Royal Institute of Philosophy Stapledon Colloquium 2023-24 

The Stapledon Colloquium Series features academics from the UK and beyond 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.  

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 1  


Douglas Hedley (Cambridge) 

The Seriousness of Play  

The concept of ‘play’ might seem an unusual theme for philosophical reflection, and yet it has a distinguished trajectory from Plato to Wittgenstein. In my talk I shall address the surprising significance of this concept. 


Franz Berto (St Andrews) 

Imaging and Imagining 

I investigate the workings and epistemic credentials of counterfactual imagination: the activity of supposing that Pin order to investigate what would be the case if Pwas the case. The mainstream way of drawing the distinction between imagination in the indicative and in the subjunctive or counterfactual mood has it that one can only suppose that P in the former way when one gives nonzero chance to P. I argue that that's wrong. Instead, both kinds of suppositional thinking work by simulated belief revision; but while the former is governed by (some variation on) Bayesian conditionalization, the latter is governed by Lewisianimaging. So understood, counterfactual imagination can be rationally justified by considerations concerning belief accuracy: a specific kind of imaging, namely Laplacian imaging, minimizes expected inaccuracy as measured by the Brier score.So if one endorses the claims that (expected) accuracy is the fundamental virtue of epistemic attitudes, and that accuracy is adequately measured by the Brier score, imagining via imaging is virtuous indeed! 



James Mahon (Lehman, CUNY) 

Kant and the Ethical Duty Not to Lie 

Book your place at the online talk here. 

Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785) appears to claim that we have a perfect ethical duty to others not to lie and provides as an example of a lie a false promise to repay a loanpossibly the most famous example in all of his moral philosophy. However, according to Kant’s The Metaphysics of Morals (1797) and On a Supposed Right to Lie from Love of Humanity (1797), we have no such ethical duty to others not to lie. According to these later works, we have a perfect ethical duty to ourselves not to lie, and the worst lie we can tell is the lie to oneself, despite the fact that “it seems more difficult to explain how they [lies to oneself] are possible [because] to deceive oneself on purpose seems to contain a contradiction” (The Metaphysics of Morals, 6: 430). In this talk I try to solve the puzzle of what Kant says about lying in the Groundwork and explain the true ethical duty not to lie in Kant’s moral philosophy.  


Sorin Baiasu (Keele) 

Philosophical Counselling As First Philosophy 

A standard distinction in studies on philosophical practice or counselling is between philosophical practice, on the one hand, and, on the other, pastoral counselling, academic philosophy and psychotherapy. An important debate in the literature focuses on the relation of philosophical practice to psychotherapy; one significant question is whether and, if so, to what extent, philosophical practice is therapeutic. In this paper, I examine aspects of a different relation, namely, that between philosophical practice and academic philosophy. Some accounts suggest a role of first philosophy (or at least of primus inter pares) for philosophical practice. For instance, the academic discipline is viewed as in need of new ways of thinking, in a movement which is long overdue; by contrast, philosophical practice is regarded as a potential source for these new ways of thinking, not only thematically, but also methodologically. More precisely, in this paper, I consider how the philosophical practice’s emphasis on everyday problems and concerns might be not only an impetus for ‘real’ philosophy, but also for a really diverse (or one could say a properly ‘cosmopolitan’) philosophy. 


Semester 2 



Marta Sznajder (Groningen) 

Janina Hosiasson-Lindenbaum's Place in the History of Inductive Logic and Confirmation Theory 

Book your place at the online talk here.

Janina Hosiasson-Lindenbaum was a Polish philosopher working on inductive reasoning and the interpretation of probability. A member of the Lvov-Warsaw School, she published a number of articles in the 1930s and was an active participant of the international group of formally minded philosophers of the time. She was the first woman to publish a full article in Erkenntnis. Most of her philosophical work concerned the logical aspects of inductive reasoning and the nature of probability. Spanning over more than thirty articles, conference talks, texts in popular magazines, and book translations, her publications cover a range of topics. In her work on the logic of inductive reasoning she was primarily influenced by Keynes, but drew heavily from the developments of the axiomatic approach to probability and was a player in the rise of the subjective interpretation of probability. 
While Hosiasson-Lindenbaum has been recognised as an early adopter and developer of subjectivism, her philosophical work spans a much broader range. As it turns out, she was engaged in some ways with almost all significant developments in philosophical theories of probability and confirmation of the interwar decades: as a critic and a commentator, and as a highly original philosopher. In the talk, I will show the extent of these connections: both personal, uncovering her broad network of philosophical contacts across Europe and the United States, and conceptual, giving a brief overview of the main themes of her philosophical work. 



