Past talks

Michael Della Rocca (Yale):
“Restricting the Principle of Sufficient Reason in Kant and Contemporary Philosophy”

May 18, 2018

Abstract: This paper critically examines a prominent and perennial strategy — found in thinkers as diverse as Kant and Shamik Dasgupta — of simultaneously embracing the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) and also limiting it so as to avoid certain apparently negative consequences of an unrestricted PSR. I will argue that this strategy of taming the PSR faces significant challenges and may even be incoherent. I will develop these criticisms through detailed, direct engagement with both Kant and Dasgupta. And for my (nefarious) purposes, I will enlist a generally derided argument by Leibniz for the PSR which will help us to see the connections between the PSR and a radical form of monism.

Patricia Glazebrook (Washington State):
“Heidegger and Economics”

May 11, 2018

Abstract: This paper is a work-in-progress that provides preliminary assessment of Heidegger and economics. Surprisingly little has been written on this topic. First, what has been written is reviewed, including seemingly stray, isolated pieces on for example accounting, rejection of Austrian hermeneutic economics, exploitation of labor in the global South, and more sustained engagements on Heidegger and Marxism, abstract metaphysical and postmetaphysical notions of ‘economy,’ and issues of ‘work’ as both labor and production. Against that background, I argue that Heidegger’s understanding of Gestell, insofar as it might be deployed to critique capital, cannot be fully understood without attention to his account the mathematization of nature. I conclude that thematic, post-Marxist analysis of the implications of Heidegger’s thinking for economics is long overdue.

Ulrika Carlsson (HSE):
“The Tragedy of Liberalism in Lampedusa’s The Leopard

April 20, 2018

Abstract: Traditional aristocratic culture collides with liberalism in Lampedusa’s The Leopard. Yet the aristocratic protagonist does not resist the political changes that will annihilate his culture. Engaging with Hegel’s, Kierkegaard’s and Marx’s discussions of clashes between value systems, I argue that the hero remains passive because a culture is not the kind of thing for which one can give arguments, and because the feudal system underpinning that culture is not one he believes to be the right system, or even legitimate. Even so, he is sad and bitter about his culture’s demise, and readers have reason to sympathize with him. That is because, even if feudalism is wrong, the aristocratic culture is good, providing a framework of meaning to life in a way that liberalism and capitalism cannot.

Silver Bronzo (HSE):
“Cavell, Pasolini, and the Two Dimensions of the Moral Life”

April 13, 2018

Abstract: Drawing on the work of the American philosopher Stanley Cavell (1926-), I argue that the moral life has two inseparable dimensions. One dimension is concerned with the question of what is, morally, the right thing to do. In modernity, this dimension has been greatly emphasized by the Enlightenment tradition. The focus here is on evils such as injustice, tyranny, poverty, and superstition. The other dimension is concerned with the question of how one can lead an authentic existence. In modernity, this dimension has been greatly emphasized by the Romantic and Existentialist tradition. The focus here is on evils such as conformity, lack of self-reliance, self-deception, and alienation. I argue that the two dimensions are conceptually interdependent in the very strong sense that failure along each dimension amounts to failure along the other dimension as well. This helps to explain why the second dimension can be properly characterized as a dimension of the moral life. In order to illustrate my claims, I discuss the late essays on politics and society of the Italian poet, director, and Marxist intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975).

Matteo Falomi (Essex): “One more good deed before I die” — Suicide and Moral Perfectionism in Rousseau’s Julie

April 6, 2018

Abstract: It is a deep-seated assumption in normative ethics that moral thinking aiming at practical guidance must result in moral judgements about courses of action. In this talk, I will challenge the assumption by considering a counterexample: the discussion of suicide contained in Rousseau’s epistolary novel Julie, or The New Heloise. One of Rousseau’s characters, Lord Bomston, suggests here that suicide should not be seen as a problem of normative ethics. As Bomston argues, moral thinking about suicide should not start from the question “am I entitled to cease living?” but from the question “have I really begun?”. Answering this question doesn’t require the production of a moral judgement about suicide, but the performance of a spiritual exercise: whenever one is tempted to kill oneself, one should tell oneself: “I will do one more good deed before I die”. If the exercise is successful, Bomston thinks, one will be dissuaded from one’s suicidal proposition. What kind of argument is this? In the talk I argue that Bomston’s framing question should be interpreted as asking whether one has begun living as oneself, or has only been imitating others: to this extent, Bomston’s argument belongs to the register of moral thinking Stanley Cavell labels “moral perfectionism”. Bomston’s exercise purports, in this perspective, to lead the suicidal person out of her stance of conformity. The exercise may be seen as inviting to acknowledge one’s suicidal intention and to defer its realization. This strategy of acknowledgment and deferral is meant to enable the suicidal person to realize that she exists independently of the present dispensation of her self: this realization indicates, in Rousseau’s perspective, the achievement of an authentic relation with herself. Such an achievement, however, may dissolve one’s suicidal temptation: for whatever reason one has for killing oneself, that reason only belong to one’s present state of the self; but to identify one’s present state of the self with one’s self is the mark of an inauthentic relation with oneself. It is essential to this realization that the suicidal temptation is not contrasted by a moral imperative or silenced by a virtuous motive: this mode of moral thinking works, instead, by suspending judgement about the action of killing oneself. Bomston’s argument aims, however, to hold the suicidal person back. To this extent, the argument offers practical guidance without resorting to moral judgements about actions, and thus provides a counterexample to the deep-seated assumption.

