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Department of Philosophy|College of Arts & Sciences

Contact Us

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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Previous Colloquium Series Events

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 2015 - Spring 2016

Monday-Tuesday, November 16 & 17, 2015 - Veritas Forum

Dr. Sam Newlands, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame University, will be presenting as part of the Veritas Forum. 

  • Monday, November 16 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building Room 142, Dr. Newlands will present, "Spinoza, Leibniz, and the Metaphysics of Perfection."
    • Abstract: Spinoza seems to reject appeals to perfection in metaphysics, on the grounds that perfection, like good and evil, are too mind-dependent to do any serious explanatory work. However, Spinoza himself invokes perfection throughout his own metaphysics, raising questions of consistency. After resolving this tension, I argue that Spinoza uses his purely metaphysical account of perfection to reach startling ontological conclusions. I then turn to two advocates of similar accounts of metaphysical perfection, hailing from very different eras: the young Leibniz and Jonathan Schaffer. Lastly, I question whether Leibniz can maintain his starkest account of metaphysical perfection and avoid substance monism.
  • Tuesday, November 17 at 7:00 p.m. in the A&S Auditorium will be a public lecture by Dr. Newlands and Dr. Susanna Goodin (UW), "Reckoning with Evil; God, Hope, and Philosophy." 
  • Thursday, November 19 there will be a follow up dinner and discussion hosted by the Philosophy Club at 6:00 p.m. in CR 118

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dr. David Shoemaker, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Tulane University, will present "Empathy, Psychopathy, and Responsibility" on Friday, November 20, 2015 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118.

  • Abstract: A promising strategy for figuring out what makes paradigm agents morally responsible is looking at “marginal agents,” people who seem to have one foot in and one foot out of the moral responsibility community, in order to see what’s missing in them that is necessary for paradigm moral agency. The go-to marginal agent for many moral theorists interested in this strategy has been psychopaths. For those thinking they are not morally responsible, it has been thought to be in virtue of their incapacity for (or mitigated) empathy. Consequently, empathy is thought to be one necessary condition for paradigm moral responsibility.

    However, there have been three major recent attacks on the thought that empathy is necessary for morality, namely, (a) we’re just too bad at it for it to be a condition for morality, (b) empathy is actually morally pernicious; and (c) the moral understanding allegedly delivered by empathy can be reached in numerous alternative ways. In this presentation, I will show how empathy really is essential for moral responsibility, and in so doing I will defend it from all three of these attacks. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dr. Robin Hill, University of Wyoming presented "What is the Epistemology of Wayward Web Search?" 

Abstract: The epistemology of web search should reveal something about search as a method of knowledge acquisition, or something about knowledge itself, or even something about the World-Wide Web.  Search, treated as testimony, is an attempt to fill a knowledge gap surrounded by rich context.  In a library or conversational setting, that context is readily available, but not when search executes only the method of pattern-matching on a search string.

Web search failures, in particular, are revealing, as results returned often show misdirection of some reference.  When the result is true in spite of that, this search blunder resembles the Gettier problem, except that Gettier problems in human conversation are easily rectified. Informally, the transfer from web page to search engine severs the  low of semantics.

Floridi's principles for knowledge give a platform for explanation. The erotetic model invoked requires that an item of information be expressible as a question, carrying all of the context, with a binary answer.  Failing that requirement means that the further criteria of correctness and relevance are not achieved; hence the aleatorization of information cannot be resolved, raising the question whether knowledge can still be delivered.

Fall 2014 - Spring 2015

Mon., September 29, 2014

Dr. Naomi Reshotko, University of Denver, presented "Plato's Epistemological Paradox and Plato's Epistemological Project" 

  • Abstract: Plato’s primary epistemological project is to figure out what an object has to be like in order for it to be a possible object of knowledge while maintaining a high bar for what counts as knowledge.  Maintaining that there are such objects serves as the bottom line for putting together his theory of what knowledge is and whether or not human beings can have any.  Despite finding that these metaphysical considerations set up a paradoxical set of criteria for human knowledge.  Plato rejects neither the assumptions nor attempts to resolve the paradox and proceeds to come up with the best theory of human knowledge that these assumptions allow.

