Generic Generalizations in Science, Ethics and Society

June 23, 2022 - June 24, 2022
Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo

Georg Morgenstiernes hus, Blindernveien 31
Oslo 0371
Norway

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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Lund University
(unaffiliated)
University of Sussex

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(unaffiliated)

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Course description

This Ph.D. course will focus on the role and implications of generic generalizations in science (e.g. “Low interest rates cause inflation”), ethics (e.g. “Lying is wrong”)and  society (e.g. “Women are submissive”).

Generic generalizations have proven to be very useful in natural science but problematic in other contexts, such as those regarding social groups. This course will cover issues related to various research questions concerning generics when used in expressing: 

(i) scientific laws and scientific communication: for instance, how useful or correct is it to state “Low interest rates cause inflation” or “Introverts and extraverts require different learning environments” as opposed to “All/Some low interest rates cause inflation" or “All/Some introverts and extraverts require different learning environments”?

(ii) moral principles: for instance, are normative generic statements such as “Lying is wrong” or “If you make a promise, you should keep it” best analyzed as generics, and, if so, what does this mean for ethical theory?

(iii) social norms and truths: for instance, why are generics such as “Women are submissive” and “Muslims are terrorists” morally, politically and socially pernicious, and how can we ameliorate harmful effects of such generics? 

Lecturers

This course covers an emerging area of inquiry and the lecturers are currently working on new and innovative research questions which expand the purview of the study of generics. 

Dr. Mark Bowker is currently a Lecturer in Philosophy at the New College of the Humanities, London. From May 2022, he will be a Juan de la Cierva Incorporación Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Barcelona. He is also a Postdoctoral Researcher on the InFraMinds Project at University College Dublin and a Visiting Scholar at Cognitive Development Lab, NYU. He is currently working on issues at the intersection of philosophy and psychology, focusing on particular uses of generics in scientific communication, and the relationship between philosophical and psychological theories of generics. His other research interests include communication, indexicals, and fiction. 

Dr. Mirela Fus is a Completion Grant Fellow at the University of Oslo. She works primarily at the intersection of philosophy of language and philosophical methodology, including related areas in philosophy of mind, evolutionary and social psychology, social ontology, and feminist theory. Her dissertation titled: Assert This: “Philosophers Are Engineers” (A Study of Philosophical Engineering and Generic Judgments) contributes to recent debates on conceptual engineering and social group generics. 

Dr. Ravi Thakral is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Sussex and a Research Fellow at the Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics at the University of Baltimore. His recent work is on generics, especially (1) their place in ethical theory, and (2) on the harms that generics convey and questions about what we can do to mitigate these harms.

Target Participants 

The course is aimed primarily at Ph.D. level students in philosophy. Its uniquely interdisciplinary scope makes it particularly suitable not only for students with interest in philosophy of language and mind, but also those in philosophy of science, ethics and social and political philosophy. Furthermore, Ph.D. students working in other fields such as linguistics, psychology, ethics, politics and sciences are also encouraged to apply and will be considered on an individual basis.

Practical Information

This is a full two-day Ph.D. course consisting of lectures, seminars and discussions. The course is worth 3 ECTS credits. The complete schedule and curriculum will be sent to the participants separately.

It will be expected from the students to prepare required readings on state-of-the-art advancements prior to the course, to be present both days and actively participate in the seminars and discussions, to give a short presentation, and to write a paper that is marked as “pass”. The paper (approx. 2000 words) can be based on the student’s presentation or on a topic previously agreed with the lecturers. 

The lecturers will deliver lectures covering the three main course topics focusing on the relation between generic generalizations and scienceethics, and society, engage in a critical discussion with the students, provide a short oral feedback on their presentations, and evaluate their papers.  

The course is planned to take place in-person at the University of Oslo, Norway. We will take all necessary measures to keep the course safe. Digital participation is possible. Please consider that in case the pandemic situation does not permit in-person classes, the course may be moved online. The course is free of charge and includes dinner on the first evening. Transportation, accommodation, and other meals have to be arranged and financed by the participants themselves.

Application

The application deadline is May 1, 2022.

The application should include a short description of the applicant and their research interest. Please specify in your application whether you plan to attend the course digitally or in-person. If you join us in Oslo, please let us know if you have any food restrictions. In case your research is strongly related to the course materials, there will be an option to present your work during the course and get feedback. If you are interested in presenting your current research, provide us also with a title and a short abstract (up to 100 words) for your talk.

For application submission and further questions, contact Mirela Fus: [email protected].

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May 1, 2022, 9:00am CET

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