Friday, November 21, 2008

Good Discussion on Applying to Philosophy Programs

There is a worthwhile discussion going on at Leiter Reports:

It began on the theme of "applying to the same school twice" (i.e.,
getting rejected one year from a school and applying again), but there
are a number of useful comments on the role/value of MA programs,
assembling one's application components, etc.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Call for Papers (San Jose State)

The San Jose State University Philosophy Club

Call for Undergraduate and Graduate Papers


Paper topic: This is a call for all papers of philosophical interest. We are especially looking for papers within the general topic of comparative philosophy. We broadly understand comparative philosophy to be the instance where different philosophical traditions (not limited to East v. West) and disciplines are brought to bear on a specific philosophic issue.

Format: Papers should be suitable for blind review. Name, institutional affiliation, contact information, and paper title should be included only on a front cover sheet. A paper abstract (100 – 200 words) is to be submitted with the paper. Authors who submit their papers via email are requested to send the cover sheet, abstract, and paper in one file.

Submissions are to be no longer than 4000 words.

To submit by mail send to:

Attn. Geist
Department of Philosophy
San Jose State University
1 Washington Square
San Jose, Ca 95192 – 0089

Electronic submissions are welcome and can be sent to:<>

Submission deadline: 1 January, 2009

Authors will be notified when their papers are received.

Accepted papers will be published in our journal, Geist, at the end of spring 2009.

Contact information: You can email us at:<>

Monday, November 3, 2008


Philosophy of Science
Sponsored by the Philosophy Department of California University of Pennsylvania

This year the most significant professional society of philosophers of science, The Philosophy of Science Association, is holding its annual meeting in Pittsburgh. The Superstars of Philosophy of Science are descending on southwestern Pennsylvania in droves! But the Philosophy Department has lured two of them away from the glamour of the Big Show downtown to present their work at Cal U in a more intimate setting. Come and see how philosophy of science was meant to be done, without all the pageantry and flash that inevitably attends any large meeting of philosophers. Who knows, they may even sign autographs!

The Composition of the World
Dr. Richard Healey of the University of Arizona
(Philosophy of Physics)
Wednesday, November 5th, 4:30 pm in DUDA 103

In the west, both philosophy and science began with speculations about what things are made of. Leucippus and Democritus said everything in the world is composed of indivisible, unchanging atoms. The scientific community finally became convinced that atoms exist early in the 20th century, just when it had become clear that atoms are not indivisible and evidence was emerging that one kind of atom could be changed into another. Currently popular scientific candidates for ultimate building blocks include electrons, quarks and strings. The belief that everything is composed of some such microscopic parts is common among contemporary philosophers. After the influential work of Peter Van Inwagen, metaphysicians have tended to argue about how much can be built out of them. Van Inwagen himself denied that there are any ordinary objects like rocks, tables and automobiles precisely because, according to any metaphysically acceptable notion of composition, we cannot take these to be composed of ultimate building blocks.
I shall argue that closer attention to how scientists model the world has much to teach contemporary metaphysicians about composition and "thing-hood". Science may be our surest guide to what there is in the world. But Quine had it right when he said "The scientific system, ontology and all, is a conceptual bridge of our own making, linking sensory stimulation to sensory stimulation."

Beliefs, Believings, and What's at Stake
Dr. Brad Armendt of Arizona State University
(Philosophy of Science, Epistemology, Decision Theory)
Monday, November 10th, 3:30 pm in DUDA 103

How does what's at stake influence what one believes? A cook believes that a dinner he has prepared for guests is free of peanut products. However, he withdraws his belief when he learns that a guest is allergic to peanuts. The high stakes makes him cautious. Alternatively, we may think of the cook as having a high degree of belief that the dinner is peanut-free before his guests arrive but a lower degree of belief when one arrives and reveals an allergy to peanuts.
There are several ways of understanding examples like this. Perhaps there is not really a change in what he believes, but instead just a change in how he chooses (to serve the food or not) when the stakes increase. Or perhaps his belief does change, as our beliefs often do, when he learns new information (that the stakes are now high). Or perhaps we really cannot say what he believes about the composition of the dinner without taking into account what he thinks is at stake.
Much of the talk will focus on that last possibility. That the presence or strength of a belief depends on what is at stake, and is indeterminate otherwise, is an unusual idea, perhaps for good reason. I'll explore it, both for beliefs that are understood as categorical and for beliefs that are understood as coming in degrees. I'll also discuss a connection between the idea and certain debates regarding principles that govern rational degrees of belief (the principles of probability).