Paper Abstracts

Title: ‘Time to Pick Up the Gun’: Race, Subjectivity, and Armed Self-Defense in the U.S.

Keynote Presentation: Chad Kautzer, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Lehigh University“The revolution has come; It’s time to pick up the gun,” was a chant of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, which became famous in the 1960s for its armed patrols of the police in Oakland, California. This led Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, to support gun control legislation specifically drafted to curb the practices of the Panthers: There’s “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons,” Reagan said at the time. While the position of conservative politicians on gun control may have changed, debates about the Second Amendment and the impact of firearms on public health have not. Missing from these debates, however, are (1) a consideration of the roles that extralegal violence and armed self-defense—be it by Black Panthers or white militias—play in racial formation, and (2) a philosophical analysis of the concepts of freedom and security that inform them. In this talk, I outline a normative approach for addressing these deficits.

Title: Benjamin’s Aestheticizing the Political: Italian Futurism, Fascism, and Alessandro Bruschetti’s Sintesi Fascita
Author: McKayla Sluga
Institution: Elmira College
Discussant: Aaron Suduiko

Abstract: During the twentieth century, Western philosophers—such as Walter Benjamin—became increasingly concerned with modern life being experienced as a spectacle (a detached aesthetic project). Benjamin linked the urge to “aestheticize politics” with the theoretical foundation of Fascism. Using Benjamin’s theory as focus, I argue that Italian Futurism and Fascism epitomize his anxieties regarding the fusion of life and art. By aestheticizing experience, both Futurism and Fascism rendered Italian life merely an aesthetic phenomenon, in which the realities of violence and mass manipulation were obscured, while the idealities of war were glorified. Life itself became a work of art whereby people were agents in their own creation and destruction. Simultaneously, however, people were alienated from reality, humanity, and themselves such that conventional morality and responsibility were ignored, and destruction was perceived as beautiful. This paradox is represented in Alessandro Bruschetti’s 1935 painting Sintesi Fascista (Fascist Synthesis), which visually expresses the merging of aesthetics and politics to present an ideal Italy. Because Italian Futurist and Fascist ideals could not be sustained after defeat in WWII, these movements were ephemeral, but their principles arguably linger into the twenty-first century.

Title: Art as an Internal Entity: A Metaphysical Analysis of the Whereabouts of the Artwork
Author: Shane Brennan
Institution: Marist College
Discussant: Anthony Vecere

Abstract: This paper will first question the presupposed metaphysical ascription of Art, that it exists as the external work–that the painting is the Art. By showing this view to be questionable, I will advocate for the adoption of the view that Art necessarily exists in its sensual and cognitive experience rather than in any external state (i.e., Picasso’s Guernica exists as Art not as the specific physical arrangement of oil on canvas by Picasso, but the cognitive experience that emerges from the state of the mind in perceiving Guernica). This assertion partially takes after Collingwood’s view that Art is “imaginative”; however, I will refrain from using this terminology as it is implicative of and in relation to the creation of art rather than its existence as a cognitive experience, as well as having misleading and unserious connotations. In the second part of this paper, a deeper metaphysical analysis of this view will be presented in attempt to disambiguate any remaining questions or objects which may arise.

Title: For the Love of Philosophy: A Review of Theories of Love
Author: Emily Bystrak
Institution: SUNY Fredonia
Discussant: Sarah Meemken

Abstract: The philosophy of love is an emergent and highly captivating area of research. It allows us to ask these questions: What constitutes love? Are there different types of love? What distinguishes these types from one another and is there anything that they share? What entities are capable of giving and receiving love? How, if at all, does love relate to our thoughts and feelings, along with certain practices and behaviors associated with love? These questions are compelling, as they pertain to a topic that we share a universal interest in. In this essay, I will compare and contrast five theories of love—CSI Jenkins’ Specific Constructive Functionalism, Robert Nozick’s Well-Being Dependence Theory, Irving Singer’s Bestowal Theory, David Velleman’s Reflexive Theory, and Stephen Kershnar’s Intense Pro-Attitudes Theory—and discuss objections. Ultimately I will argue that Kershnar’s Intense Pro-Attitudes Theory is the superior theory of love because it most strongly satisfies our intuitions.

