Digest Week 2 Michaelmas Term 2019

MT19, Week 2 (20th - 26th October)

If you have entries for the weekly Digest, please send information to admin@philosophy.ox.ac.uk by midday, Wednesday the week before the event. 

Unless otherwise stated, all events will take place in the Radcliffe Humanities Building on Woodstock Road, OX2 6GG.

Notices - other Philosophy events, including those taking place elsewhere in the university and beyond

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Separation of Powers 2.0 | 13.00 | Peter North Room, Jesus College

Speakers: Professor Tarunabh Khaitan (Oxford), Professor Nicholas Barber (Faculty of Law)

Conceptual accounts of separation of powers in constitutional theory have not seen a major update since Montesquieu proposed his theory of the tripartite institutional allocation of state power to the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Three major developments have made this account wholly out of date. The first—and the oldest—of these developments was the rise of political parties that quickly became the real location of vast swathes of state power in way that completely scrambled the institutional division of power. Second, with the rise of the welfare state by the mid-twentieth century, the executive branch became extremely complex internally. In particular, the distinction between the political executive and the bureaucracy became very important. Finally, the growth of various accountability-seeking ‘fourth branch’ bodies, especially since the late twentieth century, put further pressure on the explanatory or normative capability of the traditional account. This paper presents a conceptual framework for understanding the first of these developments, i.e. the rise of political parties in democracies, through a separation of powers lens. It does so by proposing a method of ascertaining the ‘party separation ratio’, a device that reveals the degree of separation between a particular party in a given regime. The higher the party separation ratio, less is the separation between a political party and the state at any given point in time. The ratio incorporates two key variables that determine the degree of a party’s separation from the state: (i) the minimum number of elections any party would need to win to capture electorally-distributed state power, and (ii) the actual number of (sufficiently powerful) state offices and institutions a given party actually controls at the relevant point in time. It ignores the form of power that the traditional theory puts so much to store by, and focusses instead on the extent of state power controlled by a particular political party. The account is then used to predict the ability of different constitutional arrangements to keep the party separation ratio in check or allow it to approach unity (i.e. a one-party state). It also hypothesises the circumstances under which a ruling party will be most likely to seek to entrench itself in the institutions of the state.

Mereology of Potentiality Reading Group - The Powers Metaphysic (Neil Williams) | 17.00 - 18.30 | Rainolds Room, Corpus Christi College

A weekly reading group on Neil Williams' new book The Powers Metaphysic (OUP 2019). At each meeting, one member of the group will introduce a chapter with some comments/questions they want to raise for the group, which will be discussed during the meeting.

On Tuesday 22, John Pemberton will be presenting the 4th chapter of the book.

Attendance is open to all. (If you’d like to sign up to present at the reading group for a later week, please use the form linked here to provide your name and email, along with the dates/chapters you would be interested in presenting on: https://forms.gle/DcZkunXG4WsVzXc98)

If you have any questions, please email either Andrea roselli.uniroma3@gmail.com or Christopher christopherja@gmail.com and we'd be happy to help.

For more information, visit https://www.power-parts.website/


Theorising an Area of Law - Jurisprudence Discussion Group | 17.00 - 19.00 | Main Quad Board Room, University College

For more information, please see: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/events/tarunabh-khaitan-sandy-steel-oxford-theo...

The paper that will be presented can be found here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3464432


Professor Richard Swinburne (Oxford): A Sound Cartesian Argument for the Soul | 20.15 | Dorfman Centre, St Peter's College

'I present a slightly amended version of Descartes's argument for humans being essentially souls. Like Descartes's argument, it has a crucial premise about what is "conceivable" (= logically possible) about oneself - that "it is conceivable that I continue to exist while my body is suddenly destroyed." Modern objectors to Descartes claim that he had no good grounds for believing a premise about what is conceivable about himself, because he does not know to what he is referring by "I". I argue that "I" is - for each speaker who uses it - an informative designator (in Chalmers's terminology, "an epistemically rigid expression"), one which is such that if someone knows what it means they know to what it refers. Hence each of us can know that this premise concerning themself is true. Given that premise, it follows that each of us is essentially a soul.'

This event is hosted by The Joseph Butler Society and is open to all members of the university and their guests.

Update: due to high demand for the event featuring Professor Richard Swinburne speaking on the soul, we had to introduce a (free) ticketing system. But within minutes of distributing the ticket link to our mailing list and facebook page, the tickets sold out. Sadly, if you were not lucky enough to get one of these tickets, we cannot guarantee you a place at the event. We might still be able to accommodate you on the day but please understand if space restrictions mean that some people are disappointed. (Note that the venue has been changed to the Dorfman Centre at St Peter's College.)

