2016 Eastern APA Round-Up

This past weekend, the Eastern APA had its first division meeting since late 2014. This was the first time the meeting took place in early January rather than late December. The purpose of this post will be to discuss some of the talks I enjoyed, as well as some of the sessions that generated the most buzz, and what people have been saying about those sessions. Feel free to chime in with what you liked best about this year’s APA, and with suggestions on how to make the meeting better in the future.

WEDNESDAY: After waiting in a long line to get registeredwhich moved much faster than it has at past APAs I have attended (bravo)the conference opened with a great day of philosophy.

The highlight for me was the colloquium session on moral responsibility. First off, Holly Smith was an excellent chair. She stopped questions at just the right time and even chimed in herself at times when discussion started to wind down. Many take chairing to be an easy task, but at times it can be very challenging. She did a great job and it’s good to see respected scholars chairing sessions and supporting other scholars. There were three talks in the session, the first by graduate student Bryan Chambliss (University of Arizona), titled “Control for Embedded Agents.” Bryan gave the beginnings of a new control condition of moral responsibility, which he labeled “Ecological Control.” Feel free to email Bryan for the details; I found it provocative and insightful. It’s always good to hear a fresh take on a problem that has had lots of ink spilled over it in the last few years. I look forward to hearing how his view develops over time. The other two talks were good as well; the session did not disappoint.

One session I missed but heard was fantastic was the meeting of the Radical Philosophy Association. The topic was “Alternatives to Detention, Imprisonment, and Military-Style Enforcement,” and I would have loved to hear what alternatives are being proposed to a system that is in dire need of an overhaul.

Another session arranged by the Committee on the Teaching of Philosophy, titled “Rethinking the Philosophy Major in Changing Times,” looked great as well. I didn’t hear much about how this went so feel free to share your thoughts if you attended.

THURSDAY: On Thursday, there was a fantastic publishing workshop. The session was informative, and the panel had folks from a number of publishing companies, all sharing tips for getting a manuscript, edited collection, or general text published. The different publishers shared many of the same ideas about how to get published, and some had different visions of what they were looking for as the manuscript develops. During the Q&A, the Daily Nous discussion on publishing was brought up a few times, and some of the Daily Nous points were reiterated by publishers and workshop attendees.

I was able to attend a few sessions, but the session that stuck out most for me was the Symposium on The Philosophy of Romantic Love. Michael Smith’s talk in the symposium was interactive, with movie clips throughout (he used a Woody Allen movie to support his point). Carrie Jenkins gave a more traditional presentation, and folks were talking about it all weekend. She shared some of her work from the Metaphysics of Love project, and many of us are looking forward to hearing more about that project as it develops. Berit Brogaard, who recently underwent brain surgery, gave her talk and really shined during the Q&A session. It was great to see these three well-respected philosophers giving different views and commenting on each other’s work during discussion. It was an engaging session with lots of laughs, objections, and movie clips.

Unfortunately, I missed the colloquium on Mercy, Forgiveness, and Partiality, which took place at the same time as the Romantic Love symposium, and I didn’t chat with anyone who attended it. We’d love to hear impressions from anyone who attended.

One session I heard a lot about was Carl Sachs’s  author-meets-critics session on Intentionality and the Myths of the Given.

FRIDAY: There were so many good sessions on Friday. It was one of those days when you wished you could be at three different sessions at the same time!  We’d love to hear about what sessions you decided to attend!

The APA Blog launch party took place on Friday. We had 30–40 folks stop by throughout the evening, and all of us editors had a great time chatting about the vision of the blog and some of the features we are planning to roll out over the course of the year. Thanks for all the suggestions.

The APA reception seemed to go pretty well. However, I was told by a senior philosopher, as I overlooked the crowd, mingling from the stairs, that in years past the crowd size has been much bigger. The crowd appeared to be filled with both graduate students and senior philosophers, though some of the big names in the discipline were not in attendance.  One major change this year was the inclusion of drink tickets with registration, rather than an open bar, so that there was no need to check people’s ID badges when entering or worry about which night’s reception featured the open bar.

The highlight of the evening for me was listening to Pamela Hieronymi give her talk in the symposium titled “The Function of Reasoning.” In it, she discussed a chapter of a manuscript (in progress) on free will and moral responsibility. I found the Q&A to be quite fruitful as well, but I participated in it, so I’m not an impartial judge. In any event, the session was great, and Hieronymi’s talk was one of my favorites of the conference. She sincerely worked to understand questions, and she seemed to take suggestions quite well. As a graduate student working on the topic, I found this great. Often times, we see our senior colleagues as unapproachable, but Professor Hieryonmi made me feel comfortable and was eager to get the right answer, and not just an answer that helped her forward her own agenda.

SATURDAY: Philosophers are sometimes dismayed when they learn that their talk will be on the last day of a conference, as many folks seem to leave early. This wasn’t the case this year. I saw a photo, posted by a philosopher on social media, of the last talk of the last day of the conference, and the seats were nearly full. Bravo to those who decided to stay the course!

Overall, I thought the conference went great. I met with six or seven graduate students who were interviewing for jobs, and they all seemed quite positive. The number of people I met who mentioned having interviews was a lot lower than in previous years. I’m not suggesting that this is good or bad, but having fewer people there for interviewing did give this Eastern APA a different flavor, one with which many people were happy.

How did your session go? Did you have a moment or a panel that you most enjoyed? Let us know.

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