Volume 2, Issue 2 out now!

Volume 1 December 2019

Fragility, Influence, and Intrinsicality

Patrick Williamson, Australian National University
Winner of Best Paper

Abstract. On David Lewis’ original theory of causation, one event c causes another event e iff the right kind of counterfactuals are true. I outline the original counterfactual analysis before considering the challenge from redundant causation. I note that we might respond to redundant causation by adopting extreme standards of fragility, and that Lewis’ criticisms of fragility are not persuasive. Lewis himself responds to redundant causation by developing an influence account of causation. I argue that influence is too imprecise as an analysis of causation, and that causation and causal influence in any case seem to be two distinct phenomena. I conclude by emphasising that the correct account of causation must allow for the intrinsicality of causal processes. This gives us good grounds for adopting Lewis’ early account of causation as quasi-dependence, regardless of whether or not we view events as fragile. Lewis levelled trenchant criticisms against quasi-dependence, and I conclude by pinpointing the concessions that will, I expect, follow for advocates of quasi-dependence like myself.

Patrick is a philosophy Honours student at the Australian National University. He is currently working on population axiology and the Repugnant Conclusion.

Epistemic Vices: Should Members of Oppressed Groups Vice-Charge?

Kelly Herbison, University of Melbourne
Winner of Best Paper (Member of an Underrepresented Group in Philosophy)

Abstract. Epistemic vices, such as arrogance or closed-mindedness, are vices of an intellectual kind that can affect our belief-forming processes in a selfconcealing manner. Such vices are sometimes undetectable to their possessor, meaning that other members of an epistemic community may be better positioned to address them. Ian Kidd outlines vice-charging as a process whereby individuals or groups can collaborate to address epistemically vicious behaviour. This paper discusses whether members of oppressed groups should vice-charge. I propose that (1) members of oppressed groups have good reasons not to engage in what I call perpetrator-focussed vice-charging, but (2) have good reasons to engage in what I call victim-focussed vice-charging. I label Kidd’s theory as perpetrator-focussed, because on this approach, a charge is successful insofar as it ameliorates the perpetrator’s vice. Members of oppressed groups have good reasons not to conduct perpetrator-focused charges, because by doing so, they risk suffering from what Nora Beranstain calls epistemic exploitation. Such agents do, however, have good reason to make victim-focussed charges. Victim-focussed charges involve a victim of a vice V signalling her condemnation of V to other potential victims of V for the purpose of collectivising. Vice-charging for this function sidesteps the problem that afflicts a perpetrator-focussed practice, while also yielding additional benefits.

Kelly is an Honours student at The University of Melbourne. She is interested in social philosophy; in particular, how to understand and challenge hierarchy.

Models of Rational Inference: Incorporating Higher-Order Evidence

Jake Stone, Australian National University

Abstract. The aim of this paper is to develop a model of rational inference incorporating higher-order evidence (HOE). I conduct this analysis in three stages. First, I show that HOE is evidence of a distinct type as it is agentrelative and undermines an agent’s rationality. Here I largely follow the position adopted by David Christensen, which I take to give strong prima facie plausibility to the idea that there is HOE and that it should modify our initially-formed beliefs by forcing us to bracket our first-order evidence (FOE). Secondly, I discuss some possible models of rational inference incorporating HOE. In particular, steadfasting, in which one prefers FOE, and calibrating, which favours HOE. Finally, I mediate between steadfasting and calibration in order to determine whether Christensen’s position can be sustained. The key question is: how exactly should firstorder and higher-order evidence interact? If we cannot give a good account of the interaction, then Christensen’s position looks less tenable. I argue that if we keep in mind the different perspectives from which we can evaluate rationality – internally and externally – a defensible model emerges.

Jake graduated from Honours in philosophy at the Australian National University in 2018. His main interest is in the application of formal philosophy to artificial intelligence.

Seeing Double: Assessing Kendal Walton’s Views on Painting and Photography

Campbell Rider, University of Melbourne

Abstract. In this paper I consider Kendall Walton’s provocative views on the visual arts, including his approaches to understanding both figurative and nonfigurative painting. I introduce his central notion of fictionality, illustrating its advantages in explaining the phenomenon of ‘perceptual twofoldness’. I argue that Walton’s position treats abstract artwork reductively, and I outline two essential components of our aesthetic encounters with the nonfigurative that Walton excludes. I then offer some criticisms of his commitment to photographic realism, emphasising its theoretical inconsistencies with his account of representation. My own proposal is that in our apprehension of non-figurative artworks, our attention is drawn to the underlying structures of both emotive and perceptual experience. In this way, paintings, particularly abstract ones, disclose human cognition in a manner that makes fictionality an inappropriate tool for their analysis.

Campbell is completing his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne. His main interests include philosophical aesthetics and the history of early modern metaphysics.