Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Time, Unity, and Conscious Experience

    Author:
    Michal Klincewicz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    David Rosenthal
    Abstract:

    In my dissertation I critically survey existing theories of time consciousness, and draw on recent work in neuroscience and philosophy to develop an original theory. My view depends on a novel account of temporal perception based on the notion of temporal qualities, which are mental properties that are instantiated whenever we detect change in the environment. When we become aware of these temporal qualities in an appropriate way, our conscious experience will feature the distinct temporal phenomenology that is associated with the passing of time. The temporal qualities model of perception makes two predictions about the mechanisms of time perception; one that time perception is modality specific and the other that it can occur without awareness. My argument for this view partially depends on a number of psychophysical experiments that I designed and implemented myself and which investigate subjective time distortions caused by looming visual stimuli. These results show that the mechanisms of conscious experience of time are distinct from the mechanisms of time perception, as my theory of temporal qualities predicts.

  • Tableaux and hypersequents for modal and justification logics

    Author:
    Hidenori Kurokawa
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Sergei Artemov
    Abstract:

    In this thesis, we discuss both philosophical and technical issues on proof theory of modal logic and justification logic. In Chapter 2, we present a view of the foundations of logic, aiming for giving a view of various non-classical logics (called a ``structural-reflective view of logic") and answering the question ``are modal operators logical constants?" We present a method of introducing logical constants in Gentzen-style sequent calculi, based on abstract consequence relations. We propose a synthesis of Avron's, Dosen's, and Sambin et al's methods of introducing logical constants as positive criteria for a logical constant. In particular, we extend their methods to a certain class of modal logics by adopting the framework of hypersequent calculi and argue that modal operators in these logics are indeed logical constants according to our criterion. In addition, we discuss philosophical repercussions of the method, such as the significance of cut-elimination, the connection of the view with proof-theoretic semantics, Belnap's criteria of logical constant-hood, and the problem of what a good proof system is. In Chapter 3, we present hypersequent calculi for some of the strict implication logics and modal logics that are introduced in Chapter 1 and related logics. We show the cut-elimination theorem for these logics and proof-theoretically show correctness and faithfulness of modal embeddings of their superintuitionistic counterparts into these logics. In Chapter 4, we discuss another application of hypersequent calculi to modal logic. In this chapter, we consider logics that combine Artemov's justification logic and traditional modal logics. We formulate combinations of the logic of proofs LP and traditional model logics S4, GL, and Grz, which are studied from the viewpoint of (either formal or informal) ``provability." To handle proof systems for these logics uniformly, we need a proof-theoretic framework that is more general than traditional Gentzen-style calculi. We first introduce prefixed tableau systems and then introduce hypersequent sequent calculi for these logics. We show cut-admissibility for all of these systems via a semantic method.

  • Endurance and Multilocation

    Author:
    Jean-David Lafrance
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Arnold Koslow
    Abstract:

    Material objects exist at different times. Endurance theory is the view that they are wholly present at each of the times at which they exist--or, that they are located at multiple regions of spacetime. In this dissertation, I argue that endurance theory is coherent by explaining how cases of multilocation (whether in space or in spacetime) are possible. My goals are twofold. The first is to show that there is nothing incoherent, both metaphysically and formally, in cases of multilocation and, thereby, in endurance theory. After having introduced temporal and regional variants of classical extensional mereology together with some principles about the location of objects in space, I show how our reluctance to admit cases of multilocation can be resisted by responding to an argument to the effect that they are incoherent. I then defend the view that endurance is multilocation in spacetime against rival characterizations. And, in the Appendix to the Dissertation, I develop formal theories of location in which objects can be located at several regions of space (or space-time). The second goal is to explain how the possibility of multilocation arises. I claim that it is possible for material objects to be located at several disjoint regions of space (or spacetime) because their haecceities, or the properties they have of being themselves, can be instantiated at these several regions. I offer an analysis of haecceities that allows us to give necessary and/or sufficient conditions for their instantiation. It is these conditions that constitute an explanation of the possibility of multilocation. I end the dissertation by showing that my analysis of haecceities, and of how they could come to be instantiated at distinct places, solves other issues in the metaphysics of persistence and, specifically, issues regarding the coincidence of material objects.

