Talk Abstracts



Keynote Lectures

Tim Crane (University of Cambridge)

In Defence of Psychologism

Stanley Cavell once said that just as Kant ‘de-psychologised’ Hume’s epistemology, and Frege and Husserl de-psychologised Mill’s philosophy of mathematics, so Wittgenstein de-psychologised psychology. In this lecture I suggest one thing that ‘psychologism’ about the psychological might mean, and argue that it is worth defending: indeed, we will not have a proper account of the relationship between consciousness and intentionality unless we accept a kind of psychologism.

Thomas Hofweber (Chapel Hill)

Are there Completely Ineffable Aspects of Reality?

Should we believe that some truths about reality are in principle beyond what creatures like us can represent in thought or language? What would follow for metaphysics if we had reason to think that the answer is ‘Yes’? After clarifying the question I will first argue that the answer is not at all clear, but it potentially has significant consequences for metaphysics. In the second part I will then propose an answer by connecting this problem to a different, but more tractable, one.

Anna-Sara Malmgren (Stanford)

Inference: Explanation and Justification

What is it for a belief to be inferentially justified? And which of our (justified) beliefs have this status? In this talk, I want to isolate and discuss some of the issues that make these questions so difficult to answer—with special focus on certain unclear cases: beliefs that defy straightforward characterization as inferential or as non-inferential.

My main thesis is that inferential integration is a distinctive type of epistemic good— more precisely: that there is an epistemically significant difference between mental states or processes that have a non-negligible degree of top-down inferential integration with our full propositional attitudes, and states or processes that do not. This allows us to recognize a new class of unjustified justifiers and, correspondingly, a new kind of epistemic structure—one that does not fit neatly on either side of the traditional inferential/non-inferential divide. And that’s a welcome consequence.

Graduate Talks

Damiano Costa (Geneva)

Grounding Identity

What is a criterion of identity? Recently, some philosophers (Lowe 1989a; Williamson 1990; Savellos 1992; Jubien 1996; Carrara and Giaretta 2004; Horsten 2010; Leitgeb 2012) have argued that none of the replies we might find appealing at first glance are in fact satisfactory. In this paper, I shall examine those replies, and present old and new reasons to reject them. This examination will allow me to identify six desiderata that a good definition of ‘criterion of identity’ has to meet. Subsequently, I shall put forward a new definition, according to which a criterion of identity indicates what grounds identity truths within a given ontological category, and show how this new definition meets all six desiderata. An interesting consequence of the new definition is that it justifies the idea – held by some (Simons 1981; Bennett 1988) – that some entities lack identity criteria. According to Quine (1960) identity criteria were the mark of ontological respectability. But according to my proposal, it is in some sense the opposite: the lack of identity criteria – when theoretically certified – becomes the mark of metaphysical fundamentality.

Nick Hughes (Arche, St. Andrews/CSNM, Oslo)

Iterated Moorean Conjunctions

Benton (forthcoming) and Montminy (forthcoming) argue that the knowledge norm of assertion can explain the infelicity of iterated Moorean conjunctions. I argue that if their various explanations are accepted we lose some key motivations for the knowledge norm over the truth norm. I then give reasons to think that, given the parallels between Moorean conjunctions and iterated Moorean conjunctions, it might be hard for knowledge norm’ers to meet the challenge of giving a plausible explanation of the infelicity of iterated Moorean conjunctions that doesn’t face this problem.

Romy Jaster (HU Berlin)

How to be a Contextualist about Free Will

Recently, it has been suggested that ascriptions of freedom of the will are contextsensitive in much the same way as ascriptions of knowledge are often said to be contextsensitive. On this view, the truth conditions for freedom ascriptions vary across different contexts of use. This is supposed to offer a solution for the free will problem in much the same way as contextualism about knowledge ascriptions is often taken to offer a solution to the skeptical problem.

