Ross Hall, Room 122
1000 E. University Ave
Laramie, WY 82071
The Department of Philosophy at the University of Wyoming provides a series of speakers throughout the semester on a variety of topics. Speakers and dates are available of upcoming events as well as past events.
Mon., April 8, 2013
Dr. Robin Hill, Coordinator of Instructional Computing and Adjunct Philosophy Professor will present "What An Algorithm Is" on Mon., April 8, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. in Classroom Building, Room 118.
Abstract: Because algorithms are the raw material of programming, computer scientists might be expected to have a firm grasp of the ontological status of the algorithm, or at least to have a grasp on the questions pertaining to that status. To the contrary, we have the editor of computer science's most prominent professional publication asking the question "What Is An Algorithm?" just last year,* and noting the lack of satisfactory consensus. Most views in the discipline itself offer highly technical expositions. But we take on the question from the ground up; in particular, we abandon the premise, for the time being, that what computers do must inform what an algorithm is.
That gets us to a reasonable definition: An algorithm is an abstract deterministic control structure that is expressed in a finite imperative form.
This definition pins down the concept sufficiently for examination, and has some possibly unexpected consequences; for instance, the implications of the "imperative" property may spark controversy. Questions that arise include the proper treatment of preconditions or context, and of the result, goal, or task accomplished. Pursuing these issues enables us to probe the place of the mind, and the place of the computer, at the junction of philosophy and computer science.
* Moshe Vardi, "What Is An Algorithm?" Communications of the ACM, March 2012.
2/28/13-3/1/13 Goode Symposium
Sponsored by the Goode Family Excellence Fund in Humanities
Thurs., Feb 28th East Union Ballroom
1:30 p.m., Dr. Robert Pasnau of University of Colorado-Boulder, will present "Divisions of Epistemic Labor: Some Remarks on the History of Fideism and Esotericism"
Abstract: Who can know? Who can merely believe on faith? Who should be kept in the dark entirely? This essay considers various episodes from the history of philosophy -- Locke, Aquinas, Averroes, Maimonides, al-Ghazali -- where one or another such division of epistemic labor has been affirmed.
Bio: Robert Pasnau received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1994. He is the editor of the Hackett Aquinas, and of the 2010 Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy. An earlier book, Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature, won the APA Book Prize in 2005.
3:00 p.m., Dr. Brian Catlos of University of Colorado-Boulder, will present “”According to Right and Reason...” the Conundrum of Religious Diversity and Secular Law in the Medieval Mediterranean.”
Abstract: The Mediterranean in the Middle Ages was ethnically diverse and religiously plural, with Christians, Muslims and Jews of various denominations living within the same societies. Each of these Abrahamic religions held the common conviction that it alone represented the true message of God, represented the true path to salvation, and had a singular mandate to shape the world and direct human behavior through law. And yet the demands of maintaining a complex society included the need to offer Infidel subjects a legitimate place in the framework of law -- one that would be regarded as reasonable by them and yet would not compromise the the message of the dominant faith. This presentation examines this problem -- one of the paradoxes of plurality of the Medieval Mediterranean -- in light of the legal status of Jews and Muslims in the Christian kingdoms of medieval Spain.
Since 2010, Brian Catlos has worked as an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, with cross-appointments in History, Humanities and the Jewish Studies program; he is also a research Associate at the University of California Santa Cruz. He studies the dynamics of the social, economic and cultural interaction of ethno-religious groups in the Medieval Mediterranean, especially Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Iberia. In 1994, he received a B.A. in History and Philosophy from the University of Toronto (Canada), and an M.A. (1996) and Ph.D. (2000) in Medieval Studies (History) from the Centre for Medieval Studies. His The VIctors and the Vanquished: Christians and Muslims of Catalonia and Aragon, 1050-1300 (Cambridge, 2004) won two major prizes. The Muslims of Latin Christendom, 1050-1615 (Cambridge) and Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors (Hill and Wang) are forthcoming in 2013. He was won many honors, including the Governor-General of Canada's Gold Medal and an NEH Research Fellowship.