Title: Should We Strive for Moral Perfection?
Author: Jacob C. MacDavid
Institution: SUNY Potsdam
Discussant: Connor Farrell

Abstract: In her essay “Moral Saints,” Susan Wolf argues that it is not necessarily best to follow a given moral code to the best of one’s abilities. To do so would exclude the possibility of developing worthwhile yet non-moral virtues, such as athleticism or musicality. Even if one were to find a way to reconcile “moral sainthood” with the cultivation of non-moral virtue, the cultivation would be for moral ends, and thus one would miss the value of non-moral virtues in the first place. I argue against Wolf’s position. Because I find utilitarianism to be the most attractive moral code that she examines, my thesis is that it is best for everyone to maximize utility to the best of their ability in every situation. Under utilitarianism, there is no strict boundary between moral and non-moral virtue, and the two can be reconciled. A utilitarian moral saint will not suffer the loss of non-moral virtue which Wolf suspects.

Title: Being or Bullshit? Heideggerian Poetic Truth in the Face of Platonic Suspicion
Author: Marisa E. Maccaro
Institution: Marist College
Discussant: David Anderson

Abstract: This paper explores the significance of the effect that the experience of poetic beauty has on our rational faculties. In the Republic, Plato criticizes the poet’s use of beautiful language as mere rhetoric and puts forth a theory of knowledge that is incompatible with the notion of aesthetic truth. He grapples extensively with the question as to whether poetry is helpful or harmful to the human soul before he ultimately banishes the poets for the good of the city. Heidegger, on the other hand, maintains that poetry is essential to our existence in the world, emerging from the very appetitive desires that Plato detests. The role of poetry for Heidegger then, is not to obscure Truth in flowery language, but to bring about an “unconcealing” of potential truths. In light of these conflicting philosophical views, I argue that the revelatory capacity of poetry appeals to our sense of reason and emotion in equal measure. I then show how this presents a challenge to Plato’s conception of poetry as an irrational pleasure that hinders us in our pursuit of Truth.

Title: Similes and Metaphors–Literal and Figurative Meanings
Author: Emily Schuster
Institution: Ithaca College
Discussant: Matthew Goldsmith

Abstract: There is great debate amongst philosophers, linguists, and literary critics over the meaning and importance of figurative language. In particular, there is great confusion over the function of similes and metaphors in language. In my paper, I argue a new position—that similes and metaphors are equally important in our language due to the contrast in their meanings in which I define. I argue that there are four total meanings to similes and metaphors—two meanings each—that are taken as literal, or figurative. Because of these multiple and differing possible interpretations, they both bring something unique to the linguistic table and neither is useless in speech. I break-down the specific comparisons taking place literally and figuratively in both similes and metaphors by separating the identity of the objects being compared into their comparable qualities. It is a combination between these qualities and full identities that provides the definitions of similes and metaphors that we already understand unconsciously.

Title: What is Music?: The Ontological Status of Musical Works
Author: Michael Pipko
Institution: Marist College
Discussant: Katie Garrity

Abstract: The ontological status of musical works is a controversial topic among those in the field. This paper aims to argue for a nominalist and non-reductivist approach to musical works that differentiates musical works from the sound structures commonly equated with them. The difference between sound structures and musical works is heavily emphasized and I conclude that musical works have emergent attributes sound structures do not. These being creatability, fine individuation, and the inclusion of performance means. After establishing this I begin to build an argument for a nonreductive approach to musical works by rejecting the view held by compositional nihilists. Once I establish that musical works are entities in our ontology I argue against them being abstract. I end by defending the nominalist approach.

Title: Individuality of Objects
Author: Michael Shankle
Institution: Texas Tech University
Discussant: Khila Pecoraro

Abstract: This paper refutes Max Black’s counterexample to Leibniz’s Law, the Identity of Indiscernibles. In doing so I develop a theory concerning objects both as having particulars, and as being bundles of properties. This theory concerns intrinsic and extrinsic relations, and allows for individuality among objects and universals considered under either bundle theory or an object with a particular. I continue on to say that these extrinsic relations are essential, and can overcome counterexamples dealing with a one property object, thus allowing for individuality among single, real, instantiated universals. As such, Black’s counterexample against Leibniz’s law ultimately fails and the Identity of Indiscernibles is upheld.

