Lugano Philosophy Colloquia. Spring 2023


Master in Philosophy

2 February 2023

The Lugano Philosophy Colloquia are back this spring 2023!

This series of events are held on campus for philosophy students and on Zoom for everyone. We may also stream some of them on the USI Master in Philosophy Facebook page. To participate in these events, please write to [email protected] 

Provisional schedule (the abstract of the talk will be added in due time):

On Wednesday, March 8 at 4.00pm (CET), Room SI-003 Black Building (USI west campus)
Benj Hellie (University of Toronto)
Precis of /Out of This World: Logical Mentalism and the Philosophy of Mind
Chaired by Cristian Mariani (USI)

Abstract: What are the points of logical space? According to 'logical realism' (LR), metaphysically possible worlds -- metaphysical possibilities for *the actual world*; according to 'logical mentalism' (LM), phenomenologically possible stances -- phenomenological possibilities for *my present stance*. LM faces a 'formalization challenge': could it replace LR as a foundation for theory of logic-adjacent phenomena (content, consequence, meaning, modality)? LM is defended by building out this foundational role. In regard to the available logical and modal behaviors, LM is seen to be more liberal, LR more stringent: predictive consequences of this contrast are used to impeach LR.
How does reasoning about the mind relate to reasoning about the world? According to 'metapsychological redundantism' (MR) -- paradigmatically, functionalism -- minds are just another subject-matter; according to 'metapsychological autonomism' (MA) -- paradigmatically, simulationism -- reasoning about the mind is irreducible. LR seems to require MR; conversely, MA partners naturally with LM. Simulationism (thus MA, thus LM) is predictively superior to functionalism (thus MR, thus LR).
LM+MA has consequences for the nature of the 'mind-body problem'. LM+MA takes mentality 'out of this world', eliminating any distinctively 'hard' problem of intertheoretic reduction. But in replacing *the actual world* with *my present stance*, LM+MA locates this latter beyond explanation and beyond investigation: if there is a problem here, it frustratingly eludes articulation -- making it a 'weird' problem.
This talk gives an overview of my forthcoming book (OUP, to appear).

On Friday, March 10 at 11.00am (CET), Room 1.2 FTL Building (USI west campus)
Jessica Wilson (University of Toronto)
Two Routes to the Emergence of Free Will
Chaired by Marta Pedroni (UNIGE, USI)

Abstract: Metaphysical emergence couples cotemporal dependence on lower-level configurations and their features with higher-level distinctness and distinctive efficacy. In Wilson 2021, I defend the viability of two schemas for such emergence—one ‘Weak’ (compatible with physicalism), one ‘Strong’ (not so compatible)—and consider whether complex systems, ordinary objects, consciousness, and free will are either Weakly or Strongly emergent. Here I offer a precis of my lines of thought according to which there are good cases to be made that there is emergent free will of both Weak and Strong varieties.

On Monday, March 20 at 6.00pm (CET), Room A31 Red Building (USI west campus)
Anne Meylan (University of Zürich)
Inquiry and the diachronic reasons to believe
Chaired by Alain Pe-Curto (USI)

Abstract: The formation of beliefs/doubts/disbeliefs, etc. is governed by two central norms. On the one hand, there are norms that  concern these cognitive attitudes immediately. An example of this is: believe that p only if you have sufficient reason to believe that p. On the other hand, there are norms that rather concern the investigation or, more generally, the way in which these cognitive attitudes should be acquired. For example, don't investigate about p if you know that p. Or to take a much-discussed example (Friedman 2020, 503): if one wants to figure out Q, then one ought to take the necessary means to figuring out Q. One of the questions that seriously troubles epistemologists is how to account for the relationship that the former "classical epistemic norms" hold with the latter “inquiry norms”, also called "zetetic norms".
In this article I would like to show that these two kinds of norms are not, contrary to what Friedman (2022) thinks, incompatible, that is, that they do not give rise to contradictory injunctions. It is simply that the epistemic norm is a synchronic norm, whereas the zetetic norms are diachronic. If this is true, there is no longer any reason to worry about their cohabitation.
This will lead me to tell you quite a bit about what diachronic reasons are in relation to synchronic reasons and about reasons to believe at all.

