Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Author Archive

İlhan İnan at Bilkent

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“Is the Speed of Light Knowable A priori?”

İlhan İnan (Boğaziçi University)

i%cc%87lhan-i%cc%87nan-poster-01Abstract:  Given the current “definition” of the concept of meter a simple argument appears to show that some scientists could come to know the answer to the question “how many meters does light travel in a vacuum in one second?” without having to do any observations or calculations. It would then seem that their knowledge of the speed of light would have some unusual epistemic properties such as being certain, infallible and indubitable, and perhaps also analytic. What is more shocking is that we may also be able to conclude that these scientists know the speed of light a priori. This appears to be a new version of the puzzle about how long the “standard meter bar” is, which Wittgenstein discusses in his Philosophical Investigations, later taken up by Saul Kripke in Naming and Necessity yielding the puzzling conclusion that certain contingent truths are knowable a priori. In this talk I discuss how the new version of the puzzle differs from the old one, why Nathan Salmon’s and Keith Donnellan’s “solutions” to the old puzzle are really not solutions, how the current literature on mental files can be employed to approach the puzzle. I then argue the notion of apriority employed in the argument requires further elaboration so that we may conclude, following Nenad Miscevic, that “interesting a priori knowledge cannot be gotten for cheap.”

Date: Wednesday 7 December, 2016

Time: 1100-1230

Place: G160

Written by Sandrine Berges

December 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Mariam Thalos at Bilkent

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Title: The Gulf Between Practical and Theoretical Reason

mariam-thalos-212x300Abstract:  I will argue that it’s a great mistake to blur the line between practical and theoretical forms of reasoning (as done for instance in the pragmatistic traditions of epistemology, which are now prominently exemplified in Subjective Bayesianism), not least because the diagnosis of bias in science becomes distorted if the line is blurred.  In this talk I will articulate the distinction between practical and theoretical reasoning in terms of differences in the norms themselves, with the most important being asymmetries in their preemption patterns. Elements of this account have roots in lines of argument found in Aristotle and Kant. The differences between practical and theoretical I will adduce will explain a certain puzzle: why is it that we (correctly) judge Buridan’s ass to be completely above reproach when he picks (randomly, if necessary) between two identical and equally convenient bales of hay, but that a detective or judge faced with identical evidence for the guilt of two different suspects is decidedly at fault if she should simply “pick” one as the guilty party.  The answer is—as it must be—that the standards of reasoning to which we hold the principals accountable in these contrasting cases are categorically different.

Date: Monday 5 December, 2016

Time: 1640-1800

Place: G160

Biography: Mariam Thalos is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. Her work focuses primarily on foundational questions in the sciences, especially the physical, social and decisional sciences, as well as on the relations amongst the sciences. Her book on these subjects, called Without Hierarchy: The Scale Freedom of the Universe, was published in 2013, by Oxford University Press.  She has just completed her second book, called A Social Theory of Freedom (Routledge, 2016), which offers a new answer to the timeless philosophical question of human freedom, one that engages with social science but repulses the relevance of questions around determinism, biological and otherwise.  It thus advances the cause of an existential theory of freedom in new ways—and it does so without denying the relevance of science, especially social science, for illuminating human agency. She is currently being funded by the National Science Foundation to study precautionary decision making in relation to catastrophic risk, especially in public contexts.

She is the author of numerous articles on causation, explanation and how relations between micro and macro are handled by a range of scientific theories; as well as articles in political philosophy, action theory, metaphysics, epistemology, logical paradox and feminism. Her work has been published in journals such as The Philosophical Quarterly, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophy of Science, American Philosophical Quarterly, Synthese and Philosophical Studies. Her work has won the Royal Institute of Philosophy inaugural Essay Prize (2012), and again in 2013, and the American Philosophical Association’s Kavka Prize (1999). She is the former fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Advanced Studies of the Australian National University, the Tanner Humanities Center, the University of Sydney Center for Foundations of Science, and the Institute of Philosophy, University of London.

Written by Sandrine Berges

November 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

MA Philosophy at Bilkent – Round 2

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Applications for Masters in Philosophy (Round 2)


We are now accepting the second round of applications for the M.A. in Philosophy (for those starting the degree in Fall 2016).

Up to five successful applicants will have the opportunity to spend a semester at Australian National University.  In addition successful applicants will receive a comprehensive scholarship (tuition waiver, accommodation and monthly stipend including private health insurance).

This is a two year masters that includes coursework and a thesis. The language of instruction for all courses is English.

Admission requirements and online application can be found here.

Philosophy and non-philosophy majors are encouraged to apply. We also warmly welcome applications from international students.


