Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Archive for the ‘Events in Turkey’ Category

Talk at Bilkent 7 April: Jan Kandiyali

leave a comment »

Jan Kandiyali (İTÜ) “Marx on Meaningful Work”

Friday 7 April, 2017, 1100-1230, G-160


Abstract: While the idea of meaningful work is historically associated with Karl Marx, recent defences of the idea have tended to eschew Marx’s theory on the grounds that it is is incoherent and not necessarily desirable. In this paper I  argue that this eschewal is a mistake. Marx’s theory, though not without its problems, has the resources to respond to the family of objections that are often thought fatal to it; moreover, his writings continue to provide us with a theory of work from which we can learn. Indeed, it is argued that we find in Marx a plausible theory of meaningful work, one that focuses on the contribution that producing for others can make to our well-being.

Written by Sandrine Berges

April 4, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Talk at Bilkent 31 March: Mehmet Elgin

leave a comment »

Mehmet Elgin (Muğla University)

“Why Do Evolutionary Biologists Formulate A Priori Laws Rather Than Empirical Laws?”

Friday 31 March, 2017, 11-12:30, G160.



Abstract: Unlike any branch of physics, evolutionary biology is peppered with a priori mathematical models. It is important to explain why this is the case. I will argue that when we examine the principle of natural selection carefully, we see that this law relates fitness to gene frequencies. Fitness appealed to in this law is stripped away from any physical or biological details and it represents a mere mathematical value. When we relate this value to gene frequencies, we are relating two mathematical values. As a result we end up with a priori laws. I will then provide a more general argument for this fact: Fitness is a genuine multiply realizable property. Only laws that can be formulated about genuinely multiply realizable states are a priori laws. Therefore, only laws that can be formulated about fitness are a priori laws. I will finally argue that such a priori laws in evolutionary biology have very important functions: They are essential for us to be able to formulate empirically testable causal hypotheses about the evolution of specific populations and they are also indispensable in developing causal explanations systematically.

Written by Sandrine Berges

March 27, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Undergraduate Philosophy Conference at Bilkent

leave a comment »

1st Bilkent Undergraduate Students Philosophy Conference on April 29th. Submission Deadline April 15th.

yeniyeni poster-01.jpeg

We are happy to invite undergraduate students to take part in the first Bilkent Undergraduate Students Philosophy Conference to take place on April 29th. The purpose of this conference is to give a chance to the undergraduate students to share their arguments with their peers. Students from all universities and departments are welcome to participate with philosophy papers they have written for their upper-level undergraduate courses or in their spare time. Accepted submissions will be presented by their authors on the day of the conference, with a commentator’s presentation on the paper to follow up in response.

The conference will take place at I.D. Bilkent University, on April 29, 2017. Participants are encouraged to apply from outside Ankara, and we will do our best to arrange accommodation, if needed.

Accepted submissions will be announced on April 21, 2017.

Presentation Details:
Presentation: 30 Minutes
Commentator: 15 Minutes
Question-Answer: 10 Minutes

Submission Guidelines:
1. There is no restriction on subject matter, but papers are restricted to present a philosophical argument.
2. Not only philosophy students but also students from other departments are welcomed.
3. Submissions, and all other enquiries should be sent by e-mail to: philstudentconf@bilkent.edu.tr
4. Please attach one copy of your paper, with its title on top, but is otherwise anonymous and does not in anyway give away the identity of the author.
5. Please include in the body of the e-mail submission your full name, the title of your paper and your contact information (such as your e-mail address).
6. Participants should send an abstract of their paper that is between 800-1000 words.
7. The submitted abstracts and the presentations should be in English.
8. The deadline for submission is April 15, 2017

Submissions will be evaluated by a student committee from the Department of Philosophy, Bilkent.

Written by Sandrine Berges

March 7, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Talk at Bilkent by Ville Paukkonen

leave a comment »

The Occasionalist Theory of Causation in Early Modern Britain: From Agent-Causation to Mere Regularities

malebrancheDate: Friday 10 February, 2017

Time: 1100-1230

Place: G-160

Abstract: Malebranche’s influence on the British philosophy was significant both when one considers how the intellectual landscape appeared to the philosophers and to the learned audience of the time and also from the point of view of the contemporary understanding of the development of British philosophy during the early modern period. A clear sign of his influence on his contemporaries and successors on the other side of channel, besides the enormous popularity of the now widely forgotten John Norris, the English popularizer of Malebranche, is the fact that Research was translated into English twice in the late 17th century almost simultaneously, by Richard Sault and by Thomas Taylor. This might seem surprising if we are to believe the standard textbook version of occasionalism, namely that God is the only genuine causally active agent in the world and all instances within the sensible world which appear to us to be instances of genuine causation – be it body-body, mind-body, on mental causation – are merely occasions for God to exhibit his causal powers in the world: why would such a wildly implausible theory appear tempting to anyone, no matter how long ago they lived?

