October 28, 2013, 6-7:30 PM in 470 Stephens Hall

John Dupré (University of Exeter)


Joint event with OHST.

November 20, 2013, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Matthias Frisch (UMBC)

Causal Reasoning in Physics

According to widely accepted neo-Russellian anti-causal arguments, causal reasoning can play no legitimate role in our established theories of physics. In this paper I examine several such arguments are flawed and argue that causal reasoning plays an important role in physics as well.

April 02, 2014, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Igal Kvart (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The Pragmatics of Steering – and of Knowledge Ascriptions, Assertions, and more

In this talk, I lay out a pragmatic account, which handles the standard examples propelled by Epistemic Contextualism and Pragmatic Encroachment approaches, and offer an alternative. Epistemic Contextualism and Pragmatic Encroachment (most notably represented by Subject-Sensitive Invariantism – SSI) offered accounts of knowledge ascriptions in which contextual standards or stakes play a major role in the semantics of knowledge ascriptions. These accounts were propelled mostly by examples that seemed to require a pragmatic component in the truth-conditions of knowledge ascriptions in order to be accounted for. I assume that MacFarlane’s theory of assessment belongs in this family, but I will not discuss it directly.

By contrast, I offer a pragmatic account which, I claim, explains the examples in question, and specifically their clear pragmatic character within the pragmatic field, obviating a central need for introducing pragmatic ingredients into the semantics of knowledge ascriptions that invoke contextual standards or stakes. The main pragmatic components I employ are rational assertibility and especially what, I argue, is a specific pragmatic role of Steering, exemplified by a pragmatic thrust of the use of ‘know’, of the assertoric mode, and well beyond. By accounting for the intuitions associated with the paradigmatic examples, this account confers substantive constraints on the methodology of using intuitions as evidence for semantic features, with a variety of repercussions.

April 30, 2014, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Richard Pettigrew (University of Bristol)

Accuracy-first Epistemology

An agent’s degrees of belief should satisfy the axioms of probability. She should update her degrees of belief in the light of new evidence in line with the Bayesian rule of conditionalization. If she learns the objective chances, her degrees of belief ought to match them. In the absence of any evidence, she ought to distribute her degrees of belief equally over all possibilities. These are norms that govern epistemic agents when we represent them as having degrees of belief in the propositions they entertain. What establishes these norms? Pragmatic arguments have been given for some; evidentialist arguments for others. In this talk, I want to describe an alternative sort of argument. It begins with the claim that the sole fundamental virtue of degrees of belief is their accuracy, or proximity to the truth, and it provides a way of measuring this accuracy. Finally, it derives the consequences of this assumption. Amongst those consequences are the four norms just listed.