DPhil Seminar (Wednesday - Week 4, MT18)

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Chiara Martini. Think Small: Epicurus’ Theory of Minima. (60min) Abstract: This paper provides an original interpretation of the Epicurean doctrine of minimae partes, or ‘minima’, as it is presented in the Letter to Herodotus, 56-59. I try to take seriously the idea that the parts in question are supposed to be minima, hence the smallest possible, at the same time avoiding counterintuitive conclusions, such as the existence of spatially extended junks of matter without shape. The paper is divided in two parts. First, I analyse the relevant passages of the Letter to Herodotus. Then, I suggest an interpretation of the notions of part and division which leads to a plausible interpretation of the notion of minima. The key step of my analysis is the refinement of Furley’s distinction between physical and theoretical division, which is not fine-grained enough. By focusing both on the outcome of the division, and on the way in which it is carried out, I am able to characterise a very specific kind of parts, which I call ‘functional parts’. I believe that this notion can provide a coherent and intuitive account of Epicurean minima.

James Matharu. Object Multipicity (A Criticism of Frege on Identity). (60min) Abstract: A study in descriptive metaphysics, with some observations at the start that to think of something non-existent is precisely to think of it and not to imagining that, or to pretending that, one thinks of it. I suspect that Frege conflated some things we can do when we offer an ‘identity statement’ like “The Evening Star is the Morning Star”. This sentence can inform someone (merely) that what is called the Evening Star is called the Morning Star. But it can also be used to correct someone’s false belief that there are two distinct objects. In such a context, the informant is made aware of the conceptual relation between three objects of thought: (i) the Evening Star that is not the Morning Star; (ii) the Morning Star that is not the Evening Star; and (iii) the entity which the informant had subsumed, without realizing they did so, under the concepts both of (i) and (ii). The informing is a species of what I’d call ‘backwards-identification’: the informant learns that, insofar as one thought of one non-existent object, one also thought of another object (existent or otherwise) without realizing.


DPhil Seminar Organisors: Chong Ming Lim and James Matharu

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