The Direction of Time

David Albert (Columbia University)

David Albert will outline a large philosophical-scientific project which aims at understanding the difference between the past and the future as a mechanical phenomenon of nature, rather than as a feature of the fundamental metaphysical structure of the world.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 7 pm

Are There Any Legitimate States?

Christopher Morris (University of Maryland)

Modern states claim a number of powers, often summarized by the notion of sovereignty. These powers include the right to rule, namely the right to make, adjudicate, and enforce laws on citizens and other subjects. And the latter are supposed to be obligated to obey these laws unless excused or exempted by the state. An important question is whether these claims of states are credible. Legitimate states are thought to possess these powers, but Morris shall suggest that states are not legitimate in the relevant sense of the term. Consequently states may not be sovereign and their just powers are considerably weaker than we usually think.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Library Room, 7:30 pm

E Pluribus Unum: Understanding Biological Individuality

Thomas Pradeu (CIRID, CNRS and University of Bordeaux)

Biologically speaking, each of us is a “we.” In fact, every living thing is a complex ecosystem, constituted of billions of cells belonging to many different species, and even to different kingdoms. A human being, for instance, is made up of 90% of bacterial cells, most of them having a symbiotic relationship with the host. How is such an ecosystem constituted? How do these “influential passengers” that we host in our bodies (bacteria, viruses, etc.) impact our development and our daily functioning? And how can the body make of such a plurality of constituents, in the end, one entity? In this talk, Pradeu will raise the issue of biological identity, and he will suggest that one particular body system, namely the immune system, plays a pivotal role in the unification process mentioned above. The immune system does not delineate a homogeneous “self,” but, rather, a heterogeneous organism. Pradeu will conclude that, thus conceived, the organism looks like Salvador Dalí’s famous painting Galatea of the Spheres.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 3rd floor, East Room, 8 pm

Boltzmann Brains

Barry Loewer (Rutgers University)

Recently a number of physicists and cosmologists have been discussing what they call “the problem of Boltzmann Brains.” The problem is that certain physical theories and cosmologies which seem to be supported by a great deal of scientific evidence apparently entail that it is far more likely that brains (and their current mental contents) arise as a result of random processes in an otherwise empty or chaotic universe, rather than resulting from what we believe to be the usual causal processes. If so, a Boltzmann Brain’s beliefs and thoughts about its environment are mostly false. It also seems more likely that on the basis of your present brain state you are likely to be a Boltzmann Brain. Thus these theories lead to a kind of skeptical dilemma that arises from scientific inquiry. In his talk, Loewer will explain why the Boltzmann Brain problem should be taken seriously, and he will discuss ways in which philosophical reflection on explanation and probability may help resolve it.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 8:30 pm

Rising Awareness

By Eve Bailey

Duration: 20’

Could one succeed in raising the level of awareness by sharpening one’s perception rather than raising awareness, quote that has become the motto of an ever growing raising-money industry that fails to improve our condition in a substantive way? Eve Bailey will assemble a kinetic structure made of large wooden beams and ladders that she will then balance on, 8 feet off the ground. Bailey’s sculpture-performances speak of risk-taking and express finite moments of equilibrium.

Cultural Services of French Embassy, 2nd Floor, Marble Room, 8:55 pm

The Particular Elements of Perceptual Experience

Susanna Schellenberg (Rutgers University)

Perception grounds demonstrative reference, yields singular thoughts, and fixes the reference of singular terms. Moreover, perception provides us with knowledge of particulars in our environment and justifies singular thoughts about particulars. How does perception play these cognitive and epistemic roles in our lives? Schellenberg addresses this question by exploring the fundamental nature of perceptual experience. She argues that perceptual states are individuated by particulars and explore epistemic, ontological, psychologistic, and semantic approaches to account for perceptual particularity.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 9:30 pm

What Is Music?

Wolff Francis (École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France; PSL Research University)

When I was a child, I learnt with delight that “music is the art of sounds”. I think it was my first contact with philosophical problems! For I rapidly discovered the trap of definitions: they seem to give us an acceptable answer to one “what is?” but they actually force us to new unanswered “what is?”: “What is an art?” and “What is a sound?” Philosophers are usually tempted by the first (misleading) question. We will follow the second one: “What is a sound?” And through the definition of a sound as a “sign of an event”, we will suggest that music is the “representation of an ideal world of pure events”.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 10 pm


By Karol Beffa

Duration: 30’

Karol Beffa, pianist and composer, will improvise on themes suggested by the audience: words, notions, philosophers’ names, anecdotes from the history of philosophy, such as “solitary walks in Königsberg”, “being and nothingness”, “joy”…

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd Floor, Concert Hall, 10:30 pm

Body Text

By Trisha Bauman

Duration: 15’

Trisha Bauman has performed as a dancer and actor with international companies in France and the U.S. This piece creates a dialogue between the performing body and a recorded discussion with Jacques Derrida and Maurizio Ferraris.

Cultural Services of the French Embassy, 2nd Floor, Marble Room, 10:55 pm

A 15-Minute Proof That the World Is Bizarre

Tim Maudlin (New York University)

Maudlin will present a simple version of John Bell’s proof that certain experimental results can only be explained if there are physical connections between systems that are arbitrarily far apart. The proof of this physical non-locality is arguably the greatest shock to our understanding of the physical world produced in the history of physics.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 11 pm

Why Is Our Language Vague?

