Department of Philosophy

Colloquium Series: 2021-2022

Talks will be on Fridays from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Danielsen Room, Rabb 338, unless otherwise noted. Events are updated throughout the semester. Please check back often.

Fall 2021

October 29, 2021

Louise Antony is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Her talk is titled,

"Against Amelioration, or: Don’t Hire Any Conceptual Engineers Without Talking to Me First"

Professor Antony’s work has focused on the question of how mentality can be realized in a physical world; she has written extensively about mental causation, the nature of mental representation, and the relation between language and mind.  With Norbert Hornstein, she co-edited a volume of original essays, Chomsky and His Critics.  Professor Antony is also interested in naturalistic epistemology and is currently trying to develop a psychologically realistic account of empirical justification.  Professor Antony also works in feminist philosophy, particularly feminist epistemology.  She co-edited, with Charlotte Witt, A Mind of One’s Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity.  Recently, Professor Antony has become interested in the philosophy of religion.  She edited a collection of personal reflections by atheist philosophers, Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life. 

A Talk by Robin Dembroff

November 19, 2021

Robin Dembroff, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Yale University, will be speaking on,

"The Metaphysics of Injustice"

This talk begins with an observation: systemic injustice exists. Let's add, too, that systemic injustice is injustice produced by social systems. From here, I'll consider a question: what is the metaphysical relationship between an unjust system (e.g., patriarchy), and the systemic injustice that it produces (e.g., gender injustice)? On standard accounts, systems like patriarchy are defined functionally--that is, they are identified in terms of the injustice that they produce. Drawing from intersectional insights, I'll argue that we must give up these functional definitions. Because forms of systemic injustice are not separable, unjust systems cannot be distinguished in terms of their separate products. In order to maintain helpful notions of systemic injustice, then, we need to develop models of unjust systems that reveal these systems to be more fundamental than the injustice that they produce.

 Robin Dembroff's primary areas of research are feminist and LGBTQ philosophy, which they approach primarily using tools from metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of language. Their research emphasizes relations between dynamic social processes and social classifications. They've written about these topics in scholarly journals, in a Supreme Court brief, and in popular media outlets.
Currently, they are writing a book about patriarchy as the process that puts "real men" on top.

Spring 2022

March 11, 2022

Professor Chalmers is University Professor of Philosophy and Neural Science and co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at New York University. His talk is titled, 

"Is it likely that we're in a simulation?"

Are we living in a computer simulation? The Bostrom-Moravec simulation argument tends to suggest that this is not just possible but likely. I give my own analysis of the argument (elaborated in more depth in the optional appendices) and defend the conclusions that there is a significant probability that we're in a simulation, and that we cannot know that we are not in a simulation. I also briefly discuss the connection to external world-skepticism, a topic discussed at more length in the optional background reading "Structuralism as a Reply to Skepticism."

NB: This talk will be held in the Mandel Center for the Humanities in room G-12. It is also a "read-ahead" event. Please email to request the materials.

April 1, 2022

Professor McSweeney is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Boston University. Her talk is titled:

"Social Structural Objects"

It is hard to understand what we are being asked to believe in when we are asked to believe in abstract objects: Platonism rarely comes packaged with a positive account of the natures of abstract objects (instead, these objects are typically characterized negatively, by contrasting them with concrete objects). I begin to provide a positive account of abstracta by building both (a) an account of the nature of one creative abstract artifact (Allegri's choral work Miserere Mei Deus), and also (b) an account of Miserere's connection to the parts of the abstract world that are less connected to us. I think that creative abstract artifacts are non-fundamental abstract objects. While the nature of the fundamental abstract realm is largely inaccessible to us, we can gain some minimal understanding of it by getting a firmer grasp on non-fundamental abstract objects.

 Professor McSweeney's work is mainly in metaphysics, the philosophy of logic, and epistemology (mostly, epistemology of metaphysics and logic). It also sometimes touches on issues in the philosophy of science. More recently, she has also started working on the philosophy of mental illness/social/political/feminist philosophy.

April 8, 2022

Professor Kumar is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Boston University and the Mind & Morality Lab and the Moral Psychology Research Group He writes about science and ethics. He is interested in cognitive science, evolutionary theory, and how these fields reshape our understanding of individuals and societies. He teaches and speaks about topics in feminism, philosophy of race, and social justice. His talk at Brandeis will be on:

"Quarantined in an Echo Chamber"

During the global pandemic, we've witnessed the spread of ignorance and misinformation about COVID-19 and mitigation of the disease. I'll explain the social sources of this epistemic dysfunction by appealing to echo chambers, political tribalism, motivated reasoning, and rationalization markets. I'll also argue that this social-epistemic dysfunction exists not just on the right but also on the left.

April 29, 2022

Professor Matthes is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wellesley College. His specialties include Ethics, politics, and aesthetics of cultural heritage, art, and environment. He recently wrote, Drawing the Line: What to Do with the Work of Immoral Artists from Museums to the Movies, forthcoming from Oxford University Press, November 2021. He will be speaking on,

"Representation and Misrepresentation in Art."

We can distinguish between at least two kinds of representation issues in the arts: 1) representation of diverse individuals among the ranks of artists, and 2) representations of diverse individuals in the content of artworks. What, if anything, are the moral and aesthetic relationships between these two kinds of representation, and what implications does that relationship have for the ethics and aesthetics of artistic practices? I will explore these issues in relation to recent work in film and literature in particular.