Events and announcements

Philosophy colloquia occur in-person on Fridays at 2:30pm in CLE A320. Typically, in-person colloquia events will also have a Zoom component.

Note: please email to be added to the Philosophy Colloquium mailing list so you may receive notifications about upcoming talks and Zoom meeting information.


September 16, 2022: David Liebesman (University of Calgary) with Ofra Magidor (Oxford)

Title: Thinking Outside the Lunch Box

Abstract: Lunch was delicious but took hours. How can this be true? It seems to many that only food was delicious while only events can take hours, and that nothing can be both. This is one instance of the problem of copredication, where there are true sentences that seem to ascribe categorically incompatible properties. On our approach to the problem there are not such strong categorical constraints on property instantiation, i.e. properties are more versatile than is commonly supposed. In this talk I’ll sketch the problem of copredication, our approach, and then delve into the details of the lunch example. Our approach yields a metaphysics of lunch on which lunch is a meal that is not straightforwardly identified with either the event of eating lunch or the food eaten.

UVic Events Calendar listing

November 18, 2022: Mark Povich (University of Rochester)

Title: The Expressive Role of Mathematics in Scientific Explanation

Abstract: Distinctively mathematical explanations (DMEs) explain natural phenomena primarily by appeal to mathematical facts. Some philosophers take DMEs to provide good evidence for the existence of the mathematical objects to which they appeal. Here I give a normativist account of mathematical necessity that blocks the indispensability-inference from DMEs – even ontic accounts thereof – to Platonism, by allowing the nominalist to accept the former – even deflated ontic accounts thereof – while denying the latter. Furthermore, I argue that deflated ontic accounts are just as explanatorily powerful, if not more.

UVic Events Calendar listing

December 2, 2022: Rob Wilson (University of Western Australia)

Title: Philosophical Silences: Some Thoughts on Race, Gender, and Eugenics

Abstract: Drawing on the work of Charles Mills on race and of Susan Babbitt on gender, as well as my own on eugenics and disability, this talk raises some questions about philosophy's boundaries, history, sociology, and community engagement.  The discipline of philosophy has had (and continues to have) an uneasy relationship with race, gender, and disability.  The hope is for the talk to spark some constructive thinking about how the future need not be like the past.

UVic Events Calendar listing

January 13, 2023: Kian Mintz-Woo (University College, Cork)

Title: Responsibility for Climate Loss & Damage

Abstract: This talk has two purposes: one conceptual and one normative. Conceptually, it distinguishes, in a new and robust manner, climate mitigation, adaptation and Loss & Damage policies. The basic idea is that there are limits to mitigation and adaptation and that these limits depend on, inter alia, (some mix of) physical, engineering, social and economic feasibility constraints. Given some limits and a time of evaluation, which impacts are mitigable, adaptable or losses and damages is determinate. Similarly, this distinction determines which climate policies are mitigation, adaptation or L&D. Normatively, the article defends several claims about blame and task responsibility regarding different climatic impacts falling within these categories. One important idea introduced is of climate-independent duties to adapt.

Feburary 10, 2023: Kristen Hessler and Lourdes Aguas (University at Albany)

Title: Indigenous Human Rights and the Rights of Nature

Abstract: Environmentalists have long debated whether natural entities should have legal standing—that is, whether courts should consider environmental damage as it impacts not only human individuals and communities, but also natural objects themselves. In the twenty-first century, laws recognizing the legal standing of natural objects have begun to be implemented in a number of jurisdictions around the world. Here, we present our early work on an interdisciplinary project to analyze the implications of legal “rights of nature” (RoN) frameworks, focusing centrally on litigation in Ecuadorian courts interpreting the RoN framework in Ecuador’s 2008 constitution. We have two relatively modest aims. First, we sketch and defend an interdisciplinary methodology, incorporating both philosophical and sociological methods, for analyzing the moral and sociological implications of RoN legal frameworks. Second, we consider and rebut objections to RoN based on their presumably inherent conflict with human rights. 

UVic events calendar listing 

March 3, 2023: Luc Bovens (University of North Carolina)

Title: Hope, Death, and Dying

Abstract:  When death is approaching, people tend to look back on their lives, and they may hope that they have lived a worthwhile life. They may hope that they will be missed, remembered, and respected in death. And they may hope to die a good death. We will lay out some questions about each of these hopes. Finally, people differ on whether they want to know ahead of time that they are approaching death or whether they want death to come unannounced. I will report on some x-phi results on how these attitudes correlate with demographic and personality variables.

