Philosophy Senior Integrated Projects

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This collection includes Senior Integrated Projects (SIP's, formerly known as Senior Individualized Projects) completed in the Philosophy Department. Abstracts are generally available to the public, but PDF files are available only to current Kalamazoo College students, faculty, and staff. If you are not a current K College student, faculty, or staff member, email us at dspace@kzoo.edu to request access to this material.

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    Only (a) God Can Save Us Now : Heidegger, Modernity, and Poetry
    (2022-11-01) DeSanto, Vincent; Latiolais, Christopher, 1957-
    Heidegger, in a 1966 interview with German magazine Der Spiegel (published posthumously), spoke about his relationship to National Socialism and how it broadly was informed by his concerns regarding technology. In the interview, Heidegger utters a now-famous phrase, which I have taken as the title for this paper: “Only a god can save us now.” Contextualizing this phrase within the Nietzsche-Hölderlin discourse, its initial tonal despondence is revealed as a call to action for thinkers and poets. “Only a god can save us. The only possibility available to us is that by thinking and poetizing we prepare a readiness for the appearance of a god, or for the absence of a god in [our] decline, insofar as in view of the absent god we are in a state of decline…we cannot bring him forth by our thinking. At best we can awaken a readiness to wait…” In the same interview with Der Spiegel, Heidegger makes this comment, within which lies the entire scope of this paper: “Everything is functioning. That is precisely what is awesome, that everything functions, that the functioning propels Everything more and more toward further functioning, and that technicity increasingly dislodges man, and uproots him from the earth. I don't know if you were shocked, but [certainly] I was shocked when a short time ago I saw the pictures of the earth taken from the moon. We do not need atomic bombs at all [to uproot us] — the uprooting of man is already here. All our relationships have become merely technical ones. It is no longer u on an earth that man lives today. Recently I had a long dialogue in Provence with Réné Char— a poet and resistance fighter, as you know. In Provence now, launch pads are being built and the countryside laid waste in unimaginable fashion. That poet, who certainly is open to no suspicion of sentimentality or of glorifying the idyllic, said to me that the uprooting of man that is now taking place is the end of everything human], unless thinking and poetizing once again regain [their] nonviolent power.”
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    On the Fragmentation of Contemporary Society : An Aesthetic Diagnosis and Prescription
    (2022-05-13) Tompkins, Teague; Latiolais, Christopher, 1957-
    The more we are online in the current age of social media, the more we struggle with disconnection from our physical world. The deterioration of our passionate involvement in the world can be seen as some kind of gross exaggeration of Søren Kierkegaard’s Present Age. We struggle with mental health at earlier and earlier ages, and our material obsession has never been greater; our social movements fade away as they fall off from ‘trending’. What, then, is missing in today’s social construction? I will argue that we are facing a decrease of aesthetic engagement—or the ability to be totally in tune with the process of our sensory experience—in contemporary life. I will then prove how the lack of this kind of experience decays our personal, physical relationship to the world (subjective orientation), which will in turn work against the richness of our social involvements (intersubjective relationships). First, from Martin Heidegger, I employ the notion of world-disclosure as the purity of subject orientation in the world, where the subject reveals the world to themselves in a responsible way via the actions of their body, the result of which is the subject’s feeling well-oriented in the world. To argue for the existential importance of aesthetic experience, I use Jürgen Habermas’ notion of aesthetic-practical rationality, which represents one’s ability to be aesthetically open to the world as a completely necessary portion of a subject’s holistic way of reasoning their way through the world. Then, in Artistic Truth, Lambert Zuidervaart argues that artworks can make truth claims, which allows me to argue for the concrete social and cultural relevance of aesthetic engagement. Finally, by using Martin Seel’s complete account of the aesthetic experience as a complex interplay between viewer and object, I observe the decline of the aesthetic openness in contemporary society. I then propose that the mass employment of such a holistic mode of rationality would richen our engagement with our world and each other.
