Thinking big: Philosophers gather in Wollongong for annual conference

Academics from around the world meet to exchange ideas and present arguments.

Thinking big: Philosophers gather in Wollongong for annual conference

Hundreds of philosophers from across Australia and around the world will be in Wollongong this week for the 2019 Australasian Association of Philosophy Conference (7 – 11 July), the biggest annual philosophy event in Australia and one of the largest such gatherings in the world.

There will be around 200 talks on an enormous variety of subjects, including practical ethics, political philosophy, feminist philosophy, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychiatry, artificial intelligence, philosophy of science, and more. There will also be special streams on multicultural philosophy and on diversity in philosophy.

Conference organiser Dr Patrick McGivern, a senior lecturer in philosophy at the University of Wollongong (UOW), said the conference was an opportunity for philosophers to engage in face-to-face discussions and to share and offer criticisms of arguments and ideas.

“We typically use conferences as testing grounds as we develop research. They allow us to refine our ideas and consider alternative perspectives,” Dr McGivern said.

“Philosophers try to assess the assumptions underlying our ordinary understanding of many different problems, and often try to suggest new ways of thinking.

“The conference is also a fantastic opportunity for our students – undergraduate and postgraduate – to meet and interact with philosophers from around the world.”

Patrick McGivern, Glenda Satne, Fiona Macpherson, David Neil, Elizabeth Harman, Edouard Machery, Alison Wylie

Above: (Clockwise from front) Patrick McGivern, Glenda Satne, Fiona Macpherson, David Neil, Elizabeth Harman, Edouard Machery, and Alison Wylie. Picture: Paul Jones, UOW

One of the highlights of the conference is a special session on Careers for Philosophers, held at iAccelerate, UOW’s business accelerator and incubator, that will showcase a collaboration between philosophy students and start-up companies.

“The collaboration explores the ways philosophers can contribute to new companies, highlighting the variety of skills that philosophy students develop in their studies, such as critical analysis, dealing with complex issues, clarifying problems, and developing novel solutions,” Dr McGivern said.

“Philosophy teaches you to think carefully about very difficult problems, and gives you the ability to consider new alternatives and perspectives.

“Philosophy graduates find employment in many different areas, and studies have shown that philosophy graduates tend to have relatively high career earnings. UOW philosophy graduates have gone on to careers in business, law, public policy, teaching, medical ethics, and software development.”

Another conference highlight is the Alan Saunders Memorial Lecture, a free public event named for the late ABC Radio National presenter, on Tuesday 9 July from 6pm at Wollongong Town Hall (people wishing to attend need to register on Eventbrite to confirm their attendance).

Professor Alison Wylie from the University of British Columbia (UBC) will deliver the lecture, speaking about her involvement in a project to bring the tools of archaeological science to Indigenous-led research projects designed to serve the interests of Indigenous communities.

She says the project and the collaborative process involved raise a number of challenging questions of power, hierarchy, and the role of experts.

In addition to the Alan Saunders Memorial Lecture, Professor Wylie will also deliver a keynote lecture on “Radiocarbon Dating and Robustness Reasoning in Archaeology”.

Other keynote speakers are:

  • Professor Elizabeth Harman (Princeton University) on “Can Actions be Blameworthy without being Morally Wrong?”
  • Professor Fiona Macpherson (Glasgow University) on “Does Virtual Reality Consist in Veridical, Illusory or Hallucinatory Experience?”
  • Professor Edouard Machery (University of Pittsburgh) on “Dogmatism and Parochialism”

Wollongong last hosted the conference in 2012 and Dr McGivern said hosting it for the second time in a decade was a sign of the University’s respected place in the Australasian philosophical community.

“UOW has strengths in various areas of contemporary philosophy, including philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and applied ethics,” Dr McGivern said.

“We have a tradition of focusing on applied issues and working on interdisciplinary projects.”

Dr McGivern is himself working on two projects with colleagues from other Faculties, one on combatting neurodegenerative disease, and the other on collective intelligence.

/Public Release. View in full here.