Alexei Gloukhov (HSE): A Tragic Concept of Truth in Plato

March 30, 2018

Abstract: I am going to introduce a concept of truth, based on the usage of the “tragic change” in Plato. The talk consists of two parts, historical and philosophical. I borrow key insights from the history of philosophy, but my objective is to render the “tragic” concept of truth operational in the contemporary context. In Ancient Greek dramas, a “tragic change” produced a swift transition from a “proper” narrative, where a protagonist enjoyed a powerful position, to an “alien” narrative, where the same protagonist suffered badly for his hubris. Under democracy, the political lesson drawn from a tragic performance was that a dramatic reversal destroys dangerous deviations while preserving the common ground, such as the shared values of the community. Plato adopted and even perfected this device of representation but rejected its political conclusion. In the Republic, dramatic narratives with “tragic changes” are used to formulate and resolve the most radical challenges to justice. Accordingly, the truth is to be understood as whatever survives a “tragic change” that is a complete reversal of every charged binary opposition (proper / alien, good / bad etc.). This concept of truth clearly differs from the mainstream contemporary approaches such as the correspondence or coherence theories. Nor is it cognate with Heidegger’s poetic understanding of truth, despite its roots in the tragic poetry. My claim is that the “tragic” concept of truth has affinity to pragmatism; however, the difference with the latter is that in the former the political element is irreducible.

William Child (Oxford): Meaning, Use, and Supervenience

March 23, 2018

Abstract: What is the relation between meaning and use? My paper defends a non-reductionist understanding of Wittgenstein’s suggestion that ‘the meaning of a word is its use in the language’; facts about meaning cannot be reduced to facts about use, characterized non-semantically. Nonetheless, it is contended, facts about meaning do supervene on non-semantic facts about use. And, it is argued, this supervenience thesis is consistent with Wittgenstein’s view of meaning and rule-following. Semantic supervenience is then defended against two criticisms. First, John McDowell’s suggestion that the supervenience claim falsifies the epistemology of meaning and fails to accommodate common-sense truths about meaning. Second, a series of counterexamples proposed by Stephen Kearns and Ofra Magidor, who argue that worlds may differ semantically without differing non-semantically. It is argued that neither criticism is convincing. So there is no reason to deny the thesis that semantic facts supervene on non-semantic facts about use and every reason to endorse it.

Alexander Davies (Tartu): Speech Act Pluralism, Content-Parthood and Homeomerous Monism

March 16, 2018

Abstract: When you utter a sentence in context how many things do you say? On an orthodox (monistic) view, you say just one thing, and that one thing that you say is identical to the content of the sentence in context. In a series of publications going back to 1997, Herman Cappelen and Ernie Lepore present a challenge to this orthodox view. They provide good reason to believe that for any utterance of any sentence, there are many true indirect speech reports (of the form “He said that P”) of that single utterance, each with a complement with a different content. They conclude that when one utters a sentence, one doesn’t just say one thing that is identical to the content of the sentence in context. One instead says many things (pluralism). In this paper, I take a closer look at the data Cappelen and Lepore use to support pluralism. I argue that when we take exclusive indirect speech reports (of the form: “The only thing A said is that P”) into consideration, we find reason to reject Cappelen and Lepore’s pluralism and opt for what I call homeomerous monism. I sketch a semantic value for “said” which best reflects the data, and which incorporates a novel definition of content parthood that is a hybrid of definitions provided by Kit Fine and Angelika Kratzer. An implication of the resulting view is that the parts of a content, and of what someone said, (much like the parts of any other object) are contingent. Had what someone said, been said of a different world, it would have had different parts.

Aaron Wendland (HSE): Saving Socrates from Plato: Dialogue, Death and Deconstruction

March 2, 2018

Abstract: According to one founding myth, philosophy begins with an obstreperous old man being put to death for questioning his fellow citizens about the nature of courage, justice, piety, and other such virtues. In this presentation, I explore the extent to which death is a necessary condition for Socratic dialogue, and then I argue that Plato’s emphasis on immortality is a mistake from which Socrates (and the history of philosophy) must be saved.

Tatiana Levina (HSE): The Radiation of Divine Light: Abstractionism in the Hesychast Icon

Friday, February 16 2018, 16.40-18.10

Abstract: The period of Byzantine art that sheds light on the issue of importance for us is the late period of the Palaeologus dynasty, called Palaeologus Renaissance of the 14th century. In the art of this period, the plastic means of expression were used to solve the problem of the non-created nature of the Divine Light, and theology (as well as in the preceding period of iconoclasm) played an important role in art. The style of the artists changes: while at the beginning of the 14th century many of the mosaics and frescoes were mimetic, picturesque, and lifelike, the style of the second half of the 14th century is no longer related to the world and the man. In the icon of the Transfiguration, art historian Lazarev sees the Byzantine prototypes of the Palaeologus era: “Christ seemingly floating in the air, in a white robe, his figure having the highest light-carrying power, shown in a halo with rays emanating from him”. As regards the solution of the artistic task, that is, to present the glow of the light of Tabor, which was one of the most popular themes of his time, Theophanes the Greek was “most interested in the expression of the silver radiance emitted by Christ, which is reflected in the rock-mound ledges, on the robes and in the faces”. The relationship between Byzantine icons and even abstract paintings with Palamite disputes of the 14th century has been pointed out by researchers on numerous occasions, so it seems absolutely necessary to present Gregory Palamas’ arguments. This will make it much clearer what ideas Byzantine painters had, what exactly they wanted to convey with artistic means.

