Department Colloquia

The Colloquium Series is going online this fall and will be held on WebEx.
September 25

Peter Alward

The Fictional Road Not Taken

Abstract: Nathan Salmon is a prominent proponent of Fictional Realism – the view that fictional characters exist and are the referents of at least certain uses of fictional names. Salmon’s advocacy of this view, however, is somewhat surprising given that it is introduced in the context of a very different approach to the semantics of nonreferring terms. In particular, he argues that it is true of certain non-referring terms that there might nevertheless have been something to which they actually referred and, as a result, that sentences containing such terms express propositions that do not actually exist but might have. Moreover, he argues that such propositions can have (actual) truth-values despite not actually existing. In this paper, I intend to develop a theory of fictional names based on this account of non-referring terms and to argue that there are reasons to prefer it Salmon’s own view.

Link for this talk:


Meeting number (access code): 145 597 1521

Meeting password: hWM3pbiey73

Revised date:

November 20


Pierre-Francois Noppen

How Affects Factor in Moral Agency

Abstract: Adorno proposes a controversial and puzzling account of moral agency. The cornerstone of this account is what he elusively terms das Hinzutretende. This new term – translated as “the additional factor”, or “the jolt”– means to express his view on the role that affects play in moral agency. In this paper, I will defend two main claims: first, I will argue that the standard translations of the term betray an interpretation of Adorno’s views on moral agency. Second, I will propose that more literal translations of the term – such as “what steps is” or, “what factors in” – best capture the gist of Adorno’s position on moral agency, which, as I see it, isn’t so much about correcting our view about the normative underpinnings of moral assessments as it is about reimagining the role that assessments as such play in moral agency.
Meeting number (access code): 145 825 3549
Meeting password: ukJZpnTK886
 February 12


Sarah Hoffman

Intoxication and (the) Enlightenment

Abstract: Could intoxication be a path to (the) enlightenment?  Intoxication is typically conceived as a form of impairment or incapacity, a state undermining our capacity for reason and knowledge. And the Enlightenment period is also the so-called ‘Age of Reason’, a moniker clearly suggesting its hostility to long traditions in human thought that associate states of intoxication with special knowledge and access to realms of the world not otherwise available. In this talk I will consider the thus surprisingly central historical role that the search for and use of intoxicating substances appears to have played in the Enlightenment. I briefly investigate intoxication as a concept, and a state, to draw out what generates conflicting views of intoxication's epistemological status and I explore reasons for thinking that a positive view of intoxication may have something important right.

 Link for this talk: (Links to an external site.)

Meeting number (access code): 145 492 3298
Meeting password: jeWWXJA3N54
 February 26

Emer O'Hagan

Reflections on Gratitude and Morality

Abstract: What is gratitude and what role does it play in moral life?  In this talk I will take up some recent work on gratitude that considers both its nature, and the conditions under which it is appropriate.  I will suggest that the significance of gratitude in moral life has not been adequately captured; gratitude can play a significant role in the development of moral character.  
link for this talk:
Meeting number (access code): 145 150 6063
Meeting password: A7Mxk3g3zyZ

Visiting Speakers

Speaker Image Placeholder

Walter Murray Lecture Series 2020/2021

Dr. Jennifer Saul, University of Waterloo

March 26-7

Public talk - Friday March 26, 3:30 pm

Figleaves and Their Kin: Mechanisms for Getting Away With Racist Speech

Abstract: It used to be accepted wisdom that overt, explicit expressions of racism would doom a national political campaign in the US or the UK.  Recent years have seen this wisdom overturned with the rise of the racist, xenophobic far right.  This paper uses pragmatics to explore the mechanisms and developments that have enabled this change in acceptable discourse, drawing on work in political psychology, sociolinguistics, and philosophy of language.  The mechanisms include utterances from politicians like fig leaves, that lend deniability to overt expressions of racism.  They also include ones specifically related to a new sort of conversational context-- social media.  This context is one that upends many of our old assumptions about how conversations work, providing new methods of deniability, but also new methods of altering mass opinion, and new barriers to challenging overt expressions of racism.

Meeting link:

Meeting number:145 634 2586

Password: MtevXh735Sz


 Department Talk - Friday March 26, 12:30 pm

Visual and Linguistic Dogwhistles (co-authored with Ray Drainville)

Abstract: With the recent political turn in philosophy of language, several philosophers of language have begun to examine dogwhistles, albeit not always under that name. The exact definition of 'dogwhistle' is a matter of debate, but-very roughly-these are utterances which function by concealing their meaning or intended effect from at least some of the audience.  Undoubtedly because they have been conducted by philosophers of language, the focus of the philosophical discussion of dogwhistles has been on the linguistic.  This is unsurprising, but it nonetheless represents a very important lacuna.  We propose to rectify this oversight, with a detailed examination and taxonomy of the workings of visual dogwhistles, both on their own and as they interact with linguistic utterances.

Meeting link: (Links to an external site.)

Meeting number: 145 065 3329

Password: Ns44TjiM6QN

Department Talk - Saturday March 27, 10:00 am

Figleaves for Racism and for Incitement to Violence

Abstract: A racial figleaf, as I have previously defined it, is an utterance that provides cover for another utterance which would otherwise be seen as racist.  In earlier work I have explored how figleaves have contributed to the rise of explicitly expressed racism in the US and the UK.  This paper begins from that analysis, and then explores the way that Donald Trump has used fig leaves to cover for his incitement of violence.  I argued that thinking about the case of incitement to violence sheds important new light on the figleaves that cover for racism.

Meeting Link:

Meeting number145 668 7050

Password: jsCZ2MpJQ28