I will try to show, first, that the occasionalist theory of causation, as it was formulated by Malebranche, makes much more sense when we understand it in it’s own philosophical and scientific context. First, occasionalism was an attempt to interpret Descartes’ philosophical thought on causation and laws of nature, something that was perceived to be the most important and promising systematic presentation of the new scientific understanding of the world in terms of mechanisms. Second occasionalism aimed to provide an alternative theory of causation against the scholastic analysis of causation in terms of powers, an analysis which despite being heavily criticized, even ridiculed, in the early modern period, still provided a formidable attempt to explain causation. The seriousness of this attempt was, so I shall argue, recognized clearly by early modern British authors, most importantly by Locke and Berkeley, and shaped their own thinking on causation in a certain direction.

The influence that some of Malebranche’s negative arguments against the existence and even the possibility of real causal powers (or the knowability of real causal powers, depending on one’s favorite Hume-interpretation) had on Hume is well known and documented, but it is not equally well understood how the occasionalist theory of causation shaped the views that Hume was arguing against, most notably Locke’s and Berkeley’s. I hope to make this more apparent by showing how Malebranche’s arguments for the occasionalist theory of causation had a strong influence on British thought, leading both Locke and Berkeley to take agent causation as the paradigm case of causation, and how this new emphasis on agent causation in turn influenced Hume and helps to explain who in fact were the targets of his famous “no-necessary connections” argument. This story about the influence of the occasionalist theory of causation in early modern Britain will, I hope, be not merely of interest from a history of ideas point of view. If correct, it will help us to understand that a certain theory of causation, which is nowadays often regarded as the standard theory, namely the Humean regularity theory, is in fact an articulation of a reaction against a wide array of alternative theories, some of which possess at least as much prima facie plausibility as the Humean theory, if not more.

Written by Sandrine Berges

February 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Conference at Bilkent: Persons, Selves, and Organisms

leave a comment »

Personal identity – under what conditions do we persist over time? – is among the perennial questions of metaphysics. In recent years, the question of personal identity gave place to the closely related question of personal ontology: what kinds of things are we most fundamentally? The question of personal identity has often been discussed in tandem with philosophical investigations into the nature of the self: is there a thing we refer to when we say ‘I’? Is the persistence of our selves tied to personal identity? By contrast, the relation between the question of personal ontology and the self has largely been neglected. This conference will explore various issues at the intersection of personal identity, personal ontology, and the topology of the self.New_persons,selves,organisms-01.png

February 4-5, 2017
Department of Philosophy,Bilkent University

Organized by:

David Kovacs, Rina Tzinman (Bilkent).

Keynotes :

Eric T. Olson (Sheffield) , Hong Yu Wong (Tübingen),

See here for the program and here for full details.

Written by Sandrine Berges

January 11, 2017 at 10:59 am

Jack Woods at Bilkent

leave a comment »


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

Lucas Thorpe at Bilkent

leave a comment »

Lucas Thorpe (Boğaziçi University)

“Knowledge Doesn’t Entail Belief: Avoiding the Seductive Charm of Indo-European Grammar and Remembering Unbelievable Kisses”


Date: Thursday 22 December, 2016

Time: 1040-1230

Place: G160

Abstract: In this paper I will sketch a model of the relationship between perceptual knowledge and belief. My position is influenced by the work of the 18th century Scottish common sense philosopher Thomas Reid. I will argue that knowledge is a much simpler mental state than belief and that the capacity to know is developmentally prior to the capacity to believe. I will argue that perceptual knowledge is objectual whereas beliefs are propositional attitudes; perceptual knowledge involves grasping the world conceptually, whereas belief involves taking an attitude towards our concepts, namely marking them as instantiated. Belief require some capacity for meta-cognition, whereas perceptual knowledge does not. It is possible to deploy a concept in an act of perception without also taking an attitude towards this concept. If this is right then we need to drop what I call the entailment thesis: namely the claim that knowing entails believing. I will suggest that philosophers such as Tim Williamson who support a “knowledge first” epistemology have no good reason to accept the entailment thesis. I will also provide a number of thought experiments and appeal to some recent empirical research to support my position.

Written by Sandrine Berges

December 19, 2016 at 11:59 am