Fri., October 24, 2014

Dr. David Boonin, University of Colorado-Boulder, presented "The Experience Machine: Debunking the Debunking Arguments"

  • Abstract: “Suppose there was an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired.   Super-duper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book.  All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, preprogramming your life experiences?”  Many philosophers believe that this thought experiment, first proposed by Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State and Utopia, can be used to generate a serious objection to the hedonistic account of human well-being.  Others, though, have developed a variety of responses to this objection.  These responses all attempt, in one way or another, to explain away the intuitions that most people seem to have about the case.  In this talk, Professor Boonin will explain the experience machine thought experiment and the strong objection to hedonism that is widely believed to be grounded in people’s intuitive responses to it.  He will then discuss the various debunking arguments that attempt to undermine the objection and will argue that none of them are successful.

Monday, November 17

Ph.D. Candidate, Joey Stenberg,  University of Colorado - Boulder, will present "Happiness on Earth (kind of) as it is in Heaven: Aquinas on Imperfect Happiness," on Mon., November 17, 2014 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118.

  • Abstract: What does it take to be happy here and now? Thomas Aquinas clearly wants to answer this question and central to his answer is the claim that happiness here and now is importantly like the happiness the saints enjoy in heaven. However, there is disagreement about how earthly happiness is like heavenly happiness and, consequently, there is disagreement about how we should understand Aquinas's answer to the question: What does it take to be happy here and now?

    In this paper, I argue that the two most common interpretations of Aquinas on this point are mistaken. I then advance a novel interpretation according to which Aquinas believes that what it is to be happy here and now is to be engaged in and enjoying a genuinely good activity. I take it that, on this interpretation, Aquinas's account is plausible, even when compared to contemporary accounts of what makes a human life go well for the one living it.

Friday, March 6

Dr. Edward Sherline, University of Wyoming, will present, "A Defense of the Balancing Model of Reasoning," on Fri., March 6, 2015 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118.

Friday, April 10

John Poland, former UW Graduate Student, will present at 5:00 in the Classroom Building, Room 118.

Friday, April 17 - Cancelled due to weather

Dr. Chris Heathwood, CU-Boulder, University of Colorado - Boulder, will present "Which Desires Are Relevant to Well-Being?" on Fri., April 17, 2015 at 4:10 p.m. in the Classroom Building, Room 118.

  • Abstract: On the simplest version of the desire-satisfaction theory of welfare, how well off one is is determined by the extent to which one’s desires are satisfied.  Many desire theories depart from this simple form, for example by appealing to one’s idealized desires rather than one’s actual desires, or by restricting to one’s self-regarding desires, one’s global desires, one’s non-moral desires, or one of a number of other popular restrictions.  I don’t accept any of these restrictions or any kind of idealization, but there is a distinction among desires that is less discussed in the well-being literature that I believe is fundamentally axiologically relevant.  This is the distinction between what a person wants in a merely behavioral sense, in that he is simply disposed to act so as to get it, and what a person wants in a more ordinary sense, the sense of being genuinely attracted to the thing.  In this paper, I try to make this distinction more clear, and I put it to work in solving four problem cases for the desire theory of welfare.

Fall 2013 - Spring 2014

Wed., March 5, 2014

Kacey Brooke Warren, PhD Candidate at University of Colorado-Boulder, presented "Political Surrogacy and Relational Entitlements: A Critique of Martha Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach”

  • Abstract: Martha Nussbaum offers a robust vision of justice in terms of capability that she contends is capable of handing the most difficult cases. In recent work, she suggests that her capabilities approach supports a range of accommodations to make voting accessible and feasible for citizens with cognitive disabilities, including surrogate voting in the instance of profound cognitive impairment. While I acknowledge that some will find Nussbaum's conclusion contentious, this paper starts from the assumption that she is correct and seeks determine whether and to what extent her capabilities approach can support this conclusion. I argue that it cannot, given that is rigidly individualist. My analysis reveals the relational nature of the entitlement and highlights the need for an approach to justice that moves beyond individual capabilities.