In my paper, I pursue two projects: first, I argue that – apart from the solution it offers for the free will problem – freedom contextualism can also be motivated on the basis of our ordinary practice of freedom attribution. Secondly, I argue for a specific way of spelling out the freedom contextualist view.

On the view I am advancing, the contextsensitivity of freedom ascriptions emerges directly from the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP), according to which freedom requires that the agent could have done otherwise. My suggestion is threefold: (1) PAP states a necessary condition for freedom. (2) ‘The agent could have done otherwise’ is contextsensitive: as any other ‘can’- statement, it is to be understood as a restricted possibility claim, the restrictions of which vary across contexts. (3) The contextsensitivity of the condition stated in PAP carries over to freedom ascriptions. As I argue, this account gives us the intended solution of the free will problem and delivers the right results when it comes to our ordinary practice of freedom attribution.

Of course, the plausibility of the account hinges crucially on the assumption that PAP does indeed state a necessary condition for freedom. Obviously, however, this is a controversial assumption. In the last part of the paper, I therefore bolster my reliance on PAP by showing that once we appreciate the contextsensitivity of ‘the agent could have done otherwise’, a new response to the well-taken Frankfurt-style counterexamples against PAP suggests itself.

Matt Leonard (UC Davis)

Mereological Harmony and the Nature of Spacetime

This paper is concerned with two, perhaps initially unrelated, questions. First: what is the relationship between material objects and spacetime? While supersubstantivalists think that material objects are identical to their locations in spacetime, others maintain a dualism about these two substances. Next: what is the relationship be- tween the mereological structure of material objects and the mereological structure of those objects’ locations in spacetime? Mereological harmony is the view that the mereological structure of material objects perfectly mirrors and is perfectly mirrored by the mereological structure of those objects’ locations in spacetime. In this paper, I look at one powerful objection against supersubstantivalism; namely, that it entails a whole host of controversial consequences. I then show that dualists who think that mereological harmony is true are stuck with the same set of problems. And thus, as I’ll argue, dualists lose one powerful objection to supersubstantivalism.

David Löwenstein (FU Berlin)

Normative Ryleanism and the Automatic Exercise of Know-how

The concept of know-how was brought to philosophical fame by Gilbert Ryle (1945; 1949), who argued that know-how is distinct from propositional knowledge. This paper defends and develops Ryle’s account. I show that Ryle introduces the notion of know-how in order to explain the phenomenon of normative practice and that he explicates know-how as an intelligent ability – a reliable competence to meet the norms of an activity in virtue of an understanding of them. Further, I discuss the fact that some exercises of know-how are not intentional actions, but entirely automatic performances. After defending this view against some of those who hold know-how to be a competence for intentional action alone (Snowdon 2011; Stanley & Williamson 2001), I proceed to the problem how such automatic acts can nevertheless be guided by an understanding of norms. While Ryle’s treatment of this problem involves an unresolved tension, I build on a proposal by Wilfrid Sellars (1968; 1969) in order to account for the normative guidance of automatic exercises of know-how. Finally, I discuss Ryle’s famous regress objection against intellectualism, the claim that know-how is a species of propositional knowledge, and show how my Sellarsian development of Ryle’s view wards off an important intellectualist reply by Jason Stanley (2011).

Giulia Pravato (Venice)