UVic events calendar listing

March 24, 2023: Zoe Drayson (UC Davis)

Title: Distinguishing epistemological and psychological roles for inner speech

Abstract: What role does our inner speech play in our cognitive processes? Ray Jackendoff (1996) and Andy Clark (1998) have argued that inner speech in natural language facilitates a particular kind of metacognition: the ability to self-reflectively evaluate our own thinking processes. Jose Luis Bermúdez (2003, 2010, 2018) draws on their work to make the stronger claim that natural language is essential for this kind of metacognition, concluding that while non-linguistic creatures may be capable of basic cognition, they necessarily lack this metacognitive ability. In this paper I challenge Bermúdez’s arguments and argue that both his conclusions and his methodology are distinct from those of Jackendoff and Clark. The important upshot of this is, I propose, that the philosophical literature on inner speech needs to distinguish between epistemological and psychological claims concerning the role and nature of inner speech.  

UVic Events Calendar listing

March 31, 2023: Geordie McComb (University of Toronto)

"Consideration Machines: Short Stories as Thought Experiments"

When we read works of literature, such as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, we learn; and we learn much like we do when performing a thought experiment.  But how we do so also differs.  Novels, for example, tend to be more complex than thought experiments, and they tend not to have an intended outcome.  These differences hinder certain explanations of how we learn from literature; specifically, they hinder those that appeal to thought experiments.  Can this hindrance be removed?  I argue that it cannot.  In particular, I consider a best case for hindrance-free explanation—namely, Anton Chekov's short story, “Gooseberries,'' interpreted by George Saunders as a "consideration machine”—and I argue that even in this best case the hindrance remains.  Finally, I explain how my argument supports a weak non-cognitivist account of how we ordinarily learn from works of literary fiction.  


September 22, 2023: Chris Maier (UVic)

"On Medals: Pinning Hope to the Battlefield"

An examination of the role hope that plays in establishing the resolve needed for members of an armed force to accomplish their most dangerous and difficult missions. We do not see these missions as supererogatory. The role of medals as gratitude for plain duty and recognition of valour is weaved into the argument to show that rituals and stories can provide the conditions needed to establish hope; hope can function as the resolve side of traditional military discipline, but in a way that respects members of the armed force as reasoners – as people entitled to dignity.

October 13, 2023: Pamela Hieronymi (UCLA)

"No Inertia in Consciousness"

Sartre claims that there is no inertia in consciousness. Like many of his claims, this seems patently false. However, also like many of his claims, it can be interpreted in way in which it is both true and illuminating.  Consciousness, for Sartre, is the ability to “negate.”  As I will understand this, it includes the ability to entertain and answer questions.  Our “consciousness,” thus understood, will include our beliefs and intentions (regardless of whether we are aware of them “consciously”).  It is tempting to think of our beliefs and intentions as states of mind that are produced, at a time, by a discrete episode of mental activity, which then persist, in the mind, until revised or eliminated at some later point, by some later episode of mental activity—as if they were documents on computer.  So understood, belief and intention possess their own inertia, so to speak.   I will argue that this way of thinking about belief and intention badly distorts both our relation to them and our responsibility for them.  Rather than think of them as if they were items stored in memory on a computer—as something you might act upon intermittently to run, update, or delete—we should think of them instead as something more like our posture: they rely, at each moment, on our on-going activity, and so are, themselves, a kind of activity.  Thus understood, there is, in fact, no inertia in (this aspect of) consciousness.

November 24, 2023: Stanislas Richard (UVic)

"Can exploitation ever be wrong?"

If it is better to be exploited than neglected, how can it be impermissible to exploit if it is permissible to neglect? This paradox is called the ‘exploitation problem’. The present article argues the problem does not exist. There are no exchanges in which neglect is permissible and exploitation impermissible. The permissibility of neglect makes exploitation permissible as well – a principle sometimes called the ‘nonworseness claim’; and if exploitation is impermissible, then so is neglect. Any assertion to the contrary only creates confusion, since it can only be supported by a set of unreliable intuitions, which are very difficult to justify without appealing to ad-hoc hypotheses with implausible implications.