Thurs., November 14, 2013

Dr. Sarah Conly, of Bowdoin College, presented "One Child: Do We Have a Right to More?"

  • Abstract: This prompts the question whether, for the sake of the preservation of liberty, we might not do the best thing by limiting how many children people can have in order to reduce the population.  I will argue that, if there is a sufficient danger of environmental degradation, the state would be justified in trying to constrain the number of children we have.  Unfortunately, when we think of state regulations on procreation, we immediately think of forced abortions and sterilizations, and conclude that any such regulations are morally wrong.  I agree, forced abortions and sterilizations are unacceptable abuses of individual rights.  However, the fact that it’s wrong to prevent an action in certain ways doesn’t actually mean we have a right to perform the action that those unjust sanctions are intended to prevent. So, even if we justifiably conclude that forced sterilizations and such shouldn’t be allowed, it is still possible that government regulations on how many children you have could be morally permissible.  I argue that while we may have a right to reproduce, it doesn’t follow that from that that we have a right to produce more than one child per person. I argue that we don’t have a strong interest in having more than one child, and that furthermore rights we do have do not yield a right to have howsoever many children one may happen to want.  Secondly, I argue that in certain circumstances—not too distant from our own—the state has a legitimate interest in controlling population by constraining the number of children individuals produce, as long as it does that in morally acceptable ways.

Sponsor: Kaiser Ethics Endowment

Fri., October 25, 2013

Dr. John Christman, of Penn State University, presented "Oppression and the Conceptual Politics of Freedom"

  • Abstract: It should be a motive for philosophers who give detailed accounts of normative concepts to keep tabs on the general uses of those concepts, especially insofar as such ideas serve a profound motivational function in public discourse. Under the non-ideal conditions of political life, philosophical understandings of central normative concepts should help diagnose those non-ideal conditions as well as illuminate what motivates those who strive to escape or change them. One concept that should especially bother us in this regard is the idea of freedom. Freedom, in what we could call the aspirational, or “rallying cry” sense -- the sense that is expressed when people spur each other to action in a social struggle -- should inform our theorizing about that idea in more rarified philosophical contexts. Freedom must be understood, then, in a way that makes sense of, not only its general value, but its profound import, one which is captured in countless slogans, songs and speeches. More specifically, in such contexts, the idea of freedom appears to refer consistently to escape or overcoming (“we shall overcome…”), and in particular to overcoming particular systemic obstacles that people face as a group. In this paper I look at the idea of freedom as it might be used in non-ideal contexts where it not only picks out something of value but something thought worthy of great sacrifice. I will contend that the dominant approaches to the idea of freedom in the philosophical literature generally do not achieve this end. Consequently, I propose to understand freedom as a kind of liberation, namely escape from conditions (which I will label “oppressive”) which block the establishment of the basic requirements of justice, and I argue that this best captures the use of that idea of much public political discourse.

Sponsor: Kaiser Ethics Endowment

Fri., October 18, 2013 

Dr. Mitzi Lee, University of Colorado-Boulder, presented "Greed and Justice in Aristotle's Ethics"

  • Abstract: What’s wrong with greed? It has been variously understood as a sin against God, or as a character flaw consisting of an addiction to the pleasure that comes from gain. However, when Aristotle identifies injustice with greed, or pleonexia, he has something else in mind. As I argue, what Aristotle has in mind by ‘greed’ is not simply excessive attachment to profit and gain for oneself, but two characteristic cognitive mistakes that go along with it: (i) the tendency to overestimate the benefit one will derive from material goods, and (ii) the tendency to give undue weight to one’s own interests in making judgments about proportionality and desert. Greed has the effect of corrupting our ability to make accurate and impartial comparative judgments about proportionality, equality, and fairness, when the interests of others are at stake. This is the reason why Aristotle identifies pleonexia as the cause of injustice.
Fri., October 11, 2013

