Hesperus is Bosphorus

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Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Talk by Jack Woods at Bilkent, Tuesday 5 December.

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Constructivism, Yes! Constitutivism, No! (at least for serious naturalists)

By Jack Woods (University of Leeds, Philosophy)

Tuesday 5th December, 2017, 1640-1800, H-232



Many contemporary naturalistic pictures of normativity struggle with extensional adequacy. If we tie our reasons to our psychological states, practices, values, or the like, as any serious naturalist should, then we face the problem that our actual psychologies, practices, and values are radically disordered and incomplete. We are limited creatures, after all, and we make many mistakes. We thus need to augment these pictures with ways of ironing out the wrinkles and stretching them to cover all the applicable situations.

Both constructivism and constitutivism offer tempting ways of doing this. The former explains our reasons in terms of acceptable procedures—deliberation, refinement, etc—for ironing out the basic materials we start with. For example, views which start with our values and go on to look at what we’d accept under a process of bringing these into nice accord with each other are constructivist. Constitutivism looks to see what reasons and principles are required by the facts about what we are—agents, rational beings, actors—and uses these to augment what we actually care about, value, or do. Both strategies, and especially their combination, look to solve various problems about the extensional adequacy of contemporary naturalistic views. Unfortunately, it seems to me that both moves, and especially their combination, inevitably come into conflict with the intuitions which motivated these naturalistic pictures of normativity in the first place. In particular, justifying instrumental and theoretical rationality this way requires that we posit either mysterious normativity or psychological unreality.

My aim here is to sketch how we can and why we should lean back on constructivism to flesh out naturalistic accounts of reasons, then to show that using constitutivism to avoid problems for constructivism runs into serious problems. I then propose a way of doing much of the work constitutivist pictures are supposed to do, for a hybrid conventionalist-humean picture, without running into the serious problems which arise for constitutivism. The key idea is to view instrumental and theoretical rationality as just yet more standards which we have independent reason to conform to.

Written by Sandrine Berges

November 28, 2017 at 10:02 am

Jack Woods at Bilkent

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The Authority of Formality

Date: Wednesday 28 December, 2016

Time: 1100-1230

Place: G160


Etiquette gets a bad rap. Theorists often claim that etiquette is only formally normative whereas morality is substantively normative. Requirements of morality and belief formation are supposed to be important in some abstruse way that eludes the requirements of mere manners. These claims are often flavored with examples of the etiquette norms of our grandparents and moral norms of pressing contemporary interest. It’s hard, in the face of such a barrage, to do much but nod along. Who could seriously think that not wearing white shoes before Easter was on a par with the requirement to treat others with fairness and compassion?
Me. I think exactly this.  In particular, I think that the commonly accepted distinction between substantive and merely formal obligation is an illusion. There is no particular domain of obligation where the fact that we have a domain-specific obligation to do something entails that we have normative reason to do it. Any time the fact that I’m morally obliged to do something justifies that I have reason to do it, this is because there is a lurking reason to do as morality obliges. As with morality, so with etiquette. My aim in what follows is display how attractive this view truly is.
I do not deny the importance of morality, epistemology, and other “substantive” normative domains; rather, I think that their importance is due to our reasons to be morally and doxastically sound. We have reason to be morally upstanding, doxastically reasonable, and fair. No amount of despair at how these properties fail to manifest in people’s ends should dissuade us from thinking that we take these properties seriously. Moral failure, irresponsibility in belief formation, and blatant disregard for fairness are taken to be, and thereby are, serious criticisms. This suffices to make them important and to render unto us reason to be fair, rational, and moral. However, we likewise have reason to be polite, play chess correctly, and (had reason) to wear a backpack on one shoulder (at least in the early 90s).

