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A Companion to Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand

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Jack Smart Lecture

Nic Damnjanovic

The Jack Smart Lecture is perhaps the most prestigious annual lecture in Australasian philosophy. It was founded in 1999 to honour its namesake J. J. C. Smart and is hosted by the Philosophy Program in the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) at the Australian National University (ANU), of which Smart was professor from 1976 to 1985.

Each year the lecture is delivered by a leading international philosopher and attended by professional philosophers, students, members of the public and, at the time of writing, Smart himself. Topics have ranged from issues in applied ethics through to the philosophy of quantum physics—a breadth of coverage that reflects Smart’s own.

The Jack Smart Lecture was originally conceived and organised by Michael Smith, who was Head of the Philosophy Program at the RSSS in 1999. Funding was sourced from money generated by the Philosophy Program’s contribution to the ANU Vice-Chancellor’s ‘Endowment for Excellence’ fund. The inaugural lecture was delivered by Frank Jackson, who succeeded Smart as professor and head of philosophy at the RSSS, and was entitled ‘Locke-ing onto Content’.

In 2000, the lecture was delivered by another Australian philosopher, Peter Singer, who, like Smart himself, is a renowned defender of utilitarianism. Singer spoke on our ethical obligations to those outside our own countries. In the following year, David Lewis, in one of his last public lectures, presented his paper on quantum physics: ‘How Many Lives has Schroedinger’s Cat?’

Since then, the Jack Smart Lecture has been delivered by Jerry Fodor on the nature of concepts, 2002; Thomas Scanlon on blame, 2003; Simon Blackburn on realism and pluralism, 2004; and Tim Williamson on conceptual analysis, 2005. In the last three years, the topics of the lectures have centred around another of Smart’s interests, evolutionary biology. Ruth Millikan spoke on evolution and representational content in 2006, Philip Kitcher on evolution and ethics in 2007, and Brian Skyrms on evolution, game theory and the social contract in 2008.

Jackson, Frank Cameron

John O’Dea

Born in 1943, Frank Jackson took Mathematics and Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. Upon graduation, in 1967 he taught for one year at the University of Adelaide before returning to Melbourne for a lectureship appointment at La Trobe University. While at La Trobe, Jackson published his first book (also his doctoral thesis), Perception: A Representative Theory (1977b). In 1978 he succeeded his father, A. C. (‘Camo’) Jackson, to the chair of Philosophy at Monash University, before moving to Canberra in 1986 to succeed J. J. C. Smart as Head of the Philosophy Program in the Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS). Jackson delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford University in 1994–95, only the second Australian to do so, and has delivered many other named lectures. At the Australian National University (ANU) he also served for some time as Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies and other high level administrative positions, for which, in addition to his singular contributions to philosophy, he was awarded the Order of Australia in 2006 by the Australian Government. He is currently on a joint appointment between Princeton University and La Trobe University, and continues to spend considerable time at ANU.

Jackson’s philosophical writings are notable for their range. He has written influential works on philosophical logic, philosophy of mind, philosophical methodology, philosophy of language, ethics, and metaphysics. The discussion here will be confined to the first three of these areas.

Philosophical Logic

In Conditionals and elsewhere, Jackson defended the view that indicative conditionals (of the general rough form, ‘If P, then C’), have the same truth conditions as the material conditional of predicate calculus, ‘P → C’ which, though often expressed ‘If P then C’, is formally equivalent to ‘~(P & ~C)’: ‘It is not the case that both P is the case and C is not the case’. This is not an easy position to defend, since there are many apparent counterexamples to the truth-functional equivalency thesis. H. P. Grice defended it using the theory of conversational implicature. According to this theory, even if an assertion is strictly true it must abide by certain general conversational rules (e.g. that the speaker believes the assertion) in order to be ‘assertable’. Grice claimed that the apparent counterexamples to the equivalence thesis can be ruled out by these general rules of assertability.

Jackson argued that Grice’s defence is hopelessly vulnerable to counterexample, and went on to construct a defence that drew on Grice’s notion of conventional implicature. Jackson’s use and elaboration of the idea of conventional implicature was novel and influential. He argued, following Grice, that by convention we attach certain implications to particular words. For example, the use of ‘but’ in the assertion that ‘This bicycle is plastic but strong’ implies that plastic bicycles are usually not strong, but this implication is neither part of the truth conditions of that sentence, strictly speaking, nor given by general rules of conversation. It is merely the sort of implication that attaches, by convention, to the use of ‘but’. Similarly, Jackson argued—here departing from Grice—that the use of ‘if’ is governed, by convention, by adherence to what he called the ‘Ramsey Test’, namely that the supposition of the antecedent of a conditional increases one’s credence in the consequent (within the supposition), or, in Jackson’s terms, the consequent is robust with respect to the antecedent. The function of conventional implicature, as Jackson elaborated it, is not to impart beliefs to one’s interlocutor, but rather to smooth the passage of the beliefs one is really trying to impart—namely, in the case of indicative conditionals, the beliefs by which the conditional is evaluable as strictly true or false.

