International Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

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The Undergraduate Scholars Program, Phi Sigma Tau, the Philosophy Society, and the Department of History and Philosophy held the first International Undergraduate Philosophy Conference at Montana State University. Undergraduate students from across the globe convened in Bozeman September 6-7, 2013 for a philosophical discourse on a variety of topics, including Hegel and voting, human nature and moral responsibility, as well as Kant and the problem of other minds. Dr. Ian Schnee, Western Kentucky University, delivered the conference’s keynote address on “Knowledge, Falsehood, and Gettier Cases”. Submissions were juried by a panel of peers.

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    The Slave Mentality: Morality of Spirit in Hegel's Lordship and Bondage
    (2013-11) Estaver, James
    The master-slave dialectic which occurs in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit represents a crucial role in his ambitious project to cure European culture. At the turn of the 19th century, Hegel perceived Western culture as one inflicted with a pathology of implicitly contradictory dualisms which cause man to be unhappy and divided in himself. In his Phenomenology, Hegel lays bare the philosophical horizon for a system of broadly scoped monisms that will transform man’s cognition and perception of the other through the development of consciousness. The section entitled Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage is critical to Hegel’s dialectical derivation of the development of self-consciousness, the moment when consciousness becomes aware of itself, when recognized by another. This derivation permits an interpretation of Hegel in such a way that a moral structure of relations between two self-consciousnesses can exist. What would form a moral dimension of recognition? Delving further, what would be the nature of this inter-subjective context of morality?The master-slave dialectic which occurs in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit represents a crucial role in his ambitious project to cure European culture. At the turn of the 19th century, Hegel perceived Western culture as one inflicted with a pathology of implicitly contradictory dualisms which cause man to be unhappy and divided in himself. In his Phenomenology, Hegel lays bare the philosophical horizon for a system of broadly scoped monisms that will transform man’s cognition and perception of the other through the development of consciousness. The section entitled Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage is critical to Hegel’s dialectical derivation of the development of self-consciousness, the moment when consciousness becomes aware of itself, when recognized by another. This derivation permits an interpretation of Hegel in such a way that a moral structure of relations between two self-consciousnesses can exist. What would form a moral dimension of recognition? Delving further, what would be the nature of this inter-subjective context of morality?In this discussion, I claim that the morality of Spirit in Hegel’s master-slave dialectic is the recognition of another as a self-consciousness. This recognition, in turn, allows self-consciousness to become certain of itself as a being-for-itself. I argue that recognition is only possible with the psychological state I name the “slave mentality.” In order to derive recognition from the slave mentality, I will identify two psychological states in the dialectic. The first will be the primordial psychological state of self-consciousness, which precedes the initial and inevitable engagement of one self-consciousness with another. The second psychological state will be one that is fashioned in the enslavement of one self-consciousness by another, which will occur after the life and death struggle. Afterwards, I move beyond the dialectic and present a third psychological state, which I will determine to be the final psychological state that is necessary for Spirit and, consequently, for morality.
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    Conference Schedule-International Undergraduate Philosophy Conference at Montana State University
    (2013-09) Mora, Christopher; Kloth, Christopher M.
    The Undergraduate Scholars Program, Phi Sigma Tau, the Philosophy Society, and the Department of History and Philosophy are pleased to announce the first International Undergraduate Philosophy Conference at Montana State University. Undergraduate students from across the globe convened in Bozeman September 6-7, 2013 for a philosophical discourse on a variety of topics, including Hegel and voting, human nature and moral responsibility, as well as Kant and the problem of other minds. Dr. Ian Schnee, Western Kentucky University, delivered the conference’s keynote address on “Knowledge, Falsehood, and Gettier Cases” at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 6, 2013. Reception to follow the talk.
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    Robert Grosseteste, and the History of the Actual Infinite
    (2013-09) Hylwa, Sam
    The problems with the notion of infinity that plagued pre-modern philosophers and mathematicians ever since the introduction of Zeno’s paradoxes are thought to see their first solution in the original and singular accomplishments of the late-19th century German mathematician Georg Cantor. In this paper I argue that a select few Medieval philosophers advanced the concept of the actual infinite from its largely Aristotelian conception to a stage that foreshadowed Cantor’s accomplishments. I emphasize, in particular, the contributions of the 13th century scholastic philosopher Robert Grosseteste, whose work in this arena seems especially under-recognized and deserving of tribute.
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    Common Sense in Favor of Mereological Nihilism?