Paul Egré (École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France; PSL Research University*; CNRS**, France)

Most of the words we use in everyday language, such as “tall,” “expensive,” or “young,” are vague words. Such words are called “vague” because our use fails to delineate a sharp boundary between objects to which they apply and objects to which they do not apply. To say someone is tall is to say something less precise than to say that he or she is taller than 187cm. Likewise, to say that someone is young is not to communicate any precise age or even age range. Yet vague words can be used informatively, and most of what we communicate in ordinary conversation relies on vague expressions. In this talk, Egré will try to explain why our language is vague in the way it is, and whether this is a defect or an advantage. A related issue he will consider is whether the phenomenon of vagueness in language originates from a single source, or from several different sources.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 12 am

Say “Hello” and Say “Thank You”. What Language Does to Humans

Etienne Bimbenet (Université Jean Moulin Lyon III, France)

It is impossible, 150 years after Darwin, to continue philosophizing as if we had never been animals or were not radically and strangely transformed animals. The introduction of the “animal point of view” into philosophy implies a new kind of question. For example, what changes does conventional language produce in our ways of acting, perceiving, and thinking? What is it like to be human, that is, a being who speaks?

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 00:30 am

Spinoza in Kiev

Text by Mériam Korichi based on Bernard Malamud’s novel The Fixer, with Karol Beffa and Trisha Bauman and Mimi Cohen

Duration: 45’

A melodrama for two actresses with piano improvisations. Kiev 1911. Yakov Bok decides to leave the Shtetl (a small, exclusively Jewish town), to learn more about the world. After he manages to find a real job in Kiev, he is un­justly accused of the ritual murder of a 12 year old boy. When Bok is imprisoned, a book by Spinoza is found in his possession. B. A. Bibikov, the Investigating Magistrate for Cases of Extraordinary Importance, is intrigued by this…

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd Floor, Concert Hall, 1 am

An Adventure in Flatland

Achille Varzi (Columbia University)

Can a Flatlander figure out whether they live on a sphere or on a donut? Varzi will present an exercise in philosophical imagination to test our sense of possibility and our capacity to overcome the limits of our superficiality.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 2:20 am

In Defense of Scientism

Alexander Rosenberg (Duke University)

Rosenberg will argue that most of the persistent questions of philosophy can be answered by the resources of physics, biology, and neuroscience and that the answers are largely negative: no god, no soul, no free will, no objective moral values, no meaning—linguistic, cognitive, or otherwise original, and intrinsic. He will briefly treat the challenges that scientism as a philosophy must overcome.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 2:50 am

A Medley: 5 Performance Art Scores

By Clifford Owens

Duration: 30’

Clifford Owens’ A Medley: 5 Performance Art Scores is an audience-sensitive presentation composed of five performance art scores drawn from his project “Anthology,” a longer work comprised of scores solicited from a select multigenerational group of African-American artists.

Cultural Services of the French Embassy, 2nd Floor, Marble Room, 3 am

Performance Art: Three Ways of Being Serious

Rossen Ventzislavov (Woodbury University, Bulgaria)

In his presentation, Ventzislavov will explore three fundamental dimensions of performance art—the affective, the performative, and the political. Each of these dimensions presupposes a different concept of seriousness. Affectively, a serious work of art is one that retains a level of solemnity. Performatively, seriousness is measured by the correspondence between intent and final product. Politically, a serious work of art is one that hazards a social critique. By exploring the distinction between these dimensions and the different ways of being serious that correspond to them, Ventzislavov will try to advance our common understanding of performance art.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 3:20 am

On the Beach, Frank Heath, 2014

Video, color, sound

Duration: 20’

Courtesy of Simone Subal Gallery and the artist.

Questions of permanence of information, immateriality of technology, and extreme projections of the future provide the starting point for this video. The film focuses on an interview with two physicists from CERN, home to the Large Hadron Collider. Scenes in which scientists discuss their desire to learn about the origins of matter, as well as possible transmissions to the future, blend together with scenes of the film crew attempting to assemble material for a kind of time capsule or ark that will record our civilzation for a post-human future. Loosely adapted from the post-apocalyptic novel by Nevil Shute.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 3rd Floor, Library Room, 4 am and 5:45 am

Philosophy as Practical Wisdom: The Case for Stoicism

Massimo Pigliucci (City University of New York)

Philosophy is now a highly specialized academic field, comparable to the natural and social sciences, or to other disciplines in the humanities. But it started out, in part, as a very practical endeavor to help people figure out how to best live their lives. From Socrates and Plato to Diogenes, from Epicurus to Seneca, the ancient Greco-Romans in particular sought to understand what makes for a flourishing existence. In this talk, Pigliucci will address one approach to practical philosophy: Stoicism, a school of thought begun by Zeno of Citium around 300 BCE that is undergoing a remarkable renaissance in modern times.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 2nd floor, Concert Hall, 4:20 am

Méthane, Nicolas Moulin, 1999

Video, color, sound

Duration: 32’

CNAP, Paris, France and courtesy of the artist.

Nicolas Moulin excerpts images that could evoke a planet with similar geology to Mars, or more specifically Iceland, with three dominant geological elements: fields of lava, valleys of basalt, and fields eroded by glaciers: ““What interests me when creating a work is how it will be perceived as an unclassified object, possessing its own reality, independent of its conception and fabrication.”” He invites viewers to navigate a sort of innerworld and to disorient themselves.

Ukrainian Institute of America, 3rd Floor, Library Room, 4:20 am and 5:45 am

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