Philosophy of Mind

In his writings in the field of philosophical logic, Jackson employed with considerable precision and inventiveness one of the standard argumentative tools in that field, namely linguistic or conceptual analysis. In Perception, Jackson employed that methodology in the defence of the sense-datum theory of the object of perception. Here Jackson argued that there is a sense of the ‘way things look’ which is neither comparative (in the sense of looking like something) nor epistemic (in the sense of merely looking some way). This sense of ‘looks’—the phenomenal sense, as Jackson dubbed it—describes the way things are perceptually with us and is therefore quite legitimate, indeed indispensable, and yet, Jackson argued, does not describe the way things are physically. A number of theories about perceptual experience are compatible with this idea, most notably adverbialism, the idea that perception does not have an object at all; seeing red and seeing green are distinguished not by being a perception of a red thing as opposed to a perception of a green thing, on this account, but merely by being an instance of ‘seeing redly’ as opposed to ‘seeing greenly’. Jackson argued that adverbialism is false because some differences between experiences cannot be captured without talk of objects; the difference, for example, between the perception of a green triangle and a red square, and the perception of a green square and a red triangle. The only remaining option, Jackson argued, is that perception has an object and that object is not physical; that is to say, the object is mental. This then raised the question of the relation between the world itself and perception. One possibility is Idealism, the idea that the world is itself mental in nature, and we see it directly. Jackson rejected Idealism in favour of representationalism, the view that the world itself is physical, and that the immediate objects of perception—the sense data—are representations of that physical world. Although his book Perception: A Representative Theory did not bring about a revival in the sense-datum theory of perception, many of the arguments in it, such as the argument against adverbialism, were highly influential.

Jackson is perhaps most well known for an argument, put forward in 1982 and defended in 1986, that some properties of conscious experience are neither physical properties nor can causally affect physical properties. The argument employs the hypothetical case of a future scientist who has come to know every physical fact that could be relevant to conscious experience, but has never actually had the experience of seeing colours. Jackson argued that when such a person has her first colour experience, she will learn something about the world, namely what it is like to have a colour visual experience. Since, intuitively, such a person would thus learn a fact about conscious experience, and yet already possess all the physical facts, the learned fact must not be a physical fact. Therefore, the argument concludes, physicalism about conscious experience is false. The ‘Knowledge Argument’, as it is known, provoked a wide range of published responses though very little agreement, a state of affairs that continues to exist. Jackson did not defend non-physicalism beyond the two papers, but the Knowledge Argument has become part of the standard arsenal of non-physicalist philosophers. David Chalmers used it to great effect in his very influential book in defence of non-physicalism, The Conscious Mind (1996). Jackson himself repudiated the conclusion of the Knowledge Argument in a 2003 paper, in which he defends physicalist representationalism about conscious experience.

Philosophical Methodology

Jackson has been an influential defender of the use of conceptual analysis in philosophy. Beginning in a 1992 critical notice of Susan Hurley’s Natural Reasons, then elaborated in a paper, ‘Armchair Metaphysics’, and further expanded in his 1996 John Locke Lectures (published in book form as From Metaphysics to Ethics 1998b) Jackson employed two-dimensional modal logic, developed by Stalnaker and others, in the course of an argument that conceptual analysis is actually indispensable for the resolution of certain problems common in philosophy. According to Jackson, the lesson to be learned from Kripke’s Naming and Necessity is not that there is a cogniser-independent ‘metaphysical’ necessity, but rather that sentences (most relevantly sentences such as ‘Murder is wrong’ or ‘The mind is the brain’) express two propositions, or have a dual intensional structure. Teasing out the two propositions is an armchair enterprise and a necessary first step to discovering their truth (a point on which Stalnaker himself did not agree).

On Jackson’s view, a goal of metaphysics is completeness. It seeks to give an account of what exists, without double-counting, and what doesn’t. H2O molecules exist; water exists but is the same thing as collections of H2O molecules. Brains exist; do minds exist in addition, or are they the same thing as functioning brains—or do they not exist at all, strictly speaking? Jackson argued that this ‘location or elimination’ question, an essential one for metaphysics, always has an a priori component, which is the task of discovering the entailment relations between statements in the vocabulary of (in this case) neuroscience and statements in everyday mental (or ‘folk psychological’) vocabulary. Jackson’s use of two-dimensional modal logic purported to demonstrate how a successful analysis combined with empirically obtained contingent knowledge is essential for answering ‘location or elimination’ questions.

