‘Minorities and Philosophy’ is a network of chapters across UK and US institutions that aims to celebrate the work of philosophers from marginalised backgrounds, and create a space of support for those currently pursuing studies and careers in academic philosophy.
KCL MAP became a ratified society in 2018 and has since been led primarily by undergraduates. As an academic and social society, we have organised various events, such as weekly reading groups, talks and conferences, film screenings, coffee & tea socials, and other activities.
As a campaign group, we have worked with our department to address various MAP related issues. Last year, the department held a ‘Women in Philosophy’ lunch, and this year, the department will hold a similar lunch for “BME” undergraduates. These events aim to open up discussions about various experiences people have in the discipline and offer support for those considering further study.
MAP has also held a workshop with the department on the issue of diversifying the curriculum. This year, we will commence our first working group meeting focusing on this issue, comprised of students from all levels of study, as well as both junior and senior members of staff from various sub-disciplines.
KCL MAP aims to be interdisciplinary, often attracting people from multiple areas of interest. We aim to create a space of learning outside the mainstream canon, which is both inclusive and productive. People from all areas of research, both inside and outside the academy, are welcome to our events. We firmly believe that philosophy ought to be accessible for everyone who wishes to engage!
A new Philosophy of Action reading group will be starting next month and running on Mondays from 1pm-3pm in Room 508, Philosophy Building.
‘The group will have a specific theme: “Go beyond the ‘Standard Story’?” and it will consist of three parts:
For the rest of semester 1, we will have five meetings to read through some of the landmark texts for and against the ‘Standard Story’. This will give us a basic idea of the current landscape of the philosophy of action.
In Semester 2, we will scrutinize G. E. Anscombe’s seminal 94-page book Intention. Anscombe’s Intention is recognized by Donald Davidson, the (contemporary) founder of the ‘Standard Story’, as ‘the most important treatment of action since Aristotle’, and interestingly, it is considered the most important motivation for the recent movement against the ‘Standard Story’.
In Semester 3, we will read works inspired by and responding to Anscombe.’
The department will be hosting a workshop on the philosophy of Gottlob Frege on Friday 1st of November in Room 405, Philosophy Building.
11am-1pm: Robert May (University of California, Davis): ‘Sense’
Abstract: What is sense? Frege’s answer is this: Sense is what makes a reference thinkable such that in virtue of thinking this way an agent has grounds for making a judgement. In this talk, I explore this conception, which places sense at the crux of Frege’s account of judgement. The central claim is that sense is a composite notion, split between what makes a reference thinkable (mode of determination) and how we think of references (mode of presentation). These are related via grasp: an agent who grasps a mode of determination of a reference has a mode of presentation of that reference, and accordingly has grounds for making a judgement. This is crucial to understanding how Frege responded to the threat to logicism posed by the identity puzzle, viz. that a = b requires a special act of recognition in judgement. But it does, perhaps surprisingly, leave open the analysis of a = a.
2.30pm-4.30pm: Mark Textor and Eliot Michaelson: ‘Frege on Thinking in Signs and Sense’
Abstract: Contemporary Fregeans standardly take the theory of sense and reference to apply to natural languages, and to earn its keep by helping to explain communicative success and failure in such languages. So construed, Frege’s theory of sense and reference faces serious difficulties. We argue for an alternative understanding of Frege’s project: following Humboldt, Trendelenburg, and others, Frege held that languages, systems of signs, are primarily means of thought and that beings like us can only think ‘in signs’. On this alternative construal of Frege’s work, his theory of sense and reference applies first and foremost to the sentences in which we think rather than sentences of natural languages like English or German. Not only is this understanding of Frege historically motivated, but viewing his work in this manner actually makes many of the puzzling features of the theory which have so preoccupied more contemporary Fregeans effectively disappear.
Activity Room E, 8th Floor South East Wing, Bush House
In the paper, Dotson considers how a culture of justification in academic philosophy is creating a difficult working environment for academic philosophers from diverse backgrounds and what can be done to change this! As the paper is a bit on the longer side, we will be focusing on sections 2-5, but you are more than welcome to read the whole thing if you have the time and energy!
The reading is open to all! Please feel free to come along and join.
Continuing our series of interviews with new members of staff, we have Dr. Katharine O’Reilly.
Where were you before coming to Kings?
Immediately before coming to King’s I wrote my D.Phil at University College Oxford, but there’s also a sense in which I have been at King’s for nearly a decade. I took the M.Phil Stud. in Ancient Philosophy here from 2010-2014, I have been a GTA from then until now, and in 2018-19, the year I was finishing my D.Phil, I held the Analysis Trust Studentship here in the Department. I’ve also worked on two projects in the Department for a number of years: the Ancient Commentators on Aristotle Project, and the British Journal for the History of Philosophy. As you can probably tell, I’m a very big fan of King’s Philosophy (and now Classics! I’m cross-appointed there).
What got you into philosophy?