Vera Pozzi (HSE): The ‘Reception of Kantianism in Russia’ in post-Soviet Historiography: the Case of Russian Theological Academies 

February 9, 2018

Abstract: In the ‘90s, Russian historiography read the relationship between Kantianism and Orthodox thought as entirely characterized by hostility, not infrequently identifying the broader “Russian Orthodox Thought” with the “Russian Religious Renaissance” (i.e. the “Silver Age”, about 1880-1930). In recent years, intellectual historiography, in the East as in the West, has pointed out the need for a double turn: a broadening of the time-frame to include the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th (see Kruglov, Filosofiya Kanta v Rossii v kontse XVIII – pervoi polovine XIX vekov); and the necessity to situate sources in their appropriate historico-philosophical context (see Michelson & Kornblatt). Following these trends, I’ll propose two examples of “Philosophizing at Russian Theological Academies” – I. Vetrinskii and P. Yurkevich. Their interpretations of Kantian philosophy shows two different positions that are characterized by a clear identity, but avoid, at the same time, any hostile attitude to Kant’s “Copernican revolution”.

Stefan Hessbrüggen-Walter (HSE): Rewriting the History of ‘Life’ in the Early Modern Period

February 2, 2018

Abstract: In my presentation, I will defend the thesis that existing scholarship on how the early moderns understood the concept of life misses a crucial element of the historical record: God is alive, too. In the context of early modern natural theology, this is a completely obvious and indubitable fact. Early modern theorists of life had to accommodate it. I will trace the debate on this topic within Jesuit philosophy at the turn from the 16th to the 17th century. Some thinkers, like Francisco Suárez, maintained that God’s life is paradigmatic: all other forms of life must be explained in relation to it. Others, like Rodrigo de Arriaga, believed that it is possible to account for life in nature, ‘physical life’, without any reference to life as a Divine attribute. This debate was not completely academic. Further research may well prove that it shaped the understanding of life and its various dimensions up to Spinoza and the post-Leibnizian ‘biophilosophy’ of the 18t century.


Jorge Luis Méndez-Martínez: Sound or sounds? The problem of sound individuation

Friday 26 January 2018

Philosophical treatment of sound has not yielded any theories on how to individuate sounds. I survey the various positions in sound ontology, and against this background outline the possible views on sound individuation. Among the possible views regarding sound individuation I will outline the following: that of the philosophy of language, which has emphasized the distinction between count-sortal terms (such as “cat” or “chair”) and mass terms (such as “water” or “snow”); the dispositional evolutionary perspective, that considers sounds to be a disposition of a sounding object; and the Brentano-Husserl analysis of the unity of consciousness regarding the inner perception of time. In this sense, I will suggest which of these views we could choose, mainly when trying to adjust to a perspective in sound ontology.


Roger Smith: “The Sense of Movement”

Friday January 19, 2018, 16.40-18.10

Everyday English speech affirms closeness between touch and movement senses and belief in reality (e.g. ‘being in touch’, ‘to grasp’, ‘standing on firm ground’). Modern epistemologists are generally critical, but a number of phenomenologists (e.g. Hans Jonas) have restated the argument linking the conception of reality to the touch sense. There is a long history to this everyday and philosophical belief. I will contribute to this history by discussing the differentiation of a sense of movement from the touch sense. In the years 1790-1830, philosophers, psychologists and physicians (then often not distinct activities) named a ‘muscular sense’ or ‘feeling of movement’. This named a source of awareness, or apprehension, of activity encountering resistance – it named a sense with an inherently double modality. A number of nineteenth-century authors (e.g. Herbert Spencer) elaborated on the sense as the primordial source of knowledge. I discuss the significance attributed to the sense in the French work of Destutt de Tracy and Maine de Biran. My paper as a whole makes the argument that the history of the sense of movement is much wider than the history of kinaesthesia, discussed as if it were simply a ‘sixth sense’. I therefore conclude by discussing the origin of ‘kinaesthesia’ as a term and relating it to the wider history. Indeed, the history questions the very identity of what are commonly thought of as ‘the senses’.


Ilya Guryanov (HSE): Wolffian Philosophy as Rhetoric in ‘An essay on the beauty of the human body’ (1746) by E.A. Nicolai

Friday 15 December 2017, 16.40-18.10

The movement of the so-called philosophiсal physicians was formed at the Prussian University of Halle in the middle of the 18th century as a medico-philosophical approach outside of the structure of university genres both in medicine and in philosophy. Being professional physicians, they read metaphysical texts relating to the status of body, to the living or to the relationship between soul and body, and introduce new philosophical discourses such as Wolffianism into the field of medical theory outside of academic discourse. The objective of the paper is to identify and describe the argumentative features of E.A. Nicolai’s ‘An essay on the beauty of the human body’. Nikolai builds his reasoning geometrically, referring directly to the works of Christian Wolff and Alexander Baumgarten. However, Nicolai’s use of Wolffian terminology and form of reasoning is systematically ambiguous; for instance, he comes to anthropological conclusions which seem quite consistent with a theory of physical influx totally denied by Wolff. Ironically, moreover, many passages of the essay are saturated with philosophical terminology. Departing from Nikolai’s medico-philosophical approach, the paper leads to a reflection on the configuration of the disciplinary textual spaces and on the borders of academic medicine in the social dimension of the 18th century.