Finally, Jackson defends a version of descriptivism about linguistic content, representationalism about phenomenal consciousness, and naturalism about ethics. The latter position was developed, in large part, in a series of papers in collaboration with Philip Pettit. Jackson and others at the ANU in Canberra defended a program of thorough-going naturalism through conceptual analysis that became known in the mid 1990s as the ‘Canberra Plan’.

James Martineau Memorial Lecture

Leila Toiviainen

The thirty-year-old series of James Martineau Memorial Lectures to the general public of Tasmania was made possible by a bequest from the estate of Samuel Lovell (1851–1936). Born in New Norfolk, Tasmania, Lovell began his career as a rural teacher and was later an inspector of schools (see the obituary of Lovell in The Mercury newspaper, dated 19 September 1936). Lovell’s bequest was intended for the study of the philosophy of James Martineau (1805–1900), an English philosopher who wrote on philosophical and religious topics, and who ‘was regarded as the foremost spokesman of Unitarianism in England’ (Schneewind 1967: 169). However, during the thirty years of James Martineau Memorial Lectures, Lovell’s remit has been interpreted loosely by the staff of the School of Philosophy at the University of Tasmania as encompassing topics from philosophy of religion to moral philosophy.

The inaugural James Martineau Memorial Lecture was held in both Hobart and Launceston in August 1973 in order to extend the benefits of the lecture beyond Hobart and to alleviate the ‘very bitter regional jealousies in Tasmania’ identified by Professor William Joske in his letter a year later to the second James Martineau Memorial lecturer, Professor Keith Campbell (Joske 1974). The inaugural lecture was given by Graham Hughes from Victoria University of Wellington on ‘The Problems of Evil’. He noted in his letter to the organiser, William Joske, that the title’s ‘plural is essential’ and that he would try to make his lecture ‘both philosophical and semi-popular’ (Hughes 1973). There are no records of attendance in Hobart, while in Launceston eighty-two people were present to hear Hughes. This was considered a great success by W. F. Ellis, the then director of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, in his letter to the university public relations department, headed by Malcolm Hills (Ellis 1973). (The James Martineau Memorial Lecture in Launceston was held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, as there was no University of Tasmania campus in Launceston until 1980.)

Keith Campbell of the University of Sydney was the second James Martineau Memorial lecturer, speaking on ‘The Evidence of Things Unseen’. He argued that the religious hypothesis ‘suffers eclipse from superior natural explanations, or runs into trouble in contrast with the world we would expect and the world we actually find’ (Campbell 1974).

From the 1970s onwards the annual lecture has been given by many internationally renowned scholars on issues of interest to academics and the wider public. Often the lecture has been given by an author whose publications have attracted an unusual amount of publicity. Peter Singer, then professor of philosophy at Monash University, gave a lecture on animal liberation in 1981 following the publication of his influential book on this topic six years earlier (Singer 1975). In 1988 Genevieve Lloyd of the University of Sydney, by then widely known as the author of The Man of Reason (1984), dedicated her James Martineau Memorial Lecture to the ethical aspects of feminism, where she addressed issues posed by equal opportunity and affirmative action policies.

In 1997 the lecture was delivered by Kathleen Higgins (from the University of Texas), who discussed the relevance of music to the ethical life and the ways in which musical experience might help overcome the limitations of recent moral theory. The attractiveness of virtue ethics in enabling human beings to live a good and happy life was discussed by Timo Airaksinen of Helsinki University the following year. The aesthetic aspects of a truly moral life were further examined by Julian Young of the University of Auckland in his 2000 James Martineau Memorial Lecture on God, poetry and philosophy.

The contrast between the material advances made by Western nations and the lack of progress made by developing nations in relation to poverty, health care and education has been the topic of two recent James Martineau Memorial Lectures. In 2001, soon after the events of 9/11, Geshe N. Samten of the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in India spoke on how we have ignored the advancement of human qualities so that today we find ourselves in a poorer situation than our ancestors. Similar themes were addressed in 2006 by Bhandra Ranchod, the former South African High Commissioner to Australia. His talk on ‘The Ethics of Forgiveness—Lessons from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Ten Years On’ was a comment on how to move from apartheid to democracy and from poverty to health and education.

The annual James Martineau Memorial Lectures remain an integral part of the intellectual life of Tasmania. They provide insights into developments in moral theory and religion both to the general public of the island and to its scholars.

A Companion to Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand

   by Graham Oppy, N. N. Trakakis