A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

PhilChat on Realism, Possibility & Conceivability

We had the second UoM Philosophy Chat meeting today, so I'm just writing up a quick post to recount roughly what happened. There were two postgrads who each gave a talk on a philosophical subject which interested them. The first, Aaron, was talking on the subject of "Realism... whatever that is." The main thing I took away from his talk was that yes, the terminology of ontology is terminally screwy. A lot of debate over whether things exist seems to come from different notions of what we mean by existence. He is moving towards a meaning in which "real" is less a  defined label or property (e.g. real = not completely explicable in terms of lower-level phenomena) but more a statement that something represents a valuable way of looking at the world. This seemed very likely to be right, until he said that by by valuable he did not mean from a usefulness or epistemological standpoint, but instead he referred to some new kind of value which he was not yet willing to discuss.

The second talker, a PhD student named Nathan focused primarily on the philosophy of language, had first to explain why exactly he had changed his topic from the previously promised "philosophy of swearing". After this he went into the relation between Possibility and Conceivability, starting with a quote from Hume suggesting that the two were identical before going onto a more recent philosopher who had demonstrated that they are not. There was then a distinction drawn between two types of "conceivability" which, if I remember correctly, had something to do with the fact that I can conceive of the possibility that I went to Exeter University, but I cannot conceive of all the other necessary differences which would be made necessary by that single change. It was interesting, but very complicated with differences between "conceiving" and "believing" and a story from the Old Testament.

As at the last session, there was cake, hot drinks and mocking of continental philosophy.

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