Nadia Moro (NRU-HSE): The formality of logic in Johann Friedrich Herbart’s philosophy

Friday 8th of December 2017, 16.40-18.10

Abstract: Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776–1841) was an eminently post-Kantian thinker. On his view, philosophy’s task is to leverage conceptual analysis in order to identify the relations that hold among the fundamental concepts in the different sciences. Logic, as a normative discipline, proves central to the task. On the one hand, logic aims at defining the connections between basic principles and their consequences into organised systems. In this, Herbart’s logic is fundamentally distinct both from psychology and metaphysics: logic investigates the contents of thought, not its acts; it studies relations among concepts, not among things. Herbart’s position is thus at once anti-psychologistic and anti-idealistic.

On Herbart’s account, just like on Kant’s, while general logic defines valid inferential structures in general and posits the formal conditions of knowledge, applied logic bears directly on the methodology of the particular sciences: it identifies the principles and fundamental elements of knowledge in each specific domain, i.e. in metaphysics, natural science, psychology, etc. In this respect, logic, methodology, and the special sciences entertain a tight connection.

The aim of the paper is, firstly, to reconstruct the nature of logic as a formal, normative discipline within Herbart’s system and, secondly, to question the extent to which Herbart could consistently define logic as the organon of knowing from a formal point of view. This discussion should not only contribute to the problematic historiography of logic in the 19th century, but also explore the relevance of formalistic stances and challenge the received distinction of form and matter.


Angelina Dmitrieva (Moscow State University): “Modern Discussions of Bodily Ownership as the Origin of the Phenomenal I”

Friday 1st of December, 2017, 16.40-18.10

Abstract: In modern theories of mind, the feeling of bodily ownership is often considered to be the origin of the phenomenal I. This feeling has been studied intensively by Olaf Blanke, Tomas Metzinger, Manos Tsakiris and other cognitive neuroscientists and philosophers. They often use the strategy of investigating cases in which the normal, everyday sense of ownership breaks down. Blanke and Metzinger think that the illusion of out-of-body experience can give us some hints about the neural correlate of the feeling of ownership. They locate this correlate in the temporo-parietal junction. Tsakiris defends a similar view but focuses on the rubber-hand illusion; he locates the source of the ownership feeling in the right posterior insula. Not all neuroscientists and philosophers agree that the feeling of ownership can be seen as the origin of phenomenal I, however. Jesse Prinz states that these illusions (and their interpretations as presented by the authors just mentioned) cannot provide plausible grounds for the view that the primitive roots of the phenomenal I can be found in the ownership feeling. His view are based on a strong interpretation of Hume’s thesis about the absence of any feeling of the I (“[I] never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception” – Hume, 1740). I will present Prinz’s arguments against such modern theories of bodily ownership and the phenomenal I, and I will suggest how defenders of these theories could reply to Prinz. 


Friday November 24, 2017, 16.40-18.10

Brian McLoone (HSE): “The Impossible Worlds Problem for Fictionalist Accounts of Models in Evolutionary Biology

Abstract: Fictionalism is the view that at least some scientific models have the same ontological status as the worlds that are imagined when one reads a piece of literary fiction. A model of species richness among the islands of an archipelago is the same sort of thing, ontologically, as Shakespeare’s Verona. This does not mean fictionalists are committed to the view that literature furnishes models of the world just as accurate as those in science. What unites fictionalists is a view about the ontology of models, not their epistemology.

Since fictionalists believe models exist in the imagination of modelers, one challenge for fictionalists is to explain how their view is compatible with the existence of scientific models that appear to be conceptually impossible. This is because, at least ostensibly, what is conceptually impossible cannot be imagined—e.g., a four-sided triangle resting on the head of a happily married bachelor. If what is conceptually impossible is unimaginable, and if some bona fide scientific models are indeed conceptually impossible, then fictionalism seems to be in trouble. I will call this fictionalism’s “impossible worlds problem.”

Indeed, many models in evolutionary biology are, in some sense, conceptually impossible. This is because these models use a mathematical technique that makes it sensible to speak of fractions of organisms (e.g., a fraction of a shark). Does this mean fictionalism should be thrown out as an interpretation of these models?

Not necessarily. While certain models in evolutionary biology are conceptually impossible, these models are idealizations of  “microscopic” processes that are conceptually possible. Once we recognize this fact, we can use the semantics of conditionals to solve the impossible worlds problem at least as it relates to evolutionary models. My talk will be about how this can be done.


Anita Avramides (Oxford): “Perception, Reliability and Other Minds”

Friday October 6, 2017, 16.40-18.10

Room 508 at Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, Moscow

Abstract: The idea that we can perceive the minds of others is one that has an interesting history: at one time it was dismissed (in analytic philosophy, at least) out of hand, while today it is considered a serious alternative to the inferential model (the idea that we know the minds of others by analogy, induction or best explanation). In this paper I explore the perceptual model, as it is to be found in the work of Fred Dretske. I begin by outlining Dretske’s account of our knowledge of other minds. I then turn to consider our mental lives and, based on this, suggest an adequacy condition that must be met by any account of knowledge that purports to be an account of our knowledge of another’s mental life. I then examine Dretske’s account and suggest that his account does not meet this condition of adequacy.


