Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Conference at Bogazici University: Analytical Existentialism

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14-15 November, 2015

Kriton Curi Room (in Albert Long Hall)

Papers in the analytic style (broadly understood), addressing topics that existentially matter to human experience

Saturday, 14 November

11:00 – 12:30 Paul Prescott (Syracuse University) “The Secular Problem of Evil”

The existence of evil is held to pose philosophical problems only for theists. I argue that the existence of evil gives rise to a philosophical problem which confronts theist and atheist alike. The problem is constituted by the following claims: (1) human beings must trust the world if they are to think and act within it; (2) the world is not trustworthy (i.e., sufficient evil exists). It follows that we think and act only by maintaining a state of radical self-deception. Theists resolve this problem by rejecting (2), only to confront the problem of evil as traditionally understood. Atheists also reject (2), but without grounds for doing so.


13:30 – 15:00 Workshop on NGOs and Analytic Philosophy – Invited Speaker: Itır Erhart (Bilgi University), co-founder of the charity running organization Adım Adım

“How, if at all, can the tools of analytic philosophy be put to use to understand first-person experiences of participation in civil society?” Following her talk there will be an open forum on this question.

15:30-17:00 Invited Speaker: Christina Van Dyke (Calvin College) “Blazing Darkness and Drinking with Christ: the Phenomenology of Immortality (1200-1400)”

Discussions of immortality in the Middles Ages have tended to focus on metaphysical issues such as the nature of the rational soul and the prospect for its continued existence after the death of the body. In this paper, I focus instead on the phenomenology of immortality–that is, the question of how medieval figures expected to experience unending life. Christian doctrine demands a resurrection of the body, for instance, while Platonic influences push towards the transcendence of matter (and perhaps even individuality) in merging with the Divine. This tension comes to a head in the High Middle Ages. Apophatic philosophers and contemplatives portray human immortality as static contemplation of the universal good, where any experience of the individual self is transcended. In contrast, the ‘affective’ tradition (which includes a number of female mystics)  portray our experience of immortality as dynamic and active: they stress Jesus’s metaphor of heaven as a wedding feast, and they talk about living in unending community with God *and* neighbor. This tension between contemplative vs. active experience of immortality both tracks earlier debates (e.g., over Aristotle’s conception of happiness in Nicomachean Ethics book 1 vs. 10) and carries through in the Reformation, with Protestants (generally) advocating the more active and Catholics (generally) advocating the more contemplative view of the afterlife.

The 17:30-19:00 session (Sandrine Berges (Bilkent University) “From Slavery to Everyday Sexism – The Role of Self-Deception in Oppression”) is unfortunately canceled.

19:30 Dinner, followed by Keynote: Eric Schliesser (University of Amsterdam) “When becoming a parent means becoming a moral monster; with an argument against Rawls’s set up in the original position” (at BUMED Cafe)

This paper argues, first, that fatherhood, unexpectedly, generates immoral preferences. By this I do not mean, as one might expect, that (a) having a child is bad for the environment (and especially future people living in much poorer countries), although it is undeniably harmful to the environment to have children, or that (b) one favors one’s own children at the expense of other human ties (although undeniably one does do this). Rather, I focus on ordinary incidents that may occur in the process of raising a child.

Second, I use my argument to explore two important concepts in Rawlsian political philosophy: (i) a rational plan of life; (ii) Knightian uncertainty. I will argue that fatherhood is a species of Knightian uncertainty that causes trouble for Rawlsian rational plan of life.

Sunday, 15 November

The 9:00-10:30 session (Anna M.C. de Bruyckere (Durham University) “Conceptual vs Existential Work: Understanding Life and Self”) is unfortunately canceled.

11:00-12:30 Keynote: L. A. Paul (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) “Preference Capture”

I discuss two problems of preference capture arising from puzzles for decision-making under radical epistemic and personal change. The first problem of preference capture concerns the way that we might be alienated from the perspectives of who we are making ourselves into. The second problem of preference capture involves the way that we might fear that an experience could capture our preferences, making repugnant, counterfactually distant future selves closer to actuality.


13:30-15:00 Workshop on Under-studied Topics in Analytic Philosophy – Speaker and Discussant: Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins (University of British Columbia) -via Skype-

In this workshop we will have students tell us about things that matter to them existentially which they have not seen treated in the analytic literature. Prof. Ichikawa Jenkins, with other speakers of the conference will be guiding the students on how to utilize tools of analytic philosophy in those areas.

15:30-17:00 Patrizia Pedrini (University of Florence) “The Lives We Can’t Live – A Study of Self-Deception”

According to Alfred Mele’s motivationalist account (2001), self-deception is caused by the biasing working of a desire that p be the case over the cognition relevant to the formation of the belief that p. I will assess the prospect of Mele’s account vis à vis the formulation of what I call the “causal problem” of self-deception. The causal problem of self-deception is generated by an objection to early versions of Mele’s motivationalism due to Bermùdez (2000), known as the “selectivity problem” of self-deception. The objection shows that self-deception is more selective than the presence of a desire that p be the case in the psychology of a subject can predict, as there are cases of people in the grip of a desire that p be the case who do not end up self-deceptively believing that p. I will argue when a desire that p be the case biases a subjects’s cognition so as to lead him or her to self-deceptively believe that p this happens because the desire that p be the case is not causally equivalent to the desire that p be the case which operates in the subject who does not end up self-deceiving.

Rather, it is a desire that is made causally suitable to let the subject reach the self-deceptive belief by the overall psychology of a subject. The causal theory of self-deception I will outline will also help us to do justice to the psychological complexity and the existential significance of the phenomenon of self-deception in the life of the subject who experiences it.

17:30-19:00, Camil Golub (New York University) “Biographical Identity and Regret”

All of us could have had better lives, yet we often find ourselves unable to wish that our lives had gone differently, especially when we contemplate alternatives that vastly diverge from our actual life course.  In this paper I ask what, if anything, accounts for such attitudes.  First I examine some answers offered in the literature: (i) the lack of direct (“first-personal”) psychological connections with our merely possible selves; (ii) a general conservatism about value; (iii) the importance of our actual relationships and long-term projects.  I find them all wanting.  Then I develop my own proposal, inspired by R.M. Adams’ (1979) answer to the problem of evil: we cannot regret many things in our past because they contributed to who we are.  Our biographical identities constrain the live options for our retrospective attitudes.

19:30 Dinner (location TBA)


Written by Irem Kurtsal Steen

October 28, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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