Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Speech Act Theoretic Semantics

    Author:
    Daniel Harris
    Year of Dissertation:
    2014
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Stephen Neale
    Abstract:

    I defend the view that linguistic meaning is a relation borne by an expression to a type of speech act, and that this relation holds in virtue of our overlapping communicative dispositions, and not in virtue of linguistic conventions. I argue that this theory gives the right account of the semantics-pragmatics interface and the best-available semantics for non-declarative clauses, and show that it allows for the construction of a rigorous compositional semantic theory with greater explanatory power than both truth-conditional and dynamic semantics.

  • Philia and Method: A Translation and Commentary on Plato's "Lysis"

    Author:
    Eric Hetherington
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Steven Cahn
    Abstract:

    This work presents a translation of Plato's dialogue on friendship and a commentary that explores the cultural, literary and philosophical aspects of the dialogue. The translation aims to provide readers with an English version of the dialogue that eschews word-for-word literalness but retains some formality and avoids modern idioms. The analysis of friendship offered in the dialogue is composed of two parts. In the philosophical arguments of the dialogue Plato explores self-directed reasons for friendship. In the literary setting, characters and situations Plato shows us the other-directed aspects of friendship. Only if we consider these two aspects of friendship can we reach a complete understanding of it. The dialogue presents friendship as a voluntary relationship based on caring for the other for the benefit of both friends and their ability to come to know the good. Friends are fungible on Plato's account because what is important is the character of the friend not the person. The dialogue can also be studied for the methods of argumentation that Plato employs. In some of the dialogue's arguments Plato criticizes argumentative strategies that were prevalent in Greek thought before him. One of the dialogues central arguments, that concerning the `proton philon', has a form similar to the `third man' argument from the "Parmenides" and other arguments in Plato that struggle with the nature of Platonic forms. Thus, my commentary explores not only Platonic ideas about friendship but Platonic argumentative methodology as well. The dissertation contains two appendices. In one I examine Vlastos's interpretation of the "Lysis". His interpretation has been influential, but my argument aims to show that his interpretation is not conclusive when we consider the evidence for it in the dialogue alone. It requires Vlastos's chronological understanding of the Platonic corpus. In the second I examine a recent argument about the literary aspects of the dialogue that suggests that Socrates should be considered an unreliable narrator. I argue that there is little evidence for that reading within the text and there are good philosophical reasons for not thinking of Socrates in this way.

  • Marx's Democratic Idea: Communism's Relation to Liberal Theory

    Author:
    Morgan Horowitz
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Sibyl Schwarzenbach
    Abstract:

    My dissertation, "Marx's Democratic Idea: Communism's Relation to Liberal Theory," focuses on working out the undeveloped connections between Marx's economic theory and his political critique. I develop a conception of Marx's work which demonstrates that his critique of the republican political state and capitalist private property relations led to a demand to develop communal, discursively empowered agency over economic relations. I argue that the communist project thus should be viewed as inseparable from a concern about both just social relations (non-coercive, non-exploitative relations) and the maintaining and empowering of democratic, political procedures. I then critically appropriate the work of John Rawls and J├╝rgen Habermas to fill out a normative standpoint which makes clear structural demands that must be fulfilled to realize a commitment to equality, but also notes that a part of justice is fulfilling the preconditions of discursive relations which should serve to consciously reproduce social relations (and allow citizen self-monitoring of the provision and maintenance of just relations). I then connect the conception of "citizen," which entails state granted protections, rights, and privileges, to Marx's early, descriptive standpoint of democracy, which simply refers to or emphasizes the location or place of each member of society in social reproduction. A connection is found then between a "non-ideal" social theory, which asks one to note the practices and relations which are found in and maintain a society, and an ideal theory of democracy which asks social relations to be consciously or discursively guided. Justice demands are then seen as inseparable from a communist perspective which critiques the alienated and exploitative relations of wage labor to capital; not as transcended in communist relations, but instead, as inherent to their construal and maintenance.

  • The Stratification of Nature

    Author:
    Kristian Kemtrup
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Philosophy
    Advisor:
    Michael Levin
    Abstract:

    Herein, I suggest that contemporary nonreductive materialsm, the view originated by Fodor (1974) and Putnam (1975), and traditional British emergentism, the view advocated by Alexander, Morgan, and Broad, share a commitment to the existence of higher level properties. I identify all of the arguments and evidence cited in favor of belief in higher-level properties, including evidence culled from composition, multiple realization, projectable predicates, and higher-level ceteris paribus laws. Finally, I argue that all of the evidence cited in favor of the existence of higher-level properties can be explained without positing higher-level properties as long as we accept some plausible assumptions about predicates and properties, most importantly that singular predicates can pick out clusters of properties and that singular predicates can pick out different properties in different objects.

  • 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.