Rethinking Plato's Conception of Knowledge: The Non-Philosopher and the Forms

By Michael Beltz & Joel Martinez
George Mason University & University of Arizona
Commentator: Jon Weidenbaum
State University of New York at Buffalo


In this paper, we argue against the claim that the most important distinguishing feature between the philosopher and non-philosopher in the Republic is that the philosopher has knowledge while the non-philosopher has, at best, true opinion. It is our contention that this claim is inconsistent with statements Plato makes in later books in the Republic. We submit that the important distinction Plato makes concerns the type of knowledge possessed by the philosopher-ruler. As a result, we need to amend widely held scholarly interpretations of important passages in the Republic; most notably the passages containing the Sun, Line, and Cave. We consider the views of a number of important scholars and suggest a possible interpretation that avoids this inconsistency with the text. An important consequence of our view is that philosophers are indeed not the only ones with knowledge in the Kallipolis.


What is Wittgenstein's Rule Following?

By Akinori Hayashi
Michigan State University
Commentator: Mark Huston
Wayne State University


Although we usually think that a rule gives us how to behave in a certain situation, i.e., a rule gives us the reason to behave in a certain way, Wittgenstein says, "We follow a rule blindly". This claim sounds esoteric. The purpose of my paper is to clarify the reason why Wittgenstein claims this and what his rule-following argument is. I am also going to take up Kripke's interpretation of Wittgenstein's rule-following argument. And I will assess and criticize what Kripke's argument is and how his argument is different from Wittgenstein's claim about this issue. Finally, I will try to clarify the importance of the forms of life in Wittgenstein's argument. His argument is a severe refutation to the traditional fundamentalism and criterionism. I think that what is the forms of life is one of the most important aspects in the philosophy of Wittgenstein.

Moral Luck, Kant and Neo-Kantians

By Nafsika Athanassoulis
The University of Reading
Commentator: Lori Keleher
Michigan State University



Moral luck poses a problem because of the contradiction between the idea of responsibility inherent in morality and the lack of control implicit in luck. Moral theories have tried to give different answers to the problem of moral luck. One possible answer, adopted by Kant, is to make morality immune to luck. This paper examines Kant's attempt to make morality immune to luck which retaining a plausible picture of the moral life, and concludes that Kant is faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, a sharp distinction between the intelligible self and empirical self allows for moral immunity to luck, but this is at the cost of plausibility. On the other hand, a more integrated picture of the self threatens the immunity to luck. The paper also considers whether neo-Kantians can offer a solution to this dilemma, and argues that their solution leads them to theories that are far removed from their Kantian origins. Ultimately, the Kantian attempt to make morality immune to luck fails.

Kant, Race, and Reason

By Matthew Hachee
Michigan State University
Commentator: Heather Fieldhouse
Michigan State University


This essay explores several recent claims by scholars that the work of Immanuel Kant is predicated upon a racist conception of what constitutes a rational being. It begins by highlighting that the absolute minimal requirements for moral agency in the Kantian deontological framework is the possession of both will and reason. In so far as beings lack these two characteristics they are not to be considered as "full persons" in the moral sense. Next, the essay delineates the strong connection between Kant's practical philosophy and his philosophical anthropology, with the former being relegated to pure speculation without the addition of the latter. Finally, the essay concludes that (for Kant) "full personhood" is actually dependent upon race. Therefore, not only is it the case that the image of Kant passed on to succeeding generations of philosophers (through introductory courses in ethics and the history of philosophy) is one excessively sanitized, but it also seems reasonable to infer that this "selective memory" is simply too extensive to be the result of mere accident or chance. Rather it appears to be the result of a tradition conveniently blind to its own racism.

In Defense of the Moral Autonomy of States

By Steven Patterson
Wayne State University
Commentator: Michael Reno
Michigan State University


As global independence advances, and as humanitarian crises multiply in the wake of the collapse of the Cold War order, it is frequently argued that the notion that states are morally autonomous, sovereign agents with the right to govern their own affairs without intervention from the outside world is an anachronistic relic of a bygone age. Such notions are seen as obstacles to the advancement of a system of peaceful international cooperation among an international community of states united by the collective observance of human rights norms and shared values about the felicity of at least some version of democratic governance. Nowadays, writers trumpeting the death of sovereignty assert, no tyrant is (or at least should be) free from the sanction of the world community who violates the inalienable demands of human rights and denies the proper expression of collective will through democratic channels. Nearly every means is open to the international community to stop such oppression, including armed and other intervention in the internal affairs of the state. In this paper I will argue that stares are worthy of respect as morally autonomous entities, and that this conclusion follows from widely accepted liberal premises. While the observance of human rights norms is of fundamental importance to a peaceful and secure international community, insistence on human rights norms and democratic types of governance cannot replace the notion of sovereignty, and its conceptual grounding in the moral autonomy of states, in terms of forming the guiding principle of relationships between states. In this paper I will set out an argument from analogy for the classical view of the moral autonomy of states.

