Monday, December 5, 2011

Reading Group on Species and Biodiversity

I was delighted to receive a David T. Scadden Fellowship to fund a project investigating the philosophical and biological underpinnings of the concept of biodiversity. It seems to me that this term is much used, but poorly understood. The more I've thought about the vagaries of biological classification, the more problematic the issue seems.

So starting in the Spring 2012 term, I will be running an interdisciplinary reading group on the nature of species and biodiversity. The group will include a mix of students and professors and we will read several books and articles — to be decided, but right now I'm thinking about reading Wheeler & Meier (eds.) Species Concepts and Phylogenetic Theory: A Debate, Richard Richards' The Species Problem, James Maclauren and Kim Sterelny's What is Biodiversity?, and some chapters form my book manuscript, Are Species Real? (forthcoming from Palgrave-Macmillan in 2012), among other things. Meetings are tentatively scheduled for alternating Wednesdays from noon-1PM (over lunch).

Students may join the reading group for credit (a full course-credit section of PHIL 320). If you're interested, please send me an email (matthew.slater@b...) or come chat with me about your experience/coursework in biology (and philosophy, if any). Specific requirements (papers, projects, &c.) for receiving credit will be negotiated on an individual basis.

The Fellowship will also allow me to fund one or two students to continue their research over the summer or fall of 2012 (and possibly attend a relevant conference). So students who are interested in getting some independent research experience on biodiversity are especially encouraged to join.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Philosophy Lunch Chats on Hiatus until January

Thanks to all who came out for Philosophy Lunch Chats this term! We'll get going again on the 19th of January, when I hope to meet some more philosophically-inclined Bucknellians. In the meantime, please feel free to email me (mhs016@) with suggestions of readings or requests for topics you'd like to see make the schedule.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lunch Chat: Rawls on Wall Street (12/1)

I hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving Break. Lunch chats will resume at noon on Thursday the 1st in the Philosophy Lounge (Coleman 62). We'll discuss Steven Mazie's Stone column "Rawls on Wall Street".

The Boston Review also had a recent interview with the political philosopher Joshua Cohen on the subject of connection between Rawls' views and the OWS movement that's worth reading. For background on Rawls and his important book A Theory of Justice, you can check out this entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2012 Lehigh Valley Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

Call for Papers

Moravian College is proud to present their third annual undergraduate philosophy conference. We invite undergraduate students and professors of Lehigh Valley and the surrounding area to submit papers of general philosophical topics to be presented at the conference scheduled for March 24, 2012 hosted at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA.

Submission Guidelines:
Please send submissions as attachment in .doc format no more than 3000 words. Submissions may be on any philosophical topic and should be prepared for blind review and include a cover page with the following information:

1) author’s name
2) title of paper
3) institutional affiliation
4) contact information (email, phone number, mailing address)
5) word count
6) Area of philosophical subject (ex. Ethics, Existentialism, Metaphysics)
7) An abstract of no more than 200 words

Please send all submissions and questions to

Deadline for Submissions: February 3, 2012

Program Coordinators: Armando Chapelliquen ’12 & Katie Miller ‘13

Monday, November 14, 2011

Lunch Chat: What Makes Free Will Free (11/17)

We'll talk about free will in the next lunch chat. I hope you'll choose to come. Of course, if the world is deterministic, then your choice will be based on initial conditions and laws of nature set up by the big bang — and so not really your choice. On the other hand, if the world isn't deterministic, then your "choice" is more like a coin flip than a genuinely free choice. . . .

So I hope that initial conditions and/or chance conspire to have you join us for soup and bread and philosophical chitchat. Newcomers always welcome. We meet in the Philosophy Lounge, 62 Coleman Hall.

For background, you might read a recent Stone column, "What Makes Free Will Free?". Or check out David Sosa’s summary of the basic problem for free will from “Waking Life”:

As it happens, I wrote a little philosophical short story on this issue not too long ago — if you get very inspired.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Perceiving and Knowing

On Nov. 23, I'll be giving a talk entitled "Perceiving and Knowing" at the Institut für Philosophie at the University of Leipzig.

This paper involves bringing to bear some old ideas -- for me, at least (they date back to my 2006 dissertation) -- in criticism of contemporary work by John McDowell, Tyler Burge, and Alan Millar.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lunch Chat for 11/10/11

John Perry
For the next lunch chat, let's talk about something we can all relate to: procrastination. Specifically, I think it's high time that we read a short article by John Perry from the Chronicle of Higher Education which was recently (and belatedly) honored by an Ig-Nobel prize in Literature: "How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done". As usual, we'll meet in Coleman 62 at noon where you'll find soup and homemade bread.

For a write-up on this year's Ig-Nobel Prize recipients, check out this article in the Chronicle.

Perry is one of the co-hosts of the terrific and widely syndicated radio show, Philosophy Talk: "The program that questions everything . . . except your intelligence." Every week, you can stream the current program for free.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Philosophy Department Social


You are cordially invited to attend an end-of-semester social with the members of the philosophy department on Tuesday, December 6 from 4-5 p.m. in the classics/philosophy wing. The whole ground floor of Coleman Hall will be celebrating! Refreshments will be served! Hope you can join us!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

April 20–21, 2012
Pacific University
Forest Grove, Oregon

Keynote talk by James Sterba (University of Notre Dame)
Also: Special live taping of the radio show, "Philosophy Talk" (hosted by John Perry and Ken Taylor)

The 16th annual Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference will be held April 20-21, 2012 on the campus of Pacific University, in Forest Grove, Oregon.  The purpose of this conference is to provide a forum for the presentation of philosophical work of undergraduates to their peers.  Papers are required to be of philosophical content, but there are no specific restrictions on subject matter within the arena of philosophical discussion itself.  Papers should be approximately 3000 words (10-12 pages).

Submission deadline is FEBRUARY 1, 2012.  Final decisions will be made by February 28, 2012.
Volunteers for session chairs are also welcome.  Selected papers from the conference will be published in Volume 3 (2012) of the journal Res Cogitans. For more information, check the conference webpage.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lunch Chat for 11/3/11

For this week's lunch chat, I thought we'd go for a loosely-Halloweeny theme: Aliens! We'll read Gary Gutting's recent Stone column, "Will the Aliens Be Nice? Don’t Bet On It". The article begins:
The probability that there is intelligent life somewhere other than earth increases as we discover more and more solar systems that seem capable of sustaining life.  The thought that there might be extraterrestrial intelligences (ETI) somewhere out there excites us and has led to organized efforts to contact any such beings.  We have sent space probes with data about us, and we transmit signals with a structured content (like symbols expressing mathematical formulae) to what we hope will be an intergalactic audience. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence project (SETI) is obviously based on the assumption that the possible benefits of contact with ETI outweigh the possible harms.  But do they?
In addition to rolling out this semi-official philosophy blog, we'll also be offering hearty soup and bread for lunch. So come on out and fill your bellies with grub and your minds with wisdom.

Thursday, 11/3 at noon in 62 Coleman Hall.

Inaugural Blog Post

Time for the Philosophy Department to launch itself into the Blogosphere. Keep an eye on this site — or subscribe via the links to the right — for department news, events, and philosophy-related discussion.