  • The Representational Character of Imagination

    Author:
    Peter Langland-Hassan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Jonathan Adler
    Abstract:

    Two dogmas shape most theorizing on sensory imagination (thought involving imagery) and propositional imagination (imagining that thus and such). The first is that imaginers have privileged access to what they are imagining; the second is that imagining involves cognitive mechanisms over and above those underlying belief. I challenge both assumptions, arguing that one can easily be wrong about what one is sensorily imagining, and that propositional imagining requires only ordinary beliefs and desires. The former claim is supported through a distinction between the representational (or `intentional') content of an imaginative experience and the matter of whether the "success" conditions given by that content are satisfied. The latter is advanced on grounds of parsimony, as more baroque hypotheses are shown not to be borne out by the data. In addition, a novel theory of the cognitive mechanisms underlying the sense of agency had over one's own imaginings is developed, through an analysis of cases (in schizophrenia) when the phenomenology of thought-agency is abnormal. The cumulative effect is to replace the view of imagination as a sui generis, "off-line" mental phenomenon with one that sees it as an assertoric faculty aimed at representing past experiences and future possibilities.

  • Environmental Sustainability, Economic Growth and Distributive Justice

    Author:
    Fan Liang
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Sibyl Schwarzenbach
    Abstract:

    Abstract Environmental Sustainability, Economic Growth and Distributive Justice By Fan Liang Adviser: Professor Sibyl A. Schwarzenbach The global ecological crisis is at once a humanitarian crisis: the well-being of both the human world and the non-human world is increasingly in jeopardy. The predicament has multiple causes, and calls for responses on different fronts and levels, and a key, perhaps decisive, factor in both is, I argue, people's beliefs about and attitudes towards material production and consumption. The widely influential and characteristically modern belief of both the desirability and the possibility of indefinite increase in material production and consumption has been and continues to be a powerful driver of human appropriation of the environment. But this belief is both scientifically ill-informed and normatively ill-advised. It is based on the one hand on ignorance about the ecological finitude of the earth and on the other hand on indefensible ideas about the nature of human flourishing. Consequently, the belief is fundamentally at odds with the demands of distributive justice with respect to the benefits and the burdens of human dependency on the natural environment, within and across generations as well as societies. Both sustaining the earth's life-supporting and welfare-promoting capacity in the long term and realizing the just sharing of this capacity in the short term require timely and strategic restraint in the pursuit of economic growth. I argue that a holistic understanding of human welfare, one shorn of materialistic biases, renders reference to the notion both necessary and sufficient for formulating sound normative principles that proscribe the wanton abuse of nature. The idea that nature has inherent value independent of human interests need play no role, in my view, in these principles because it is based on dubious metaphysics. Under the current condition of worldwide ecological distress and socioeconomic polarization, achieving universal basic welfare without further damage to the environment requires the remediation of existing injustices, both globally and domestically, through drastic redistributive measures. Assertiveness on the part of the state is also needed to reign in the market's inherent expansionary tendencies. The easing of ideological and institutional pressures towards economic growth is not only instrumental for realigning market and cultural forces to better serve the causes of environmental sustainability and distributive justice, it can also help create/restore a social atmosphere hospitable towards the practice of ecological virtues such as simplicity and self-sufficiency.

  • A CRITIQUE OF CONTEMPORARY NONNATURALIST MORAL REALISM

    Author:
    Patrick Linden
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Jesse Prinz
    Abstract:

    This dissertation defends the claim that nonnaturalist moral realism cannot be successfully formulated in terms of a constitution model similar to that proposed by non-reductive materialists for mental properties. Constitution metaphysics of moral properties fails to be non-reductive in any relevant sense; it is incompatible with the claim that moral properties are non-natural and it fails to provide any substance to the claim that there are objective values. Nonnatural moral properties are still in search of a believable metaphysics. The centerpiece of the dissertation is a detailed discussion of Shafer-Landau's metaphysics of moral properties as expressed in Moral Realism, since it is the most philosophically sophisticated proposal of a constitution model for moral properties. It will also be argued that nonnaturalist realism defended without a commitment to mind-independent moral properties fails to respond to common realist intuitions. In fact, the strongest intuitions about objectivity are not likely to find a comprehensible metaphysics. It is unlikely that this result will have any important social consequences.

  • Proper Names: Reference and Attribution

    Author:
    Michael Maumus
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Stephen Neale
    Abstract:

    In the wake of Saul Kripke's landmark Naming and Necessity, the claim that proper names are directly referential expressions devoid of descriptive content has come to verge on philosophical commonplace. Nevertheless, the return to a purely referential semantics for proper names has coincided with the resurgence of the very puzzles which motivated so-called description theories of proper names in the first place - to wit, the failure of substitutivity for co-referential names in propositional attitude ascriptions, the informativeness of true identity statements involving co-referential names, and the meaningfulness of negative existential discourse. In the following I argue in favor of what I dub Metalinguistic Description Theory, which holds that the meaning of typical uses of the name type `NN' to be given by the definite description `the phi bearer of `NN'' (where phi is a contextually determined sortal which speakers use to disambiguate the reference of names with multiple bearers). This analysis, I contend, provides an ultimately novel solution to the principal puzzles for the Direct Reference theory of proper names which, nevertheless, avoids the devastating arguments which felled the classical description theories of Frege and Russell.