Title: Counting the Senses: Science’s Role in Defining Sense Modalities: An Analysis of Brian Keeley’s Theory of the Senses
Author: Michelle Beaulieu
Institution: Tulane University
Discussant: Gabriel Biss

Abstract: For thousands of years, humans have generally believed that each person has five senses. Since Aristotle’s De Sensu 1, in which he outlined and explained his reasoning for the existence of five sense modalities in humans, many researchers have used this definition of sense modalities in their work for philosophy, psychology, and biology. While the five-sense theory may be the folk psychological, or most intuitive, theory of sensory modalities, some recent philosophers of mind have begun to question the validity of Aristotle’s claim. In my paper, I examine two theories regarding the defining of sense modalities, both of which differ greatly from Aristotle’s, or the folk psychological, account. The first theory I examine, developed by Mathew Nudds, aims to prove that no theory attempting to count the senses can accurately describe sense modalities. The second theory, developed by Brian Keeley, aims to solve the same problem by applying four necessary requirements for defining a singular sense modality. By comparing and contrasting these two theories, I aim to show that while the folk psychological account of sense modalities is invalid, the sense modalities can be counted, specifically through Keeley’s account. In order to do this, I will examine Keeley’s four requirements for defining a sense modality in regards to Nudd’s objections to the standard accounts of sense modalities. To conclude, I will show that Keeley’s account holds against all of Nudd’s objections, and therefore the use of this method in advancing the science of sense modalities is justified.

Title: I Will Take Politics without the Science
Author: Michelle Nelson
Institution: SUNY Oneonta
Discussant: Brenna Crowe

Abstract: Determining what is science is a contentious issue within Philosophy of Science. This paper sets out the goal to determine if Political Science is even justified in calling itself a science. Along the way, this paper will discuss the definition of Political Science, Science, core ideas in what make a science different from other areas of thought as well as outlining a base theory and practice in determining if other fields of studies maybe defined as science or if they belong in some other area of study.

Title: Violence for Peace: Examining the Ethics of Terrorism
Author: Charlie Feher-Peiker
Institution: Hartwick College
Discussant: Andrew Edwards

Abstract: This paper is an ethical examination of the tactic of terrorism, seeking to answer whether or not the use of terrorism could ever be justified. If it could be, then what sort of circumstances would justify it? Also, examining contemporary notions of what terrorism is and who commits acts of terrorism, in this paper I argue against contemporary beliefs regarding terrorism and argue that given the proper circumstances terrorism is both justified and necessary for the oppressed to effectively combat the forces of oppression. Terrorism is never a nice option, and it should not be taken lightly. But when there is no alternative and when other methods are, by themselves, ineffective for putting a stop to injustice and deconstructing the architecture of oppression, terrorism might be justifiably employed as a tactic in the struggle of the oppressed to secure their most basic human rights and freedoms.

Title: Alleviate Difference
Author: Lee Silberberg
Institution: Rhodes College
Discussant: Anna Zoodsma

Abstract: In this essay I argue that we can find a middle ground between Mere Difference and Bad Difference positions in biomedical ethics. I argue that the term disability is mostly a blanket term and should be separated into three different terms: Disability1, Disability2, and Disease. These descriptions focus around a central idea that what separates disabilities and disease is the disabling of the functions of the body and not the damage done to the body. From here I make a disjunction between Disability1 and Disability2. Both categories include impaired functionality of the body, but Disability2 requires accelerated bodily degeneration and/or chronic pain along with functional disability. Noting this trouble, I posit that we can better capture the complicated ethics at play in disabilities if we were to look at the benefits of both theories as well as why both seem to fail to fully capture how we feel concerning the ethical treatment of disabilities. In doing so, I make the case for Alleviate Difference, a theory that argues we are only ethically required to alleviate Disability2 disabilities, and not Disability1 disabilities.

Title: Is Head Transplantation Morally Permissible?
Author: Shannah Sacco
Institution: Ithaca College
Discussant: Ali Eddy

Abstract: This essay focuses on the moral permissibility of an experimental organ transplantation in the form of a whole human head transplantation, set to take place in 2017 by the Italian surgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero on a patient with a muscle wasting disorder. I examine the moral permissibility of this procedure through an ethical consideration and questioning of possible harms to the patient and implications for third-party members. I utilize Gregory Rutecki’s examination of non-vital transplantation ethics, through looking at uterine transplantation, to evaluate under what conditions this sort of transplantation would be permissible. Non-vital organ transplantation encounters its own risk factors when being considered for patients, therefore I review ethical dilemmas with uterine transplantation and use this to compare harms associated with regular transplantation ethics, and then place this into the context of Dr. Canavero’s research and attempt at performing the world’s first human head transplantation. I argue that for any transplantation, especially head transplantation, to be considered an ethically permissible procedure for patients in need, the surgery must meet some basic standards of non-maleficence, informed consent (of the donor), and an analysis of issues with the allocation of scarce medical resources.

