Philosophy Workshop

Montclair Philosophy Workshop

MPW is an ongoing series of talks where philosophers meet to discuss new, cutting-edge work in all areas of philosophy. Everyone is welcome.

5/6/22: Rosalind Chaplin (NYU)

Title: “A New Solution to the Problem of Trading Up”

5:30PM, Schmitt Hall, Room 104

Description: The problem of trading up says that if we love our partners for their good qualities, then we have reason to abandon them when a person more perfectly exemplifying those qualities comes along. I propose a new solution according to which this problem rests on a misconception of the kinds of reasons we have for loving others. Our partners’ good qualities help to rationalize our love, but they do not give us the kinds of reasons that are apt to explain why we love our partners more than someone else, or rather than someone else. But as I argue, unless reasons for loving do provide reasons of this sort, the trading up objection cannot get off the ground.

Previous Workshops

5/27/21: Simone Gubler (University of Nevada, Reno)
Title: “You’re Cancelled! Hard Times for Public Figures in a Landscape of Shifting Norms”
Description: This talk is an apologetic for what many would take to be unsavory features of our present political discourse and practice. In it, I do two things. First, I establish that we, the public, may justifiably impose asymmetric and highly demanding normative standards on public figures – even in light of plausible charges of unfairness and hypocrisy. Second, I argue that where those standards are breached, we may be justified in cancelling public figures – in engaging in the public expression of outrage with the goal of the public figure’s removal from their position as a public figure. In making my case, I offer an ameliorative account of cancel culture. Addressed as a response to norm violations by public figures, I argue that cancelling has a legitimate, even admirable, social function in a democratic context. It is a function, moreover, that need not connote blame or punition – it need not be understood as a penalty, and need not be scrutinized in moral terms. There is no right to public status – public figures are there at the gift and on the terms of the public, which is equally empowered to instate and remove them.
6/6/20: Darren Gardner (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam)
Title: “Diogenes, Cosmopolitanism, and Counterculture: Ancient Cynicism as Immanent Social Critique”
Description: Diogenes the Cynic is often understood as a moral theorist who endorsed the view that life according to nature is far superior to the false virtues of living in Society. I will challenge this view and suggest that Diogenes’ Cynicism should be understood as a philosophy of counterculture and critique for the sake of political and social transformation.
12/12/19: Francey Russell (Barnard College, Columbia University)
Title: “The Philosophical Significance of Freud’s Drive Theory”
Description:  Matthew Boyle has argued along Aristotelian lines that rationality “transforms” the very nature of the animal capacities of rational animals. That is, he denies that we share basic animal nature with other non-rational animals, with rationality added on in a second step; rather our animality is specifically different in virtue of our rationality. And this, Boyle argues, accounts for unity of our form of life. I argue that this is a helpful framework for understanding the philosophical significance of Freud’s theory of drives and sexuality. I argue that for Freud, drives and sexuality exemplify the ways in which our animality is essentially different, precisely in virtue of our rationality. However, unlike Boyle, for Freud this transformation results in an essentially conflictual being, at least from the perspective of that very being.
11/14/19: Julia Borcherding (Cambridge)
Title: “Fancies and Illusions: Cavendish and du Châtelet on the Liberating Power of the Imagination”
Early modern Cartesian philosophers frequently assumed that by helping us overcome the alluring yet deceptive power of the imagination, the exercise of our rational capacity would free us from the dictates of custom and prejudice. The way Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673) and Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749) conceive of the relation between freedom and the imagination poses an intriguing counterpoint to this view. For instead of advocating that we rationally transcend our fancies and illusions, they both assign a crucial role to the imagination in achieving freedom, understood as the authentic development of our nature. In this talk, I develop and compare their accounts of the liberating function of the imagination. I show that instead of ensnaring us in a fantasy world, both Cavendish and du Châtelet conceive of our imaginings and illusions as powerful means to overcome prejudices and develop our natural capacities even in the face of oppressive social and political structures.

