Department News


Adrian Currie (U of Alberta): “How to Build a Sea Urchin & Manufacture Smoking Guns”  ABSTRACT: “Although they can develop new technologies for identifying and studying potential smoking guns… historical scientists can never manufacture a smoking gun” (Turner 2007, pp158).  One rationale for pessimism about historical scientists’ capacity to uncover many truths about the past is that they cannot generate evidence. Scientists with experimental access to their targets test hypotheses by generating targeted, localized, and repeatable evidence. Whereas the scientist relying on field observations is beholden to luck, experimentalists make their own luck. Worse still, the scientist relying on traces from the past must rely on a degraded, incomplete and biased data set. If this is right, then it is possible that historical hypotheses will be systematically underdetermined. Happily, historical scientists can and do generate evidence. I provide a simple example, Zachos & Sprinkle’s (2011) use of a model to infer the developmental differences between stem-group and crown-group echinoderms. I first argue that this model is evidential, that is, Zachos & Sprinkle’s results empirically discriminate between hypotheses. I then argue that simulations count as a kind of experiment, but not the kind of experiment that most philosophers have appealed to. Simulations are surrogative experiments: as opposed to intervening on a sample of the target phenomena, we intervene on something relevantly similar to the target phenomena. I compare experiments on physical surrogates, such as microcosm or ‘bottle’ experiments testing ecological and macroevolutionary theories, with computerized simulations. I argue that there are real epistemic differences between these: whereas physical surrogates sometimes admit ‘mixed cases’, combining samples and surrogates, computerized simulations are more controllable, and so admit a wider range of potential experiments. One lesson from this is that it is a mistake to think of simulations as ‘experiments on computers’.

Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA, 
Assistant Professor
Applications, Review Begins: 11.14

Assistant Professor, Tenure Track, beginning August 2015 AOS: Philosophy of Economics or Formal Epistemology, broadly construed.  AOC: open.  Applicants who are ABD will be considered, but appointment as Assistant Professor will require that the Ph.D. be in hand before August 2015; otherwise the initial appointment will be as Instructor. Five undergraduate courses per year, standard service duties.  The successful candidate will demonstrate a commitment to and appreciation for teaching students from diverse, multi-cultural backgrounds.  Salary will be commensurate with experience.  Send application package (Letter of application, CV, sample paper, research and teaching statements, and evidence of teaching competence submitted as a single PDF file, and 3 letters of recommendation to Review of applications will begin on November 14, 2014. Kansas State University is an EOE of individuals with disabilities and protected veterans. Background check required. Kansas State University actively seeks diversity among its employees.

Pictures of KSU Logicians at KSU-Oslo Workshop on Abstraction Principles

The Department of Philosophy Newsletter

The Department of Philosophy proudly announces the winners of our annual Essay Competition, underwritten by the generous sponsorship of Fred and Virginia Merrill. The prize was shared this year by Dillon Rockrohr and Andy Rogers. 

Dillion’s paper,  "Deontological Flexibility:Korsgaard and Schapiro on Deception" compares two standard models of norms of non-deception in Kantian ethics: Korsgaard's deception-as-interference model and Schapiro's deception-as-refusal account.  By carefully analyzing the handling of some key problem cases, Dillon argues that Schapiro's account offers a more coherent, informative, and plausible account of moral action: one that is capable of engaging what seem to be the salient features of these problem cases and of giving us a more effective standard of moral action in daily life.
Andy’s paper, "On Problems Arising from the Combination of Objective Probability and Divine Foreknowledge," does some nice work at the intersection of metaphysics, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion.  He provides an abstract:  “In this paper I build on the work of Jennifer Jensen in ‘On Grounding God’s Knowledge of the Probable’, in which she argues that open theists face a problem in that they need to appeal to either non-actual entities or brute facts in order to ground their claim that God has probabilistic foreknowledge. I argue that there are three conditions which must be met by these foreknown probabilities if they are to be consistent with open theist theology: (1) They must be objectively true, (2) they must be useful for God (they must produce results in the actual world), and (3) they must allow for libertarian free will. My thesis is that there is no interpretation of objective probabilities which can meet all three of these requirements. I will argue that the three interpretations which at first appear the most promising for the open theist-- Actual Finite Frequentism, Hypothetical Infinite Frequentism, and Propensity—all create serious problems for open theist theology once they are put under serious scrutiny. I conclude that open theists must either make significant changes in their theology or else develop a new interpretation of probability which is consistent with their theology.”
Congratulations to them both, with thanks to Fred and Virginia Merrill.
We want to congratulateRoss Allen, majoring in both Philosophy and Economics, for winning a Truman Scholarship!

We also congratulate Jonathan Bostrom, majoring in both Philosophy and Anthropology, for his election to Phi Beta Kappa!

Who we are

Our department has strengths in philosophy of science, social and political philosophy, philosophy of language, decision theory, ethics, aesthetics, and philosophy of mathematics.  We are an undergraduate-focused department that is also very active in research, giving our students the opportunity to participate in philosophical research while still undergraduates.

We offer a variety of options within the major program to provide flexibility in organizing a course of studies with philosophy at its center.  We also offer a minor. Our program in philosophy gives students an understanding of traditional philosophical subjects such as the nature and justification of moral values, religious and scientific explanations of the world, the rationality of social institutions, and the nature of reasoning and argument. It also helps students develop critical habits of thinking and skill in understanding complex issues. Consequently, philosophy is an appropriate subject around which to organize a general education for any purpose. Our majors go to law school, medical school, graduate programs in philosophy and related areas, become ministers, and open their own businesses, and all of them credit our program with preparing them for successful careers.

LSAT, GMAT and GRE scores for philosophy majors rank in the top three nationally virtually every year. Also, philosophy majors have among the highest acceptance rates at law schools and medical schools each year. For instance, K-State philosophy majors over the last twenty years have had an acceptance rate at law schools of over 96%.

Research Spotlight

RESEARCH:  KSU Philosopher uses game theory to understand how words, actions acquire meaning

Community Events

We have an active student-led Philosophy Club, which meets on Mondays from 7 to 10 p.m. in Dickens Hall 203. Our new twitter address is:

On Thursdays (unless we have a speaker), from 4 p.m. to whenever, we have Rationalitea in Dickens 201.  Tea and snacks are provided.

Social Media

Follow us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter!

Support the Philosophy Department

The K-State Foundation has two funds that directly support Philosophy: The Philosophy Scholarship Fund (Q12400) and the Philosophy Faculty Development Fund (F35415).  The first provides scholarships for our majors and the second helps the department bring in speakers and travel to conferences.  Thank you for your support!