On Chalmers' Argument against the Empirical Possibility of Qualia Inversion

By Kalevi Lehto
Bowling Green State University
Commentator: Jason Hagen
Purdue University



David Chalmers argues that qualia inversion is not plausible as an empirical possibility. This is part of his larger project of defending a nonreductive functionalist theory of qualia. According to the theory, the qualitative character of a conscious experience is determined by the functional organization of the system even though qualia are not reducible to functional properties. The inverted qualia hypothesis can be presented as an objection to the theory: according to the hypothesis the qualia of experiences could change even when the brain's functional organization remains the same. In Chalmers' view, the idea of our qualia inverting without a change in the functional organization of the brain is implausible because such a change would be unnoticeable to us. He claims that we would notice if our qualia changed significantly. I will argue that Chalmers has not shown that qualia inversion is an implausible idea. Accordingly, to that extent he has not managed to support his theory of qualia. I discuss two possible ways in which our qualia may be realized. Both realizations allow for qualia inversion. But I will not claim that qualia inversion is definitely empirically possible. Rather, I will only concentrate on Chalmers' argument. Thus I will not discuss problems that other philosophers have presented against qualia inversion.

"Levels" and Scientific Explanations

By Bill Seeley
The City University of New York
Commentator: Derek Brown
University of Western Ontario


One often hears in descriptions of the physical world talk of levels. Levels are given as static ontological groupings, encompassing causal interactions among objects and organisms of roughly the same compositional complexity. This view, the compositional view of levels, asserts that levels are drawn over entities, and that the crucial explanatory relation is a productive relation in which a larger entity, or broader phenomena, can be shown to be the product of a lower level process involving its parts. But what grounds the inference to compositional integration that generates the ontological picture of levels? The answer seems to be uniformity of process, not compositional complexity. I propose that the notion of a level does not derive from composition alone, but from a synthesis of structure and function; and that levels are not static ontological groupings, but relative measures of the integration of structures and functions across stages of causal processes.

How to Reduce Contrastive Explanations

By Dien Ho
The City University of New York
Commentator: Frank Grabowski
Wayne State University


In his book Inference to the Best Explanation, Peter Lipton introduced a number of counter-examples to the conjunctivist theory. According to conjunctivism, explanation of the form "E explains why p rather than q" can be reduced to "E explains why p" and "E explains why not-q." Lipton discusses a case in which between Smith and Jones, only Jones has syphilis. Since only syphilitics can contract paresis, the explanation "Jones has syphilis" appears to explain why Jones has paresis rather than Smith. Nonetheless because few people who have syphilis develop paresis, the fact that Jones has syphilis does not explain why he has paresis. Lipton shows that an explanation sufficient for a contrastive explanadum is not sufficient for its non-contrastive components; hence, the conjunctivist thesis must be false. In a recent article, John Carroll advances a conjunctivist theory that cleverly appeals to conversational implicature in order to explain away Lipton's counter-examples. In my paper, I argue that Carroll's solution ultimately falls short but nevertheless reveals the common flaw in the conjunctivist approach. I propose an alternative method to reduce contrastive explanations that deviates from conjunctivism; unlike conjunctivism, it takes into account the pragmatics of explanations. I analyze three counter-examples to reductionism including Lipton's syphilis/paresis case, and show that they pose no serious threat to reductionism.

The Neighborhood Where WOMEN OF COLOR Live

By Allison Wolf
Michigan State University
Commentator: Jennifer Benson
Michigan State University


Categories are used to divide the world so as to help humans understand and simplify it. Social categories, such as WOMAN or MAN and GAY or STRAIGHT, are also used to help us understand how to conduct our social affairs and interactions, for example determining who receives certain government benefits. Yet, upon further investigation we realize that most of us are unclear on what categories are, how they are structured, and the political and social forces that help form them. As a result, we may not comprehend the work of a particular category and its political ramifications. One such social category utilized in the last twenty years is WOMEN OF COLOR. However, as I demonstrate in this paper, the political history and structure of this category has yet to be explored and clarified. Thus, many philosophers have misunderstood this category and have applied it incorrectly. I will attempt to rectify these misconceptions by outlining the structure of the category WOMEN OF COLOR. Once we understand the category and its misconceptions, we will generate a dramatically improved philosophical understanding of categories generally, feminist philosophy, and political practice related to women of color in new and innovative ways.

Mills on Practical and Epistemic Justification

University of Rochester
Commentator: John Mariana
Michigan State University


A recurring theme in theories of justification and rational belief is that what is epistemically justified for a person at a time may be practically unjustified for that same person at that same time. Eugene Mills, however, recently has argued that one's belief can be neither practically justified while epistemically unjustified nor practically unjustified while epistemically justified. I argue that Mills' argument fails, and I conclude by evaluating the extent to which the philosophers who Mills cites are committed to this divergence between practical and epistemic justification.