Philosophy in Utah

October 27, 2015

U of U Colloquium: Christopher Menzel (Texas A & M)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 9:01 am

Friday (10/30), 2:30 p.m.: “In Defense of the Actualism/Possibilism Distinction”

Actualism is the thesis that, necessarily, whatever is, in the broadest sense, exists, or is actual. Actualism is typically contrasted with possibilism, the thesis that being comes in two “flavors”: actuality — the particularly robust type of being enjoyed by concrete things like you and me as well as necessarily existing things like numbers and pure sets — and mere possibility, the rather more wan type of being exhibited by such things as the Pope’s possible children, i.e., things that are not actual but could have been. Actualism can then alternatively be defined as the view that there neither are nor could have been any merely possible things. In his recent book Modal Logic as Metaphysics, Timothy Williamson has argued that the actualism/possibilism distinction is “badly confused” and, indeed, “hopelessly muddled”, and that the issues at stake in modal metaphysics that had been expressed in terms of the distinction are far more clearly and, hence, more usefully expressed in terms of a distinction between what he calls necessitism and contingentism. In this talk, after sketching the historical origins of the actualism/possibilism distinction, I will argue (a) that the distinction is in fact entirely clear and (b) that, given the machinery Williamson needs to defend his preferred necessitism/contingentism distinction, the two distinctions are interdefinable and, hence, that neither is clearer or more rigorous than the other. I will close by suggesting some reasons why the actualism/possibilism distinction might indeed be preferred to Williamson’s distinction.


October 22, 2015

2015 Intermountain Philosophy Conference: Idaho State University

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 10:30 am

Intermountain 2015 poster 2

The 2015 Intermountain Philosophy Conference will be November 6th. Host Russell Wahl writes, “We will begin with a lunch in the Bengal Cafe on the second floor of the student union building on the ISU campus.  There is parking in the lot next to the union, but I need to know how many out of town cars will be coming so that I can obtain parking passes for that afternoon. I can then have someone at the door to the union give out the passes.I also need to know roughly how many people will be coming to the conference so I can arrange enough food for lunch. As you can see, we have a diverse program beginning with a keynote address by Charlie Huenemann at one pm. I am also attaching the abstracts for the papers The sessions will be in the Salmon River Rooms on the third floor of the Student Union Building.

IMPC schedule
Abstracts of talks for the Intermountain Philosophy Conference 6 November 2015

October 19, 2015

U of U Colloquium: Meghan Sullivan (Notre Dame)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 1:18 pm

Friday, October 23rd, 2:30 p.m.

Abstract: “Time Bias and Non-Hedonic Value”

An important part of the value we place in many activities depends on our beliefs about how these activities relate to those of other people, including those who existed before our birth and those who have yet to be born. Some philosophers—most recently Samuel Scheffler—have claimed that this sort of valuing is significantly time biased: what matters to us crucially depends on our relation to people who will live in the near future, and less so—or even not at all—on our relation to people of the distant future or the past.  In this talk, I’ll present thought experiments aimed to show that this thesis is false: the temporal location of another person, by itself, does not systematically affect our valuing. The first part of the talk develops and defends a temporally neutral account of such valuing.   I then apply the theory to a longstanding puzzle of meaning nihilism pressed by Leo Tolstoy and others: Given that one day humanity will end and all will be forgotten, aren’t our lives meaningless? I’ll argue that this puzzle is generated by an inconsistent application of time-neutral and time-biased theories of non-hedonic value. Once the inconsistency is removed, the problem disappears.

October 13, 2015

2016 SUU undergraduate philosophy conference CFP

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 1:07 pm

2016 Southern Utah University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

Call for Papers
Please address any questions to Dr. Kristopher Phillips (
The Southern Utah University Philosophy Program is pleased to announce our 2016 Undergraduate Philosophy Conference!
The conference will be held on Saturday, February 6th.

Dr. Brian Collins (California Lutheran) will provide the keynote address (title TBA). We invite high quality papers from undergraduate students in all areas of analytic philosophy (broadly construed). Papers should be between 2000-3000 words, should include an abstract of about 200 words, and should be prepared for blind review (please include full contact and affiliation information in your submission email only).

Please submit your papers as a word or .pdf file to by December 20th 2015.

