School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    A reliabilist strategy for solving the problem of induction
    Prien, Fergus Dale ( 2019)
    In this thesis I develop a two-stage strategy in which a simple reliabilist theory of knowledge and justification can be employed so as to solve David Hume’s famous ‘problem of induction’. In so doing, the key arguments I make include: (i) that justification possesses an externalist character so we do not need to show how we know that we possess inductive knowledge, and (ii) that an inductivist rule-circular justification of induction is defensible if induction is understood in terms of a reliabilist theory of knowledge and justification.
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    Gambling, rationality and public policy
    Barrett, William Peter ( 2019)
    Gambling involves complex social and commercial institutions and practices, large numbers of participants, and vast amounts of money. In this thesis I introduce a philosophical perspective on gambling and its regulation. I develop an account of the rationality of gambling and derive implications for the formation of public policy. The thesis uses methods and theories developed in epistemology, the philosophy of probability, and other branches of philosophy to address conceptual and normative issues about gambling. Along with discussing the concept of gambling the first chapter argues that rational action is tied up with well-informed choice, and that a person can be well-informed relative to choices about gambling in two ways: knowing about the probability of winning both in the short and long-term, or by having relevant skills or information. The second and third chapters aim to show how gambling choices may be irrational because they involve epistemic error, through gamblers forming partial beliefs in ways that fail to be constrained by an adequate understanding of the probable outcomes of events or by basing expectations on ungrounded beliefs about luck. In the fourth chapter I ask whether what I have said so far about the rationality of gambling and its conceptual relationship to autonomous choice raises any ethical issues relevant to public policy. I expand on my claim that the connection between rationality, interests and autonomy forms part of the normative grounds of public policy. I defend the view that public policy concerns practices and institutions which have particular characteristics that suggest the moral principles to be applied in forming policy and argue that the principle of respect for personal autonomy has a central role in good public policy on gambling. The thesis concludes by summarising my arguments for public policy that does not facilitate gambling.
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    The feeling of metaphor
    Wood, George Matheson ( 2019)
    There is a tendency in analytic philosophy of language to separate a metaphor’s affective powers, often identified with its ability to make us ‘see’ things in new ways, from a conception of its meaning. This is the case in the non-cognitivist denial that there is such a thing as a metaphorical meaning—metaphors are only prompts to view things in certain ways—and also in the pragmatist construal of metaphorical meaning as being no different in kind from other utterances by which a speaker manages to communicate something other than their literal sentence meaning. It is also the case in David Hills’ more recent work on metaphor as a form of “make-believe”, despite his recognition of a fundamental interplay between their “aesthetic” and “semantic” dimensions. Something common to these approaches is that they all make a distinction between what the metaphor appears to say, and what it ‘really’ says. Theorists who think that metaphors do have a semantically or cognitively special power—that they say something that literal language cannot—are more likely to acknowledge a fundamental role for feeling in our experience of metaphor. By suggesting metaphors can be indispensable expressions that let us access something, they challenge the deeply-engrained idea that language is meaningful when it represents things, through literal correspondence, reference, and the like. The view of language that challenges this, and that lets us understand metaphors themselves saying something meaningful, is one that acknowledges a constitutive function of language. Through a consideration of constitutive metaphors and the fundamental integration of meaning and feeling therein, I suggest that the above-mentioned analytic theories—by separating meaning from feeling, and taking word meanings to be static—necessarily misunderstand them. To elucidate the working of constitutive metaphors and flesh out the perspective that can properly understand them, I draw on Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s view of language as an embodied behaviour. I propose that metaphors can be understood as creative linguistic “gestures”, a conception which enables us to understand why feeling is fundamentally related to a metaphor’s semantic import. This Merleau-Pontyan view lets us understand why we sometimes speak in ways that appear unusual, why such speech can be nonetheless meaningful and truthful, and the fundamental role of feeling in such expressions.
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    Problems in Greek textual criticism
    Panegyres, Konstantine ( 2019)
    The thesis is written in the form of a traditional dissertation on textual criticism, namely with various isolated notes on select philological problems found in a wide number of ancient authors, from the Classical to the Byzantine period.
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    The later Roman naval forces of the Northern Frontier (3rd – 5th centuries CE)
    Elliott, Alex Michael ( 2019)
    This MA thesis provides an overview of the existence, distribution, and function of naval forces operating along the Northern Frontier of the Roman Empire from the 3rd – 5th centuries CE. Despite the vast amount of research dedicated to the Roman military, later naval units have been largely ignored. Instead, previous scholarship has frequently argued for a 3rd century naval decline and subsequent collapse leading to a later Empire almost wholly devoid of naval forces. An investigation of this scholarly tradition, however, reveals a framework strongly influenced by modern military organisational practices rather than that of the source material. This thesis challenges the traditional view by analysing the evidence for continued naval operations along the coasts of Britain, the Rhine, and the Danube during the later period. Each geographic area is examined through a combination of written source material, the Notitia Dignitatum, and archaeological excavation. Although displaying significant regional variation, each area surveyed provided ample evidence of both standing and campaign specific fleets operating throughout the period in question. Rather than a 3rd century collapse, the naval units of the Roman military were merely subject to the Diocletianic reforms of the late 3rd/early 4th century. Following this reorganisation, these units would remain an integral part of the Roman military framework for as long as the military itself continued to operate effectively.
