Sara Bernstein (Notre Dame), Could a Middle Level be the Most Fundamental?, February 20th 4:00-6:00, room GC 5307
Debates over what is fundamental assume that what is fundamental must be either a “top” level (roughly, the biggest or highest-level thing), or a “bottom” level (roughly, the smallest or lowest-level things). Here I sketch a middle view between top-ism and bottom-ism, that a middle level could be the most fundamental, and argue for its possibility. I then suggest that this view satisfies the desiderata of asymmetry, irreflexivity, intransitivity, and well-foundedness of fundamentality, and that it is on par with the explanatory power of top-ism and bottom-ism.
Ellen Fridland (King’s College London), A Theory of Skilled Action Control, September 26th 4:00-6:00 pm, CUNY GC Rm 5307
In this talk, I will sketch a theory of skill, which puts control at the center of the account. First, I present a definition of skill that integrates several essential features of skill that are often ignored or sidelined on other theories. In the second section, I spell out how we should think of the intentions involved in skilled actions and in the third section, I discuss why deliberate practice and not just experience, repetition, or exposure is required for skill development. In the fourth section, I claim that practice produces control and go on to spell out the notion of control relevant for a theory of skill. In the final section, I briefly outline three kinds of control that develop as a result of practice and which manifest the skillfulness of skilled action. They are strategic control, attention control, and motor control.
Robin Dembroff (Yale), October 17th 4:00-6:00 pm, Positions in Patriarchy: Retooling the Metaphysics of Gender, CUNY GC Rm 5307
Decades of feminist theory have approached the question ‘what is gender?’ with an eye to gender as a system — in particular, the system that creates and sustains patriarchy. Using this approach, feminists have proposed theories of gender focused on the social positions that persons occupy within a patriarchal system. However, these analyses almost uniformly assume a gender binary (men & women), and so look for corresponding, binary social positions. In this talk, I defend the importance of position-based metaphysics of gender, but challenge the assumption that positions in patriarchy can be captured in a binary. Rather than throw out the baby with the bath water, I’ll propose an alternative position-based approach. It begins with modeling the key axes of the patriarchal ‘blueprint’, or the shared beliefs, norms, and attitudes at the core of dominant, western gender ideology. I’ll then build a framework for describing the variety of positions that persons can collectively occupy in relation to this blueprint. A central upshot is that metaphysics intended to illuminate and debunk gender as imagined within the western patriarchal system fails to sufficiently achieve this end when it presupposes the same binary framework. The categories men and women, I’ll argue, are not primarily descriptive, but rather, contested tools with the central function of reinforcing or revising social power.
Jessica Collins (Columbia), Learning True and Making True, November 21st 4:00-6:00 pm, room CUNY GC 5307
I offer a direct argument for so-called “causal decision theory”, an argument that doesn’t depend on intuitions about wildly outlandish problem cases. The argument proceeds immediately from a distinction drawn by Frank Ramsey between the attitudes one takes towards (1) making something true and (2) merely learning that something is true. According to this argument, commitment to the theory is simply a prerequisite for viewing oneself as having and exercising agency in the world, i.e. for adopting the first-person deliberative stance. This view fits nicely with the kind of compatibilism defended recently by Jenann Ismael, in which human agents are seen as “little causal hubs” with a quite special control structure, “built to collect influence from across the landscape and filter it through a decision process that guides behavior”.