Sean Winkler (HSE): The Hessen-Grossman Thesis and Lukacs’s Reification Thesis

Friday September 29, at 16.40-18.10

Room 508 at Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, Moscow

Abstract: Why and to what extent did the sensitive functions of the human soul (affects and sensations) come to be understood by way of analogy to machines in the 17th century? The new working hypothesis I propose is a synthesis of the so-called ‘Hessen-Grossmann thesis’ and Lukács’s ‘reification thesis’. Since the 1990s, the historiography of early modern philosophy has been characterized by a so-called ‘affective turn’, but it has yet to answer the two following questions: Wherefrom did the mechanistic paradigm arise? And why was the mechanistic paradigm considered applicable to psychology? I argue that the first question can be addressed with the Hessen-Grossmann Thesis; a largely-neglected hypothesis that the mechanistic paradigm arose in early modern physics, because of a need to study and develop machines as substitutes for human laborers. The second question I address by incorporating into the Hessen-Grossmann thesis, Georg Lukács’s reification thesis. Lukács argues that modern philosophy rested upon an un-thought premise that it could neither conceive nor resolve; namely, that subjects and object are qualitatively equivalent via quantitative exchange. This un-thought premise arose from labor and products of labor being considered instances of the commodity-form within the logic of capital.

Sean Winkler received his PhD from KU Leuven in 2016 with a dissertation about Spinoza. His is interested in Early Modern philosophy more generally, as well as philosophy of science and 20th Century French philosophy. Since 2016 he is a post-doctoral researcher at NRU-HSE Moscow.


Friday September 22, 2017

Staraya Basmannaya ul. 21/4, room 508

Symposium: “Signs, Symbols, and Meaning”


Diana Gasparyan: “Meaning and Sense in Continental and Analytic Philosophy”
Abstract: My hypothesis is that human understanding works simultaneously in two directions: on the one hand, we determine meanings (when we ask and answer the question of “What green apple is”), and on the other, we imply sense (when we ask, “Why the green apple exists”). Such sense can be called metaphysical. It is the metaphysical sense, as a sort of intuition, that forms the base of human understanding, even if we refer to simple procedure of determination of meaning. Even if this sense is not formulated explicitly (in the most general form, “What is the sense of that which is happening?”, “Why is it happening?”, “Why does it exist?”), which indeed, is a rare event, it guarantees the understanding. Despite metaphysical nature, everything in the world is understood through this sense and the world itself is given as sensible through the intuition of sense.

Tatiana Levina “Symbol in Georg Cantor and Pavel Florensky”
Abstract: Mathematician Georg Cantor has called an infinity a symbol of the absolute. After establishing foundations of Set theory he began to reconcile set theory and theology. Theologian and philosopher Pavel Florensky analyses Cantor’s writings in the article “Symbols of infinity”. I will analyze the concept of symbol in Cantor and Florensky’s theological writings.

Silver Bronzo: “Wittgenstein on Meaning, Sign and Symbol”
Abstract: Foundational theories of meaning seek to explain what must be added to a mere linguistic sign (such as a written or spoken word) in order to render it meaningful. This talk examines Wittgenstein’s conception of the relation between signs and meaningful signs (“symbols”) and argues that Wittgenstein objected to the very idea of a foundational theory of meaning.

Aaron Wendland: “Words as Works of Art”
Abstract: In ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, Heidegger tells us “art is truth setting itself to work” (PLT 38). The truth that sets itself to work in the work of art is not what we traditionally understand by truth—namely, the accurate representation of reality through a certain idea, image, or sign—but rather the disclosure of reality that is achieved in the opening up of a world. Heidegger then claims that “all art, as the letting happen of the advent of the truth of what is, is,as such, essentially poetry” (PLT 70), and he goes to so far as to say that “language itself is poetry in the essential [disclosive] sense” (PLT 72). Unfortunately, in ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ Heidegger never shows us how language ‘opens up a world’. Therefore, this essay looks back to Being and Time, forward to Heidegger’s later essays on language, and laterally to the writings of Wittgenstein to see how truth happens, how words work, and how words might work as works of art.


Friday September 15, 2017

Staraya Basmannaya ul. 21/4, room 508

Alexander Sattar (HSE): A Fichtean Perspective on Nietzsche’s Will to Power
Abstract: The notion of the “will to power” is one of Nietzsche’s most renowned and debated concepts. It has mostly been denied any connection to German idealism, although it is widely known to be an offshoot of Schopenhauer’s “will to live”. I will consider it in light of Fichte’s notion of the will, exploring its relations to the thing-in-itself, the moral order of the world, and biology. On my analysis, Nietzsche may have retained some of Schopenhauer’s idealist meaning in his concept of the will to power. Tracing these elements back to Fichte may be helpful in rethinking Nietzsche’s stance towards idealist philosophy and provide us with a fresh look at the history of Schopenhauer reception.


