randomized clinical trials broadly along these lines. First, we infer from evidence that a treatment has a ‘stable capacity’, i.e. a modal dispositional property, to produce an outcome. Second, we deductively infer the efficacy ofthe treatment outside the test environment from the existence of this stable capacity. Cartwright and Munro argue that RCTs alone are no basis to support these sorts of inferences, and hence do not deserve the status of a gold standard for medical research.

Against this, I argue we should not try to give a deductive reconstruction of RCTs. We ampliatively infer the causal relevance of the treatment in the sample from the fact that the desired outcome is more prevalent in the test group than in the control group. The further inference that the treatment will be causally relevant in the population will also always be ampliative, because we cannot possibly have the necessary information to make it deductive. Moreover, the necessitarian analysis of inductive practice is inapplicable where there are no modal properties that could be inferred to, as is, e.g., the case in meta-studies.

Mental Health Without Wellbeing

Anna Alexandrova, University of Cambridge

28 January 2020 – 17:00-18:30

Greenwood Classroom, Greenwood Theatre Building, Guy’s Campus

If you do not have a KCL ID, please register (free) at this Link


What is it to be mentally healthy? In the ongoing movement to promote mental health, to reduce stigma and to establish parity between mental and physical health, there is a clear enthusiasm about this concept and a recognition of its value in human life. However, it is often unclear what mental health means in all these efforts and whether there is a single concept underlying them. Sometimes the initiatives for the sake of mental health are aimed just at reducing mental illness, thus implicitly identifying mental health with the absence of diagnosable psychiatric disease. More ambitiously, there are high-profile proposals to adopt a positive definition, identifying mental health with psychic or even overall wellbeing. We argue against both: a definition of mental health as mere absence of mental illness is too thin, too undemanding, and too closely linked to psychiatric value judgments, while the definition in terms of wellbeing is too demanding and potentially oppressive. As a compromise we sketch out a middle position. On this view mental health is a primary good, that is the psychological preconditions of pursuing any conception of the good life, including wellbeing, without being identical to wellbeing.

!EDITthis post previously stated mistakenly that both colloquia would happen in February. Please note the new dates!

Emma Worley MBE

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At the end of last year, Emma Worley was recognised with an MBE for services of innovation in philosophy and education.

Emma is a Visiting Research Associate in the department and in 2007 co-founded The Philosophy Foundation, the world’s only charity that focusses on training philosophy graduates to do philosophy at schools. As well as training a specialist team of philosophy teachers, the foundation provides philosophy resources for use in schools. Thanks to The Philosophy Foundation, the King’s Philosophers in Schools program has been able to train 10-12 undergraduate and graduate students per year to offer philosophy seminars to students in our partner schools. These seminars currently reach 250 students annually. 

As a Visiting Research Associate, Emma works with co-founder of The Philosophy Foundation, Peter Worley, and philosopher of mind at KCL, Ellen Fridland, to research the effectiveness of pedagogical techniques focussed on the development of critical thinking skills.

The foundation’s work is not only confined to schools. In 2016, the Foundation worked with the Philosophy Department at King’s to develop the Philosophy in Prisons project which provides discussion-based philosophy classes at HMP Belmarsh using the Philosophy Foundations methods.  

Aide from all of this, Emma is also the president of SOPHIA: The European Foundation for the Advancement of Philosophy with Children and in 2017 was named as one of the top 100 Women in Social Enterprise. 

To learn more about what The Philosophy Foundation does, click here.

New Issue of Philosophy

The most recent issue the journal Philosophy has arrived. This is the first issue of the the journal to be produced under the auspices of its new editors Prof. Maria Alvarez and Prof. Bill Brewer accompanied by their associate editors Sarah Fine, Sacha Golob, James Stazicker, and Raphael Woolf. Along with the introduction of a new blind peer-review process, the editors have also written a thoughtful editorial introduction deserving of attention. 

The founders, who included the philosophers Samuel Alexander, Bertrand Russell and Sydney Hooper (the first editor), were animated by a conviction that the philosophical quest ‘begets a certain spirit of impartiality in judging all things’. That our culture is in sore need of such fair-mindedness hardly needs saying. In almost every quarter, kinds of thinking that seek truth and produce deeper and truer understanding are under threat from greed for power, fanaticism, ruthless pursuit of profit, and sheer carelessness. These beget mistrust, indifference, even hopelessness at the very time when we most need their opposites, faced as we are with some urgent problems and challenges. We need to understand better how to live well in ourselves, with each other, and with the other creatures with whom we share our endangered planet. While philosophy on its own cannot remedy all these ills, it can help. Its methods – its underlying purposes – make it a powerful tool against mendacity, narrow-mindedness and bunk. 

For further information, click here

Philosophy is the journal of The Royal Institute of Philosophy. 

London Ancient Philosophy Reading Group

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The London Ancient Philosophy Reading Group will be starting again next Thursday, 16th Jan. 

The group meets each Thursday from 2-4 in Room 605 of the Philosophy Building at King’s. For those unfamiliar with the format, each week one or a pair of presenters sets up and translates the weekly portion from the Greek, followed by discussion.

The text for discussion this term is Plato’s Charmides, an early dialogue about sophrosyne [temperance, moderation].

Oxford Think Festival Reading List

Dr Sarah Fine

As part of the Oxford Think Festival, Oxford University Press have curated an article reading list in order to celebrate the quest for knowledge. This year, the reading list features three King’s staff and alumni whose work spans issues from language loss and pregnancy to refugees. The articles are:

Refugees, Safety, and a Decent Human Life by Sarah Fine punished in the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society [Senior Lecturer in Philosophy]

Language Loss and Illocutionary Silencing by Ethan Nowak published in Mind [Leverhulme Early Career Researcher]

Were You a Part of Your Mother? by Elselijn Kingma published in Mind [former KCL postdoc]

All articles are currently free to read at this link.

MPhil Seminar

Alexander Bird, deep in explanation

As the term draws to a close, it’s the perfect opportunity to look back on the MPhil seminar series. This year’s theme was Singular Reference and Kind Reference. The series was run by Alexander Bird and Eliot Michaelson (along with special guests Francois Recanati, Jonathan Cohen and Ethan Nowak) while David Papineau was also kind enough to submit some of his work in progress to the scrutiny of our new MPhil students. 

The MPhil seminar this term was great for getting me out of my comfort zone and introducing me to an area of philosophy I might not have otherwise encountered. Both the readings and the discussions really stretched my philosophical understanding as I was starting from a place of zero background knowledge and whilst there were definitely moments of confusion, they became fewer and farther between!  I enjoyed studying something completely new and getting to know new members of the department in the process.  Colette Olive

I enjoyed the MPhil seminar. There was a good balance between reading important classics, which  one in any case ought to know, and more recent texts that one would otherwise probably not have come across. Moreover, the seminar was regularly attended by various faculty members and guests, which made for more lively and informative discussion. Overall, I would say that I came out of the class with a much more thorough understanding of a topic of fundamental importance, which is likely to help me no matter what I might go on to do. Simon Dietz

MPhil students thinking deeply about metasemantics