When I started University in Canada (University of Toronto) I didn’t really know what philosophy was. But having been at French Immersion schools up until then, it turns out I had been exposed to good deal of philosophy, by way of authors such as Camus and Voltaire. I thought I would be an English major, but in North America you don’t have to declare right away, and can take a breadth of courses in the first year. I signed up to Mark Kingwell’s Introduction to Philosophy because the reading list looked so great. I was immediately hooked.
One focus of your research is prudentialism in the ancient world. Could you tell us what attracted you to this?
My research is broadly interested in ancient moral psychology, and within that realm, I’m particularly interested in prudentialism in the sense of the strategies ancient thinkers and schools recommend for conceiving of and concerning oneself with ones own good. I became interested in this topic by observing the diversity of approaches to thinking about ourselves and our lives in ancient texts. Some suggest we think about our future selves and their good, some our lives as a whole, some our posthumous good, some the recollected goods of our past. I became very interested in the way this kind of autobiographical and prudential thinking underlies the strategies and therapies different figures recommend their followers adopt in order to bring about the right kind of self-interest. So far I have been considering these issue within the thought of Plato, Aristotle, and the Hellenistic schools.
You’ve argued that Plato isn’t as strictly opposed to hedonism as he is sometimes made out to be. What have we been getting wrong about him?
Plato is often characterised as decidedly anti-hedonist. He presents Socrates in dialogue with hedonists repeatedly, and that is usually to critique them, and show that the life they thought they could pursue, with pleasure as its goal, isn’t one they can or should pursue successfully. What this reading misses out, I think, is Plato’s deep and sustained interest in pleasure and the role it ought to play in our lives. He is anything but dismissive of hedonist arguments: he takes them seriously again and again, and even devotes an entire late dialogue (the Philebus) to thinking about the nature of pleasure. That doesn’t mean that Plato is a fan of hedonism, or isn’t critical of it, but what I think it does mean is that he is interested enough in the arguments to develop multiple analyses of the psychology of pleasure and pain. If we read Plato as too dismissive of hedonism, we risk missing the insights these discussions provide. So I would rather characterise Plato as being fascinated by pleasure.
Is there a philosophical idea that you endorse that most people don’t but should?
I think the Cyrenaic advice about anticipating future pain is far more effective than most people give it credit for.
Wouldn’t it be better to be a jellyfish?
Not according to Plato (or so I argue here)! But as the deadlines stack up, it is tempting…
After finishing my PhD at UC Berkeley, I spent a few years at UCL as a teaching fellow, and some time at Umeå University in Sweden—which by the way is a great place to do philosophy—as a research fellow.
What got you into philosophy?
When I first started as an undergraduate, I thought I’d do a degree in biology. I took a logic course in my first year, though, and that changed everything.
You’ve written about the philosophical implications of language death. What is lost when we lose a language?
There are too many things to list! In the stuff I’ve written on this question, I’ve tried to call attention to some that I think are both particularly important and a bit hard to see. For example, while philosophers mostly reject the idea that there are things you can say in one language that you can’t say in any other, I think there is space open for us to think that there are things you can do in one language that you can’t do in any other. This means that when a language is lost, so is a class of possible actions. Since I think the space of possible things we can do amounts, in a fairly direct way, to the space of people we can be, this is a problematic loss.
Why do you think philosophers have traditionally overlooked this issue?
To be honest, I have often wondered this myself. I imagine it has something to do with the fact that you can more-or-less get by these days speaking only English, and probably something to do with the fact that philosophers tend to think of languages as more-or-less interchangeable signaling systems.
Is there a philosophical idea that you endorse that most people don’t but should?
I’d have to say metasemantic pluralism.
You can find out more about Ethan’s work on his website
In celebration of Black History Month, MAP and PhilSoc will be co-hosting a film screening of the documentary ‘The Stuart Hall Project’ (2013), written and directed by Black British artist and writer John Akomfrah.
Tuesday 15th October, 18:00-20:00
Strand Campus, S -1.27 (wheelchair accessible)
Stuart Hall was a Jamaican-born British philosopher, critical theorist, sociologist, and Marxist. He is considered one of the founding figures of the ‘New Left’ political movement of the 60s and 70s, as we as central to the development of Cultural Studies in Britain. The documentary looks at Hall’s life from colonial Jamaica to British intellectual, exploring themes of identity, diaspora, post-coloniality, and what it meant to be Black and British during the 70s.
Raymond Tallis: Are you your Brain? Neuroscience and Neuromania
Professor Raymond Tallis FMedSci FRCP FRSA
Theatre 2, New Hunt’s House, KCL Guy’s Campus
The lecture will be introduced by Lord Turnberg FRCP FMedSci, past president of the Royal College of Physicians.
Professor Tallis is the author of Why the Mind is Not a Computer: A Pocket Dictionary on Neuromythology, The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Fantastical Journey Around Your Head, and most recently Logos: The Mystery of How We Make Sense of the World.
For more information on the speaker and the lectures: click here
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