Trinity 2017

Preliminary schedule for Trinity term 2017.

WEEK 1 (FRIDAY, 28 APRIL)Publishing Series

Title: Authentic Love and the Mother-Child Relationship

Speaker: Catrin Gibson (Exeter College)

Commentator: Stephen Mulhall

Chair: Alex Heape

Time & Venue: 9-11am, Ryle Room


In this article, I will explore the question of whether authentic love is possible in Jean-Paul Sartre’s early philosophy. In Being and Nothingness, Sartre claims that love is inauthentic and doomed to failure. I dismiss a prominent view that is built upon Sartre’s account of love in Notebooks for an Ethics, which states that authentic love is possible after a radical conversion to authenticity. The continued existence of patriarchal oppression prevents men and women from undergoing such a conversion.

Adopting a different approach, I examine a form of love which Sartre largely overlooks: the love between mother and child. Before the boundaries between Self and Other are fully-formed, mother and child exist in an ambiguous union. It is here, I argue, that the existence of authentic love is possible.

WEEK 2 (FRIDAY, 5 MAY)Publishing Series

Title: Soundness and Completeness for the Logic of Ground

Speaker: Ben Brast-McKie (Lady Margaret Hall)

Commentator: Ofra Magidor

Chair: Alex Roberts

Time & Venue: 9.30-10.45am (note time change), Ryle Room


This paper presents a unified logic for essence and ground (LEG), where essence and ground are intended to regiment informal talk of necessary and sufficient conditions, respectively. After deriving the core principles of Cian Dorr (forthcoming) logic of generalised identity, I will move to compare LEG to Kit Fine (2012) impure logic for ground, arguing that Fine draws distinctions in the world where none are to be found. I conclude by considering just how Boolean the resulting theory of propositions is, proving a number of results in the Appendix which will be useful in the latter portions of the paper.

WEEK 3 (FRIDAY, 12 MAY) Speaker Series

Title: Cosmogony and the Problem with Stoic Pneuma

Speaker: Rob Heller (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Commentator: Ada Bronowski

Chair: Carina Prunkl

Time & Venue: 11.15am-13.00am, Lecture Room (note the change to meeting time and venue)


The four layer stratification of the elements in ancient cosmology regularly followed the hierarchical localisation of fire to the uppermost region, air below that and water then earth at the bottom. This was a commonly held view in ancient cosmology (Cicero ND I.103) and it is well recognised that even until well into the 17th century, illustrations of the cosmos appropriated the characteristic concentric circle depiction of the elements with earth at the centre and fire at the outer edges (e.g. Sacrobosco’s De sphaera). In this regard the Stoics were not innovators in relation to the dominant cosmological schema with scholars interpreting the extant Stoic fragments in the light of Epicurean (Furley: 1966) and Aristotelian (Lapidge: 1973) influences. Yet Stoic cosmogony not only provides us with clues as to what parts of their theory is distinct from the theories of their contemporaries and predecessors but also helps to reveal an inherent difficulty with their own account of the elemental theory and the cosmogonical process.

In this paper I discuss the doxographical and textual difficulties of our Stoic sources which, I argue, indirectly help to bring into relief some of the developments and changes within the school itself in response to external arguments from other schools of thought. This dialogue with other schools ultimately led to a more elaborate description, by the third head of the school, Chrysippus, of the function and role of πνεῦμα in Stoic thought, by extending the function of pneuma to the cosmic scale. In doing so Chrysippus ingeniously secured the coherency (so important to Stoic thought in general) of the cosmos via the tensioned balance of the elements in the pneumatic medium but also, I hypothesise, his alterations help us to understand in what ways the Stoic theory differs from other schools of thought when it comes to understanding the process of how it is that the elements are moved to settle into their locations in the model of the concentric circles. In clarifying these differences, a problem with the Stoic theory may be traced within the doxographical reports regarding how it is that the leading part (ἡγεμονικόν) of the cosmos, which is understood as being the most refined type of fire (aether) is found at the centre of the cosmic pneuma and not at its periphery as is most reasonable for ancient cosmological models, especially Aristotle. Finally, I would like to suggest that a tentative solution may be available in the extant sources.

