Royal Institute of Philosophy Stapledon Colloquium 2022-23

The Stapledon Colloquium Series features external speakers and members of the Liverpool department of Philosophy presenting current philosophical research. The seminars are free and open to members of the public. The seminar takes place on Thursdays, 3-5pm at the School of the Arts Library, 19 Abercromby Square, Liverpool L7 7BD.

In 2022-23, we will be presenting a mixture of online and in-person seminars.

Read about Olaf Stapledon here.

For any organisational queries, contact Dr Vid Simoniti

Semester 2


Emily Thomas (Durham)

From Unreal to Real Time: Metaphysics in Early Twentieth Century Britain

Around the turn of the twentieth century, British metaphysics of time saw two major shifts. First, from the 1870s to 1900s, philosophers became convinced time was unreal. Philosophers en masse denied the reality of time, from F. H. Bradley to J. M. E. McTaggart. Second, from the 1890s onwards, philosophers began to embrace time, developing newfangled theories. The early theories of F. C. S. Schiller, Bertrand Russell, and Samuel Alexander, conceived time as static. The later theories of C. D. Broad, Hilda Oakeley, Arthur Eddington, Susan Stebbing, R. G. Collingwood, and many others, conceived time as dynamic.
This broad-brush, big ideas paper asks, Why did these two changes occur? It explores the role of biological evolution, the spatialisation of time, and temporal psychology; and asks how the debates between static and dynamic theories got started.




Christine Overall (Queen’s University, Canada)

Older and Wiser?


Contrary to ageist propaganda, there are benefits to getting old. But is the acquisition of wisdom one of them? In this (rather speculative) paper I first propose some characteristics of a wise person. I then discuss potential sceptical arguments against the notion of “older and wiser,” respond to them, and argue that there are reasons to believe that age can bring wisdom. (This is not to say that all old people are wise.) I conclude by offering some tentative ideas about the kinds of wisdom that can usually be acquired, if at all, only in old age.


To book online click here



Elselijn Kingma (King’s College London)



Matthew Chrisman (Edinburgh)

When is belief free, and why does this matter?

In the attempt to explain when belief is free, many philosophers focus on the question: “How well functioning does an individual's mind have to be in order for them to be responsible for what they believe?" Prominent answers to this question identify various senses in which some beliefs might be cogently said to be free and others not, usually on analogy to the way some actions might be cogently said to be free and others not. In my view, however, these answers fail to capture the kind of freedom that matters the most for figuring out which institutions and practices enhance or threaten freedom of belief. So, in this talk I will make some suggestions for how to think about freedom of belief as a social-political ideal pursued within epistemic communities rather than (merely) as an individual cognitive ability or capacity. This is intended as groundwork for a new social-epistemic theory of freedom of belief. Along the way, I hope to discuss class-motivated implicit bias, the importance of sharing diverse expertise within epistemic communities, concept control in Orwell’s 1984, and Freire's idea of liberating pedagogy.


Michael Cholbi (Edinburgh)

Love, Identity, and the Duty to Grieve

Grief at the deaths of our loved ones, Solomon (2004) proposed, is a morally dutiful feeling. But the ground of such a duty is perplexing. It cannot, for instance, be reduced to a duty to mourn their deaths, i.e., a duty to publicly or ritualistically acknowledge their deaths. So how can we plausibly owe it to our deceased loved ones to grieve them – to undergo the complex psychological process of bereavement – and what would count as grieving so as to fulfil this duty? Here I propose that the duty to grieve deceased loved ones rests on a wider duty found in mutually loving relationships, which I call a duty of practical fidelity. Prevailing philosophical accounts of love’s nature (love as special concern, as valuing, as union with the beloved, etc.) all entail that love mandates that we seek to know the beloved and to adapt our attitudes toward them in response to changes in them. A parent who holds all the same attitudes toward their adult child as they did when the child was an adolescent has failed in their duties of practical fidelity; so too the long-term romantic partner whose love rests on the idealized picture they acquired of their beloved in the early heady days of being in love. The duty of practical fidelity is thus a duty to love in accordance with the evolving realities of the beloved. When we grieve such that our practical identities come to incorporate a relationship with the deceased that reflects their deaths and its practical significance to them, we thereby fulfil our duty of practical fidelity to them. Failure to do so, in contrast, wrongs the deceased insofar as their pre-mortem predecessors desired to be loved for who they are.


Neil Roughley (Essen)

Social and moral anger as imperative attitudes


In everyday contexts, anger is frequently expressed by the utterance of imperative sentences such as “Don’t you f***ing do that!” Resentment, or moral anger, has in the literature been influentially conceived as demanding that an agent recognise her wrongdoing by feeling guilt. Taken together, these points raise three issues that are central to understanding anger’s intentionality:

First, is there a plausible sense in which an emotion, as opposed to its linguistic expression, can be addressed? Both imperatives and demands require addressees.

