From Personal Identity to the
Rationality of Desire
of Philosophy, University of Sydney
26-28 June 2007
Themes :: Venue ::
:: Timetable :: Abstracts
There is a picture of the world which is disenchanted — a world that
contains only the ingredients of the natural sciences, with no mention
of norms; no reasons to govern desires or obligations. But some of the
objects in this world — one case is persons — seem to have among their
persistence conditions norms and reasons. Is there a way to reconcile
these pictures? Can we reconstruct reasons in an austere world? This
conference explores these themes.
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The conference will be held at the Professorial Board Room,
located in the Main Quadrangle (A14)
of the University of Sydney.
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registration is required for
catering purposes and is free until 12/6/2007 .
To register, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with
the subject line "Please register me for Norms and Analysis" (two-click
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and psychological necessity
Hume offered a response to skepticism that drew on the concept
of 'the psychological necessity' of certain beliefs. That is,
there are some beliefs we are so constituted by nature to have that
shedding them in practical deliberation is not possible for us.
In this paper I explore the strategy of carrying over this concept of
psychological necessity into a Humean sentimentalist moral
theory. I discuss imaginative resistance, and how this phenomenon
points to the different ways in which our moral committments are
Norms, Kinds, and Functions
In the early 1950s it looked like we faced a very stark choice
in giving an account of value. We could be a cognitivist about
evaluative judgement and a realist about value, but at the cost of
being a non-naturalist, a la Moore, or we could remain faithful to
naturalism by being a non-cognitivist about evaluative judgement and an
irrealist about value like Hare. However by the mid-1950s things
already started to look very different. In Good and Evil Peter
Geach argued against both of these alternatives on the basis of a
simple argument: 'good' is attributive, not predicative, so when we say
that something is good we implicitly make reference to some kind to
which that thing belongs, where the kind supplies a standard-perhaps a
function that things of that kind serve-and where saying that the thing
is good is to say that the thing stands in a certain relation
to that standard. What was remarkable about Geach's proposal was
that it promised to an alternative to the stark choice we had been
offered. It promised to reconcile naturalism with both cognitivism
about evaluative judgement and realism about value. The aim of
this paper is to describe and evaluate two ways of developing Geach's
Persons as sui generis ontological kinds:
advice to exceptionists
(University of Sydney)
Many metaphysicians tell us that our world is one in which
persisting objects are four-dimensionally extended in time, and persist
by being partially present at each moment at which they exist. Many
normative theorists tell us that at least some of our core normative
practices are justified only if the relation that holds between a
person at one time, and that person at another time, is the relation of
strict identity. If these metaphysicians are right about the nature of
our world, and these normative theorists are right about what justifies
our normative practices, then we should be error theorists about the
justification of at least some of our core normative practices and in
turn we should eliminate those practices for which justification is
lacking. This paper offers a way of resolving the tension between these
two views that does not lead into the grips of error theory. It is a
way that is amenable to “exceptionists” about persons: those who think
there is something special about persons and the first-person
perspective; that personhood cannot be explained naturalistically, and
the first-person perspective is naturalistically irreducible. The
conclusion is thus a conditional: given that one is an exceptionist, an
attractive way to resolve this tension is to embrace the view that
persons are sui generis
Neurath's raft meets the ship of Theseus"
- reflections on personal identity and conceptual analysis
(University of Auckland)
Prima facie, the central question in the philosophy of
personal identity - what are the constitutive criteria for personal
continuity and persistence over time? - might be thought a
straightforwardly factual question to which one might expect, give or
take a little vagueness, a reasonably straight answer. But some strands
of thought in the recent philosophy of personal identity run counter to
such expectations, seeing the criteria for personal persistence as
relative to the practices, feelings, and moral and prudential values of
communities or individuals, perhaps even to those of the very
individuals whose persistence-criteria are in question.
My remarks will be intended to shed some light on the question "How
could this happen?", and will take the form of general ruminations on
what the problem of personal identity, and the practice of conceptual
analysis, can tell us about each other.
Gaps in Gibbard
(University of Nottingham)
One traditional way of reconciling naturalism with normativity
is to go non-factualist about the normative. A popular family of
approaches to doing this is the expressivist family: the role of
normative claims is not to state facts or express paradigm beliefs, but
ultimately to do something else, connected to our non-cognitive
attitudes about the world. Expressivists rarely offer systematic
accounts of normative language, instead being content with
characterising a few simple constructions. But without such
systematic accounts, we do not have expressivist options for normative
language so much as expressivist pipe-dreams.