Written by Sandrine Berges

December 21, 2016 at 3:07 pm

BETİM Workshop Christiane Fischer: Corruption in Healthcare and Medicine

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Corruption in Healthcare and Medicine – A Different Medicine is Possible

Workshop led by Christian Fischer (German Ethics Council)

Friday 11 March 2016, 5-7pm

Language of the event: English (no simultaneous translation)


Dr. med. Christiane Fischer, MPH

Click on poster to enlarge

All welcome, registration not required.

for directions see



Written by rainerbroemer

March 10, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Talk at Bilkent by Katherina Nieswandt (Stanford): “Practice Views Revisited”

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Katherina Nieswandt
Center for Ethics in Society
Stanford University

“Practice Views Revisited”

DATE: Thu 11 February 2016
TIME: 15:40-17:30
PLACE: G-160, Bilkent University, Ankara

Short abstract:

Thomas Scanlon and others have argued that ‘practice views’ give
the wrong kind of reasons for moral duties, which shows up in the fact
that they identify the wrong addressees of these duties. The reason
why I must not break my promise to you, for instance, should lie in
the harm that this does to you—rather than in the harm that it does to
the practice of promising or to our community. I demonstrate that the
wrong reason objection indeed applies to some practice views, notably
rule-conquentialism and (Hobbes’) contractarianism.  Drawing on ideas
by Elizabeth Anscombe, however, I offer an alternative understanding of
the role of the practice in ethical justifications.

Long abstract:

According to “conventionalist” or “practice views,” at least some moral
duties exist within social practices, and these practices play an important
role in justifying the respective duties. Among others, the theories of Hobbes,
Gauthier, Hooker and Rawls are commonly classified as practice views.

Thomas Scanlon has levelled a formidable and widely used objection against
practice views: They give the wrong reasons for our duties, which shows up
in the fact that they identify the wrong addressees. The reason why I must
not break my promise to you, for instance, should lie in the harm that this
does to you—rather than in the harm it does to the practice of promising or
to all the participants in that practice.

I grant that Scanlon’s objection applies to the mentioned theories. But I offer
a surprising diagnosis: (i) I argue that the conventionalism of these theories
is superficial. (ii) I show that the objection applies to them precisely because
they are not genuinely conventionalist and that (iii) any genuinely conventionalist
theory gives the correct reasons and identifies the correct addressees of our duties.
As a last step, (iv) I outline one such theory, using the understanding of the practice
in moral justifications that I find in Elizabeth Anscombe’s work. (v) My particular
proposal has an interesting application to rights: It enables us to be conventionalists
about rights without being cultural relativists about rights.

Written by István Aranyosi

February 4, 2016 at 8:28 am

Talk at Bilkent by Ulf Hlobil (Pittsburgh): “Do It! But Don’t Listen to Me!: Moral Testimony and Practical Inference”

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Ulf Hlobil
Department of Philosophy
University of Pittsburgh

“Do It! But Don’t Listen to Me!: Moral Testimony and Practical Inference”

DATE: Wed 10 February 2016
TIME: 15:40-17:30
PLACE: G-160, Bilkent University, Ankara


What, if anything, is wrong with acting on moral beliefs that we accept
merely on the say-so of others? Why could it be problematic to act on a
moral belief that we take to be true without understanding why it is true?
I defend a qualified and novel version of what is called “pessimism” in
the controversy over pure moral testimony. I argue that we can rationally
come to hold the premises of moral reasoning through testimony, but that
moral testimony is problematic in cases where the agent lacks the ability
to make the correct practical inference. The problem is that inferential
abilities cannot be shared via testimony. The role that moral testimony
can play in our moral lives is therefore limited. My account gives the
correct verdicts for common examples in the literature on moral testimony.
It, moreover, incorporates many of the optimists’ insights and is more
general and informative than rival accounts.

Written by István Aranyosi

February 4, 2016 at 8:12 am

BETİM seminar Stephen Snyder: Changing Human Nature – A Case for Intergenerational Justice 4 Nov. 2015

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Changing Human Nature – A Case for Intergenerational Justice

Seminar by Stephen Snyder

St. Louis (MO)/İstanbul

Visiting Professor, Bosphorus University

Wed. 4 November 2015, 5.15-6.30 pm

Language of the event: English, no simultaneous translation


Click on poster to enlarge

All welcome, registration not required.

for directions see



Written by rainerbroemer

October 24, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy of Biology

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BETİM conference: Ethical Problems in Medical Decisions at the End of Life, 17 Sept. 2015

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Ethical problems in medical decisions at the end of life

Seminar by Dr. Mirjam de Vos (Amsterdam)

Thu. 17 Sept. 2015, 5-6.30pm

Language of the event: English, no simultaneous translation


Click on poster to enlarge

All welcome, registration not required.

for directions see



Written by rainerbroemer

September 16, 2015 at 10:25 am

Posted in Ethics, Events in Turkey

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Talk at BETİM: Kant’s Anthropology – by Marc Rölli (Zürich), Thu. 28 May 2015

