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Philosophy Speakers: The Metaphysics of Looks

Date & Time:
November 3, 2017 | 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
SS 1253
Matthew McGrath, University of Missouri

About the Talk

Philosophers often speak as if looks, or visual appearances, are in the head. This seems to neglect the fact that we ordinarily think of things outside us as the things that have looks — it is the sun at sunset, and not anyone’s experience of it, that has the reddish look, and it is the snarling dog, not anything mental, that has the angry look. This paper attempts to make some progress in understanding what looks, as features of objects, are. It asks, in particular, whether they are mind-dependent. I distinguish two notions of mind-dependence: modal mind-dependence vs. a reductionism that understands the nature of looks to consist in part in terms of relations to perceivers or perceiver types. The answers to such questions about the metaphysics of looks, interesting in themselves, are relevant to epistemology. Commonsense suggests that we go by the looks of things in forming perceptual beliefs about them. But depending on what looks are, this suggestion might be more or less plausible.

About the Speaker

After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1990, Matthew McGrath thought he wanted to do ancient philosophy. While earning his M.A. at the University of Texas, he experienced a dose analytic metaphysics and epistemology. Given that his Greek was mediocre at best, he thought he would do better to make a switch. He transferred to Brown University, where he studied under Ernest Sosa, earning his Ph.D. In 1998. He has taught at Texas A and M, Stanford, and for the last fifteen years at the University of Missouri. He is best known for his work with Jeremy Fantl on pragmatic encroachment in epistemology, but he has also worked on the theory of truth, the epistemology of reasons, the epistemology of memory, and in the last few years on the epistemology of perception.

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