One of the most appealing options for expressivists is to explain how
they can adapt the rich and powerful structure of truth-conditional
semantics to explain the meanings of their target expressions.
The most promising way to do this, I think, is sketched in Alan
Gibbard's 1990 Wise Choices, Apt Feelings. But I also think the
project sketched there is so far radically incomplete, and more recent
developments of projects in the same spirit have not yet filled all the
important gaps. This paper describes the basics of the approach I
think is the expressivist's best shot, and gives a sense of how much
work there is left to do before non-factualists of this form have so
much as a detailed rival to orthodox cognitivism.
Moral Relativism and Conceptual Analysis
(Australian National University)
Norms and Logical Space
One important division among theorists of normativity is over whether
or not normative sentences and terms represent that things things are
thus and so in the sense of making divisions in logical space. This
talk explores the implications of supposing that they do.
(Australian National University)
Prudence, or near enough
Braddon-Mitchell and Caroline
West (University of Sydney)
The Practical Dogmatist
You receive an envelope containing what you justifiably
believe to be misleading evidence. You know that if you read the
contents, then you will justifiably change your mind and regard your
previous reservations as founded on misleading evidence. Should you
open the letter or burn it?
On the one hand, the principle of total evidence instructs you not to
ignore evidence. On the other hand, you think a maximally informed
well-wisher would hope you will burn the letter.
Admittedly, your hypothetical, more widely informed, future self would
disagree about what advice would be given by the maximally informed
well-wisher. Does this potential disagreement cancel the force of the
The dilemma is not based on the premise that you are anticipating a
period of irrationality (as with Ulysses and the Sirens) or that you
anticipate that your desires will change in an undesirable way (as when
the young idealist donates his fortune now, before his older self
acquires narrower interests). You foresee uninterrupted rationality --
just a disagreement between your temporal parts as to who has the
Epistemic altruists believe we should give equal weight to the opinions
of others. When the altruist learns others disagree, he averages
opinions. Skeptics drive the altruist toward agnosticism by drawing
attention to actual disagreements and hypothetical disagreements.
Epistemic egoists believe we should give no weight to the opinion of
others. Their opinions can be meta-evidence. But once the egoist
possesses the same evidence, he loses epistemic interest in others.
An interesting bridge case between "egoism of the moment" and altruism
is the temporally impartial egoist. He gives weight to his other
stages. If he foresees that he will believe in global warming, then
this future opinion counts as a reason to believe it now.
At first blush, the "egoist of the moment" recommends burning the
letter while prudential egoist and the altruist recommend reading the
letter. I consider whether this appearance holds up. I conclude with my
Desires as reasons & rationality in
(University of Michigan)
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There is plenty of accommodation within walking distance of the
University of Sydney. Some options are listed below.
Jay's Bed and Brerakfast
217 Wilson St
Verona Guest House
224 Glebe Point Road
9 Missenden Road
+61 2 9261 4929
Broadway University Motor Inn
25 Arundel Street
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Please direct all enquiries to John Cusbert at the following
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A collection of Limericks summarising the conference (thanks to Rachael
Between sentiment and conviction
There really is no contradiction.
To make you agree with me,
I'll call on the deity
And other examples from fiction.
The things consequentialists teach
Can really be drawn out of Geach.
About my conclusion
There's little confusion.*
(The premise, I grant, is a reach.)
* Not none.
Identity matters a lot, so
All persons endure. Objects? Not so.
No kidding! (You might not have thought so.)
I wonder, can any mere mortal
Survive through a teletransportal?
I'm sure that this fact
And my norms interact,
But is 'person' sincerely a sortal?
Al Gibbard's position on norms
Is something to which Daniel warms,
But his worry's intense
When he tries to make sense
Of particular argument forms.
Our standpoints may clash, but the two
Are equal from God's point of view.
My claim that no one
Should kill kittens for fun
Is lower-case true, but not True.
There's only one logical space.
It isn't coherent to base
All one's intuitions
On bogus partitions
With no real distinctions to trace.
David Bradon-Mitchell and
At t, I will be a nonentity
With plans and desires that *went* to t.
Though I won't survive,
It's fine if I strive
For future goods. Who needs identity?
Some evidence works when you learn it,
But still is misleading--so spurn it.
You needn't be drunk
To be swayed by such junk.
Don't open that envelope! Burn it!
You might have thought all things affective
Were brute (or at least were elective),
But Railton inquires
And finds that desires
Are subject to reason's directive.
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