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Kant’s Anthropology: Between Universalism and Inegalitarianism

Prof. Dr. Marc Rölli, Zürich (Switzerland)

Thu. 28 May 2015, 5.15 – 7.15 pm

(Talk in English)

Dr. Rölli Tr-En Çal  tay Afi i

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All welcome, registration not required.

for directions see



Written by rainerbroemer

May 21, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Ethics, Kant

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Talk at BETİM: Autonomy and human dignity – by Heike Baranzke, 15 May 2015

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Autonomy and Human Dignity: Cultural Roots – Ethical Transformations – Biomedical Challenges

Dr. theol. Heike Baranzke çal  tay afi i-2

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All welcome, registration not required.

for directions see



Written by rainerbroemer

April 22, 2015 at 11:23 am

Posted in Ethics

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Professor Kenneth Westphal has joined the Bogazici University Philosophy Department.

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Professor Kenneth Westphal, the internationally renowned Kant and Hegel Scholar, has joined the Bogazici philosophy department as a full-time member.

Ken Wesphal is the author or editor of 8 books, including, as author:

(1)  Kant’s Transcendental Proof of Realism (Oxford University Press)

(2) Hegel’s Epistemology: A Philosophical Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit (Hackett)

(3) Hegel’s Epistemological Realism: A Study of the Aim and Method of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Springer)

(4) Hegel, Hume und die Identitat wahrnehmbarer Dinge (Klostermann)

And as editor:

(1) The Blackwell Guide to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Blackwell)

(2) Realism, Science, and Pragmatism (Routledge)

He has also published more than a 100 papers and articles.  Ken will be a valuable addition to the philosophy community in Turkey, and we welcome him to the department and to Turkey.

Kant Reading Group at Bogazici (Mondays, 5.15-7pm)

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Lucas Thorpe and Ken Westphal will be running a Kant Reading Group at Bogazici University that will meet every Monday from 5.15pm-7pm in TB365 (starting on Monday October 13th 2104).

We will start by reading the manuscript of Ken Westphal’s new book – Moral Constructivism: Hume’s and Kant’s Natural Law Constructivism.

Once we have finished this we will decide collectively what to read next. If you would like to join the reading group, be sent a copy of the manuscript, and be added to our mailing list, please email Zubeyde: zkaradag(at)gmail.com.

Everyone welcome.


Written by Lucas Thorpe

October 5, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Conference at Dokuz Eylul University (Izmir): “The Scottish Enlightenment and Freedom” (May 28-30th, 2014)

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Dokuz Eylul University (Izmir) will be hosting a conference on “The Scottish Enlightenment and Freedom” from  May 28-30th, 2014. A facebook page for the event can be found here.


Details of the program can be found under the fold.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Lucas Thorpe

May 19, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Conference at Boğaziçi: Curiosity – Epistemics, Semantics, Ethics (7-8/03/2014)

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There will be a conference at Boğaziçi University on Friday and Saturday, March 7th and 8th on the Philosophy of Curiosity: Epistemics, Semantics, Ethics.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

February 28, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Summer school in Budapest (funding available) on “Applied Philosophy: Issues, Method, and Nature.”

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Some of you might be interested in this Summer School at the CEU in Budapest. They often offer full funding for students from Turkey, covering travel, accommodation and course fees. Deadline for applications is march 14th. Details can be found here.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

February 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Ethics, Summer Schools

Conference in Bursa on ““Tradition, Democracy and Philosophy” in October 2014

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The Philosophy Department at Uludağ University is organising their 3rd International philosophy congress that will take place from 23-25/10/2014. The theme this year will be:

“Tradition, Democracy and Philosophy”

The deadline for submitting abstracts is May 24th, 2014. Further details can be found here.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

January 9, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Talk in Istanbul: Uygar Abaci (University of Richmond) on ‘Modality and Morality in Kant: A Theory of Practical Cognition’ 24/12/2013

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Uygar Abaci (University of Richmond) will give a talk at Istanbul Technical University, on Tuesday  December 24, 2013 at 13:30 in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences.