Sebastian Gardner (UCL): ‘Faith and Hope: The Kantian Vindication’

Friday 8 September, 2017, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 508

Abstract: My paper is concerned with the concept of moral faith which stands at the heart of Kant’s moral theology. I review the chief difficulties confronting Kant’s moral faith, in particular the objections of the early Schelling. I argue that Kant’s concept of moral faith is illuminated when set in the context of the theory of the intuitive intellect outlined in Kant’s Third Critique. However, appeal to the concept of the intuitive intellect opens up, as Schelling sees, other possibilities, inconsistent with Kant’s theism. The paper is therefore a defence of Kant up to a certain point, and thereafter an account of the alternative to Kantian theism posed by Schelling. 


Jorge Luis Méndez-Martínez (HSE): “Art for Sharks. From the Additional Sense Modalities to Animal Aesthetics”

Friday 23 June, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Abstract: My intention is to present two theses: that of the possibility of additional sense modalities in aesthetic experience (T1) and also the idea of non-human animals as subjects of aesthetic experience (T2). Hence, ‘art for sharks’. Sharks (and rays) are among those species capable of electro- and magnetoperception. Would it be possible to talk about a magnetic art in the same way that we understand music or any other art connected to a specific sense modality? Moreover, in order to address the question of this possible art, I will first introduce our common assumptions in the concept of aesthetic experience; then, I will present the thought experiment of magnetic art for sharks and go for the first thesis or T1. As general goals, I want to query the concept of aesthetic experience; and, on the other hand, to make a contribution about what I consider are some guidelines in the flourishing realm of animal and transhuman aesthetics.

Jorge Luis Méndez-Martínez is a Phd fellow at the School of Philosophy of the Higher School of Economics.


Friday 16 June, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Robert Simpson (Monash): Constructive Intrinsic Valuation 

Abstract: In this paper I define and defend a valuing stance that I call Constructive Intrinsic Valuation. In cases of Constructive Intrinsic Valuation it can be appropriate for someone to value x intrinsically, even if x doesn’t possess intrinsic value. I characterize this stance by contrasting it with two more familiar types of appropriate intrinsic valuation: valuing something intrinsically because you recognize an ethical duty to do so, and valuing something intrinsically because you think its value is (in a certain sense) unconnected from anything else. After defending the coherence of Constructive Intrinsic Valuation, I explain its importance. There are things some of us value intrinsically, but that we cannot confidently ascribe intrinsic value to. My account shows how it may still be appropriate to value such things intrinsically even while the uncertainty remains.

Robert Simpson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Monash University, Australia, where he teaches ethics and human rights. He received his PhD from Oxford University in 2013. His work concerns social and political philosophy, including topics such as free speech, hate speech and religious conflict.


Friday June 9, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Alexei Gloukhov (HSE): The Concept of Common Language

Abstract: I am going to introduce the concept of common language, which, as I hope, may help in getting oriented in the busy landscape of contemporary philosophy. Building on the standard argument against the intelligibility of a private language, I preliminarily define common language as a language that can be taught and used based on some hard properties (behavioral, physical, intellectual…) shared by most members of a human community. Today we find three main frameworks which are the sources of three types of regional common languages: pragmatic, scientific, and transcendental (which is the least popular of all).

My first claim is that the frameworks are independent and irreducible to each other. Many philosophical debates in analytic philosophy are better understood as disputes about which framework prevails in the end; disputes of this kind cannot be ultimately resolved.

Borrowing the notion of compatibility from debates about free will, I define two frameworks as structurally compatible, if there is a logical combination of the respective regional common languages that is consistent with the two frameworks at once. Finally, I define the common language simpliciter as the most comprehensive logical combination of regional common languages, which renders structurally compatible all the possible frameworks (even those which are unknown so far).

My second claim is that, if present, the common language has a specific meaning, which can be revealed through the interpretation of the philosophical tradition. As an example of such interpretation, I will discuss Aristotle’s famous definition of human beings from the 1st book of Politics.

Alexei Gloukhov received his PhD from the Institute of Philosophy of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He works on Ancient and contemporary political philosophy, on the meaning of the analytic-continental divide.


Friday 26 May, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Nataliya Kanaeva (HSE): The Beginning of the Foundations of Theoretical Knowledge in India

In India both traditional science and philosophy took part in creating the paradigm of traditional knowledge. So it was in Western culture too, but in India the process had some particularities which played crucial role, and determined a different paradigm of cognitive activity and knowledge: 1) Knowledge wasn’t originally understood in a mentalist way as the ideal product of human consciousness, but in an instrumentalist way, as a necessary tool for any activity. 2) In orthodox brahmanical schools, knowledge was declared sacral, as eternal sound or word (śabda, also Veda). In non-orthodox schools of Jainism and Buddhism, knowledge was declared sacral too in spite of their scepticism about the authority of the four Vedas. 3) The aim of cognitive activity was not knowledge by itself, but liberation (mokṣa) from the cycle of birth and death (saṁsāra), and from the resulting existential suffering. 4) Traditional knowledge in India rose in accordance with a cumulative principle: when some ideas changed others, old ideas were not thrown away. 5) Education was seen as a form of religious practice. 6) The mind didn’t have autonomy in cognitive practice, and the rational methods had lower status than super-rational ones. 7) There was no logocentrism in the Indian theoretical knowledge. 8) The epistemic impact of sacral texts of śruti and of smṛti gave way to a special notion of truth as reliable knowledge. In Western culture truth is considered as an aim or ideal of cognition and as one of its basic values. In India syncretic understanding of truth as epistemological, ontological, existential, soteriological and moral was created. Indian thinkers were never interested in truth as an abstract concept or category.

