Fall 2016 - Spring 2017 Speaker Series

We are pleased to host a series of speakers during the Fall 2016 - Spring 2017 acaemic year. Unless otherwise noted, these are free and open to the public, and each takes place at the Sacramento State Campus. Directions // Campus Map.

Panel Event for Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What's Good for You? The Philosophy of Well-being

10:00 AM to 12:00 noon, Hinde Auditorium (University Union, first floor)

Panelists: Daniel Weijers, Lecturer of Philosophy, University of Waikato, New Zealand with Sac State Philosophy Faculty Russell DiSilvestro, Randy Mayes and Kyle Swan.

Event for Monday, March 27, 2017

Visiting Scholar Eddy Keming Chen will be presenting for the Philosophy Club. All are invited.

3:30 PM to 5:00 PM, Maidu Room (University Union, third floor)


There is a famous tradition among physicists and philosophers of physics, going back to Ludwig Boltzmann (19th century), of imposing a Past Hypothesis on the boundary of the physical space-time. In essence, it says that the “initial” state of the universe is in a very orderly (low-entropy) state. In this talk, I would like to explore an alternative hypothesis, motivated by the (in)famous Principle of Indifference. As we shall see, this comparative study has deep and puzzling consequences for the epistemic justification for our beliefs about the past (even the prosaic ones that we and our surroundings were “younger” in the past). If we have time, we will think about what this means for the issue in philosophy of science about theory choice.

Bio: Eddy Keming Chen is a Ph.D. cadidate in philosophy at Rutgers University. He is also pursuing a M.Sc. in mathematics and a graduate certificate in cognitive science at Rutgers. His primary interests are in philosophy of physics, philosophy of science and metaphysics. 

Events for Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Visiting Scholar Justin Sytsma will be giving two lectures open to the public.

Bio: Justin Sytsma a Senior Lecturer in the Philosophy Programme in the School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and Interntional Relations at Victoria University of Wellingtonin Wellington, NZ. His research focuses on questions in philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. He his also a practitioner of experimental philosophy and often employ empirical methods to cast light on philosophical issues. He is the author of The Theory and Practice of Experimental Philosophy and some of his work was recently featured in i-D: 5 young philosophers asking 2016’s big questions.

First talk: Are religious philosophers less analytic?

10:30 AM to 12:00 noon, Foothill Suite (University Union, third floor)


Some researchers in philosophy of religion have charged that the sub-discipline exhibits a number of features of poor health, prominently including that “partisanship is so entrenched that most philosophers of religion, instead of being alarmed by it, just take it for granted” (Draper and Nichols, 2013, 421). And researchers in experimental philosophy of religion have presented empirical work that supports this contention, arguing that it shows that confirmation bias plays a notable role in the acceptance of natural theological arguments among philosophers (De Cruz, 2014; Tobia, 2015; De Cruz and De Smedt, 2016). But while these studies indicate that there is a correlation between religious belief and judgments about natural theological arguments, they do not establish that causation runs from belief to judgment as has been claimed. In this paper I offer an alternative explanation, suggesting that thinking style is a plausible common cause. I note that previous research has shown a significant negative correlation between analytic thinking style and both religious belief and religious engagement in the general population (Shenhav, Rand, and Greene, 2012; Gervaise and Norenzayan, 2012; Pennycook et al., 2012, 2013; Jack et al., 2016). Further, other research has shown a significant positive correlation between analytic thinking style and training in philosophy that is independent of overall level of education (Livengood et al., 2010). Pulling these threads together, I hypothesize that there is an especially strong correlation between thinking style and religiosity among philosophers. This hypothesis is tested by looking at a sample of 524 people with an advanced degree in philosophy. The results support the hypothesis, showing a medium-large negative correlation between analytic thinking style and religious engagement that is roughly twice as strong as has been reported for the general population (r=-0.39 among men, r=-0.34 among women). And the correlation is even stronger if we restrict to Christian theists and non-theists (r=-0.61 among men, r=-0.62 among women).

Link to YouTube video.

Second talk: Intervention, Bias, Responsibility… and the Trolley Problem

1:30 PM to 3:00 PM, Foothill Suite (University Union, third floor)

Abstract: In this paper, we consider three competing explanations of the empirical finding that people’s causal attributions are responsive to normative details, such as whether an agent’s action violated an injunctive norm—the intervention view, the bias view, and the responsibility view. We then present new experimental evidence concerning a type of case not previously investigated in the literature. In the switch version of the trolley problem, people judge that the bystander ought to flip the switch, but they also judge that she is more responsible for the resulting outcome when she does so than when she refrains. And, as predicted by the responsibility view, but not the intervention or bias views, people are more likely to say that the bystander caused the outcome when she flips the switch.

Link to YouTube video.


Academic Technology and Creative Services; Event Services Office (University Union); Visiting Scholars Program (Center for Teaching and Learning) Sacramento State