ABSTRACT: In his preface to the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant defines “the enigma of the critical philosophy” in terms of the following conundrum: how can we, as epistemic subjects, retain a theoretical agnosticism with respect to the reality of objects such as freedom, God and the immortality of the soul that lie beyond the limits of our possible experience, and yet assert the reality of these objects “from a practical point of view”, that is, when it comes to considering ourselves as moral subjects (5:5). The solution to the enigma, I suggest, lies in the practical application of Kant’s critical conception of modality. According to this conception, modal concepts such as possibility, actuality and necessity signify the ways in which objects are related or given to the subject rather than the ways objects themselves are. In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant insists that in the theoretical domain objects can only be given to us through a connection with sensible intuition, which makes it impossible for us to grant a real modal status to these supersensible objects and thus renders their concepts merely “problematic” ideas for theoretical reason. However, Kant’s account of moral action in the Critique of Practical Reason assumes that in the moral-practical domain objects are given to us through a connection with the moral law. I argue that it is this special relation that enables us to make modal assertions even of those objects that cannot be given to us in sensible intuition.


Written by Lucas Thorpe

December 23, 2013 at 4:08 am

Lucas Thorpe (Boğaziçi) talk at ITU 19th November, 13:30“Can We Have a Duty to Kill Our Neighbors? : Moral Pluralism, Moral Conflict and the Duty to Enter the Civil Condition in Kant”

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“Can We Have a Duty to Kill Our Neighbors? : Moral Pluralism, Moral Conflict and the Duty to Enter the Civil Condition in Kant”

Lucas Thorpe (Department of Philosophy) Boğaziçi University

Tuesday November 19th, starting 13:30. Abstract can be found here.

Istanbul Technical University (Central Campus Maslak)

Faculty of Science and Letters

Department of Humanities and Social Science

Seminar Room

Campus is next to ITU metro station

Written by Barry Stocker

November 16, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Manuel Knoll, Istanbul Technical University, 17th December. ‘Max Weber’s Interpretation of Machiavelli. The Consequence of Political Realism for the Relation of Ethics and Politics’

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Prof. Dr. Manuel Knoll, Boğaziçi University
‘Max Webers Interpretation of Machiavelli. The Consequences of Political Realism for the Relation of Ethics and Politics’

This paper investigates Machiavelli’s influence on Max Weber’s political thought. It points out the views held in common by both writers on politics, which revolve around their political realism. If politics is based on power and force, a specific ethics needs to be developed for this area of human conduct. The thesis of the paper is that Weber’s concept of an “ethics of responsibility” was inspired by Machiavelli’s political ethics.

The talk begins at 13:30




Istanbul Technical University

Central Campus (Maslak)

Faculty of Science and Letters

Department of Humanities and Social Science

Seminar Room

Written by Barry Stocker

November 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm

A workshop on Meta-ethics at Bogazici with John Skorupski (St Andrews) 11/06/2013

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There will be a half day workshop at Bogazici University this Tuesday from 1pm-5.30pm with Professor John Skorupski (St Andrews) in TB130,

Professor Skorupski will discuss a number of topics from his recent book The Domain of Reasons



An overview. Background reading: A Precis of The Domain of ReasonsPhilosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (1):174-184.


Reason and Feeling. Background reading: The Domain of Reasons, chapters 10-13. (These chapter are available in the departmental dropbox)

Written by Lucas Thorpe

June 10, 2013 at 2:45 am

Philosophy in Gezi Park: Jesse Prinz (CUNY) on “Passionate Politics: Emotions, Morality, and Social Identity” 05/06/2013

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Due to the event’s in Turkey Jesse Prinz’ talk that was planned to take place at Bogazici University has been reschedule to Gezi Park, Taxim. Here are the details. We’ll meet by the entrance to the park near the Divan hotel between 4.30 and 5pm. My number is 0535 024 5844.

Jesse will be happy to hang around and talk to students after the talk. Bring umbrellas (and surgical masks and swimming goggles).

Professor Jesse Prinz (CUNY- Graduate Centre) will give a talk on Wednesday (05/06/2013) from 5-6, in Gezi park:

“Passionate Politics: Emotions, Morality, and Social Identity”

Jesse J. Prinz is a Distinguished Professor of philosophy and director of the Committee for Interdisciplinary Science Studies at theCity University of New York, Graduate Center. He took his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago under the direction of Murat Aydede. His books include: Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis (MIT: 2002), Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (OUP: 2004), The Emotional Construction of Morals (OUP: 2007), Beyond Human Nature (Penguin/Norton: 2012).