Title: The Reality of Out-of-Body Experiences
Author: Asia Schofield
Institution: SUNY Oneonta
Discussant: Thomas Rascona

Abstract: In this paper, I will be arguing out-of-body experiences are epistemically and personally transformative to the individuals who experience them. First, I will describe what exactly an OBE is, who or what you are if you are no longer associated with your body, and how they may be achieved. I will compare the common elements of near-death experiences to astral projection, or voluntary OBEs. To provide a greater understanding of what an OBE might entail, I will share two of my personal accounts. After I have fully described to the best of my ability what an out-of-body experience is, I will address how they are transformative. These experiences provide knowledge that alter the perception of one’s life, leaving them to change beliefs, attitudes, and purpose upon return to body. It is likely that an out-of-body experience gives a distinct separation from past self into a renewed self. Out-of-body experiences are transformative experiences.

Title: Revisiting What it Means to be Human Using Philosophy and Science
Author: Andrew Edwards
Institution: SUNY Oneonta
Discussant: Marisa Maccaro

Abstract: Despite the societal, economic, and scientific advances that philosophy has allowed humanity to make, there are still many questions that philosophers struggle to answer.  One that comes to mind is the question “What does it mean to be human?” One thinker in particular that attempted to answer this question was Aristotle and he believed that the answer was being able to reason well.  In this essay, I will argue that Aristotle is correct in arguing reasoning well is a crucial part of being human, but I will also argue that there are other perspectives to consider before answering the question of “What does it mean to be human?” To do this, I will analyze arguments for the idea that humans are made in God’s image as argued by Thomas Aquinas, and the biological perspective of mankind as argued by Charles Darwin and similar thinkers.  Ultimately, I will argue that those perspectives are flawed because they cling too much to a limited conception of the human being and will offer a conception of human beings as both rational and spiritual beings that are affected by their biology.

Title: Liberal Anarchism as a Response to the Alt-Right
Author: Bridget Nandal
Institution: SUNY Potsdam
Discussant: Matthew Distadio

Abstract: This paper is a response to the rise of the so-called “alt-right” position which claims to have made serious headway with the 2016. The paper puts forth an ideology called “Liberal Anarchism” which is a hybrid of liberal and socialist principles. It focuses on how the unalienable rights (health, public sphere, and fulfillment) need to be fulfilled by society in order to create an anarchy. The paper is divided into two halves. The first half outlines the basic beliefs of the Liberal-Anarchist position. Then the second half is devoted to explaining how the alt-right fail to provide the unalienable rights that all humans have.

Title: Unbuilding Walls: Developing Independence In and Out of Anarchy
Author: Cole Heideman
Institution: SUNY Potsdam
Discussant: Noelle Odell

Abstract: In his essay “Kicking Against the Pricks: Anarchist Perfectionism and the Conditions of Independence” Samuel Clark outlines an anarchist perfectionism. Perfectionism is a moral theory that holds that we ought to achieve human flourishing by fully developing particular ways of being that are central to human life. Clark gives perfectionism an anarchist twist. He then argues that anarchist perfectionism fails. In this essay I will unpack Clark’s arguments against anarchist perfectionism and argue that they fail because of his overly crude and incoherent notion of the anarchist eudaemonia, or flourishing, and in particular, too broad a definition of domination. Clark argues that independence is developed through resisting domination. I  provide alternative ways to develop independence outside of resisting domination, strictly speaking. In doing so I also argue for the importance of philosophy in both contemporary society and any “future anarchist society”.  I make use of Ursula LeGuin’s book The Dispossessed in support of my arguments, taking LeGuin’s writing to be one of the more thoroughly fleshed out imaginings of anarchist eudaemonia.

Title: Paths toward Liberation through Exhaustion and Dissent
Author: Daniel Wills
Institution: Ball State University
Discussant: Griffith Eddy

Abstract: This paper is an analysis of the 2016 election framed by critical theorist Herbert Marcuse’s concepts of “repressive desublimation” and containment of social change, extended by Byung-Chul Han’s analysis of our “achievement society.” I claim that the present state of affairs have created the conditions for widespread dissent. Following this analysis, I introduce a roadmap for effective dissent and finish with a model for an institution that could foster effective dissent.