10/10/19: Philip Walsh (Fordham University)

“The Phenomenology of Ritual Resistance: Colin Kaepernick as Confucian Sage“
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, remained seated during the national anthem in order to protest racial injustice and police brutality against African-Americans. After consulting with National Football League (NFL) and military veteran Nate Boyer, Kaepernick switched to taking a knee during the anthem for the remainder of the season. Several NFL players and other professional athletes subsequently adopted this gesture. This paper brings together complementary Confucian and phenomenological analyses to elucidate the significance of Kaepernick’s gesture, and in the process provide a phenomenological characterization of the connection between the Confucian notions of sagehood and ritual. Kaepernick’s gesture subverts the anthem ritual from within while simultaneously remaining faithful to the ideals it is meant to express. Furthermore, it institutes a new bodily form of patriotic self-expression compatible with both American and Confucian ideals.

5/2/19: Pete Mandik (William Patterson University)

“On Being Abstract“
In this session, Mandik will expand on his idea that persons are abstract things. To do this, he will discuss recent philosophical issues about personal identity, mind-uploading, and whether you could upload your mind to a piece of technology and survive.

2/28/19: Jon Morgan (Montclair Philosophy)
“Carving Up Phenomenal Space”
It’s common sense that when you look at an orange, the orange looks to have some size to you. In fact, it might very well look the same size as it did yesterday. But these commonsense remarks conceal a puzzle about precisely what sort of sizes things look to have. This paper defends a solution to this puzzle. The solution, however, requires a background theory, one that (surprisingly) entails that we never see the ‘intrinsic’ or absolute sizes of things.
12/6/18: Tiger Roholt (Montclair Philosophy)
“Being-with Smartphones”
This session explores a connection between the philosophy of technology and the philosophy of the self. Roholt offers a novel approach to understanding and assessing the impact of smartphone-use in small groups. By drawing upon the existentialist claim that an individual creates her own identity or self, and the Heideggerian phenomenon of being-with, Roholt argues that smartphone-use fractures sociality in ways that are required for individual self-creation.

Previous Lectures

4/26/18 Arina Pismenny (CUNY Graduate Center)
Title: “Polyamory: A Philosophical Analysis”
Description:  It is often assumed that one can only be in love with one person at a time and that a romantic relationship is morally appropriate only when it is sexually and emotionally exclusive. In this talk, I will explore the reasons behind both of these assumptions and examine alternative ethical nonmonogamous romantic relationship models.
12/7/17 Simona Forti (Università del Piemonte Orientale and Turin University, Italy)
Title: “Totalitarianism, Old and New”
Description: Many different voices from all around are telling us that totalitarianism has returned, although it appears in different clothes. But what, we should ask, is a totalitarian regime? How is it supposed to act? What were its main features? And what of its past dynamic remains with us today?
4/27/17  Hanne Appelqvist (University of Turku, Finland)
Title: “Knowledge and Beauty: Kant on the Cognitive Relevance of Aesthetics”
Description: According to Kant, cognitive judgments always bring together concepts of understanding and intuitions provided by sensibility. However, the subsumption of the latter under the former, necessary for cognition, is anything but peaceful. Instead, Kant claims, the faculties involved are like quarreling friends who are always trying to harm one another. In his attempt to bridge the gap between general concepts and particular intuitions, Kant turns to pure judgments of taste, arguing that in a judgment of beauty we find something which is “requisite for possible cognitions in general.” Appelqvist’s presentation will discuss and evaluate this surprising claim.
3/16/17  Anna Katsman (New School for Social Research)
Title: “Hegel: between Rationalism and Historicism”
Description: Hegel critiques Kant’s moral philosophy for (1) not giving enough content to freedom and detailing those practices necessary for its realization, (2) turning sensibility into a pathology, and (3) not justifying why we should take a rational standpoint on ourselves. Hegel’s criticism depends on his distinctive vision of the relationship between the philosophical claims for freedom and the history of the development of consciousness. In this paper, I will offer an account of why turning to history is necessary for Hegel’s critique of Kant and introduce the problems this historical turn raises in Hegel’s philosophy.