Dr. Joe Ulatowski, University of Texas-El Paso, presented “Raider of the Lost Lecture: Or, How Anscombe May Have Trumped the Knobe Effect” 

  • Abstract: In his most ground-breaking work, Joshua Knobe (2003) discovered that most people believed that an agent brought about a side effect intentionally when they regard that side effect as morally bad than when they regard that side effect as morally good. What is ground-breaking about Knobe's work is that no action theorist seemed to have considered that ordinary judgments of intentionality depended upon the moral evaluation of some action or its side effect. Since the paramount concern of action theory is to devise an account of intentional action consistent with ordinary judgments and since no action theorist had thought to ask ordinary person's for their view of intentional action, we have praised the work of Knobe for the experimental data he collected, disseminated, and analyzed. If it were discovered that Knobe's ground-breaking thesis had been uncovered by an armchair philosopher, one who hasn't collected any data from ordinary persons, then that would likely alter our view of the importance not only of Knobe's fine work but also of the experimental philosophy venture as well. In this paper, by performing some bit of textual excavation, I show how Anscombe had anticipated and trumped Knobe's finding. In a rarely cited and commonly overlooked lecture, "Good and Bad Human Action," Anscombe discusses what looks like the Knobe effect. This seems to show that armchair philosophy is just as reliable a source for ordinary judgments of intentionality as performing any experiment to uncover it. I conclude with a bit of speculation: given what Anscombe argued, ought we turn away from experimental philosophy leaving all analyses of ordinary judgments to armchair philosophers or ought we undertake experimental philosophy merely as a way of testing and perhaps further refining armchair analyses. Either way, this bit of philosophical archaeology doesn't seem to bode all too well for the relevance of experimental philosophy.
9/19/13-9/20/13 Goode Symposium

Sponsored by the Goode Family Excellence Fund in Humanities, Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research, and Gladys Crane Film Fund

Thursday, September 19

  • Dr. William Eamon of New Mexico State University, presented "Medicine as a Hunt: The Pursuit of Secrets in Renaissance Science"
    • Abstract: Basically, I aimed to incorporate some of the themes you suggested, about medicine, language, and so forth. I'm going to talk about the metaphor of science/medicine as a hunt in the Renaissance and its implications for early modern medicine and natural history.
  • Dr. John Slater of University of Colorado-Boulder, presented "Medical Satire & the Language of Alchemy in 17th Century Spain”
    • Abstract: For the past 50 years, historians of science have understood the emergence of alchemical or chemical medicine during the 1680's to signal the dawn of scientific modernity in Spain.  At the same time, literary historians traditionally have identified the death of Pedro Calderón de la Barca in 1681 as marking the end of the Golden Age. It is, in some dubious tellings, as if the embers of artistic and literary greatness had to be extinguished in order to permit the flourishing of something innovative, international, and properly scientific.  Viewing the Spanish Baroque as an impediment to scientific and medical development overlooks the role that important writers—playwrights, preachers, and poets—played in making possible novel therapeutic practices related to chemical medicine.  Drawing on the works of Quevedo and Calderón, among others, this talk will examine how medical satire and dramatic tropes helped facilitate new medical and alchemical practices, as well as create rhetorical spaces for new alchemical discourses
    • Movie "Roujin Z"
    • This film is a savage satire about healthcare for the aged in the 21st century. As the story opens, scientists are alarmed that there are too many old people. A group of scientists and hospital administrators, under the direction of the Ministry of Public Welfare, develop a computerized hospital bed with robotic features. The Z-001 takes complete care of the patient and is driven by its own built-in nuclear power reactor. A compassionate young nurse, determined to help an elderly man strapped to one of these revolutionary healthcare beds, starts a series of unexpected consequences. Thus begins a wild chase through the busy streets of Tokyo as the supercomputer/bed/life-support system begins to have the personality of the old man's ex-wife (who just wants to spend the afternoon at the beach) as the government's secret project unfolds.  Written by major anime figure Katsuhiro Otomo, whose “Akira” (1990) was an animated vision of a nightmare future urban world.