WEEK 4 (FRIDAY, 19 MAY) CancelledPublishing Series

Title: Moral Status Enhancement and Individual Interests

Speaker: Joao Fabiano (St Cross College)

Commentator: TBC

Chair: James Matharu

Time & Venue: Cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances


If we accept both that human enhancement could produce beings with higher moral status than our own, and that this scenario will be detrimental to persons, there are still several ways one could defend the creation of supra-persons. I will argue that some of these defences fail because they do not account for interests whose realisation depends on the existence of the same individuals, or type of individuals, who held those interests. As such, I will concentrate on scenarios where moral status enhancement produces significant changes to psychological continuity. I will consider three scenarios: the creation of supra-persons de novo within one generation, the enhancement of persons into supra-persons, and the generational replacement of persons by supra-persons. For each of these, I will briefly mention concerns they most often elicit in the literature, some of the strongest arguments against those concerns, and then argue that a thorough consideration of individual interests undermines these arguments.

WEEK 5 (FRIDAY, 26 MAY)Publishing Series

Title: Intuitive Appearances

Speaker: Sebastian Grève (The Queen’s College)

Commentator: Ian Phillips

Chair: James Matharu

Time & Venue: 9-11am, Ryle Room


This essay presents both a general and a special account concerning the nature of intuition. The general account mainly consists in drawing a distinction between intuitive judgement and intuitive appearance that is analogous to the distinction between perceptual judgement and perceptual appearance; it is argued that a common type of paradox entails the difference. The general account is intended to be relatively uncontroversial so that it might contribute towards establishing shared ground between the often disparate-seeming views of scholars who are working on intuition (or intuitions) in psychology, linguistics, philosophy and various other disciplines. The main thesis of the special account is that having an intuitive appearance requires a kind or degree of attention on the part of the subject that is only present on some occasions; it is argued that, from the subject’s point of view, the occasion of an intuition is such that the requisite attention is caused by the expectation of making or having to make a difficult judgement. The special account thus shows, in response to Williamson (2004 and 2016), how the notion of intuition can be characterised in psychological terms so as to prevent scepticism about intuition from collapsing into scepticism about judgement.

WEEK 6 (FRIDAY, 2 JUNE)Publishing Series

Title: Nietzsche on Affects and the Interpretation of the Body

Speaker: Chris Fowles (The Queen’s College)

Commentator: TBC

Chair: Alex Heape

Time & Venue: 9-11am, Ryle Room


Although much work has been done on the role that affects play in Nietzsche’s moral psychology, comparably little attention has been given to how he understood ‘affect’, such that they could play the role(s) required of them. Yet, as Peter Poellner has suggested, one might ‘feel that not much is gained by [Nietzsche’s] assertions in the absence of a detailed account of what ‘affects’ are supposed to be’ (Poellner, 2007: 229). My principal aim in this paper is to show that Nietzsche had a substantial and interesting view of affective states; one more complex (and indeed thought-out) than is often assumed. More precisely, I wish to focus upon the psychological claims he makes regarding affects. Nietzsche’s interest lies in the mechanisms that subsume states under folk-psychological concepts, and in the nature of the psycho-physiological states to which affect concept-words are applied. Attending to his remarks on these topics reveals much about the understanding of affects with which Nietzsche was working. His position, I contend, represents an early form of somatic account, and involves an interpretive mechanism. As I also hope to bring out, Nietzsche’s somatic-interpretive picture is related in important and interesting ways to some of his most notable moral psychological claims – particularly those found in late works such as Twilight of the Idols, and On the Genealogy of Morality. If the reading I present is correct, moreover, the dominant interpretation of ‘affect’ in the literature requires considerable revision.

WEEK 7 (FRIDAY, 9 JUNE)Publishing Series

Title: Universal Trust

Speaker: Alex Heape (Mansfield College)

Commentator: Prof Michael Smith

Chair: Harry Alanen

Time & Venue: 9-11am, Ryle Room


I argue that there is a kind of trust that we hold towards everyone. Building on work by T.M. Scanlon and Stephen Darwall, I argue that this is so because this particular kind of trust is a constitutive feature of a relationship we take ourselves to share with everyone.

WEEK 8 (FRIDAY, 16 JUNE) Speaker Series

Title: Aristotle on Desire as the Cause of Bodily Movement

Speaker: Harry Alanen (New College)


Chair: Jay Jian

Time & Venue: 9-11am, Ryle Room


Aristotle holds that desire is the cause of the animal moving its body with respect to place, and that desire is the cause of action. For certain contemporary philosophers working on action, these claims will seem familiar. This talk examines some aspects of Aristotle’s views on desire (orexis) as developed in De Anima III.7, his claims in De Anima III.10 that desire is the cause of the animal moving its body with respect to place, and contrast some features of his approach with contemporary approaches to the explanation of action. Despite certain similarities, Aristotle is not a proponent of the so-called “standard story of action”.