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    Belief, Obligation, and Objectivity
    (2022-03-01) Kirby, Kyle; Latiolais, Christopher, 1957-
    In this paper, I develop and argue for the view that an agent’s moral obligations depend on their non-moral beliefs, a view which I call doxasticism. I situate doxasticism within the current debate on whether an agent’s moral obligations have any dependence on their epistemic or doxastic state. Objectivism is the view that an agent’s moral obligations do not depend on their evidence or their beliefs, prospectivism is the view that an agent’s moral obligations depend on their evidence, and subjectivism is the view that an agent’s moral obligations depend on what they believe is morally best. After using examples levied by subjectivists to motivate the case against objectivism and prospectivism, I argue that if doxasticism can capture the same insights as subjectivism in those cases while also not facing numerous objections that subjectivism does, then we should be doxasticists rather than subjectivists. I also argue that doxasticism has no incompatibility with robust moral realism, because moral obligations are still metaphysically objective under doxasticism. Next, I develop the finer technical details of doxasticism. I construct doxasticism from two principles: that ought implies can, and that moral obligations must be able to guide belief. In doing so, I introduce a novel modal concept of psychological possibility to describe the possibility of forming intentions to act. Lastly, I develop the metaethical implications of doxasticism. I claim that the dependence of moral obligations on non-moral beliefs is described by a particular form of moral supervenience, and I reconcile doxasticism with contemporary accounts of the metaphysics of moral laws and moral explanations.
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    Modal Branching Temporalism : An Alternative to Lewisian Genuine Realism
    (2022-03-01) Baty, Mitchell; Latiolais, Christopher, 1957-; Enden, Lars
    Possible worlds theory has been wildly successful in contemporary logic and metaphysics ever since Kripke (1959) proved the completeness and consistency of modal logic using possible worlds semantics. According to possible worlds semantics, a proposition P is possibly true if and only if P is true in some possible world and necessarily true if and only if P is true in every possible world. Possible worlds semantics have led to great strides in modal logic. However, possible worlds semantics leaves open the metaphysical question of what exactly possible worlds are. In the last 50 years numerous metaphysical theories have been proposed to explain the nature of possible worlds. Of the theories of possible worlds that have been proposed to date, I believe Lewis’ (1986) Genuine Modal Realism (Genuine Realism for short) is the most plausible because of its incredible explanatory power combined with the compelling arguments he offers against other theories of possible worlds. Despite the benefits, there are significant costs associated with Genuine Realism and due to these costs, I believe there is a better theory of modality available. The goal of this project is to introduce my own theory of possible worlds, called Modal Branching Temporalism, and compare the costs and benefits of it with those of Genuine Realism with the goal of showing that Modal Branching Temporalism is preferable to Genuine Realism. It is worth noting that the goal of this project is not to argue that Modal Branching Temporalism is the most plausible theory of modality or even the most plausible theory of possible worlds. Instead, in this paper I am specifically arguing that it is more plausible than Genuine Realism and leave these further claims for future work. This means that my discussion focuses mainly on Genuine Realism and other theories of modality/possible worlds are only brought in when they are important for understanding either Genuine Realism or Modal Branching Temporalism.
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    Habermas’ Critical Social Theory and the Evolution of Money
    (2022-03-01) Richert, Luke; Latiolais, Christopher, 1957-
    Money plays a terrifyingly dominant role in our lives. In one way or another, it is interrelated with almost every aspect of modern society and because of this prevalence, it is difficult to imagine a world without it. This system works as a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a unit of account. Money functions as a store of value in that we can put it in our bank account and expect that it will be worth relatively the same amount tomorrow. It functions as a medium of exchange through how we can exchange it for goods and services. Finally, it functions as a unit of account through the way we can say things like “that pack of gum is worth $2.” We can assign a value to any good or service by using a currency as the unit with which we assign value. This system and the way in which we use it has evolved over time as our economy and system of governance has developed. The sociologist and philosopher Jurgen Habermas, through his critical social theory, provides powerful concepts that can be used to analyze the development of this system. Habermas seeks to understand how our systems are created and how they affect the way in which these systems can help or hinder communication. Through his epistemic dualism exploring the interplay between systems and lifeworld, Habermas creates a critical social theory which reconciles Hegelian idealism and Marxist materialism.
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