Lugano Philosophy Colloquia


Master in Philosophy

15 Gennaio 2021

The Lugano Philosophy Colloquia are a series of events organized by: Master in Philosophy - USI; Ratio - Philosophical Association; Istituto di Studi Filosofici - Lugano

Due to the pandemic, we are currently holding our events on Zoom. Sometimes, we also stream them on the USI Master in Philosophy Facebook page.



On Thursday, January 21 at 6pm (CET)
Peter van Inwagen (John Cardinal O'Hara Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus at Notre Dame)
"'Color is an illusion'."
Chaired by Anna Marmodoro (Durham and visiting professor at USI)


Abstract: It is a widely held thesis that color is in some sense an illusion. In this paper it is argued that, whatever the thesis expressed by ‘Color is an illusion’ is, that thesis must entail that the propositions expressed by the “color sentences” spoken in the course of conducting the ordinary business of life (‘The car that fled the scene of the accident was a dark green Lexus’; ‘The most common white pigment is titanium dioxide’; ‘The predominant color of Picasso’s La Vie is blue’) are mostly false. It is further argued that those propositions are mostly true—and that, therefore, color is not an illusion. An important part of the argument of the paper is an extended comparison of color with a truly illusory phenomenon, centrifugal force.



On Thursday, February 25 at 6pm (CET)
James Ladyman (Bristol)
'What is Ontic Structural Realism?'
Chaired by Claudio Calosi (Geneva and visiting professor at USI)


Abstract: Ontic structural realism (OSR) began as an interpretation of Worrall’s proposal for a structural form of scientific realism compatible with the problem of theory change. Ladyman (1998) argues that construed metaphysically structural realism is also able to take account of issues of identity and individuality in quantum physics and general relativity. Different authors have taken up the idea of OSR in different ways. For some, such as Esfeld and Lam (2008) it is a view about the ontology of physics only. For French (2014) its implications for the ontology of the special sciences are eliminativist. On the other hand, Ladyman and Ross (2007) use ontic structural realism as the basis for realism about science beyond physics. This paper sets out the core components of different forms of ontic structural realism, and the arguments for them. It is argued that the form of OSR defended by Ladyman and Ross offers a unified picture of the ontologies of the sciences.


On Thursday, March 18 at 6pm (CET)
Jonathan Schaffer (Rutgers)
'No Money, No Women; Or: Social Relationalism as the Best Solution to Grid Collision'
Chaired by Damiano Costa (USI) 


Abstract: The social rules are not fixed but variable. So the social features vary: what counts as money, and who counts as a woman, vary with different social rules. This creates a problem—the problem of grid collision—as to what (if any) social features something has when it counts in conflicting ways by multiple rules. Social relationalism is the view that there are no socially constructed properties like being money or being a woman, but rather social relations to rules like being monetized as a dollar by this rule and being gendered as a woman by that rule. I argue that social relationalism provides a stable way to think about socially constructed reality, and serves as the best solution to the problem of grid collision.


On Thursday, April 22 at 6pm (CET)
Laurie Paul (Yale)
'The paradox of Empathy'
Chaired by Alain Pe-Curto (Yale) 


Abstract: A commitment to truth requires that you are open to receiving new evidence even if that evidence contradicts your current beliefs. You should be open to changing your mind. However, this truism gives rise to the paradox of empathy. The paradox arises with the possibility of mental corruption through transformative change, and has consequences for how we should understand tolerance, disagreement, and the ability to have an open mind. I close with a discussion of how understanding this paradox provides a new explanation for a certain kind of standoff between the believer and the skeptic with regard to religious belief.


On Thursday, May 13 at 6pm (CET)
David Chalmers (NYU)
'Sentience and moral status'
Chaired by Martine Nida-Rümelin (Fribourg and visiting professor at USI) 


Abstract: Under what conditions does a creature matter morally?  Do only conscious beings matter?  If so, what sort of consciousness is required? The popular "sentientist" view holds that the capacity for positively and negatively valenced experiences, such as pleasure and suffering, is required for moral status. I'll investigate this matter using some thought experiments involving zombies, Vulcans, and trolley problems. 


On Thursday, June 10 at 6pm (CET)
Timothy Williamson (Oxford)
Metametaphysics and Semantics
Chaired by Franz Berto (St. Andrews and visiting professor at USI) 


Abstract: Intensional semantics threatens to trivialize metaphysics by making all sentences expressing necessary truths, including trivial tautologies, express the same proposition. This threat can be found in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and in more recent work by Stalnaker and Hirsch. It is quite different from epistemologically sourced critiques of metaphysics such as the logical positivists’. Hyperintensional responses invoking Russellian propositions, Fregean thoughts, impossible worlds, or other devices do not get to the root of the problem; nor do metalinguistic reinterpretations of metaphysical claims. The basic problem is not specific to necessary and impossible propositions. It is that matters of cognitive significance such as triviality and non-triviality are irreducibly sensitive to the vehicles of content (e.g. sentences in contexts) as well as to the contents themselves. Fine-grained accounts of metaphysical inquiry must therefore track vehicles as well as contents. Scapegoating intensional semantics is a misdiagnosis.


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