Application deadline (Round 2): 18 July 2016
Written exam (Round 2): 25 July 2016**
Interview (Round 2): 27 July 2016**

Contact:  phil@bilkent.edu.tr


*Those planning to take the COPE exam on June 28-30 should contact us at the above email address by June 22 to reserve a place.

** International students may take the written exam remotely and complete the interview via skype.



Written by Sandrine Berges

June 20, 2016 at 9:07 am

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METU Undergraduate Students Philosophy Conference

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Call for Abstracts:

The Middle East Technical University Philosophy Department’s undergraduate students are organizing a conference for undergraduate students. The conference will take place over the weekend of 5-6 November 2016. The language of the conference is Turkish. Please distribute the call for papers below to undergraduate students who might be interested in submitting their works.” (http://philevents.org/event/show/23506)


Written by Sandrine Berges

June 16, 2016 at 12:02 pm

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Talk at Bilkent 22/06: Sandrine Berges on Sophie de Grouchy

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“Sophie de Grouchy and the publication of Condorcet’s Sketch of Human Progress: a tale of exclusion”.

Wednesday 22 June, 12:40 – 13:30, H235

In this paper I examine some of the evidence for collaboration between Condorcet and Sophie de Grouchy on the writing of the Sketch of Human Progress, but also, uncover the ways in which the publication and reception of that text worked to exclude a woman who was a philosopher in her own right from a work she clearly contributed to.

In 1795, the Convention of the French Republic, regretting its role in bringing about Condorcet’s death, commissioned 3000 copies of his last piece, a Sketch of Human Progress. Daunou was chosen to edit it and wisely, he asked Condorcet’s widow and collaborator, Sophie de Grouchy, to co-edit. This same text was re-edited by Grouchy in 1802 when she brought out the complete works of her husband, but when in 1847 Arago, of the Academie Francaise, decided to publish a new edition of the complete works, he put the Daunou/Grouchy edition of the Sketch aside and instead ‘went back to the manuscript’ provided him by his own co-editor, the Condorcets’s daughter Eliza.

A look at the manuscript itself shows that it would have been hard to extract a clear text from it – it is hard to decipher, heavily annotated, and clearly waiting further revisions. Moreover, some of the annotations appear to be in Grouchy’s hand, suggesting that she may have collaborated with her husband on the manuscript.

There are other reasons to suppose that husband and wife may have worked together on the Sketch, some relating to the history of this particular work, but also because they had collaborated in the past.

If I am right that Sophie de Grouchy had a hand in the writing of the Sketch, it seems that we have strong reasons not to dismiss – and indeed to prefer – her edition of that same text in 1795, and again 1802, as she would have been in a much stronger position to make sense of that very messy manuscript than an editor half a century later would.

Written by Sandrine Berges

June 14, 2016 at 2:40 pm

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Nazim Keven joins Bilkent Philosophy

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The philosophy department at Bilkent is extremely happy to announce that Nazim Keven (PhD, WUSTL Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program) will be joining the department in Fall 2016. Nazım’s main area of research is the philosophy of mind, with a particular focus on the nature of memory, reasoning, emotions, and the self.

He has a forthcoming target article in ‘Behavioral and Brain Sciences’, as well as articles in ‘Synthese’ and ‘Hippocampus’.

Web page: http://wustl.academia.edu/NazimKeven

Department of Philosophy, Bilkent University's photo.
This comes after two other new  appointments :
David Kovacs (PhD, Cornell) – David’s primary area of research is metaphysics and philosophy of mind. He has publications in Mind,Philosophical Quarterly, and Ratio.

Rina Tzinman (PhD, Miami) – Rina’s main area of research is metaphysics and philosophy of mind, with a particular emphasis on person identity.

Welcome Nazim, David and Rina!

Written by Sandrine Berges

June 14, 2016 at 2:35 pm

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New Group for Women Philosophers in Turkey

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Please check out our new page and join!

The purpose of this society for women in philosophy is to make things a bit easier, to give our current female undergraduates a better chance of succeeding as well as their male counterparts; and to give those of us who struggle in our jobs for promotion or recognition a forum where we can get together and help each other. More specifically, this society aims to foster exchanges between women philosophers studying or working in the field in Turkey, but also to involve Turkish women studying or working in philosophy abroad who want to stay in touch with developments here. To this end we intend to instigate an annual SWIP-TR conference, where any woman philosopher can submit a paper and, after a process of blind refereeing, present this paper. In time, we also want to hold workshops, e.g. on professional development for graduate students, and set up a mentoring scheme, so that younger members of the profession may benefit from the experience of others and learn about funding opportunities. We also aim to create links with SWIP groups in other countries, so as to facilitate the international networking of our members.

Written by Sandrine Berges

May 17, 2016 at 11:29 am

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