Matt Bedke (UBC) - January 12 2024

Moral Laws and Moral Supervenience

Moral Supervenience says that there can be no moral difference without a descriptive difference. This has been widely considered one of the least controversial principles in metaethics, even a conceptual truth. So it is surprising that some metaethicists now deny it. They think there are metaphysically contingent moral laws that help to ground particular moral facts, and that these moral laws can differ without any descriptive difference. The resulting position looks incompatible with Moral Supervenience. But whether it is depends on what we count as a moral difference and what we count as a descriptive difference. I will argue that differences in moral laws eo ipso entail descriptive differences, so there is no reason to question Moral Supervenience.

Francois Claveau (Université de Sherbrooke) - February 9 2024

Mediated Testimony, or the Epistemology of Reporting the Words of Others (joint work with Maëlle Turbide)

In epistemology, the analysis of testimony has traditionally centered on the interplay between speaker and hearer. This focus overlooks the complexity of many real-world testimonial exchanges. This article introduces the role of the mediator, distinct from speaker and hearer, and at work in diverse testimonial settings (e.g., journalism, social media and search engines). Expanding beyond the conventional two-agent model, we propose a three-agent framework for mediated testimony, in which a mediator (M) in context (C) reports to the hearer (H) what the speaker (S) conveyed (p), accompanied by informational cues (I). Highlighting the potential pitfalls of mediated testimony, we explore its normative landscape, highlighting two principles: TRANSPARENT RELEVANCE and MEASURED GATEKEEPING.

Jonathan Schaffer (Rutgers) - March 15 2024

On What There Is, Was, or Could Be

Past entities like Socrates, and possible entities like Pegasus, have so much going for them. They are (evidently) nameable, in the range of quantifiers ('some philosophers’ can include Socrates, 'some mythical creatures' can include Pegasus), and capable of standing in relations (you might admire them both). But—unlike Barack Obama—neither Socrates nor Pegasus exist. Socrates used to exist, but—sadly—he’s gone now. Pegasus could exist, but—spoiler alert!—he never actually existed. This is puzzling. For the orthodox view in metaphysics—developed especially by Quine—is that what can be named, quantified over, and involved in relations is precisely what exists. Indeed here lies the puzzle that Quine called “Plato’s beard”—how can we even coherently say that Pegasus does not exist, or deny the existence of anything we can name, if naming requires existence? Something must go. I offer a non-Quinean approach—novel as far as I know—with two main ingredients. First, it embraces a big constant “outer” domain including Socrates, Pegasus, and Obama alike. In every scenario, they are all available to be named, quantified over, and admired. Secondly, the approach brings in a view on tense and mood in natural language, on which ‘exists’ (/‘is’) is not a unit but a blend of at least three syntactically distinct elements: root-exist (/root-be), present tense, and indicative mood. I use this to provide a consistent way to untangle Plato’s beard, and to explain how Socrates merely existed (/was), and Pegasus merely could exist (/could be).


Alex King (SFU) - April 5 2024

Cultural Appropriation and the Objectification of the Other

My talk aims to explain what is wrong with cultural appropriation. I argue that cultural appropriation is wrong because it objectifies the appropriatees (those from whom something is appropriated) as Other, which often operates by essentializing appropriatees. Drawing on thinkers in neo-Kantian and Marxist feminist philosophy, I discuss what it takes to objectify people as Other and how doing so depends on broader cultural practices. An important aim of the account is to capture both what is systemic and what is individual about cultural appropriation. As such, this view takes inspiration from, but runs counter to, existing accounts of cultural appropriation, which have largely to do with the appropriatees’ reactions or with oppression and harm.

The Victoria Colloquium on Political, Social and Legal Theory provides a forum for regular interdisciplinary exchange among faculty, graduate students, and upper-level LL.B students on critical issues in political, social and legal philosophy.

PhD candidate Ryan Tonkin awarded Dean's Dissertation Year Scholarship

Ryan and two other PhD candidates from the Humanities have been awarded the Dean's Dissertation Year Scholarship, an award meant to facilitate completion the completion of their dissertations.


“Bauhaus, Design, and the Livable Anthropocene” celebrates the innovative approach to design and architecture developed at the Bauhaus School, founded in Weimar, Germany, in 1919. The aim is to reflect on the historical impact of this approach, and explore its potential for addressing the design challenges of the Anthropocene. The bau1haus photographs by Jean Molitor, brought to UVic by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany Vancouver, present an exceptionally beautiful record of modernist buildings from around the world. The Exhibit is accompanied by an inter-disciplinary colloquium.