The Philosophy Department at King’s College London is seeking an outstanding philosopher with research expertise and teaching experience in areas of philosophy with impact, application, and significance in relation to medicine, to lead the Peter Sowerby Project Philosophy & Medicine in its strategic, research, teaching, and organizational respects:: http://philosophyandmedicine.org/
The successful candidate will show evidence of excellence in research and will have the ability to teach to the highest professional standards at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, including the designing and convening of modules, lecturing, seminar teaching, providing formative feedback, supervising dissertations at all levels, and examining.
The successful candidate will have pastoral duties as a personal tutor for undergraduate and postgraduate students, and will undertake administrative duties as required by the Head of Department.
This is a permanent post, to begin on 1st November 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter.
For more information, click here.
The Philosopher Queens, edited by former King’s Philosophy undergraduate Rebecca Buxton, and Lisa Whiting is available for pre-order here: https://unbound.com/books/philosopher-queens/
“For all the young women and girls sitting in philosophy class wondering where the women are, this is the book for you. This collection of 21 chapters, each on a prominent woman in philosophy, looks at the impact that women have had on the field throughout history. From Hypatia to Angela Davis, The Philosopher Queens will be a guide to these badass women and how their amazing ideas have changed the world.
“This book is written both for newcomers to philosophy, as well as all those professors who know that they could still learn a thing or two. This book is also for those many people who have told us that there are no great women philosophers.”
The chapter on Angela Davis, by Professor Anita L. Allen, is available for free here: https://thephilosopherqueens.co.uk/angeladavis
The UK Kant Society, of which our own Dr Jessica Leech is the Secretary, has a new website – ukks.co.uk.
The society exists to encourage study of all aspects of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, including relations to his historical predecessors, successors, as well as Kantian influence in contemporary philosophy.
While their annual conference has been cancelled this year, check ukks.co.uk/events for details of the Inaugural Online Lecture, to be delivered by Prof Patrick Frierson.
As everyone is locked up, Clayton Littlejohn has been helpfully recording and gather talks on some recent work in philosophy. This talk is an informal presentation of a paper written with Julien Dutant on epistemic rationality and defeat. It presents a new unified theory of defeat according to which the toxicity of rationality defeaters has to do with the way in which they serve as indicators that we cannot know certain things. The paper engages with recent work on epistemic paradoxes, epistemic rationality, and recent work on defeat.
If you are interested, there are more videos available here.
The Philosophy and Medicine Colloquium will be meeting on the 17th of March to hear a talk by Dr Robin Durie, University of Exeter. Dr Durie is a member of the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death
17 March 2020 – 17:00-18:30 in the Large Committee Room, Hodgkin Building, Guy’s Campus
If you do not have a KCL ID, please register (free) at this Link.
The Lancet Commission on The Value of Death argues that contemporary society has developed an unhealthy relationship with death due in part to the over-medicalisation of death and dying. Amongst the signs of this unhealthy relationship are the ever increasing amounts of healthcare budgets that are spent on prolonging the lives of those who are dying, with seemingly little or no regard for the quality of the life being prolonged; the investment in the search for immortality amongst the very richest in society, at the same time as the poorest are denied access to even the most basic provision of palliative care; and the gradual shift of the experience of dying from communities and families to hospitals. The core problem of this Lancet Commission is one to which philosophy can make a unique contribution, not least because philosophy has, from its very inception in the work of Plato, understood itself as a “practice for death”. And yet, philosophers such as Spinoza have also argued that “philosophy thinks of death least of all things”. In the first part of this discussion, I will explore this tension in philosophy’s approach towards death; then, I will draw on some more contemporary thinkers, such as Georges Canguilhem, in order to develop a philosophical position from which it may be possible to begin valuing death anew.
To celebrate LGBT+ History Month, KCL MAP will be hosting a free film screening of ‘The Celluloid Closet’. This is a documentary surveying the various Hollywood screen depictions of the LGBTQ community and the attitudes behind them throughout the history of North American film.
Time: 18:00-20:00, Thursday 27th Feburary
Location: (S)4.03, Bush House
All are welcome. If you are not a KCL student or staff member then you will need to register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/lgbt-history-month-film-screening-the-celluloid-closet-tickets-96248974273
The King’s College London Peace Lecture with Prof Cécile Fabre previously scheduled for the 10th of March has been rescheduled for another date.
Where where you before coming to King’s?
I did my PhD and MPhilStud at King’s, so I’ve been here since 2013. However, most recently I came here from Bristol where I was a postdoc on a project with the grand title ‘The Metaphysical Unity of Science’. The great thing about that project is that it allowed me to work on my own research while also giving me the chance to collaborate with the other postdocs (Vanessa Seifert and Toby Friend) on exciting topics. The products of these collaborations should be completed soon!
How did you become interested in philosophy?
I’m lucky enough to have been introduced to philosophy from a very young age by my dad (who also has a PhD in philosophy). Throughout my childhood and later life we’d go on walks on Hampstead Heath discussing philosophy (though not necessarily calling it that) as well as various religious Jewish texts. So, it’s not clear to me that I’ve ever not been into philosophy. The choice to study philosophy professionally was likely motivated in part by the desire to keep up with the conversations when Oliver Black (a schoolfriend of my Dad’s) would join us on these walks! But I really became excited when, as an undergraduate, I started learning about the philosophy of physics!
Your work involves the role of emergence in science, do you think there is a single concept of emergence applicable across different levels of scientific explanation or are we talking about different things?
That’s a good question, and a difficult one to answer. In my more hubristic moments, I think that everyone is talking about the same thing, and that the account of it that I defend with Eleanor Knox, is the one to which everyone should appeal! I do think that many of the uses of the term ‘emergence’ across science have a lot in common with each other, and that, if one wants to use the philosophical jargon, scientists are mainly talking about weak ontological emergence (in its synchronic or diachronic forms). I think that strong emergence is almost exclusively found within philosophy (and that’s one reason to be sceptical of it!). Having said all that, it’s worth noting that I’ve read much more physics than any other science, and so my views should not be taken to result from a systematic study of the literature.
It has been argued in the past that special sciences are autonomous from more fundamental sciences. Do you think that we can ever give an explanation of this autonomy or will it remain a mystery?
The boring answer to this question is that it depends on how ‘autonomy’ is defined. A fair few philosophers assume (explicitly or implicitly) that autonomy is the kind of thing that just can’t be explained – that if a science is autonomous then the relations between it and the lower-level sciences aren’t the sorts of relation which allow for explanation of that autonomy. My view is that, while there’s a sense in which the special sciences are clearly autonomous, that’s a sense which is compatible with explaining how that autonomy comes about.
The basic idea is that autonomy corresponds to a kind of stability: my desk is autonomous because it will look the same even while its constituent particles are continually jiggling about. So part of explaining autonomy is explaining why the jiggling about of the particles just doesn’t make a difference to the macroscopic properties of the table. Once we’ve made this conceptual shift, then we can repurpose a great many scientific explanations to explanations of autonomy: the table’s autonomy is explained by the theories which tell us about how the particles are arranged in a lattice, and how wood is cohesive etc. I’ve written a paper about this that’s currently under review, so hopefully it’ll all be public soon!
Is there a philosophical idea that you endorse and that most people don’t but should?
I think that there may well be no fundamental level – that we may continue describing the world ever more precisely for ever and ever!