Society of Exact Philosophy Conference

The Society for Exact Philosophy (SEP) held its 40th annual meeting at Ohio State, October 11-13, 2012. This major conference was organized by graduate student Teresa Kouri under the aegis of Professor Stewart Shapiro, and co-sponsored by the Society for Exact Philosophy and The Ohio State University.

The conference featured talks by more than 80 speakers--with keynote addresses provided by J.C. Beall, the University of Connecticut, ”On Freedom from Detachment: Rationality, Gluts, and Modus Ponens;" Michael Glanzberg, Northwestern University, "Quantifiers, Operators, and Binding;" Robin Jeshion, University of Southern California, "Are Names Predicates?"; and Øystein Linnebo, Birkbeck College, "Absolute Generality and Higher-Order Logic."

This year's SEP meeting also showcased an impressive line-up of speakers from Ohio State. Conference organizer Teresa Kouri gave a talk on indistinguishability in physics and mathematics. Other graduate student speakers included Daniel Pearlberg; who presented work on the empirical inadequacy of interventionist accounts of causation, with an introduction to his talk provided by his supervisor Richard Samuels; and Eric Snyder, who discussed problems for quantification and binding in relativist semantics for predicates of personal taste. Recent PhD recipient Wesley Cray presented a portion of his dissertation research on modal inconstancy, and 2011 alumnus Eric Carter returned from his faculty position at North Carolina University to present new work on the semantics of “because.”

Speakers from the Ohio State faculty included Stewart Shapiro and Kevin Scharp, who gave a joint talk about inconsistent concepts; additionally, Neil Tennant presented a formal theory of cognitive significance, and Ben Caplan--with co-speaker Chris Tillman, University of Manitoba--offered a critique of King and Soames' views of propositions.

Shapiro reflects that regular attendees at SEP meetings “were full of praise for the facilities at Ohio State and for the participation of the local talent.”

By cultivating a friendly and open atmosphere for exchanging ideas, the conference fostered further progress in both the participants' own work and philosophical research in general. As Kouri states, "The Society for Exact Philosophy is a great conference, because everyone is there to learn and help everyone else. No one intentionally tries to 'knock down' a paper."

Shapiro shares similar positive impressions, “The questions are usually rigorous and demanding, but the underlying theme is not at all to show off or make picky points. It is more like a joint effort of the speaker and audience to get at the truth, rather than a duel to see who is ‘cleverer.’”

Talks took place from 9 am to 6 pm on each of the three days of the conference; this proved to generate not exhaustion but momentum. Indeed, at the end of the conference days, participants often enjoyed continued philosophical discussion in local bars and restaurants--and, on the final night of the conference, at a special banquet held at the university.

Summing up, Kouri recounts, "We really had a great group of philosophers. Not only was there great conversation during the conference, but it seemed to continue afterwards as well."