On Friday, April 21 at 6.00pm (CET), Room SI-003 Black Building (USI west campus)
Annalisa Coliva (UC Irvine)
“So one cannot, e.g. say ‘There are objects’ as one says ‘There are books’”. From Tractatus 4.1272 to Carnap, via On Certainty 35-37
Chaired by Damiano Costa (USI)

Abstract: In On Certainty (1969, 35) Wittgenstein claims that “There are physical objects” is nonsense. This claim is strongly reminiscent of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (4.1272) where he claims that “one cannot say ‘There are objects’ as one says ‘There are books’”; and of T 4.1274, where he says “The question about the existence of a formal concept is nonsense”. Despite such a superficial similarity, however, the reasons why “There are (physical) objects” would be nonsense are entirely different. In the case of the Tractatus, they depend on the rules that govern a correct logical symbolism, on the distinction between saying and showing and presuppose an ontology of objects. In the case of On Certainty, in contrast, they depend on thinking of “physical object” as a means of representation – as an “inference ticket”, which licenses (and forbids) certain inferences, without any ontological import. In his 1950 paper “Empiricism, semantics and ontology”, Carnap proposes a metalinguistic reading of questions such as “Are there physical objects?”. Surprisingly, he credits Wittgenstein, and indeed the Wittgenstein of the Tractatus, with the ideas from which he took inspiration. If I am right, however, there is only a superficial similarity between the ideas presented in the Tractatus, and Carnap’s. In fact, the deeper similarity is to be found between Carnap’s views and the ones that Wittgenstein developed, at about the same time, in On Certainty, published only in 1969, with which Carnap could have no familiarity. Yet, even there, the divide between two remains insurmountable, as they had entirely opposite views regarding the very possibility of there being a metalanguage and, therefore, a metalinguistic reading of the question “Are there physical objects?”. 

On Monday, May 15 at 6.00pm (CET), Room A31 Red Building (USI west campus)
Tim Maudlin (NYU)

Credence—and Chance—Without Numbers (and with the Euclidean Property)

Abstract: Accounts of both rational credence and of objective chance have always confronted difficulties associated with events that are assigned “probability zero” by the usual Kolmogorov probability function used to model the situation. One sort of solution recommends extending the number field used to represent credences and chances to the surreals or hyperreals. But the correct solution—the solution that always respects the Euclidean property—is to eliminate numbers from the fundamental representation of credence and chance altogether in favor of a system of relations. This solution also sheds light on other paradoxes, such as the Banach-Tarski paradox and the St. Petersburg paradox.

On Friday, June 2 at 6.00pm (CET), Room SI-003 Black Building (USI west campus)
Achille Varzi (Columbia University)

Sartrean Experiences and Absence Perception

Abstract: Can we really perceive absences? Sartre tells us that when he arrived late for his appointment at the café, he saw the absence of his friend Pierre. Is that really what he saw? Where was it, exactly? How did Sartre manage to see it? Why did Sartre not see the absence of other people who weren’t there? Why did other people who were there not see the absence of Pierre? The perception of absences gives rise to a host of conundrums and is constantly on the verge of conceptual confusion. Here I focus on the need to be clear about four sorts of distinctions: (i) the difference between perceiving an absence and perceiving something that is absent; (ii) the difference between perceiving an absence and an absence of perceiving; (iii) the difference between perceiving an absence and perceiving something as an absence; and (iv) the difference between perceiving an absence and perceiving that something is absent. I conclude by stressing the need for a fifth, crucial distinction: the difference between the perception of an absence and an absence perception.


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For any question, please don't hesitate to write to [email protected]


Institute of Philosophy (ISFI)
Master in Philosophy (MAP)
The SNF funded project, Quantum Indeterminacy, (1) & (2)