Second, could such imperative attitudes, were they possible, be coherent? The imperative characteristic of anger seems to refer to a past action and the demand taken to be essential to resentment picks out an emotion. It seems, though, that neither of these things can be the coherent object of directives.

Finally, if moral anger is a species of generic anger, how might the apparent backward-looking character of the latter be squared with the apparent forward-looking character of the former?

The first two questions, I will argue, should be answered affirmatively. Social anger and its subspecies, resentment, are indeed imperative attitudes. I propose that the generic emotion should be analysed as an addressed aggressive aversion, that is, as a hybrid of bodily and attitudinal components, where the attitudinal – aversive and address – components are desiderative. The expression of the resulting  imperative thought structure is not directive and, as such, not incoherent, although backward-looking.

Resentment involves an additional, forward-looking desire, whose object is the enduring feature of the primary aversion’s object: the reason-responsive and executive mechanisms expressed in the impermissible action. It is the – intentional – revision of these mechanisms, not guilt, that moral anger coherently demands.


Semester 1

06 Oct 22

(in person)

Raamy Majeed, University of Manchester


Emotions Beyond Modularity

Are our emotions triggered by emotion-specific mechanisms, i.e., “modules”, or are they constructed from domain-general “core systems”? Modular theories of emotion struggle to accommodate the growing body of evidence against emotional modularity, whereas non-modular theories, such as various forms of constructionism, typically ignore some of the main reasons why modules were posited in the first place. This paper takes as its point of departure the observation that both modular and non-modular theories of emotion make certain assumptions about the cognitive architecture of emotion without paying adequate attention to the various ways such an architecture itself can be transformed during ontogenetic development. In response, I argue both the evidence for and against emotional modularity can be accommodated by employing Karmiloff-Smith’s (1992, 1998, 2009, 2015) notion of “progressive modularisation”: the formation of module-like structures through multidirectional interactions between an agent's genes, brain, cognition, behaviour and environment.

20 Oct 22

(online, 5pm start)

Annalisa Coliva,

University of California, Irvine

Hinge Trust

By looking at On Certainty, I offer a characterization of trust in its most basic form and show how trust enters epistemology not just when testimony is concerned, but also in the process of acquiring hinges that are essential to all our epistemic practices. 

I claim that trust is a specific kind of stance which comes before the ability of forming justified beliefs for or against empirical propositions, which may be directed not only at people but also at perceptual and cognitive faculties, objects, artifacts, and various features of one’s environment. Given the basicness of such a stance and the fact that it manifests itself in the clearest form when we are considering its role with respect to hinges, I call it “hinge trust”. 

I then consider its bearing onto current debates about trust and make a case for a “trust-first” redressing of those debates. That is, for ceasing to analyze trust as “reliance +” some other factor, such as goodwill, benevolence, commitment, etc. Similar to what happens in the “knowledge first” literature, 

Afterwards, I consider the relation between trust and distrust, arguing, once again, in favor of a “trust-first” approach, according to which trust is prior to and better than distrust. 

Finally, (and only if there is time) I look at the role of trust with respect to testimony and in hinge epistemology more generally.

Register for the online seminar here

03 Nov 22 (in person)

Gregor Moder, University of Ljubljana

The Monarch and The Master: Hegel and Shakespeare on Power

This paper discusses Julius Caesar, both the historical individual and the play by William Shakespeare, in order to elucidate the difference between the idea of the monarch and the concept of the master in Hegel’s political philosophy. The premise for our consideration will be twofold. First, these two ideas should be strictly distinguished. Second, we will argue that the clue to their difference is in Hegel’s recurring claim that death is the absolute master.

17 Nov 22 (online)

Peter van Inwagen, University of Notre Dame / Duke University

Stapledon’s Star Maker: Metaphysical and Theological Reflections

This lecture concerns the being called “the Star Maker” in Olaf Stapledon’s novel of that title. I will examine Stapledon’s descriptions of the Star Maker with an eye to answering this question: Supposing that there really is a being to whom these descriptions apply, what is there to be said for and against each of the following statements?

The Star Maker is not God, but he’s the closest thing there is to God

The Star Maker is God––albeit a God very different from the God of the Abrahamic religions.

I will also compare the Star Maker with Spinoza’s God and with the being called “the young man” in Kingsley Amis’s novel The Green Man.

Register for the online seminar here

01 Dec 22

Troy Jollimore (California State University, Chico)

Love and Belief

As proponents of so-called “epistemic partiality” have claimed, we tend to see those we love more positively than we view those to whom we are indifferent. But what does ‘seeing more positively’ amount to? Currently dominant accounts of epistemic partiality tend to wrongly view the lover as naïve or epistemically irrational, or to be oversimplistic in their accounts of love’s influences on epistemic practices and on resulting beliefs. In this talk I discuss various forms of epistemic partiality, and push back against the common tendency to assume that objective epistemic standards must be in conflict with the practices and tendencies of a good friend or lover.

Register for the online seminar here