  • Philanthropy, Charting the Moral Terrain

    Author:
    Robert Merker
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    jesse prinz
    Abstract:

    I begin with three simple questions. Should a wealthy person give to philanthropy? How much should they give? And, where should donations be made? I turn to Peter Singer's life-saving pond example to make an argument that philanthropy to aid agencies, which I call life-saving philanthropy, is in some cases obligatory and not merely supererogatory. Given a reasonable, or "modest" interpretation of Singer's argument, and the obligations that follow, I argue that for the very wealthy giving all (or nearly all) their wealth at death turns out to be the type of minimal sacrifice that is morally required. I also argue that the modest principle does not preclude a suitable provision for heirs. I discuss what is "suitable," and what constitutes excessive consumption. Since you do not survive your own death, making donations at death represents the type of minimal sacrifice called for by Singer's argument. I follow Parfit and Cowen in arguing that lives in the future are of equal value to lives in the present, and so donations can be postponed until death. When considering the potential recipients of philanthropy, I argue that life-saving philanthropy should constitute a meaningful percentage of philanthropic donations, but this does not preclude other types of philanthropy. In an appendix I take up the question of whether there are ethical reasons to restrict corporate philanthropy.

  • Nature's Goodness: An Aristotelian Account

    Author:
    Nathan Metzger
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Peter Simpson
    Abstract:

    Neo-Aristotelians have made major headway in moral theory, and it is now commonplace to find philosophers defending the reality of goodness through a teleological analysis of human being. Whatever the merits of this approach, it has suffered from a lack of a sustained defense of its pre-modern metaphysical panorama: the Aristotelian conception of the human good gets traction only if its decidedly pre-modern and `robust' philosophy of nature is defensible in its own right. In this dissertation, I aim to give a partial breakdown of the particular sort of metaphysical project that the Aristotelian moral theorist assumes, but does not always explicate. In particular, I aim to show how neo-Aristotelians rely on a particular view of substance that, while certainly challenging to contemporary naturalist construals of the same, is nevertheless defensible in its own right. Moreover, it might well be the case that even `liberal' contemporary naturalist construals of `moral facts' face difficulties that cannot be overcome; for they might only be able to countenance the less deflationary moral ontologies they desire by first assuming a view of substance that puts pressure on the entirety of the `modern' project. The first part of this dissertation will focus on the ways that an Aristotelian nature is defensible. The second part will show in more detail how this pre-modern vision of reality helps to locate and in some cases even `solve' certain metaethical conundrums. The goal is to show why an Aristotelian moral theory can offer a credible alternative to the usual `moral realist' positions in contemporary metaethics, by offering not just a more plausible view of human goodness, but a more plausible view of nature as a whole.

  • Why Should One Reproduce? The Rationality and Morality of Human Reproduction

    Author:
    Lantz Miller
    Year of Dissertation:
    2013
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Carol Gould
    Abstract:

    Human reproduction has long been assumed to be an act of the blind force of nature, to which humans were subject, like the weather. However, with recent concerns about the environmental impact of human population, particularly resource depletion, human reproduction has come to be seen as a moral issue. That is, in general, it may be moral or immoral for people to continue propagating their species. The past decade's philosophical discussions of the question have yielded varying results. This dissertation takes on the issue in a broader moral perspective and asks not only whether it is moral to reproduce but why one should. That is, are there positive normative reasons, whether moral or rational, to reproduce? This thesis approaches this problem first by facing three general philosophical challenges to its resolution: from contemporary population and environmental ethics and rationality theory; from traditional Western schools of moral philosophy; and from recent attempts to answer the narrower question of whether one should reproduce. The thesis finds that exploring these challenges cannot yield a clear response. However, taking cues from many of these approaches, such as care ethics' emphasis on values, the dissertation proposes that lacking from recent attempts is recognition of a source-value for all human values, viz. the valuing of life in and of itself. Proposing that this valuing is a characteristic of humans and of how they value, it looks to anthropology for empirical justification. It observes that many cultures and individuals frequently prioritize their values so as to devalue this source valuing. Yet, when those value prioritizations give this valuing high priority, there may be some moral justification for reproduction. Furthermore, if one subscribes to the tenets of rationality, which enjoin agents to formulate their beliefs for action based upon the results of rational inquiry, this normative force may invest this descriptive (empirical) hypothesis about values with normative force to guide actions. That is, given certain value prioritizations, it may be rational as well as moral to reproduce. The thesis question of why one should reproduce would then at least have a plausible answer.