Topic for WS21+SS22

Please send your proposals to marlene.valek@univie.ac.at till Friday, 8th of October!

Every proposal should include:
– the topic
– a short text about it and why we should pick it
– questions that might be interesting to discuss
– a few papers we could read (around 5)
– possible keynote speakers for the conference

The vote will be held on Friday, 15th of October. Please make sure that there is at least one proponent present for every proposal to present it in a few sentences.

Also, don’t feel like you already have to be an expert on the topic – we are all here to learn. (If you want to see what a proposal could look like, those from last year can be found >>>here<<<).
So please, if you are passionate about some topic and want it to become our main focus for the year, don’t hesitate to suggest it!

Proposals:

Conceptual Engineering

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Here’s a brief approximation of what Conceptual Engineering (CE) is or does:
We might want to agree that concepts are (mental) representations of the world. So, the concept of a dog would be a representation of a dog. There’s different ideas on how this representation looks like exactly.
Now, why would we want to engineer it and what does that mean? Basically, there’s two broad reasons why we’d want to engineer a given concept. Either, because it is epistemically deficient, or because it has undesirable social and societal implications. A concept is epistemically deficient if it hinders us at getting at the truth of things. Hence, we will want to change that concept so it gets things right. A concept can also have undesirable societal implications. Again, that could be a reason why we would want to change (or engineer) that concept. How exactly one would go about engineering a concept depends on the stance one has on what concepts are (fundamentally speaking), how they are structured, and so on. That is in itself pretty interesting to explore.

Knowledge, Ignorance and Moral Responsibility

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Philosophers take it for granted that for an agent to be morally responsible for an action they must not only possess a certain degree of freedom but also fulfil an epistemic condition; they must be aware of what they are doing and of the moral parameters of their action. While the epistemic condition has largely been seen as unproblematic for the majority of the 20th century, recent discussions have sparked interest in a variety of questions and issues: (i) What is the content of the awareness required for moral responsibility? (ii) What kind of awareness does the epistemic condition presuppose? (iii) To what extent are agents themselves responsible for fulfilling the epistemic condition? (iv) When is an agent culpably ignorant of their actions, meaning when is ignorance itself blameworthy? (v) Is it possible to be responsible for an action without fulfilling the epistemic condition?

Practical Reasoning

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It’s not controversial to claim that we engage in theoretical reasoning. Here’s an example of this: If one is a human being, then one is mortal. Socrates is a human being. Hence, Socrates is mortal. This is just an instance of modus ponens. Described in rather abstract terms, what we have here are propositions that are formally related to one another in a way that makes the argument as a whole valid.
Plausibly, we also sometimes engage in “practical reasoning”. Example: If Martin intends to go swimming, Martin has to travel to the lake. Martin intends to go swimming. Now, what’s the conclusion of this? Martin intends to travel to the lake? Well, that doesn’t have to be the case. Now, the first question is: What form does proper practical reasoning take? But there is more: Suppose we settle what practical reasoning looks like. The question that remains is: Where does its normativity come from? Thirdly, there’s also the question of whether acting in accordance with correct or valid practical arguments (so, acting rationally) necessitates acting well, ethically speaking.