Nataliya Kanaeva received her PhD from Lomonosov Moscow State University. She works on Ancient and Medieval Eastern Philosophy, with a special focus on logic and epistemology in Indian and Buddhist thought.


Friday May 19, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya Ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Annalisa Paese (Pittsburgh): “It’s Not Silent and Dark Within” Murdoch, Wittgenstein, and the Inner Life

Abstract: In “The Idea of Perfection,” the first essay of The Sovereignty of Good, Iris Murdoch takes as her target a kind of moral psychology that she characterizes as existentialist-behaviorist by putting into question what she identifies as its “keystone,” namely, the argument according to which mental concepts require a “genetic analysis:” we understand all there is to understand about mental concepts in terms of the publicly observable circumstances that allow us to acquire them in the first place; any picture connecting them to something inner is flawed. Murdoch presents this argument as a “special case,” or better as a (problematic) development, of a more general line of thought, proposed by Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations, which rejects the idea that concepts, whether mental or physical, can be made intelligible in terms of private objects to which the subject has a privileged and exclusive access. This line of thought, she argues, has proved very successful in dealing with sensation concepts and the traditional philosophical problems involving them. This success has been taken to lend support to the genetic analysis of mental concepts and the picture of moral life associated with it: one in which inner life is deemed non-existent or, at least, irrelevant and overt action is the only thing that matters. Murdoch emphasizes that this picture, which she urges us to resist, is not something Wittgenstein himself takes to follow from his treatment of inner objects. The aim of this paper is to explain how Murdoch can, on the one hand, accept Wittgenstein’s criticism of inner objects and, on the other hand, embrace a picture of moral life that gives a central place to the notions of privacy, interiority, and idiosyncrasy.

Annalisa Paese is completing a doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh. Her dissertation in contemporary ethics develops the framework of virtue by exploiting Iris Murdoch’s legacy and, particularly, her notion of “conceptual configurations.” 


Friday, May 12, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Tudor Protopopescu (HSE): Intuitionistic Knowledge and Fallibilism

Intuitionistic knowledge is knowledge based on the Brouwer-Heyting-Kolmogorov, “proof”, interpretation of intuitionistic logic. I argue that such an approach to knowledge yields a coherent, plausible, and in some ways better, conception of fallibilistic knowledge than one based on classical logic. Fallibilism is the position that an epistemically proper process of forming a belief need not guarantee the belief is true, but may still be good enough to call the result knowledge; for example by being based on less than conclusive justification. I argue that fallibilism is in tension with the classical understanding of the truth-condition on knowledge, which asserts that known propositions are true. An intuitionistic approach can resolve this tension, allowing us to maintain both the truth-condition and that knowledge can be based on less than conclusive evidence. The Gettier cases and the Lottery Paradox are considered the most serious problems for fallibilism. I will discuss both and argue that they are not problematic from an intuitionistic perspective. The talk assumes no specialist background, I aim to explain all the concepts necessary to understand the main thrust of the argument.

Tudor Protopopescu received his PhD at CUNY in 2016 and joined HSE that same year. He works on logic and epistemology.


Friday, April 21, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Aaron Wendland (HSE): Authenticity, Truth, and Cultural Transformation

Abstract: According to the standard reading, Heidegger’s account of authenticity in Being and Time amounts to an existentialist theory of human freedom. Against this interpretation, John Haugeland reads Heidegger’s account of authenticity as a crucial feature of Heidegger’s fundamental ontology: i.e., Heidegger’s attempt to determine the meaning of being via an analysis of human beings. Haugeland’s argument is based on the notion that taking responsibility for our existence entails getting the being of entities right. Specifically, Haugeland says that our ability to choose allows us to question and test the disclosure of being through which entities are intelligible to us against the entities themselves, and he adds that taking responsibility for our existence involves transforming our disclosure of being when it fails to meet the truth test. Although I agree that Heidegger’s existentialism is a crucial feature of his fundamental ontology, I argue that the details of Haugeland’s interpretation are inconsistent. My objection is that if, as Haugeland claims, entities are only intelligible via disclosures of being, then it is incoherent for Haugeland to say that entities themselves can serve as an intelligible standard against which disclosures can be truth-tested or transformed. Finally, I offer an alternative to Haugeland’s truth-based take on authenticity and cultural transformation via an ends-based onto-methodological interpretation of Heidegger and Kuhn. Here I argue that the ends pursed by a specific community determine both the meaning of being and the movement of human history.

Aaron Wendland received his D.Phil. at Oxford University in 2014 and held a post-doc at the University of Tartu before joining HSE as Assistant Professor in 2016. His philosophical interests concern Heidegger, Wittgenstein, German idealism, political theory and aesthetics, among other things.