Mereology of Potentiality Work-in-Progress Seminar | 11.30 - 13.00 | Refugee Scholars Room, Corpus Christi College

23rd October: Damiano Costa - Temporal existence

Please note that this is part of a series of four lectures taking place on: 23, 25, 30 October and 1 November.

For more information, visit https://www.power-parts.website/


Normative Ethics Reading Group | 15.00 - 17.00 | Ryle Room, Radcliffe Humanities

A weekly reading and discussion group for topics in normative ethics and decision theory. Some weeks involve a faculty member from Oxford or elsewhere presenting some of their recent or in-progress work. Contact Tomi Francis at tomi.francis@philosophy.ox.ac.uk for details.


South Asian Philosophy Reading Group | 17.10 - 18.30 | Ryle Room, Radcliffe Humanities

The South Asian Philosophy Reading Group meets even weeks to read and discuss a short selection from a work by a philosopher of South Asia, ancient or contemporary. MT 2019 will focus on philosophers who worked in the field of aesthetics. Questions which concerned the ancient thinkers whom we will read include: What makes something, like a drama or a poem, aesthetic? How and why do we respond to literature in the way that we do? What is the nature of our aesthetic experience? Is all art pleasurable? In Week 8, we will depart from the ancient debates to read a contemporary Dalit essayist on aesthetics and social change. All faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students are welcome— no prior knowledge necessary. If interested, please email Angela Vettikkal (angela.vettikkal@philosophy.ox.ac.uk) for readings and to be added to the listserv. More information: https://southasianphilosophyreadinggroup.wordpress.com and https://www.facebook.com/events/2886531058041424/.


Metaphysics Reading Group | 14.00 - 15.30 | New College

A biweekly reading group (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8) on topics in metaphysics, focusing this term on grounding. Please contact katherine.hong@philosophy.ox.ac.uk to be added to the mailing list.


Epistemology Reading Group | 14.00 - 16.00 | Conduit Room, New College

A pre-read weekly reading and discussion group on recent work in epistemology, sometimes with work-in-progress talks. Contact Nick Hughes (nick.hughes@philosophy.ox.ac.uk) or Bernhard Salow (bernhard.salow@magd.ox.ac.uk) to be added to the mailing list.


Methods and Work in Progress Seminar in Practical and Medical Ethics | 14.00 - 16.00 | Lecture Room, Radcliffe Humanities

Week 2: Thursday 24th Oct, 2-4pm, Dr Jonathan Pugh on Autonomy

This seminar is an opportunity for graduate students from all departments whose work has an applied ethics dimension to join a practical and medical ethics seminar group led by researchers from the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.

Each week, for the first hour of the seminar, one of the researchers will introduce a key topic in Practical or Medical Ethics, referencing various texts, including Medical Ethics and Law; a Curriculum for the 21st Century, 3rd edition (pdfs of the texts will be circulated in the week prior to the seminar).

During the second hour of the seminar students will be given the opportunity to present draft papers or thesis chapters for constructive comments and discussion with other graduate students, led by Dr Rebecca Brown.

Each week one student will have the opportunity to present a work in progress paper, giving a 10 min presentation. Another student will then give a 5 min initial response to the paper presented. This will then be followed by an open group discussion for the remainder of the hour. Papers and reading material are circulated a week in advance via email. Students who volunteer to present are asked to choose another session in which to respond.

The presenting and respondent spaces are issued on a first come first served basis so please email ASAP to ensure you get a space. Responding to papers is as important an aspect of the seminar as presenting. Please email rocci.wilkinson@philosophy.ox.ac.uk if you would like to be placed on the mailing list for this seminar group.


Professor Adrian Moore (Oxford): Immortality and Infinity | 17.30 | Tanner Room, Linacre College

Would you want to live forever? In this talk, Adrian Moore will ask whether the prospect of a never-ending life, of broadly the same kind as our current life, would be an attractive one or a repugnant one. He will also argue that there are certain tricks that can be played with the concept of infinity that enable us to address the letter of this question, if not perhaps its spirit.

This event is open to everyone and no sign up is required. For more information, please contact Jo Whitfield (jo.whitfield@linacre.ox.ac.uk)

Mereology of Potentiality Work-in-Progress Seminar | 11.30 - 13.00 | Refugee Scholars Room, Corpus Christi College

25th October: Damiano Costa - Temporal existence

Please note that this is part of a series of four lectures taking place on: 23, 25, 30 October and 1 November.

For more information, visit https://www.power-parts.website/