Written by Lucas Thorpe

June 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Two-Day Conference on Neurology, Philosophy of Biology, and Artificial Intelligence, organized by Koç University Philosophy Department (Venue: Beyoglu – RCAC)

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  • Speakers include but are not limited to: Bernard Stiegler (Université de Technologie Compiègne), Alva Noë (University of California, Berkeley), Barry Smith (University of London), and Güven Güzeldere (Harvard University)Poster

Conference Program

May 25th  Saturday

9.30 Opening

9.45-11.45 First Session

  Hilmi Demir: “A Recent History of Philosophy of Mind: Convergence Points between Cognitive Sciences and Phenomenology”

 Barış Korkmaz: “Self: Neuroscience and Psychoanalysis”

Aziz Zambak: “Plasticity: The Forgotten Principle in Artificial Intelligence”

11:45-12:00 Coffee Break

12:00-13:00  Second Session

Bernard Stiegler: “From Neuropower to Noopolitics”

13:00-14:30 Lunch Break

14:30:16:30 Third Session

Patrick Roney: “Neuro-aesthetics”

Zeynep Direk: “Neuroethics and the question of alterity”

Stephen Voss: “What do I mean when I say I”

May 26th Sunday

 9:30-10:30 First Session

Alva Noë: “The Fragile Manifest: Presence in Thought and Experience”

10:30-10:45 Coffee Break 

10:45-12:45 Second Session

Barry Smith: “Are Flavours in the Brain? The Phenomenology and Neuroscience of Flavour Perception”

Güven Güzeldere: “Unity of Consciousness in a Divided Brain?” 

 12:45-14:30 Lunch Break

14:30-16:30 Third Session

Fuat Balcı: “Reward Maximization: The Role of Time and its Psychophysics”

Emrah Aktunç: “On Bickle’s ‘Ruthless Reductionism in Cellular/Molecular Neuroscience: What are they Reducing?”

Hakan Gürvit: “Plasticity: Via Regia to the Neuroscientific Subjectivity”

Venue: Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations – Beyoglu

Venue Map

Talk at Bogazici: Richmond Campbell (Dalhousie) “Pragmatic Naturalism and Moral Objectivity” (14/05/2013)

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Richmond Campbell (Dalhousie)

“Pragmatic Naturalism and Moral Objectivity” 

Tuesday, TB130, 5-7pm. Everyone welcome.

A copy of the talk can be found here. And the handout here.

ABSTRACT: In Kitcher’s “pragmatic naturalism” moral evolution contains only pragmatically motivated moral changes in response to practical difficulties in social life. No moral truths or facts exist that could serve as an “external” measure for moral progress. We propose a psychologically realistic conception of moral objectivity consistent with this pragmatic naturalism yet alive to the familiar sense that moral progress has an objective basis that transcends convention and consensus in moral opinion, even when these are products of serious, extended, and collaborative reflection.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

May 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Antonio Negri in Istanbul for conference organised by Monokl (27th and 28th of April, 2013)

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Monokl is organising a conference next Saturday and Sunday on:

‘New Forms of Freedom and the Subject’

The participants include: Antonio Negri, Judith Revel, Marco Assennato, and Ahmet Soysal. Details can be found here.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

April 20, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Two talks on Ancient Philosophy at Koc University: Nicholas D. Smith (Lewis & Clark College) and Stelios C. Zyglidopoulos (University of Cambridge) [22/04/2013 & 24/04/2013]

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Nicholas D. Smith (Lewis & Clark College)

‘Socrates on Practical Deliberation’

Monday 22 April 15.30-17.00, room CAS B34, sponsored by CSSH

An argument has recently been made for the claim that Socratic philosophy leaves little room for practical deliberation. The gist of this argument is both simple and powerful: Socrates appears to regard any decision-making that is done in ignorance to be unjustified. Contemptuous, for example, of the opinions of those he calls “the many,” Socrates seems only to offer, as an alternative, only the exhortation to “lead the examined life.” But this advice can hardly serve to tell anyone (for example Euthyphro, as he considers whether to prosecute his father) what they should do in any given case. In this paper, I offer an explanation of how Socratic philosophy can actually support a wide range of practical deliberation—even for those who, like Socrates, recognize that they are ignorant of “the most important things.”