September 17, 2015

2015 Intermountain Philosophy Conference

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 10:15 am

10th Annual Intermountain Philosophy Conference

Idaho State University

November 6, 2015

Call For Papers

Please submit 300-word abstracts (suitable for 20-minute presentations) by October 9, 2015 to Russell Wahl at

September 15, 2015

“Hispanic Paradox” Epidemiology at U of U

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 10:37 am

This Friday (9/18), 2 pm, in the U of U’s philosophy department: Sean Valles (MSU), “The Challenges of Choosing and Explaining Phenomena in “Hispanic Paradox” Epidemiology”

Abstract: For over three decades, epidemiologist have been actively debating how to explain the “Hispanic Paradox,” data indicating that US Hispanics are (or at least appear to be) far healthier than would be expected given their relatively low average socioeconomic status. Using the “phenomenon choice” framework I developed in a 2010 paper, I argue that a key obstacle to explaining the Hispanic Paradox is that Hispanic Paradox researchers have been partly talking past one another, due to a (largely unspoken) disagreement about exactly what phenomenon needs to be explained. I also illustrate that such research is further impeded by the peculiar historical and demographic meaning of “Hispanic.” I conclude with a discussion of some of the ethical and policy issues raised by these technical challenges in epidemiological research design and practice, and I provide suggestions for how to proceed in light of those issues.

April 6, 2015

“Liberalism, autonomy, and the agent-constitution of the good”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 3:49 pm

Brent Kious, UU School of Medicine, April 10th, 2:30 p.m., Humanities Building, room 459

Abstract: The view that we have a moral obligation to allow other persons to choose how to lead their own lives, provided that they exhibit certain rational capacities, is widely accepted.  Let’s call this view moral liberalism (to distinguish it from the political sort).  One putative justification for moral liberalism is pluralism about the good: if there are many different versions of the good life—a fact that may be evinced by intractable disagreements about it—then each of us should be free to choose for herself how to live.  One strong but widely-accepted version of pluralism is agent-constitution: on this view, the good is plural because agents, if they exhibit the rational capacities that mark them as autonomous, constitute their own good by choosing it.
Despite its appeal, I will argue that even a plausibly qualified version of agent-constitution must be false: agents, irrespective of their psychological characteristics, can be mistaken about the relative merits of their aims and goals.  It is, first, clear that agents do not have authority regarding the relative merits of their aims when interpersonal moral requirements impinge on them.  We can imagine scenarios where an agent may harm others to advance one of his aims, but may not cause the same harms to advance another—implying the former is more important than the latter from the interpersonal standpoint.  Of course, moral liberalism is typically supported by a distinction between private and public, or between self-regarding and other-regarding decisions: agents may do what they like when their decisions are private or self-regarding, but not when they are public or other-regarding.  Self-regarding decisions appear to be a realm where interpersonal morality does not apply.  So, presumably, the self-regarding/other-regarding distinction salvages agent-constitution: agents may not have authority regarding the interpersonal merits of their aims, but do have that authority when their decisions are self-regarding.
I further argue, however, that the only plausible distinction between self- and other-regardingness depends upon an assessment of the relative merits of an agent’s aims versus others’ aims.  In fact, I claim, a decision is self-regarding only if it is one in which the relative merits of the agent’s competing aims are, on the whole, greater than the relative merits of others’ competing aims.  But in that case, self-regarding decisions are no refuge for agent-constitution: agents merely appear to have authority over the relative merits of their aims in self-regarding decisions because others’ aims do not override them in a way that triggers interpersonal moral requirements.
If this is correct, there is likely no way to rescue agent-constitution, although I will consider some attempts to do so.  I will also examine, briefly, what the fall of agent-constitution means for moral liberalism:  even if (as seems likely) more moderate forms of pluralism still hold, additional justifications for liberalism’s anti-paternalist stance will be needed.

March 13, 2015

Excellent review of Eric Hutton’s Xunzi

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 6:12 pm

Review here. Congrats to our UU colleague!

Moral Responsibility conference at UVU, March 26 & 27

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 7:56 am

More information here:

Moral Responsibility UVU

March 10, 2015

Kay Mathiesen (UArizona) to speak on Transparency and Democracy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Huenemann @ 3:44 pm

Date Friday, March 13, 2015
Time 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm MDT
Room Name/Number Tanner Library, Room 459

“How Important is Transparency for Democracy? The Case of Open Government Data.”
Abstract: “Transparency” has become a buzzword in national and international discussions of good governance. One transparency initiative is Open Government Data (OGD), where almost all data possessed by governments is made freely available on the Internet. OGD is frequently championed on the grounds that transparency is essential to democracy. The claimed connection between transparency and democracy is rarely argued for, however. In this talk, I provide a defense of OGD from the perspective of three prominent normative theories of democracy. I then note a potential objection to this defense—viz., both rational choice theory and empirical evidence suggest that the existence of available information will not necessarily translate to the public being more informed. After considering how the democracy argument for transparency can be adjusted to meet this objection, I make some criticisms of current OGD policy and suggestions for how it might be more effective.

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