Royal Institute of Philosophy Stapledon Colloquium 2019-20

School of the Arts Library

2 – 2.45pm: INSIGHTS Series

INSIGHTS is a new series of talks for postgraduates to accompany the Stapledon Colloquium. Join the Stapledon speaker and other postgraduates in the Library one hour before the Colloquium for an informal discussion of their paper and to find out about their research background and career. Gain INSIGHTS into the research context for the talk; INSIGHTS into writing & delivering a talk; INSIGHTS into building a research project & profile; INSIGHTS into academic life & different careers paths.

Open to all SOTA postgraduates. Tea and biscuits provided

3 – 5pm: Stapledon Seminar

The Stapledon Seminar Series features external speakers and members of the Liverpool department of Philosophy presenting current philosophical research. The seminars are free and all are welcome to attend. Tea and coffee are provided thanks to the generous support of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and the School of the Arts.

Read about Olaf Stapledon here.

For any organisational queries, contact Dr Vid Simoniti

Semester One
10 October 2019 Attila Tanyi, University of Tromsø

Consequentialism and Its demands: The Role of Institutions

Consequentialist morality imposes obligations on individuals that can be very demanding. Can this morality be so demanding that we have reason not to follow its dictates? According to many, it can. This paper takes the plausibility and coherence of this objection – the demandingness objection – as a given. Our question, therefore, is how to respond to the objection.

We put forward a response that we think has not received enough attention in the literature: institutional consequentialism. This is a consequentialist view that requires institutional systems, and not individuals, to follow the consequentialist principle. We first introduce the demandingness objection, then explain the theory of institutional consequentialism and how it responds to the objection. In doing so, we work out a twolevel version of institutional consequentialism, which we also defend against possible objections. We also provide a fitting account of institutions and put forward consequentialist grounds for endorsing an institutional – but not moral – division of labour.

In the remainder of the paper, we defend the resulting view against the objection that institutional consequentialism cannot alleviate worries about demandingness on the global level. Global issues such as poverty, peace, or the protection of the environment generate burdensome responsibilities, yet, there seem to be no global institutions to carry them out. It seems, then, that it is left to better-off individuals to devote most of their resources to humanitarian projects. We argue against this objection by showing that there are several global institutions that can be used for the purposes of fulfilling consequentialist requirements. In our current institutional world order including the state system as well as transnational institutions consequentialist demands on individuals are mitigated. Institutions that are sufficiently well functioning spread thin the burdens of compliance across a greater number of parties and reduce the burdens on those who are disposed to shoulder their share of the consequentialist task. They also reduce costs by clearly allocating responsibilities and coordinating the manner agents implement them. Finally, they ease motivational strains by providing assurance that responsibilities will be mutually honoured.

31 October 2019 Jane Heal, University of Cambridge

On Underestimating Us

Human beings are social animals. A solitary life would be horrible for most of us. What makes life worthwhile is being with others and engaging in shared projects with them. To do justice to these facts, philosophers need to pay more attention to the first person plural, we/us. Philosophical views about value and virtue tend to put centre stage the idea that for each of us his or her individual welfare is important, to him or her at least, and that the fundamental practical question is for an individual and is of the form ‘What should I do?’  How might things go with value and virtue if we recognised that an individual’s welfare is bound up with that of others and that an equally fundamental practical question is ‘What should we do?’

28 November 2019 Oliver Hallich, University of Duisburg-Essen

The Dark Side of Forgiveness

Forgiveness usually counts as a virtue. In my talk, I challenge this assumption and cast a critical light on forgiveness. My starting point is the “alteration thesis” of forgiveness, recently defended by David Owens and Chris Bennett. Bennett argues that forgiveness is a “normative power”: the forgiver undertakes an obligation no longer to treat the wrongdoer as standing under the obligations generated by the act of wrongdoing. This, I argue, is correct, but the forgiver “changes the normative landscape” not only by committing himself to no longer holding the act of wrongdoing against the wrongdoer, but also by introducing presuppositions into the discourse which often remain unthematized. More precisely, the forgiver presupposes that the addressee of forgiveness is guilty of an offence; he also presupposes that he himself has the standing to forgive and that what he purports to forgive is forgivable. All of these presuppositions may turn out to be highly questionable. Bringing these presuppositions to light will often cast doubt on our positive assessment of forgiveness. It will often lead us to see forgiveness as a way of cloaking one´s own interests under the guise of exercising a virtue rather than as the real exercise of a virtue. It will make us realize the dark side of forgiveness.

5 December 2019 Louise Hanson, University of Durham

How to be an Epistemic Constitutivist

Constitutivists about a given domain of norms hold that the norms in question are constitutive norms of some activity - they apply to people in virtue of the fact that they are doing this activity.

There is extensive debate about whether constitutivism about moral norms is tenable. In recent years much of this debate has centred around David Enoch’s shmagency objection, which many people take to be a pressing objection to moral constitutivism. It is often thought that if the shmagency objection is effective against moral constitutivism, it’s effective against epistemic constitutivism too.

I argue that this is false. I present a new argument for constitutivism about epistemic norms, and show that the features that drive that argument, are features that also allow constitutivism about epistemic norms to avoid the shmagency worries, even if those worries are effective against moral constitutivism.


Semester Two
6 February 2020 Mark Jago, University of Nottingham

Title TBC

20 February 2020 Rebecca Davnall, University of Liverpool

Title TBC

5 March 2020

Alisa Mandrigin, University of Stirling

Title TBC

19 March 2020 Jon Pike, Open University

Title TBC

23 April 2020 Neil Roughley, University of Duisburg-Essen

Title TBC

30 April 2020 Robin McKenna, University of Liverpool

Title TBC