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!
KCL MAP reading group will be looking at ‘The rational impermissibility of accepting (some) racial generalizations’ by Renee Bolinger . We will be meeting 13:00-14:00, on Wednesday 12th Feb, at Activity Room B, 8th Floor, South East Wing, Bush House.
Abstract: I argue that inferences from highly probabilifying racial generalizations (e.g. believing that Jones is a janitor, on the grounds that most Salvadoreans at the school are janitors) are not solely objectionable because acting on such inferences would be problematic, or they violate a moral norm, but because they violate a distinctively epistemic norm. They involve accepting a proposition when, given the costs of a mistake, one is not adequately justified in doing so. First I sketch an account of the nature of adequate justification—practical adequacy with respect to eliminating the ¬p possibilities from one’s epistemic statespace. Second, I argue that inferences based on demographic generalizations tend to disproportionately expose group members to the risks associated with mistakenly assuming stereotypical propositions, and so magnify the wrong involved in relying on such inferences without adequate justification.
Peter Adamson (KCL, LMU Munich) will be speaking to the department about on Friday 28th February, 3-5pm in Room 508 of the Philosophy Building.
The title of his talk is “From Known to Knower: Affinity Arguments for the Mind’s Incorporeality in the Islamic World”
Prof. Adamson’s latest book Classical Indian Philosophy will be released by Oxford University Press in March.
The organisers of the conference Philosophy in Medical Education are pleased to invite abstract submissions. The conference is due to take place at King’s College London on the 6th – 8th of April 2020.
The conference will look at the role and the details of teaching philosophy as part of the curriculum of medical schools. We invite abstracts of papers on all aspects of this topic, from, for example, papers on the value of philosophy in medical education to papers on specific teaching topics to reports of experiences of teachers and students, and so on. We welcome interdisciplinary submissions.
Abstracts of up to 300 words should be sent to PhilAndMed@kcl.ac.uk by 14 February 2020. We will select papers for inclusion in the conference as soon as possible after that date.
We will have some funding for bursaries to support the participation of graduate students and early career researchers. General inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, MAP reading group will be looking at ‘Responsibility Without Blame: Empathy and the Effective Treatment of Personality Disorder’ by Hanna Pickard. In the paper, Pickard examines the relation between personality disorder and concepts such as responsibility and blame.
Location: Activity Room E, 8th Floor, South East Wing, Bush House
Time: 13:00-14:00, Wednesday 29th January
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.
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.
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: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Philosophy of Medicine
Thursday, 4pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building
Philosophy of Race
Thursday, 10am, Room 508, Philosophy Building
(Mostly) Metaphysics Reading Group
Wednesday, 12:30-2pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building
Philosophy of Mind
Wednesday, 11am, Room 508, Philosophy Building
Phenomenology in Analytic Philosophy
Wednesday 3pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building
Minorities and Philosophy
A Spirit of Trust
Time and place to be determined [starting after the reading week]
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.
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.