14:15 — Institutions, Luck, and Reciprocity
Shalom Chalson (NTU)
Abstract: Egalitarianism is the thesis that justice requires equality. Egalitarians tend to demand that inequalities be minimised. When considering the elimination of inequalities, four questions arise: what are the grounds, scope, site, and currency of equality? I am concerned with the first of those questions. Which principle motivates and restrains our pursuit of distributive justice? I will briefly consider the extents to which luck egalitarianism (LE) and democratic egalitarianism (DE) address the internal pressures of theories of justice. I will then argue that Kok-Chor Tan’s account, Institutional Luck Egalitarianism (ILE), provides a satisfactory account of distributive justice. I will then outline criticisms from G.A. Cohen, Rekha Nath, and Jonathan Quong. And in response, I will argue that aspects of democratic reciprocity and luck egalitarianism may be combined under ILE. In addition, I suggest that ILE be given a political basis. I will argue that through this move, ILE would be better positioned than either LE or DE to deal with the internal pressures of distributive justice.
15:00 — An Epistemology of Temporally Unstable Group Agents
Will Zhang Chen (NUS)
Abstract: A group agent is, in some sense, an aggregation of individual member agents, and a group belief is, in some sense, an aggregation of individual members’ beliefs. Do group agents face similar epistemic norms as do individual agents? I have the niggling suspicion that the relationship between group metaphysics and group epistemology gives a more complicated picture than the relationship between individual metaphysics (of the Self) and individualistic epistemology. Crucially – relative to individual agents – groups, their members, and their member beliefs are often temporally unstable in some ways. I examine how such temporal instability informs how we should determine whether there are (irreducibly) diachronic norms for group agents. I argue that whether individual agents face (irreducibly) diachronic norms does not help us determine whether groups agents face such norms. Then I suggest and assess some standalone arguments for whether group agents should face irreducibly diachronic norms. (I hope that my discussion will generate some interesting connections with the Discursive Dilemma.)
15:45 — Are There Good Reasons to Prefer Genetically-related Children?
Harisan Unais Nasir (NTU)
17:30 — Normative Ethics in Political Philosophy: Challenges for the “Political Not Metaphysical” Turn
Patrick Wu (Yale-NUS)
Abstract: Phillip Pettit has drawn on a republican tradition in order to articulate a conception of the state as primarily oriented towards pursuing freedom, understood as non-domination. In his framework, domination constitutes a harm that the state ought to alleviate. He explicitly treats this ideal as a political one, but I argue that there does not exist a political domain of life, distinct from the other spheres of our life. I therefore examine the consequences of Pettit’s theory throughout other domains of life, contending that non-domination crowds out many other conceptions of the good and thereby lies in tension with pluralism.
18:15 — The Evolutionary Function of Moral Cognition: Past and Present
Ain Zainal (NTU)
Abstract: The Free-Rider Problem is a problem of market failure that occurs when too many individuals take advantage of a common good without paying for it. Essentially then, the FRP shows how there is an incentive to defect instead of cooperating within a group of cooperating individuals, since the act of defecting will bring about more rewards. Furthermore, the consumption of that good cannot be restricted and is dependent on the good will of the individuals involved. In the long run, the large-scale exploitation of the FRP will result in the tragedy of the commons. Here, I will argue that Man’s Moral Cognition has served an evolutionary function in the past that battles the Free-Rider problem by encouraging Genuine-Trust behaviours over Incentive-Based behaviours. This is exhibited by how Natural Selection, Sexual Selection and Punitive Social Selection select for such morally-motivated behaviours in our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Furthermore, I will argue that Moral Cognition continues to serve this adaptive function today with respect to the Free-Rider problems that persist with greater urgency in today’s modern, large-scale societies.
Title: The Epistemology of Disagreement and Religious Disagreements.
Abstract: The talk will consist of two sections. In the first section, we will look at the Epistemology of Disagreement. The idea here is to think through what effect disagreement should have on our beliefs. Imagine you think the answer to a math question is 45. Your teacher disagrees and tell you it is 47. It seems you should believe it is 47 as your teacher is an expert. Now imagine that you are the top in class and instead of your teacher, your fellow classmate, who often fails the class, tells you it is 47. It seems you should persist in believing 45. However, imagine instead that it is a fellow student, who is also top in class, that says it is 47. This is a case of peer disagreement where both are equally likely to be right. What ought you believe? Should you believe 45 or 47 or withhold belief? This is the main issue in the epistemology of disagreement. In the second section, I will then discuss my thoughts on religious disagreements and argue that we can persist in our beliefs in the face of widespread disagreement.
Speaker: Frederick Choo
Title: Photography and the Philosophy of Natural Law
Abstract: Natural Law theory was developed by Thomas Aquinas in the medieval period. With the demise of scholasticism, natural law theory also fell into disrepute. In the 1980s John Finnis and Germain Grisez revived natural law theory as a compelling and influential theory of ethics, in the fields of moral philosophy and philosophy of law. In recent years it has even become relevant in the renovation of welfare economics, in the work of Sabina Alkire. I am sympathetic to natural law theory, but in recent years have found that the theory suffers from what I would call a “textolatry”. This means that the theory is difficult to understand and not very persuasive if we merely had at our disposal written texts to engage. My own sense is that photography can help. In this talk I will try to explain why I have come to see the relevance of photography, and the spirit of playfulness, for “showing” the natural law.
Speaker’s Bio: Dr Jude Chua is Associate Professor of philosophy and Head of the Policy and Leadership Studies AG at NIE, NTU. Prior to this he was Asst Dean for Research in Higher Degrees. He earned his doctorate at NUS working on comparative philosophy. He studied with John Finnis whilst on a visiting fellowship at the Centre for Philosophy of Religion, University of Notre Dame, USA and has been a Visiting Research Scholar at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University, and a Visiting Academic at the Institute of Education, London. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS) and a Fellow of the College of Teachers (FCollT), London. He won the Novak Award for his research in the interface of religion and economics.
Title: Freedom in a Physical World
Abstract: Making room for agency in a physical world is no easy task. Can it be done at all? I explore this question by presenting and evaluating two arguments purporting to show that, if we are (as the materialist maintains) wholly material beings, we are neither free nor morally responsible for what we do. I then offer a reply on behalf of the materialist. The most promising way to make room of agency in a material world involves top-down explanation, according to which we human beings are exceptions to the general principle that parts explain the nature and behaviour of wholes.
Speaker’s Bio: Andrew Bailey is an assistant professor of philosophy at Yale-NUS College. His research is mostly in metaphysics, epistemology, and their applications to philosophy of mind and philosophy of religion.