Friday, April 14, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417


Stefan Heßbrüggen-Walter (HSE): Metaphysics and Physics in the Preface to Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science
Abstract: My presentation discusses Kant’s stance on the proper understanding of the relation between metaphysics and physics (Naturwissenschaft) in the Preface to *Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science*. The main goal is to better understand (and ultimately resolve) the tension between two prima facie contradictory claims in the text, the grounding claim and the heterogeneity claim. On the one hand, Kant maintains that empirical investigations of nature must be grounded in metaphysical principles. On the other hand, the purported results of the empirical investigation of nature, namely empirical principles, and metaphysical principles are heterogeneous, so that it is unclear how a grounding relation could obtain. A close analysis of the historical context Kant is operating in will show that both claims have different targets: The grounding claim that empirical science depends on metaphysics proper is directed against the thesis of ‘isolationism’. Isolationists like Keill, Musschenbroek, or Rüdiger hold that the investigation of nature must be shielded from inappropriate metaphysical interventions. The heterogeneity claim questions a fundamental presupposition of a ‘complementarist’ understanding of the relation between metaphysics and physics, namely that both disciplines require each other for a well-grounded theory of the natural world. Such views were defended by influential theorists of science in the 1770s, Lambert and Tetens. Kant’s solution consists in a position that could be called ‘weak subordinationism’. For Kant, there is only one concept that is at the same time an empirical concept and a foundational concept for any metaphysics of nature: matter. Matter is no proper subject of empirical natural science, because empirical natural science is concerned with bodies rather than matter. At the same time, an a priori analysis of this particular empirical concept helps to bridge the apparent gap between empirical and metaphysical principles. Kant can thus maintain both that empirical investigations of bodies must rely on metaphysical principles of matter and that empirical principles to be derived from the investigation of bodies are heterogeneous with metaphysical principles that concern the concept of matter.
Stefan Heßbrüggen-Walter received his Dr. phil. in 2001 from Westfälische Wilhelmsuniversität Münster and has been teaching at HSE since 2013. He mainly works on the history of early modern philosophy with a special emphasis on German philosophy between Melanchthon and Kant as well as the role of the digital humanities in the historiography of early modern philosophy.

Peter Dennis (LSE): What is Interpersonal Justification?

Friday April 7, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Abstract: We seek not only to be justified in our beliefs, but also to justify our beliefs to one another. While traditional epistemology has focused on the former kind of justification (viz. individual epistemic justification), it is through the latter kind (viz. interpersonal epistemic justification) that our most successful forms of enquiry make progress. Contrary to an influential reductionist view, I argue that interpersonal epistemic justification cannot be explained in terms of individualistic epistemic concepts such as (individual) justification or knowledge. Instead, it is a form of collective deliberation which allows us to place one another under irreducibly second-personal epistemic obligations.

Peter Dennis received his PhD at the University of Reading and has been teaching at LSE since 2014. His current work is on social epistemology.


Nadia Moro: The Philosophical Relevance of Music Studies in the 19th Century

March 17, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, room 417

Abstract – In the long 19th century a wide range of studies revolved around music and aimed to explain musical structures from aesthetic, analytic, scientific, and philosophical perspectives. This talk focuses on the psychological and physiological analyses of musical intervals by J.F. Herbart (1776–1841), H. von Helmholtz (1821–1894), and C. Stumpf (1848–1936), and examines some implications for the establishment of scientific psychology and the theory of perception. In Herbart’s critical realism, Helmholtz’s sense physiology, and Stumpf’s early phenomenology, investigations into harmonic phenomena such as intervals served as case studies confirming the validity of their respective methodology and approaches, but they also had heuristic value. This talk assesses the relationships which hold between given experience and knowledge in non-idealistic post-Kantian philosophy as a result of the understanding of music.

Nadia Moro received her PhD jointly from the Universities of Milan and Oldenburg in 2009. After a post-doc at Milan, she joined HSE in 2015. Her work focuses on 19th Century German philosophy and its relation to psychology, linguistics and other sciences. She is also interested in aesthetics.


Silver Bronzo: Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and Demystification

March 3, 16.40-18.10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, Moscow, room 417

Abstract: Many forms of contemporary naturalism seek to “demystify” the mind by reducing it to phenomena that fit within the conceptual and explanatory apparatus of natural science. Paul Horwich has argued that Wittgenstein made important contributions to this reductionist project. For Horwich, Wittgenstein’s “use-theory of meaning” purports to reduce meaning to non-intentional and non-normative notions. This talk challenges Horwich’s reading. It argues that Wittgenstein does indeed aim to demystify meaning, but does not try to reduce it to anything else. For Wittgenstein, the demystification of meaning involves (a) the critique of philosophical mythologies of meaning based on a misunderstanding of the way we talk about meaning and understanding, and (b) the unmasking of widespread forms of naturalism as a source of mystification.

Silver Bronzo received his PhD at the University of Chicago in 2015 and has been Assistant Professor of Philosophy at HSE Moscow since 2016. His work is concerned with the philosophy of language, Wittgenstein, and the history of analytic philosophy.


Vitaliy Dolgorukov: Epistemic Taxonomy of Assertions

Feb. 17, 16:40-18:10, Staraya Basmannaya ulitsa 21/4, Moscow, room 417

Abstract: Our aim is to sketch an account of the taxonomy of assertions. This taxonomy is  based on characteristics of epistemic presuppositions (epistemic presuppositions describe the structure of hearer’s and speaker’s meta-reasoning). We propose an operator of strong common belief as a tool for analysis of epistemic presuppositions.  We will focus on the basic properties of strong common believe and describe the structure of epistemic presuppositions of different kinds of assertions.

Vitaliy Dolgorukov is a lecturer at HSE, where he received his Candidate of Sciences in 2015. He works on logic, epistemology and the philosophy of language.