Stelios C. Zyglidopoulos (University of Cambridge)

‘The ability to rule versus the ability to become a ruler in Plato’

Wednesday 24 April, 12.30-14.00, room CAS 124, co-sponsored by GSSSH, CASE, and GSB

ABSTRACT: In this paper, I argue that there are more subtle reasons behind Plato’s pessimism that reside within the philosopher herself and the training that she has to undertake in order to become a philosopher. In particular, I argue that Plato had three additional reasons behind his belief in the incompatibility, within the same person, of the abilities to rule and the abilities to become a ruler. First, physical limitations would most likely prevent one from becoming a philosopher while still having enough time to train and engage in the ways of conventional politics, needed in becoming a ruler. In the terms of the ship of state simile (Republic, 488a-489c) there is not enough time in one’s life to both learn to read the stars and the winds, and learn how to get the ship owner drunk and flatter the crew. Second, for psychological reasons, a philosopher most likely cannot compete for political power without having a disadvantage in such a competition. Third, the two abilities, ruling and becoming a ruler, are, according to Plato, as incompatible with one another as are the abilities of the cook and the doctor (Gorgias 465b) or more to the point the rhetorician and the philosopher, who is trained in dialectic.


Written by Lucas Thorpe

April 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Talk at Bogazici: Sorin Baiasu (Keele) on “The Normative Force of Kant’s Formula of Universal Law” 18/04/2013

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Sorin Baiasu (Keele) will give a talk on Thursday, April 18th at Bogazici University, room TB130, from 5-7pm.

“The Normative Force of Kant’s Formula of Universal Law”

ABSTRACT: There is a perceivable shift in the literature on Kant’s Categorical Imperative: whereas for many years commentators have been engaged in disputes over how the Formula of Universal Law (FUL) should be interpreted in order to provide a test for the moral permissibility of maxims, more recently they have started to doubt and even reject the normative force of the FUL, and have focused instead on the Formula of the End in Itself (FEI). Moreover, in contrast to those interpreters who have used the FEI to argue for the value-based character of Kant’s ethics, more recent commentators reject a value-based reading of Kant. In this paper, I examine Mark Timmons’s recent innovative interpretation, and I aim to challenge his claim that the FUL does not have the normative force to distinguish between morally permissible and morally impermissible actions.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

April 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Koc University Political Philosophy Symposium – February 15 2013 Friday in Beyoglu

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Koc University Political Philosophy Symposium

February 15, 2013 Friday 9:00am-5:30pm

Philosophy Department, Koç University

Political Philosophy Symposium

Friday February 15, 2013

Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations

Details under the fold:

Read the rest of this entry »

Talk at Bogazici: Saniye Vatansever (UIC) on “KANT’S ACCOUNT OF THE HIGHEST GOOD: WHAT CAN WE HOPE FOR? AND WHO ARE “WE”?” (04/01/2013)

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Saniye Vatansever (UIC) will give a talk this Friday (04/01/2013) at Bogazici University in TB130 from 5-7pm on:


ABSTRACT: In the second Critique Kant argues that for the Highest Good to be possible we need to postulate the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. There Kant implies that the Highest Good is attainable only in the noumenal world. In his later writings, however, he argues that the Highest Good is attainable in the phenomenal world through mere human agency. It seems that Kant has two different and competing conceptions of the Highest Good, namely a theological and a secular conception. In this paper, I argue against both the theological and the secular readings. Instead of focusing exclusively on either the early or the latter writings, I argue that we need to understand why Kant writes in different and seemingly incoherent ways about the Highest Good.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

December 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Talk at Bogazici: Ralf Bader (Oxford) on “Kant’s Theory of the Highest Good” 21/12/2012

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Ralf Bader (Oxford) will give a talk at Bogazici University on Friday, December 21st, from 5-7pm in TB130.

“Kant’s Theory of the Highest Good”

ABSTRACT: The highest good is the culmination of Kant’s ethical theory. It systematically combines all objects of practical reason, integrating everything that is good into an unconditioned totality. By doing so, it bridges the dualisms between moral and pathological value, between duty and prudence, as well as between virtue and happiness. It thereby gives rise to a unified necessary system of ends. This paper provides a systematic account of Kant’s theory of the highest good, addressing in particular the question why happiness is included in the highest good, why it should be distributed in proportion to virtue, and in what sense the highest good is something that we are meant to bring about.