Friday, September 20

Dr. Amy Vidali of University of Colorado-Boulder, presented "Tipping the Pain Scale: Past and Present Narratives of Gastrointestinal Disorder and Distress”

  • Abstract: This talk considers representations of gastrointestinal disorder and distress in women by examining nineteenth century and contemporary medical discourse, with attention to the loss of patient narrative in an age of pain assessment, and the role of advertisements that encourage women to self-diagnose and cure loosely-identified GI problems.

Fall 2012 - Spring 2013

Mon., April 8, 2013
Dr. Robin Hill, Coordinator of Instructional Computing and Adjunct Philosophy Professor
"What An Algorithm Is"

2/28/13-3/1/13 Goode Symposium

Sponsored by the Goode Family Excellence Fund in Humanities

Thurs., Feb 28th 

  • Dr. Robert Pasnau of University of Colorado-Boulder, "Divisions of Epistemic Labor: Some Remarks on the History of Fideism and Esotericism"

  • Dr. Brian Catlos of University of Colorado-Boulder, ""According to Right and Reason...” the Conundrum of Religious Diversity and Secular Law in the Medieval Mediterranean.”

  • Movie "Destiny"

Fri., March 1 

  • 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"

Chelsea Haramia, University of Colorado-Boulder, Ph.D. candidate presented "The Axiology of Reacting"

Dr. Naomi Reshotko, University of Denver presented "Belief, Knowledge and Ignorance"

Tyler Burge, University of California-Los Angeles presented"Perception: Origins of Mind"

Fall 2011

Richard Kraut, Northwestern University presented "Against Absolute Goodness"

Tyler Hildebrand, Colorado State University, M.A. candidate presented "Genuine Empirical Metaphysics"

Susan Wolf, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill presented "Good-for-nothings"

Ned Markosian, Western Washington University presented "A New Answer to the Special Composition Question"

Fall 2010 - Spring 2011

Pablo Zavala, UW Graduate Student presented "Ideally Necessary Laws of Nature"

Candace Upton, University of Denver presented "One-Off Situations and Direct v.s. Indirect Virtue Ethical Theories"

Carlos Mellizo, University of Wyoming presented "Philosophy and Literature: On Literary Plots or Why Godot Never Shows Up"

Candice Shelby, University of Colorado-Denver presented "A Semanitc Approach to Understanding Addictive Thinking"

Dennis Whitcomb, Washington State University presented "Grounding and Omniscience"

Amandine Catala, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Colorado-Boulder presented "Beyond Political Legitimacy: Reframing the Normative Question of Secession"

Stephen Darwalll, Professor of Philosophy at Yale University presented "Bipolar Obligations" 

Christian Lee, Graduate Student at the University of Colorado-Boulder presented "Intrinsic and Conditional Final Value"

Jan Zwicky, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Victoria in Canada presented "Alcibiades' Love"

Juan Arnau of the University of Barcelona presented "Philosophy on Stage: Theatricality and Logic in Ancient India,"

Julia Driver, of Washington University in St. Louis presented "Defending Objective Consequentialism," 

Roy Sorensen, of Washington University in St. Louis presented "Veridical Idealizations"

Fall 2009 - Spring 2010

Ian Harmon, UW Graduate Student in Philosophy presented "Specificity and Know How Attribution"

Phil Holt, UW Professor of Classics presented "The Trial of Socrates, in Context. or, Did Socrates Have it Coming?"

