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Department of Philosophy|College of Arts & Sciences

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Department of Philosophy
Department Head:
Franz-Peter Griesmaier
Office Associate:
Clayleen Rivord
Ross Hall, Room 122
Dept. 3392
1000 E. University Ave
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: 307-766-3204
Fax: 307-766-2096
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Colloquium Series

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.

Fall 2016 - Spring 2017

Friday, 9/30/16

Dr. Robert Cummins, Professor Emeritus, University of California at Davis, will present "Physicalism, Functionalism and Autonomous Explanation" on Friday, September 30, 2016 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118. 

  • Abstract: Perhaps the dominant project in late the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries in analytic philosophy was the attempt to naturalize mental content. This project was a reaction to the introduction of functionalism in the philosophy of mind by Hilary Putnam. If mental states are functional states, then, like all functional states, they are multiply realizable, and hence not subject to reduction to states that are unproblematically physical. Science friendly philosophers of mind could point out that the state of being a set mouse trap doesn’t reduce either, and no one is a dualist about mouse traps. While dialectially effective, this move leaves dualism an open possibility. Hence, the concerted effort to naturalize mental states generally, and intentionality—mental content—in particular. Left out of this discussion for the most part was the obvious fact that functional analysis is ubiquitous in the sciences and engineering generally. Should we be trying to naturalize the property of being a resistor, or gene, or heart?

    In this paper, I argue that a proper understanding of functional analysis should lead us to abandon reductionism as traditionally conceived, but that it also provides us with a framework in which we can replace reduction hierarchies with function-implementation hierarchies. This framework allows for autonomous functional explanation while enforcing a physicalist friendly requirement on the confirmation of functional analyses.

Thurs., 9/8/16 and Fri., 9/9/16

Dr. Tim Dare, University of Auckland, New Zealand, will present "Predictive Risk Modeling as Screening: An Ethical Analysis" on Thursday, September 8, 2016 at 6:15 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 215. 

  • Abstract: Predictive Risk Modeling (PRM) tools use automated algorithms to generate risk scores for the probability of some future event or state of affairs. Such tools may deliver considerable benefits in social policy contexts. However PRM also brings significant ethical risks and costs, including predictable false positives, the possible stigmatization of already vulnerable populations, the use of data without consent, and difficulties in designing and implementing effective interventions. Not surprisingly, PRM has been treated with suspicion in social policy contexts.   This paper is part of a larger project addressing the ethics of predictive risk modeling (PRM) in such contexts.  It takes a PRM developed in New Zealand for use in child protection as its focus and treats it as a screening tool, applying and extending existing ethical analysis of such tools in order to identify and assess one cluster of ethical concerns about PRM.  Doing so clarifies both some worries about the use of PRM in social policy contexts and the proper interpretation of existing conditions for ethical screening.

Dr. Justine Kingsbury, Waikato University, New Zealand, will present "Conceptual Housekeeping," on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118.

  • Abstract: In this paper I consider some kinds of conceptual untidiness and how to respond to them. A concept might be incoherent given our best science (as is the case with NEWTONIAN MASS and arguably with FREE WILL), or it may lump together a collection of things that are not genuinely of the same kind (as is the case with JADE and with INNATENESS), or it may be spuriously precise (HEXADECAROON: a person who is exactly one-sixteenth black). Philosophers such as Frank Jackson are inclined to hold on to such concepts as FREE WILL, while admitting that strictly speaking nothing in the actual world corresponds to them. They take their job to be finding the right successor concept, which will be close enough to what we normally mean by "free will" to be worthy of the name. In this paper I discuss this and competing responses to conceptual untidiness.

Prior academic year events can be viewed in the "past events" link.

Be sure to check back for more information on future lectures.

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Dinner reception with Dr. Adam Thompson

Dr. Adam Thompson
The Department enjoys some down time after a wonderful lecture provided by former MA student, Dr. Adam Thompson.

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