Sherri Irvin (Oklahoma) 

Compliments as Power Plays  

Book your place at the online talk here. 

My interest in aesthetic phenomena in everyday life, especially related to human embodiment, has led me to ponder a popular form of aesthetic discourse: namely, compliments on physical appearance. While attributing a positive aesthetic character to someone or something seems on the surface like it should be unobjectionable, there are notorious examples of compliments that function, intentionally or unintentionally, to deliver a slight or to impose an unwanted relationship. I’ll argue that such examples should not be excluded from the category of compliments or treated as marginal; they are tied to some of the core features of the practice of complimenting. With a view to the empirical literature, I’ll argue that compliments encode forms of social power that can be pernicious, and that their seeming innocuousness facilitates the damage they can do. Then we’ll contemplate what a better practice of complimenting might look like. 


Louise Richardson (York) 

The object of regret

Regret is an inherently interesting emotion: its value is contested, its manifestations are various, and it seems interestingly related to a range of other emotions such as remorse and disappointment. Philosophical attention to regret has often been on the normative issues it raises, at the expense of reflection on its nature (a question in the philosophy of mind), which will be my focus in this talk. More specifically, I will do two things. First, I will consider three questions about the object of regret, arguing in each case that regret can take more rather than fewer things as its object. Second, I will present an account of the structure of regret on which it is a pervasive and—in a certain sense—basic human emotion.




Catarina Dutilh Novaes (VU Amsterdam) 

A Foucauldian critique of the epistemic injustice research program 

Book your place at the online talk here. 

(joint work with Merel Talbi and Solmu Anttila)

Since the publication of Fricker’s groundbreaking Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing (2007), vibrant debates on the complex relations between knowledge, ethics and power have ensued, arguably giving rise to a specific research program (in Lakatos’ sense). In contrast with apolitical social epistemology, the epistemic injustice research program problematizes the roles of power and social identities in epistemic processes. Two of its core assumptions are: there is a reasonably neat separation between epistemic phenomena and ethical-political phenomena (even if they often intersect); while frequent, occurrences of epistemic injustice are deviations from the norm that can be redressed—epistemic injustice is a bug, not a feature.

In this talk, I offer a critique of the epistemic injustice research program thus conceived, drawing on broadly Foucauldian ideas on the relations between power and knowledge. I focus on the second assumption above, specifically by revisiting Curry’s critique of Fricker’s and Medina’s respective analyses of To Kill a Mocking Bird, and by presenting a similar critique of Lackey’s recent work on criminal testimonial injustice. In both cases, the analyses of testimonial injustice as credibility deficit (Fricker and Medina) or as credibility excess (Lackey on confessions) miss the role and functions of these practices in perpetuating oppressive power structures (in these specific cases, white supremacy). Thus seen, epistemic injustice is a feature, not a bug, requiring much more than epistemic strategies to be redressed. 



Alex Broadbent (Durham) 

In the Shadow of Certainty: Scientific Orthodoxy in the Covid-19 Pandemic 

(based on joint work with Pieter Streicher) 

What was the role of science during the Covid-19 pandemic? That of hero, on one view, foreseeing the threat, guiding global responses, and delivering a cure, if not for the disease itself, then at least for the pandemic. That of villain, on another view, blowing the threat out of all proportion, prompting panicked, unfair, and damaging responses, and delivering a partial remedy which was oversold, overused, and may yet prove to have dangerous consequences. Neither is wholly true, and neither wholly false. The purpose of this talk therefore cannot be to decide between the two. But the inadequacy of both views leaves the question unanswered: what was the role of science during the Covid-19 pandemic? Neither “hero” nor “villain” is nuanced enough. We must go deeper. 

In joint work with Pieter Streicher, we introduce the notion of scientific orthodoxy, characterised by: complexity; power; methodological rigidity; dogma; unity; and scientific injustice. In the talk I will explain each of these six characteristics with reference to some scientific episodes during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Not all science is orthodoxy: in fact, most is not, and this was true during the pandemic. This study shows that a small portion of science developed an outsized influenced over global pandemic policy. I thus develop the idea of orthodoxy (as well as related notions like dogma) to be more than a mere pejorative, but a new conceptual tool for explaining how things can go wrong with science. The project is thus a defence of science done right against science gone wrong. 


Fabienne  Peter (Warwick) 

Relational moral demands

What is it to act rightly? According to relational theories, moral demands are, at least sometimes, grounded in the relation between individuals. To act rightly is to respond to the directed moral demands that honouring or promoting appropriate relations to other individuals entails. But how should appropriate relations be understood? I distinguish between two main accounts: an individuals-first account and a radically relational account. On the basis of this distinction I then argue that for some instances of right action, a radical relational account gives the right answer.