    (2013-09) Hanson, Michael
    Mereological nihilism, a theory in compositional metaphysics, has long suffered the objection that in virtue of its sheer anti-intuitive nature, it ought not to be believed. This essay seeks to address this objection. To this end this essay will provide a brief account of the nihilist position, an example of the objection that is prototypical, and an original attempt to meet this objection by providing a reasonable example of “common sense” that contains intuitions directed at mereological nihilism.
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    A Defense of Epistemic Intuitions
    (2013-09) Zhao, Helen
    Since the very beginning, intuitions have played a crucial role in philosophical inquiry. When Socrates asks, “What is justice?” he appeals to an innate source of knowledge that inexplicably recognizes examples of justice, even those falling outside the constraints of a definition. Intuition, as this purportedly omniscient source has been deemed, appears not only to exist universally among people, but also to hold some sort of special weight in the evaluation of normative claims—i.e. what the definition of justice should be. Likewise, epistemology in the analytic tradition employs intuitions in its conceptual analysis of knowledge. However, recent work in experimental philosophy, an emerging field that impresses the necessity of empirical data, threatens to overturn the foundations of traditional philosophy by proposing the unreliability of intuitions. According to data gathered by Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich in their paper “Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions,” intuitions are not universal and subject to 1) cultural variation, 2) socioeconomic variation, 3) previous philosophical exposure, and 4) the order in which cases are presented—that is, they are dependent on situational factors. Therefore, intuitions cannot be trusted to make normative epistemic claims. However, I plan to counter Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich by referencing the transparency of intuitions, proposed by Frank Jackson in his paper “On Gettier Holdouts,” in order to reconstruct an understanding of intuition that does not threaten epistemology in the analytic tradition and, furthermore, can be reconciled with experimental philosophy. First, I will deconstruct Weinberg et al.’s argument that intuitions fail to satisfy the Normative Project—the division of epistemology dedicated to understanding how knowledge should be understood—through their discussion of how intuitions vary. Second, I will explain Jackson’s notions of transparent intuitions, representational structures, and the “intuition module.” The last sections of this paper will be dedicated to responding to Weinberg et al. and exploring the implications of experimental philosophy on the Descriptive and Normative Projects of epistemology.
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    Analogy and the Ordering of the Polis in the Republic
    (2013-09) Rusk, Gabriel
    In Plato’s the Republic the polis and intelligible world exist to reciprocally compliment each other. More simply, politics and knowledge have a necessary and reciprocal relationship for Plato. I will argue that this reciprocal relationship is epistemic and functional in nature.
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    Are the Laws of Logic Contingent?
    (2013-09) Cook, Ben
    One question often asked by philosophers is “Might the laws of logic have been different?” That is, are such laws contingent? An affirmative answer to this question in the language of possible world’s semantics would be “There are worlds at which the laws of logic fail to obtain.” For example, our interlocutor here may say that there are worlds at which, say, the conjunction of ‘P ⊃ Q’ with ‘P’ fails to entail ‘Q’ —worlds at which Modus Ponens is invalid. In this paper I’d like to briefly sketch a view which I believe excludes such a possibility. I shall call it the “Worlds-Function View” of the laws of logic. Just why I call it this should become apparent in the proceeding discussion.
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    The Schadenfreude Objection to Geoffrey Sayre-McCord's Defense of Mill's Principle of Utility
    (2013-09) Rogers, Andrew
    In Mill’s “Proof” of the Principle of Utility: A More than Half-Hearted Defense, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord provides a brilliant analysis of Mill’s “Proof”, which turns it from what many saw as a fallacy ridden embarrassment into what appears to be a persuasive argument. I will propose a Schadenfreude Objection to Sayre-McCord’s interpretation of Mill’s argument and argue that unless it is deflected the Schadenfreude Objection will be devastating to Mill’s argument. I will argue that the only way to deflect the Schadenfreude Objection is to deny the transitivity of goodness. I will conclude that by denying the transitivity of goodness we are no longer able to use Mill’s theory to morally prescribe actions, although we can still use it to prove that happiness is a good.
