September 12, 2012, 6-7:30 PM in 470 Stephens Hall

Martin Kusch (University of Vienna)

Wittgenstein, Metrology, Certainties

The paper explores the role of metrology (esp. clock coordination and the standard meter) as metaphor and analogy in the later Wittgenstein’s thinking about knowledge and skepticism.

Joint event with OHST.

November 14, 2012, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Geoffrey Nunberg (UC Berkeley, School of Information)

Derogation: Meaning or Metadata?

The literature on derogatives—a lot of it coming from philosophy of language, rather than linguistic semantics—usually departs from two assumptions: that derogatives are a coherent linguistic class, and that their derogative force follows from their linguistic meanings, either as an entailment or a conventional implicature. I’ll propose another approach here, making three main points. First, derogatives are part of a much more extensive class of appraisive expressions; the principles that account for the derogative force of redskin should also account for the appraisive force of la-la land, bureaucrat, and free enterprise. Second, rather than connecting this force directly to the meanings of the expressions, we should treat it the way standard dictionaries do, as following from metadata about their associated communities of judgment, in Alan Gibbard’s phrase. Third, the full effect of strong derogatives follows from two independent sources: an appraisive judgment associated with the illocutionary act, and a noncancellable exhibitive force associated with the act of locution itself, which is why one cant even mention them with impunity.

February 13, 2013, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Thomas Icard (Stanford University)

From Implicit to Explicit Belief

In this talk I will present a particular take on the computational theory of mind, focusing on the relationship between implicit and explicit belief. Drawing on recent ideas and results from cognitive science, I will argue that implicit belief is best understood in terms of higher-order logical representations governed by probabilistic – in particular Bayesian – dynamics. I will then explain how such representations give rise to explicit beliefs, whose qualitative dynamics need not be Bayesian, even ideally. Along the way, I will briefly discuss how this picture bears on some foundational questions about subjective probability.

March 06, 2013, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Eric Winsberg (University of South Florida)

Climate model uncertainty and ambiguity aversion

There has been a great deal of emphasis, in recent years, on developing methods for quantifying uncertainty in the predictions of global and regional climate models. Such an approach would allow a division of labor between those who discover the facts and those who decide what we should value. And it is in line with a famous defense of scientific objectivity due to Richard Jeffrey. I argue, however, that value neutral probabilities for climate model projections will be hard to come by in the foreseeable future. In this paper I consider a variety of alternative proposals for presenting what we know about the future from climate models. I suggest that any such proposal ought to take account of “ambiguity aversion.”

April 24, 2013, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Adam Elga (Princeton University)

Crossword puzzles, fragmented belief, and logical omniscience

Is there an English word that ends in “MT”? (If you are stumped, think about the question for a moment and then read the last word of this abstract.) Before you figured out (or read) the answer to that question, did you know that the word that is the answer was an English word that ends in “MT”? In a sense, yes: the word was in your vocabulary. But in another sense, no: for a moment, you weren’t able to answer the puzzle question.

For finite agents, this phenomenon is unavoidable. Sometimes a piece of information is within one’s cognitive reach for some purposes but not for others. So a state of mind should be represented not by a single batch of information, but rather by a specification of what information is within cognitive reach for what purposes.

Representing states of mind in this way helps in understanding inconsistent or fragmented states of mind: sometimes incompatible bits of information (or misinformation) are within reach for different purposes. It helps in explaining what happens during “aha!” moments in reasoning: one’s cognitive reach is expanded. And it lends support to an attractive solution of the problem of logical omniscience. In presenting this theory of mental representation, we hope to convince you that it is more fruitful than you may have dreamt.

(This is joint work with Agustin Rayo.)