7:00 p.m., Movie "Destiny", Classroom Building, Room 133
Directed by Youssef Chahine. The story is set in the 12th century in Arab-ruled Spanish province Andalusia, where famed philosopher Averroes is appointed grand judge by the caliph and his liberal court judgements are not liked by everyone. The caliph's political rivals, centered around the leader of a fanatical Islamic sect, force the caliph to send Averroes into exile, but his ideas keep on living thanks to his students.
Fri., March 1 East Union Ballroom
10:00 a.m., Dr. Laurie Finke from Kenyon College and Dr. Martin Shichtman from Eastern Michigan Unviersity will present "Singing and Dancing on the Edge of an Inferno: Youssef Chahine's Destiny"
Abstract: Youssef Chahine’s Destiny opens with the burning of a heretic and ends with a book burning, attesting to the dangers of philosophy in the culture, politics, and religions of the Christian and Arab worlds of the medieval Mediterranean. The film sets a mythologized version of the 12th century Andalusian philosopher Averroes against aristocratic political cowardice and religious fundamentalism. Most interestingly, Chahine associates song, dance, and poetry with Averroes’ neo-Aristotelianism. Chahine transforms the philosopher’s investment in rationality into an irrepressible desire to enjoy life, to eat and drink, to break out into musical performances. We are interested in why Chahine chooses to make this film a musical of sorts. We intend to lead a discussion about how this coupling of philosophy with song and dance works in the film to contest oppressive state and religious power.
Bios: Martin B. Shichtman is Director of Jewish Studies and Professor of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University and Laurie A. Finke is Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Kenyon College. Together they have written Cinematic Illuminations: The Middle Ages on Film (2009), King Arthur and the Myth of History (2004), and edited Medieval Texts and Contemporary Readers (1987). Shichtman is co-editor, with James P. Carley, of Culture and the King: The Social Implications of the Arthurian Legend (1994). Finke is one of the editors of the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism and author of Feminist Theory, Women’s Writing (1992) and Women’s Writing in Middle English (1998). They have also authored numerous articles on medieval literature, contemporary literary theory, and film.
Chelsea Haramia, Graduate Student from University of Colorado-Boulder will present, "The Axiology of Reacting" on Mon., 2/11/13 at 4:30 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118.
Abstract: Causal determinism challenges the very idea that agents can be responsible for their actions. Because of this, many philosophers argue that if determinism is true, then responsibility, desert, praise, blame, and normativity become pointless, irrational, or nonsensical. But what if we could retain many of our commonsense reactive actions, even as we accept a form of determinism that grants no one responsibility? I argue that we can. I do so by highlighting an overlooked asymmetry between the axiological implications of positive reactions such as praise and negative reactions such as blame. Furthermore, I argue for a restricted account of normativity based largely on our epistemic limitations. Interestingly, it turns out that these arguments reveal ethical concerns that almost everyone can take seriously, regardless of one’s position on free will.
Dr. Naomi Reshotko, University of Denver, will present "Belief, Knowledge and Ignorance" on Fri., 10/19/12 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118.
Abstract: Plato’s three part distinction between Knowledge, Belief and Ignorance at Rp. 467e7-8 is often interpreted as saying that Knowledge, Belief and Ignorance all have different and non-intersecting objects. It is also taken as a paradigm concerning what Plato thought about knowledge throughout the dialogues. This makes it appear that Plato thought that Knowledge and Belief are about different realms with the result that a person could not come to know what was formerly only believed. The result has been the “two-world” interpretation of Plato’s metaphysics: Plato asserted that the world of the Forms is completely separate from the perceptible world, which is an inferior copy of it. I will argue against this interpretation of Rp. 467e7-8 and the claim that it results in a two world theory. I will show that the distinction is meant to play a particular role in the distinction between Lovers of Sights and Sounds and Philosophers at Rp. 475-480. I will argue for a new interpretation of the three part distinction and will show that, rather than using it as a paradigm for understanding Plato’s Epistemology in other works, we should interpret it in light of what the Theaetetus, Timaeus, Cratylus and Gorgias have to say about knowledge, ignorance, belief and the world of perception.
Dr. Tyler Burge, University of California-Los Angeles, will present "Perception: Origins of Mind" on Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 7:30 p.m. in the Wyoming Student Union, East Union Ballroom.
Reading Group Papers: