Program 2024 Conference


The conference will start at 10am on Friday, August 30, and will end on Saturday, August 31, at 5.30pm. On Friday evening there will be a conference dinner. At this point, we aim for a conference that is entirely in-person. A more detailed program will be made available in due course.

Keynotes and Abstracts

Gunnar Björnsson, Stockholm University

Title: From distributive to retributive desert
The blameworthy, it seems, deserve blame. They deserve to be the target of indignation over what they have done and to feel the pangs of guilt in the case of self-blame. Or at least they do, as long as the blame is proportionate to their blameworthiness.
The aim of this talk is to outline the structure and normative presuppositions of the retributive notion of desert at play in these common thoughts. Considering a range of normative phenomena, I suggest that retributive desert presupposes that various values—in particular individuals and their interests and points of view—deserve to have a certain proportion of agency devoted to them over time, corresponding to their comparative importance. A certain balance in agential investment is called for from individuals and certain groups of individuals.
These norms of distributive desert can explain why it can be just that the blameworthy suffer the pangs of guilt or other setbacks as consequences of what they have done. In the right context, such suffering might be part of how an imbalance in agential investment is rectified. But the nature of these norms also implies that neither guilty suffering nor setbacks to interests are required for rebalancing. Importantly, it also implies that retributive desert is relational in a way that illuminates otherwise puzzling phenomena.

Lisa Bortolotti, University of Birmingham

Title: Medical reasons to promote epistemically just communication in mental health clinical encounters 

Since the development of the notion of epistemic injustice, there have been numerous studies highlighting practices in mental healthcare that are at risk of perpetrating epistemic injustice. In this talk, I want to focus on a specific form of epistemic injustice, Josè Medina’s version of agential epistemic injustice, according to which the epistemic agency of people from marginalised groups is constrained, manipulated, and distorted. I will offer some reasons to believe that the notion of agential epistemic injustice is especially suited to characterise some of the experiences of people who access mental health services. Then I will argue that there are medical–not merely ethical–reasons to avoid behaviours that threaten people’s epistemic agency in mental health clinical encounters.

Jennifer Smalligan Marušić, Edinburgh University

Title: Hume on the Role of Language in General Thought

David Hume, following George Berkeley, denies that our thoughts have general content in virtue of our having ideas that are intrinsically general. That is, Hume holds that it is impossible for an idea to represent a determinable quality in virtue of possessing or exemplifying a merely determinable quality. This means that our general thoughts—from thinking of the determinable green to thinking of triangles or horses—have to be explained in some other way. Hume seems to hold that language plays an essential role in explaining how general thought is possible. Yet some commentators have thought that this cannot be Hume’s view, since it would seem to imply that non-linguistic animals cannot think general thoughts, which, in turn, seems to imply that they cannot engage in causal reasoning. I argue, however, that Hume does, indeed, hold that language is essential to general thought and I offer a hypothesis about why this is so: Hume thinks that language ensures that we can have immediate, non-inferential knowledge of the contents of our own thoughts. I argue that this is compatible with Hume’s views about animal minds. Finally, I claim that Hume’s views about general thought have implications for understanding the differences between his account of the mind and some positions in contemporary philosophy of mind. In particular, some commentators have attempted to read Hume as a proto-functionalist, or as holding views that are functionalist in spirit, but I argue that Hume’s views about causal reasoning and self-knowledge place constraints on the extent to which his philosophy of mind can be seen as functionalist.


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