Franz-Peter Griesmaier, UW Professor of Philosophy presented "Induction and Modal Commitment"

Andrew Seremetis, UW Graduate Student presented "Can Funtionalism Accommodate Extended Cognition?"

Joe Mayes, UW Graduate Student presented "Intention and Permissibility: on the Highway to Hell?"

Thomas Metcalf, PhD Student at University of Colorado-Boulder presented "Synthetic Identificationism and the Normativity of Epistemic Justification"

Manuel Escamilla, Professor at the University of Granada-Spain presented "The City with Almost Perpendicular Streets: Mill & the Liberation of Women"
Matt McGrath, Professor at University of Missouri-Columbia presented "Knowledge and Reasons"

9/1/09 - Kaiser Ethics lecture
Thomas Pogge, Leitner Professor of Philosophy & International Affairs of Yale University presented "Health Care Reform for the U.S. and the World's Poor" & "How to Understand Kant's Transcendental Idealism"

Fall 2008 - Spring 2009

Carlos Mellizo presented "Mill on Religion: A New Look"
Robert Koons presented Click here to view his talk.
John Bengson presented "Intuition, Causation, and Explanation"
David Barnett presented "Counterfactual Entailment"

Nicholas D. Smith presented "Plato on the Power of Ignorance"
Steve Crowley presented "Intuition & Calibration"
David Sosa presented "Epistemic Luck"
Jason Hanna presented "Ulysses Contracts and the Significance of Consent"
Joe Ulatowski presented "Persisting Acts"
Jason Wyckoff presented "Can Gratitude Serve as a Basis for Political Obligation?"

Fall 2007 - Spring 2008

May 13 - 17, 2008
Society for Exact Philosophy Conference

Meta-Ethics Mini-Conference:
Beth Tropman, "Renewing Moral Intuitionism"
Mark van Roojen, "Moral Rationalism and Rational Amoralism"
Carlos Mellizo presented "Nature and the City or The Utility of Hunting"
Bob Hanna presented "Consciousness and Essential Embodiment"
Audrey King presented "Justice, Development, and Just Development: An Institutional Analysis of Development"
Christina Van Dyke presented "Ethical Vegetarianism: Feminist Obligation or Patriarchal Burden?"

Fall 2006 - Spring 2007

Andy Egan
"Billboards, Bombs and Shotgun Weddings: A Case for Content Relativism"

10/8/06, Kaiser Ethics Lecture
Stephen J. Macedo
"US Immigration Policy & Social Justice
Tait Szabo
"Sex and Commerce: Feminist Approaches "

Fall 2005 - Spring 2006

Dave Chalmers
"The Matrix as Metaphysics" and "Probability and Propositions."

Elliot Sober
"The Design Argument" and "Epiphenomenalism - Do's and Don'ts"
Bernie Rollin
"Science, Society, and the Value of Good Philosophy"

Fall 2004 - Spring 2005

Franz-Peter Griesmaier
"Norms of Rationality and Levels of Epistemic Sophistication"
George Sher
"When Good People do BadThings"
Carlos Mellizo
"Francisco Sanchez of Tui (1550-1623) & the New Science"
Robert Pasnau
"After Medieval Philosophy, What? An Essay on Periodization"
Ronald Giere
"Scientific Perspectives"

John Bengson
"How to See With Your Eyes Shut"
Abigail Gosselin
"Causal Considerations a Poverty"
Jim Forrester
"Why are the late Platonic Dialogues so Strange"
Brendan Jackson
"Areas of Research: Philosophy of Language; Metaphysics; Metaethics"

Spring 2004

Christopher Shields
"Diachronic Unity: The Ship of Theseus and Theseus the Man"
George Sher
"Out of Control: On the Relation Between Being In Control of What We Do and Being Responsible For It"
Carlos Mellizo
"Hume and Institutional Theory"
Philip Cafaro
"Thoreau's Environmental Ethics: 150 Years After Walden"

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