[SydPhil] Macquarie Philosophy WiP Seminar on Tuesday 17 October 2023 – A/Prof Joel Michell (University of Sydney)

Regina Fabry regina.fabry at mq.edu.au
Wed Oct 11 09:24:26 AEDT 2023

Dear all,

You are invited to attend the next Macquarie Philosophy Work-in-Progress Seminar on Tuesday 17 October 2023 from 1:00 to 2:00pm.

Attend in-person at 25B Wally's Walk, Room B603.
Attend online: https://protect-au.mimecast.com/s/XD_GClx1Nji1wGn3NfG-Nzp?domain=macquarie.zoom.us
Password: seminar

Speaker: A/Prof Joel Michell (University of Sydney)

Title: Appropriate Measures?

Abstract: It’s easy to take measurement for granted: we measure willy-nilly without a second thought.  But measurement reaches something deep – very deep – in the fabric of reality.  The pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, sensed this, as did the early Pythagoreans and around Plato’s time, Eudoxus captured this depth in a single miraculous sentence, recorded now as Definition 5 of Book V of Euclid’s Elements.  Thereafter measurement ruled, becoming a much appropriated idea: appropriated by philosophers and theologians, appropriated by scientists and, in our own time, appropriated by psychologists, social scientists, and, of course, by politicians.  That is nothing new, for it has long been a politically loaded concept, from the middle ages, when each town had its own units of length, weight, and time and priests measured sins by days of fasting and recitations of hail marys, to the birth of utilitarianism in the 19th century when the fantasy that the measure of pleasure is a moral yardstick prevailed.  In psychology, the idea of measurement was never not political: Francis Galton appropriated it to sell eugenics as a science; the founding fathers, to secure their fledgling discipline its place in universities; and psychometricians appropriated it to market the technology of psychological tests to serve our meritocratic dystopia.  But it was left to the psychologist, S. S. Stevens, to deliver measurement its modernist coup de grâce, seducing the gullible with a dumbed-down redefinition stretching the concept to vanishing point. If a concept’s measure is given by its misappropriation, measurement measures up.

For any queries about the Macquarie Philosophy Work-in-Progress Seminars, please contact foa.philseminars at mq.edu.au<mailto:foa.philseminars at mq.edu.au>.

Best regards,


Dr Regina Fabry (she/her)
ARC Discovery Early Career Research Awardee
Department of Philosophy
Level 7, 25B Wally’s Walk
Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia
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