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    Moral life and philosophical requirements: exploring possibilities for moral life through a liberation from philosophical requirements
    Mackenzie, Chloe Jayde ( 2018)
    This thesis offers an examination of some ways in which moral philosophy imposes requirements on itself that often unduly limit, obscure, and distort our moral understanding, thinking, and responsiveness. Taking my motivation from Cora Diamond, I critically examine the work of some moral philosophers that I take to exemplify this kind of laying down of requirements. This examination will be taken in three broad directions, with a different critical focus in each of the chapters: a requirement that moral thinking and responsiveness ought to go on only through the use of rational capacities, to the exclusion of personally engaged responsiveness and understanding; a requirement that moral philosophers must make arguments, which can distort and obscure the meaning of complex and difficult moral realities through attempts to render dimensions of them into ‘facts’ that can be used in arguments; the assumption that moral responsiveness is primarily a matter of making ‘choices’ about how to act based on discrete options, and in which one’s moral understanding of a situation can be thought of as a matter of judgement involving the exercise of rational capacities to choose which principles or concepts are appropriate to apply to a particular situation. Each of these kinds of requirement is brought into contact with examples from elsewhere in philosophy, that I consider to offer meaningful possibilities for moral understanding and responsiveness. I attempt to illuminate the various ways in which these meaningful possibilities are limited, obscured, distorted, deflected from, and excluded through the aforementioned requirements that are laid down. Other related requirements and assumptions are drawn out from those I primarily focus on, in an attempt to show the connectedness of various kinds of requirements and how they shape philosophical pictures of moral life. This gives a better sketch of the extent of the presence of requirements in moral philosophy. I simultaneously invite consideration of a philosophical orientation to moral life that is grounded in a kind of ‘receptiveness’ that I argue is a crucial dimension of Iris Murdoch’s ‘attention’. In contrast to the kinds of outlooks that begin with philosophical assumptions and commitments and then look towards the world in which moral life takes place, this orientation begins with an openness to moral life and what possibilities might be disclosed to us through our receptiveness and attentiveness to the realities of moral life. This way of thinking re-situates moral philosophy, bringing its relatedness to moral life to the foreground so as to make philosophy responsive to life, and not the other way around. This offers a liberation from the philosophical requirements Diamond draws attention to. Moral philosophy thus becomes less of an outward pressing onto the world in ways that can unduly shape our sense of moral reality, and more of an answering to that reality. An answering that, following Murdoch, is in a spirit of justness and love.
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    "Our own worst enemy": Southern anti-slavery networks and rhetoric in early republic and antebellum America
    Rivington, Kate ( 2018)
    This thesis examines Southern-born anti-slavery activists. By analysing one hundred anti-slavery Southerners, this thesis illuminates a deeply interconnected network of anti-slavery that was not just limited to the South, but one that intersected with Northern anti-slavery movements. This thesis examines how an individual’s personal networks shifted as a result of their public anti-slavery stance, as well as the rhetoric of the white Southern testimony to the horrors of slavery, and how these individuals were particularly valuable to wider anti-slavery movements.
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    The voice of Methodism: temperance policy in Victoria, Australia 1902-1977
    Barelli, Kenneth Douglas ( 2018)
    This thesis seeks to examine the influence of the Methodist Church in Victoria, Australia, on public policy in the twentieth century using the issue of Temperance as a case study. Methodists had a tradition of social activism dating back to their eighteenth-century founder John Wesley. While the Church took up many causes, Temperance had become its signature concern. The secular Temperance movement in Victoria, Australia was unable to bring about significant reform so Methodist activists became the prime instigators of change and secured changes to licensing in 1906. Methodists adopted a policy of ‘unswerving hostility’ to alcohol but, unable to adapt to social change in the following years, their influence slowly diminished. It was finally eclipsed in 1965 following a Royal Commission on Hotel Trading Hours. The Church, split between those clinging to traditional values and those seeking a better way to engage the community to their point of view, lost its reforming voice.
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    Foreigners and propaganda: war and peace in the imperial images of Augustus and Qin Shi
    Zhao, Dan Qing ( 2018)
    This thesis comparatively examines how Augustus and Qin Shi Huangdi manipulated the portrayals of and their interactions with foreigners in their imperial propaganda, and how such propaganda then served to create or uphold their imperial self-image.
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    At water's edge: Empire, disorder, and commerce on the docks in British America, 1714-1774
    Nash, Toby ( 2018)
    Early modern British imperial commerce focused its trading operations upon the orderly extraction of wealth from its colonies. This thesis argues that a key area of this process was the urban waterfront sector in its Atlantic port-cities in the Caribbean and North America. The waterfront lies at a liminal intersection between the city and the sea, between urban history and maritime history. The essential economic function of the waterfront—as a point for the movement of shipping, offloading, warehousing, and wholesaling—necessitated effective administration and governance by the state. But insecure imperial control over wharfside flows of commodities, people, and the environment, created difficulties for the British state. By examining this area in terms of space and place, we find a funnel or ‘bottleneck’ with competing vested economic interests and significant environmental instability, which could hinder imperial processes. Examining the docks in high-traffic port-cities across the British Atlantic coast, this paper provides a microcosmic framework for viewing the insecurity and instability that plagued the eighteenth-century British Empire in its growing colonial cities. Delving into this small quarter of the city enlightens us as to how disruptions at the colonial waterfront could cause disruption to the Empire, allowing us to gain a larger understanding of the British state apparatus and its administrative and commercial difficulties and vulnerabilities.