Faultless Disagreement in Context

It has recently been claimed that some classes of predicates display faultless disagreement effects, which we should account for when modelling their semantic behaviour. To date, four general strategies have been offered for dealing with the puzzle: first, denying the data or downplaying their theoretical significance; second, revising the standard semantic framework; third, revising the classical logic framework; fourth, reconceptualising the notion of disagreement. In this paper, I take up the class of “predicates of personal taste” (and, more generally, aesthetic predicates) and I argue for three main claims. First, I contend that faultless disagreement isn’t a unified phenomenon and that, as a result, we need a fragmentary strategy to deal with its varieties – primarily what I call shallow faultless disagreements and deep faultless disagreements – rather than one wholesale account suitable for all cases. Second, I claim that one popular kind of semantic revisionism – Truth-Relativism – is neither adequate nor indispensable in order to account for faultless disagreement. In particular, I present three challenges to Truth-Relativism: a methodological worry related to the presumed uniformity of the explanandum, a tu quoque argument concerning the issue of semantic blindness and a more general worry with respect to relativistic solutions to the problem of “lost disagreement”. Third, I develop my own positive account in two main steps. First, I introduce a flexible contextualism and I show how with this general semantic framework in place we can account for the shallow/deep faultless disagreements distinction. Second, I argue that deep faultless disagreement – or, as I shall also call, it “cognitive faultless disagreement” – does call for some revision. I suggest, though, that an appeal to indeterminacy in truth-value rather than relative truth is a viable and preferable option in modelling this variety of faultless disagreement.

Michael Schippers (Oldenburg)

Measuring Coherence: A Monistic, Stratified Account

In this talk I propose a new probabilistic model of coherence. This model features a probabilistic measure based on the notion of firmness that is shown to concur with coherence intuitions very well. To this effect I reassess a num- ber of test cases taken from the literature on measuring coherence. What is more, it is shown that it is possible to drastically narrow the field of coherence measures by means of two adequacy constraints. Another decisive characteristic of this model is its capability of measuring coherence on different levels corresponding to the relevant context under consideration. It is shown that this stratified account avoids well-known arguments purporting to establish the untenability of probabilistic coherence measures (Moretti & Akiba (2007) and Siebel (2005)). These arguments, if sound, would prove that probabilistic coherence measures are unduly sensitive to the way sets of propositions are individuated. I point out that, while being a desirable feature in some contexts, it is possible to avoid this representation sensitivity by measuring coherence on the level of contents. In this regard, I demonstrate how to individuate the content of a given belief set by means of basic commitments. Accordingly, a contextual element enters the model: depending on the context under consideration, coherence can either be measured on a representational level or on the level of contents.

Margot Strohminger (Arché, St. Andrews)

Conceivability Pluralism

A slogan often heard in the epistemology of modality is that conceivability is a guide to possibility. Consider a view that preserves the spirit if not the letter of the slogan. There are many kinds of conceivability, many of which are not guides to possibility. Still, there is a kind of conceivability—call it special—that is a guide to possibility. So, if someone S special- conceives that p, or finds p special-conceivable, then S is thereby prima facie justified in believing that p is possible (◊p). Special conceivings are supposed to be possibility-guiding in part because they involve the appearance of possibility: if S special-conceives that p, it thereby appears to S that ◊p. Call this view conceivability pluralism. Conceivability pluralism is often defended as part of a larger package of views. I argue that this larger package of views is false, but that conceivability pluralism nevertheless remains promising.

Diego Tajer (Buenos Aires)

Against Deflationism about Logical Consequence

In this paper, I argue against the deflationism about logical validity that was proposed by L. Shapiro (2011). This position says that the predicate ’ ’p’ is a consequence of ’q’ ’ is simply a linguistic device to express that p entails q, where entails is a sentential operator. My argument has two parts. In the first one, I show that the main argument to support this position is fallacious, since it could be extended to an argument for an extremely radical theory where every sentential predicate can be deflated. In the second one, I explain what makes deflationism about truth or falsity more reasonable than deflationism about validity.

I hold that when a predicate is defined as an operator, the predicate can be deflated only if the notion that the operator expresses can be also deflated. Therefore, a deflationist about validity should describe the notion of entailment she has in mind (for example, by making explicit its rules), and explain why it is non-substantive. But I argue that there are no hopes for deflating entailment. Firstly, because our vernacular notion of entailment (if we have one) is chaotic, so there is nothing like a paradigmatic and clear usage of ’entailment’ to which deflationists can appeal (as they do with truth or negation). Secondly, because if the deflationist takes not the colloquial but the theoretical concept of entailment, she will only get a substantive notion.