Ralf Bader received his phd at St Andrews university. He was then a Bersoff Fellow and Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of Philosophy at NYU. He is currently a research fellow and University Lecturer at Oxford University. His research primarily focuses on value theory (axiology, intrinsic value, organic unities, agent-relativity, population ethics), contemporary metaphysics (intrinsicality, supervenience, coinciding objects, counterpart theory, dispositions, causation, identity, mereology), and Kant scholarship (highest good, happiness, imperatives, tables of categories, transcendental idealism). He is also interested in neo-Kantian and early analytic philosophy, as well as in political philosophy. Some of his publications can be found here.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

December 14, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Talk at Bogazici: Sandrine Berges (Bilkent) “From Aristotle to Heloise: Virtue and Moderation.” 09/11/2012

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Sandrine Berges (Bilkent) will give a talk entitled:

“From Aristotle to Heloise: Virtue and Moderation.”

Friday November 9th,5-7pm, Bogazici University Philosophy Department, TB130. Everyone welcome.

ABSTRACT: While many of her contemporaries, and some significant predecessors saw the virtues, especially that of temperance, as perfect achievements and complete freedom from bodily impulses, Heloise was keen to reinstate the Aristotelian understanding of virtues as means between two extremes. In her letters, she defends the ideal of moderation against Abelard’s calls for struggle and self control, and in doing so, she uses the vocabulary of the mean, in very much the same way as John of Salisbury did some years later. In this paper I highlight Heloise’s position in that debate, and argue that it is of philosophical and historical significance.

Written by Lucas Thorpe

November 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm

When a predator wants to pray

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The case is philosophically very interesting in various regards. I recommend at least a quick look. Below, I will summarize and make an observation.

There is a show on NBC where they catch pedophilic sexual predators red-handed and on one of their episodes they caught a 56 year old (prominent) rabbi soliciting sex with a 13 year old boy. (According to the evidence police later found this was not his first time. He also had a long and explicit sex-chat with the decoy posing as this underage boy during which he sent the boy a picture of himself performing oral sex on another man).

Then the rabbi got a 6.5 year sentence and served his term. When he got out, he declared that he repented (the Hebrew word for this official repentance seems to be “T’shuvah”) he wanted to be allowed to pray in a relatively inclusive synagogue on the sabbath days. The community of the synagogue initially allowed him, but as the news of his past deeds became widely known in the community, some people expressed strong objections to his presence citing the presence of children in the building on the sabbath days as a safety concern.

After a “backbreaking amount of time” was spent on debating “how to handle the former Rabbi’s presence in the synagog” involving online forum debates about their moral duty to a fellow faithful and consultations with expert psychiatrists, prosecutors and detectives, “the Board decided that without agreement on suitable strictures for this individual’s attendance, this person would, sadly, not be welcome.”

My observation is this: This is a tough moral dilemma. Any community, especially those which consist of very well-intended people, would struggle to come to a solution which would satisfy every member. (And they couldn’t reach a consensus in the case, the vote was not unanimous at their board.) I don’t profess to have a good solution either. But if religion can provide significant moral guidance into people’s lives, which is unattainable without faith, why didn’t religion make the dilemma easier to solve for this particular religious community? Why do their reasoning and deliberation process sound very much like what would have happened in a non-religious community with the same amount of social cohesion and generosity?

This question bothers me a lot, because I see atheists being criticized time and again on the grounds that atheism impoverishes the moral dimension of the individual and society, whereas faith in God provides moral guidance. Unless this moral guidance is as invisible as God himself, shouldn’t we be able to perceive its effects somehow?

My own take on this matter is that we are all permanently stuck in the same moral ambiguity. Believing in God or having faith in commandments doesn’t solve any problem. Yes, we can assume that there is a god commanding us to do x and even reach at quick verdicts with harsh punishments, unconditional forgiveness, or principled indifference, but this case shows that when a well-intended epistemically responsible group of adults who care for each other face a tough moral dilemma it shall remain tough, regardless what the creator of the universe commands. This is so in part because there is an ambiguity about what the command is, born out of the puzzlingly cryptic and convoluted statements through which the alleged commands are conveyed. But even if the commands were utterly unambiguous, the question “Is God’s command righteous?” is always a meaningful question to ask even for a theist, assuming that the theist wants to do his epistemic duty to find a satisfactory solution to the dilemma as the good people of the synagogue tried in this case.

Written by burkayphil

October 11, 2012 at 9:48 am