Friday, September 23, 2011

2011 Keeling Colloquium

Here is the programme:

The 9th S.V. Keeling Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy 
November 7-9, 2011, University College London 
‘Moral Psychology in Ancient Thought’ 

Department of Greek and Latin, UCL, Room 106, Gordon House, 29 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PP 

Monday 7th November

1.30-3.15 Jessica Moss (Oxford), ‘Bare Urges and Good-Independent Desires: Appetites in Republic IV’; Matthew Evans (Michigan), ‘The Blind Desires of Republic IV’
3.15-3.45, Tea and coffee
3.45-5.00 MM McCabe (KCL), response to Moss and Evans, and question time
Session Chair: Fiona Leigh (UCL)
5-7 pm Reception, Seminar Room, First Floor, Department of Philosophy, UCL, ALL WELCOME

Tuesday 8th November

10.30-11am, Tea and Coffee,
11-12 noon, Rachel Barney (Toronto), ‘Virtue, Intellectualism, and the Method of Hypothesis’
12-1pm, Terry Irwin (Oxford), Response to Barney and question time
Session Chair: Jenny Bryan (UCL)
1-2.15pm, lunch break
2.15-3.15pm, James Warren (Cambridge), ‘Memory, Anticipation, Pleasure’
3.15-4.15pm, Anthony Price (Birkbeck), Response to Warren and question time
Session Chair: Peter Adamson (KCL)

Wednesday 9th November

10.30-11am, Tea and Coffee
11-12 noon, Raphael Woolf (KCL), ‘Courage and Pleasure in Aristotle's Ethics’
12-1pm, Sarah Broadie (St. Andrews), Response to Woolf and question time
Session Chair: Gail Fine (Cornell & Oxford)
1-2.15pm, lunch break
2.15-3.15pm, Daniel Russell (Arizona), ‘Two Mistakes about Stoic Ethics’
3.15-4.15pm, David Sedley (Cambridge), Response to Russell and question time
Session Chair: Fiona Leigh (UCL)

Attendance is free and all are welcome, especially students; registration is not required. Any queries to be directed to the convenor, Fiona Leigh, Philosophy, UCL.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

False fear

And someone often pictures himself losing a large amount of money and experiencing many pains as a result. And also he contemplates himself in this internal picture taking particular pain in the situation. (After Plato, Philebus 40a9–12). 
I’ve wondered before whether there can be false pains. And it seems to me that Plato would think that there can be, even though he is more regularly noted as holding the view that there are false pleasures. In the Philebus, Socrates makes ‘hope’ one of two species of anticipation. In 32b9–c2 Socrates asserts that the anticipation (prosdokēma) in the soul alone of a pathos of pleasure is itself pleasant and that the anticipation of something frightening and painful is itself distressing. The most reasonable way to read this and the examples that follow, it seems to me, is that in Socrates’ view hope is an expectation of a future pleasure and therefore itself pleasant, while fear is an expectation of a future pain and is therefore itself painful. 

Further, it is clear from 36c10–11 (cf. 40e2–4) that Socrates thinks there can be true and false fears, alongside true and false opinions and anticipations (prosdokiai: this latter may here be being used for what he earlier classified as hopes, which alongside fears are one of the two species of anticipations, or else is just standing for the whole class). We can therefore infer that there are false pains of anticipation as well as false pleasures, although it is only the pleasures that Socrates wants to examine in depth as part of his account of a good life. 

So I wonder whether Socrates would think it better to have true or false pains of anticipation in one’s life. Here we come across the familiar problem of deciding just what is false about the false pleasures of anticipation he does consider, whether what is false is that the hoped-for event (getting lots of money) does not in fact occur or whether when it occurs it is not enjoyed as it was expected to be. Leaving that unresolved, we can wonder about false fears: Is it better to take pain in the expectation of things that either do not occur as expected or are not as painful as expected (false pains of anticipation)? Or is it better to take pains in the expectations of things that do occur as expected or are as painful as expected (true pains of anticipation)? I think it is clear that, of the two, the second would be preferable for Socrates, even if he would prefer not to have any pains of anticipation at all even to this option. Why? I suppose because the true pains of anticipation are experienced by someone who (depending on the preferred interpretation of the cause of the falsehood) either is capable of predicting accurately what painful things will occur (he can accurately predict losing his money) or is capable of predicting accurately what things that will occur will be painful (he can accurately predict that losing his money will be painful).

What's more, I suppose that the very same capacity or trait of character that is responsible for an agent being free from the mistake that generates false pleasures of anticipation will make the same agent free from the mistake that generates false pains of anticipation.  When this person takes pleasure in anticipating some future experience, we can be sure that that future experience will be pleasant as anticipated.  And when this person is pained in anticipating some future experience, we can be sure likewise that that future experience will be painful as anticipated.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lost in translation

I've just had the exciting news that a collection I wrote a piece for has now been translated into Portugese by a Brazilian publisher.  What's more fun is that I wrote in English and the piece was first kindly translated by one of the editors into French. And I suppose it's that French version that has now been translated again.  I hope I've got better with each new version.  Here's the new volume.  Click to go to the site:

And here's the French version (a bargain).  Click the link below or go to the PUF site here:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I've been reading a bit about the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.  Here is a little video of some children thinking about temporal neutrality and the bias to the nearer future.  Or just about marshmallows.

What's particularly interesting is how results from these experiments correlate with results of tests on the same individuals up to forty years later. Here are some relevant papers (paper one (pdf), paper two).

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Setting up

I have bought a new PC.  For some reason I hang on to my computers for longer than I should and by the end the poor things are coughing and wheezing away, gummed up with 7 years of updates and really not up to the stuff they are trying to do.  But now I have a young new eager PC.

Anyway, it was much less grim a process setting up the new machine.  (Dropbox makes a lot of it easier, although Thunderbird seems not to want to let you configure a mail account manually until you ask nicely and it tries and fails to search automatically.)  I also got hold of a new copy of Office 2010 for a bargain price from these people: very quick and very nice they were too.

Right.  Bring on the new term.