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    Thesis, Antithesis, and Finally, Synthesis: A New Era of Collective Understanding
    (2013-09) Sharma, Amy
    This paper will explain how the Hegelian Dialectic can be found throughout nature in infinitely various aspects, as well as provide in-depth examples of this phenomenon, including psychologically and historically. It will explain how we are now entering the final stage within the Dialectic, as well as the implications this has for the progression of our being, including increasing our access to the collective consciousness, which among other things, aids in our subconscious sensory perception (what others may refer to as “ESP”). Branching off of this, I will touch on the pertinence of dream symbolism on waking life coincidences. I will also briefly explain how the theory of relativity is vital to this understanding, and how modern society interferes with it. Finally, I will conclude with explaining how the Golden Ratio is tied to the Dialectical Pattern.
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    Why Compatibilists cannot resist Prepunishment: A Defense of Smilansky
    (2013-09) Shatsky, Adam
    Prepunishment is to hold a person morally responsible for a crime she has yet to commit. Punishing a person prior to committing a crime is considered wrong due to the fact that the crime has not yet in fact been committed. It is punishing the innocent. Prepunishment, therefore, is morally abhorrent. In a series of recent papers, Saul Smilansky (2007, 2008a, 2008b) argues that compatibilists cannot, in any principled way, reject the temptation to prepunish, which shows compatibilism to be a much more radical view, since it runs counter to our ordinary moral intuitions. Further, Smilansky argues that the common-sense objection–namely, that prepunishment is morally abhorrent–is unavailable to compatibilists because of the fact that one who has not yet committed a crime is a mere temporal matter bearing no moral significance (Robinson 2010, 590).
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    A Scientific Approach to the Politics of Hobbes and Locke
    (2013-09) Firang, Stephen
    Metaphysics the philosophical inquiry into the nature and operations of the universe, was believed by the ancients as a branch of philosophy that could investigate and explain the fundamental nature of the world. As philosophy continued to evolve, science, as a branch of natural philosophy, also transformed philosophy from a rational activity into an empirical activity that derived knowledge from experiments. Drawing upon both Hobbes and Locke’s account of politics and political obligation, the aim of this paper is to analyse whether the study of politics should be modelled with the scientific method. The paper is divided into three segments. The first section provides a brief account of the science of nature, and human nature as a conceptual background to the politics of Hobbes and Locke. Drawing upon scientific principles, section two contrasts and compare the civil science of Locke and Hobbes, and their perception of a scientific law of nature (i.e. natural law). Finally, I argue that Hobbes’ account of politics is more consistent, because the Hobbesian state is governed by fixed scientific laws of nature carried out by an absolute sovereign that maintains law and order. However, it is important to note that this argument is valid insofar as it is based on the proposition that one can deduce political activities the same way one can deduce logical concepts and scientific deductions, since science aims to arrive at indubitable truths, hence a scientific approach to politics should also entail logical and scientific deductions.
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    Human Nature and Moral Responsibility
    (2013-09) Davis, Cameron
    Holding others responsible for and responding resentfully to their wrongdoings are nearly universal practices. A very few philosophers and social activists appear to be the only ones who have ever adopted the idea that one should, seemingly against his nature as a human being, seek to completely abandon his “negative reactive attitudes”, as P.F. Strawson coined them in Freedom and Resentment. The notion that one should suspend all negative reactive attitudes such as anger and resentment is based on the idea of determinism: that all events, choices, and actions are causally determined and thus they cannot happen in any other way—every event is predestined and must occur as part of an immutable sequence of events. Strawson does not refer to a specific type of determinism, but perhaps an explanation of the reasoning behind the main conception of determinism will be helpful.
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    Hedonistic Egoism as a Paradoxical and Insufficient Doctrine for Freedom
    (2013-09) Alexander, Fred
    Resulting from the prevalence of hedonistic egoism within the youth culture and the media targeted to this demographic, this essay offers a brief discussion of hedonistic egoism absent in much of contemporary ethics. Analyzing Fred Feldman’s pure hedonism as discussed in Pleasure and the Good Life: Concerning the Nature, Varieties, and Plausibility of Hedonism, hedonistic egoism is defined as an extension of Feldmanian pure hedonism. Discussing the use of hedonistic egoism in modern society by certain societal groups, especially adolescents and young adults, as a means to seek freedom from certain societal authorities such as the law, or at least portions of it, the differences between negative and positive freedom are explored using Erich Fromm’s Escape From Freedom. It is then argued that when hedonistic egoism is used by individuals to seek freedom, whether it be negative or positive, certain paradoxes arise. Firstly, negative freedom, if existent, will exist merely psychology while, secondly, so far that pleasure and pain act as new authorities and egoism is present, positive freedom becomes an impossibility.
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