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The 2013 IOS Fall Seminar Updates and Information Page

Update, September 26, 2013: All systems are “go” for this Saturday’s seminar, but we’ve had to cancel the pre-seminar dinner originally planned for Friday evening. Dinner plans still afoot for Saturday evening, however.

Here’s the lunch menu for Saturday. Please take a look ahead of time so that we can order early and get it ASAP.

We’ll have coffee on hand, but for the finicky and addicted, there’s a Starbucks about five minutes’ walk down Bloomfield Ave.

Update, September 27, 2013: The building we’re using has Wi-Fi; access codes to be given when we arrive.

Also: if you’re driving in, please park on Darwin Place, to the immediate left of the building (if you’re facing the building). Parking there is free, and available for the whole day.

See you there!

The 2013 IOS Fall Seminar in Philosophy will take place 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday, September 28, 2013 at the Glen Ridge Community Center (228 Ridgewood Ave., Glen Ridge, NJ 07028). The due date for receipt of applications was July 15, 2013.   For more information on the seminar, including schedule and readings, consult the 2013 IOS Seminar Page.

Thomas Eakins, "Baby at Play" (1876)

Thomas Eakins, “Baby at Play” (1876)

Updates and commentary on the Seminar from the IOS Blog (links open in a new window):

April 19, 2013: a quick post on the Seminar’s venue and surroundings.

July 10, 2013: a quick note on, and “change” to, the Armstrong reading.

September 21, 2013: A commentary on the first paragraph of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

Posts on Rand and/vs. Armstrong (on universals) and Prinz (on concepts) forthcoming….

These are questions from student applications and from queries from invited participants (slightly edited); we’ll try to discuss as many as possible at the seminar. 

(1) I find the hierarchy of knowledge confusing, especially with respect to concept formation and definition. For instance, I’d like to see the following principle from Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology made clearer:

To know the exact meaning of the concepts one is using, one must know their definitions, one must be able to retrace the specific logical, not chronological steps by which they were formed, and one must be able to demonstrate their connection to their base in perceptual reality (IOE, p. 50).

I take this passage to mean that abstract concepts are based on other logically related concepts, which are themselves based on related concepts, which can then be traced to particulars. I’d like to examine how this process works through actual examples.

(2) A two-part question:

(a)   How it is that concepts of consciousness are formed, and what specific measurements are applied and omitted in forming them?

(b)  How can conclusive inductive evidence can be gotten about our internal psychological states, when we only have direct access to one mind, our own?

(3) In the first chapter of Prinz’s Furnishing the Mind, Prinz lays out a set of desiderata for a theory of concepts. But the desiderata just consists of an unstructured list. Shouldn’t a set of desiderata for a theory of concepts consist of a structured list—a list that starts with the most fundamental desiderata, and then lays out their logical connection to more derivative ones? On the other hand, it seems problematic that Rand’s account doesn’t even begin with a list, so at least Prinz’s theory has that going for it.

(4) Prinz and Rand are supposed to be empiricists, where “empiricism” supposedly contrasts with “nativism” about concepts. But what does the distinction between ‘empiricism’ and ‘nativism’ amount to? In fact, is it even obvious that Rand is an empiricist? I find the whole issue unclear.

(5) Is Rand’s theory of concepts supposed to be descriptive or normative? In other words, is it a theory of how we actually form concepts, or is it a theory of how we ought to? In the first case, can you have a descriptive theory of concepts that describes the cognitive processes of all human beings as such, but that doesn’t rely at all on the findings of cognitive science? In the second case, is concept-formation supposed to be a rational process, like deliberation?

(6) Rand’s theory of universals just seems like a form of resemblance nominalism. But ‘resemblance’ just doesn’t seem to capture the strong sense of identity we have in mind when we say that the same computer program is running on two computers, or the same song is playing on two stereos. In cases like that, we’re not saying that the two instances merely ‘resemble’ each other; we’re saying that even if they’re spatio-temporally differentiated, the two cases are identical. We need realist universals to capture that sense of identity, and I don’t see how Rand can deliver on that.

(7) I keep reading and re-reading Armstrong’s way of formulating the problem of universals, and I don’t get it. Is it me or is it him? (Three participants have asked this question. I guess this proves that consternation is something you have in common. Right?)

Last updated: September 27, 2013 (IK)

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