2009-10

September 17, 2009, 4 PM (note special time) in 234 Moses Hall

Richard Boyd and Christopher Boyd (Cornell University and UC Berkeley)

Natural kinds and ceteris paratis generalizations: In praise of hunches

It is widely assumed that scientific categories must obey strict criteria in order to count as natural kinds: that kinds should have necessary and sufficient membership conditions; that the boundaries between kinds be sharply distinguishable; that kinds must appear in exact, exceptionless laws of nature. Yet molecular species are individuated in terms of continuously variable quantities like bond lengths and bond angles, suggesting that the boundaries between molecular kinds are vague, and chemical laws express defeasible tendencies rather than universal regularities. Similar considerations apply for other chemical kinds—kinds of chemical species or of reaction mechanisms, for instance. Drawing on examples from biology as well as chemistry, Richard Boyd and Christopher Boyd propose a more liberal, and accurate, conception of kinds and their role in science, emphasizing the importance of approximations, rules of thumb and moderately reliable hunches in chemical prediction and explanation.

October 14, 2009, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Adam Sennet (UC Davis)

Propositional Structure and Unarticulated Constituents

One proposal in the debate over the semantics-pragmatics includes positing Unarticulated Constituents, or pragmatically driven additions to the proposition expressed by an utterance of a sentence. Whether or not there are UCs is a continued source of contention. I argue that the definitions of UCs that are on offer are all inadequate and fall prey to easy counterexample given the nature of the phenomenon they are trying to model and characterize and consider how one might improve upon our understanding of the relevant notions in a manner consistent with the general goals of UC theorists.

November 12, 2009, 6-7:30 PM Cancelled! in 234 Moses Hall

Richard Zach (University of Calgary)

January 27, 2010, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

James Joyce (University of Michigan)

Do Imprecise Credences Make Sense?

Many people – including Issac Levi, Peter Walley, Teddy Seidenfeld, Richard Jeffrey and Mark Kaplan – have suggested that uncertain beliefs in light of evidence are best represented by sets of probability functions rather than individual probability functions. I will defend the use of such “imprecise credal states” in modeling beliefs against some recent objections, raised by Roger White and others, which concern the phenomenon of dilation. Dilation occurs when learning some definite fact forces a person’s beliefs about an event to shift from a fully determinate subjective probability to an imprecise spread of probabilities. A number of commentators have found aspects of dilation disturbing, both from an epistemic and decision-theoretic perspective, and have placed the blame on the idea that beliefs can be imprecise. I shall argue that these worries are based on an overly narrow conception of imprecise belief states which assumes that we know everything there is to know a person’s doxastic attitude toward an event once we know all possible values of her subjective probability for that event. A well-developed theory of imprecise beliefs has the resources to characterize a rich family of relationships among doxastic attitudes that are essential to a complete understanding of rational belief. It can only do so, however, if it is purged of an overly narrow conception of belief states. Once this change is made dilation does not seem so disturbing, and certain decision problems that often seem perplexing can be resolved in a satisfactory manner.

Slides for the talk

Prof. Joyce recommends the following papers as (optional) background reading:

  1. http://www.fitelson.org/few/few_08/white.pdf

  2. http://www.fitelson.org/joyce_hpre.pdf

Note: Jim will also be leading Branden Fitelson’s seminar on Thursday January 28 from 4-6pm in the Dennes Room. This talk will be entitled: “Inference and Decision Making With Imprecise Probabilities”. Please feel welcome to attend.

March 10, 2010, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Helen Longino (Stanford)

Some puzzles about (human) behavioral sciences

The nature-nurture debate seems to have been settled by researchers agreeing that many factors play a role in the etiology of behavioral dispositions and that the crucial challenge is to understand their interactions. Examination of such integrative programs raises questions about their explanatory scope. Reviewing the methods available to single factor programs such as behavioral genetics, neurophysiology, and family psychology, as well as to integrative research programs and more ecological programs, this talk asks what kind of knowledge do the (human) behavioral sciences make possible and what is its end?

March 31, 2010, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Laurie Paul (University of North Carolina)

Temporal Experience

Reductionists deny that there are mind-independent properties of nowness and passage and defend an ontology of time without such properties. I argue that the reductionist (or B-theorist) still needs to account for the nature of our ordinary experience of nowness and change. In support of reductionism, I develop a philosophical account of the phenomenology of nowness and passage that draws on contemporary psychology but does not require the existence of mind-independent properties of nowness and passage.

April 21, 2010, 6-7:30 PM in 470 Stephens, note unusual location

Alan Richardson (University of British Columbia)

Carnap’s Logical Empiricism as Philosophy of Science and as Analytic Philosophy, historisch-kritisch dargestellt

Joint Meeting with the Office for History of Science and Technology

One of the key features of Alberto Coffa’s monograph, The Semantic Tradition from Kant to Carnap, was that it offered an account of the historical development of logical empiricism that could make sense of logical empiricism’s place both in the history of philosophy of science and in the history of analytic philosophy. I intend neither to endorse nor even directly to take issue with Coffa’s history, but rather to reflect on the obligations of and problems for any attempt to locate logical empiricism in a joint history of philosophy of science and analytic philosophy. I start with a specific puzzle about an ambivalence one can find in Carnap’s work regarding a distinction important to the history of analytic philosophy–whether we should conceive of logic as language or as calculus. In diagnosing Carnap’s ambivalence on this issue, I locate Carnap’s main philosophical interests along a different dimension and his main philosophical innovation as deriving from a different disciplinary matrix than do those who seek to locate his work primarily within a history of analytic philosophy. My understanding of Carnap sees him as offering a specific applied science account of philosophy, one deriving from the characteristic early twentieth-century concerns of metrology. I use this account to ask certain questions about the relations of the early twentieth-century philosophy of science to the rise of analytic philosophy and, ultimately, about the place of philosophy of science within analytic philosophy today. I will also attempt to illustrate some oft neglected relations between the history of science and the history of philosophy in the past 150 or so years.