Title: Civic Friendship: Political Polarization
Author: Quintin Thompson
Institution: Ball State University
Discussant: Michelle Nelson

Abstract: With the advent of the 2016 presidential election and subsequent political strife, more than ever democratic societies must fundamentally address the ways in which they conduct democratic discourse: the manners in which people discuss and resolve ideas particularly related to what or how a democratic society should conduct itself.  Breaking down echo chambers and reclaiming a democratic society built on discourse and mutual support of others well-being is imperative.  This essay attempts demonstrate how Aristotle’s civic friendship (or political friendship) can be achieved through Danielle Allen’s method of creating political majority.  I will first discuss Aristotle’s version of civic friendship.  Second, I will discuss civic friendship in the modern state.  Finally, I will demonstrate how Danielle Allen’s method conducts civic friendship in the modern state and how this might be beneficial for breaking down echo chambers.

Title: Beyond the Utilitarian Principle: Tragic Oedipus, Farcical Christ, and Prostehtic Hamlet
Author: Austin D. Burke
Institution: University of Hawaii
Discussant: Andrew Edwards

Abstract: In this paper, I examine the tension that arises between the thought of Sigmund Freud and Georges Bataille: the tension between the ideal of sublimated normalcy and the symptom of destructive deviation, between servility and sovereignty. First, I briefly examine a number of developments in Freudian thought illustrative of the dynamic revisions necessitated with the recognition of the presence of something beyond the principle of pleasure, primarily focusing on the period between the initial publication of Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality in 1905 and the publication of Civilization and Its Discontents in 1930. Next, I examine Bataille’s rejection of Freudian prescriptive ideals in his search for sovereign, excessive Consumation. Finally, I explore the character of Hamlet as an archetypal representation of human psychical experience after the dissolution of the Oedipus complex, reflecting an internalized conflict between the ideals of Freud and Bataille. Arguing that Hamlet’s actions are primarily characterized by a paralyzing ambivalence, I conclude by turning to the Lacanian interrogation- Che vuoi? – attempting to identify the fundamental aim underlying Hamlet’s desire. After suspending considerations of religious meaning, ethical value, social good, scientific truth, and aesthetic beauty, I examine the final alienating and debilitating obstruction between the subject and das Ding: the estranging un-reality of Signification itself.

Title: Fuzzy Epistemic Logic
Author: En Hua Hu
Institution: University of Toronto
Discussant: Alexandra Eddy

Abstract: Current epistemic logic models are mostly limited to either binary or probabilistic interpretation of knowledge. We present a logic which allows for degrees/strength of knowledge/knowing independent of probabilities. Namely, we assign fuzzy values to both the atomic propositions and accessibility relationships. We first discuss why a fuzzy approach is necessary in some scenarios. Then we present the static and dynamic version of the logic. Lastly we use it to model a logically non-omniscient agent’s knowledge over a decidable theory to illustrate the usefulness and some philosophical issue of the logic.

Title: The Players of Video Games Do Not Control the Avatars
Author: Aaron Suduiko
Institution: Harvard College
Discussant: Asia Schofield

Abstract: I argue in this paper that the player of a video game does not in any theoretically accurate sense control the avatar. Rather, the player is best understood as playing a fictional role within the video game that is distinct from the avatar, a role that I call the fictional player. This feature of video games radically diverges from other narrative media, and it is this feature from which many of the other most narratively salient features of video games emanate. I first argue that the ontology of video games, which contains a set of possible events from which a player actualizes particular narratives, necessitates that there be some kind of causally efficacious entity that actualizes events within the fiction. I consider an intuitive analysis of this entity that virtually all video game theorists tacitly accept: the avatar is causally efficacious within the video game’s fiction, acting as a proxy for the player who remains outside the fiction. I show that this proposal, while intuitive, fails to explain and accommodate a battery of central data about how video games tell stories. By considering and rejecting alternative hypotheses—that the player herself is an agent within the video game’s fiction, and that the player plays the role of a character within the video game—I arrive at my positive view: the player acts in the role of a fictional entity, the fictional player, that fictionally grounds the events of a video game’s narrative. I show that this account accommodates and explains the data about video games that the other proposals could not, while capturing the additional theoretical virtues of (1) fitting naturally in our overall ontology of video games and (2) providing a new and powerful analysis of how point-of-view functions in video games.