August 30, 2006

Action Shots from Stirling

Shots from the Stirling epistemic value conference can be found here.

A couple photos from the Danish epistemology workshop are here.

August 26, 2006

Fantle and McGrath Against Epistemic Purism

Fantle and McGrath have an excellent new paper on pragmatic encroachment.

The latest version of the Fantle and McGrath argument against epistemic purism goes like this. Suppose that possible subjects S1 and S2 are alike with respect to strength of epistemic position. For instance, we suppose that they share precisely the same evidence regarding a true proposition that p. And we suppose that S1 knows that p. S2 is just like S1 in every respect accept that she differs with respect to stakes. The matter is much more important to S2, and so she is not rational to act as if p. But then by the pragmatic condition on knowledge, S2 fails to know p. And since, ex hypothesi, S1 does know p, it therefore follows that whether one is in a position to know does not supervene on strength of epistemic position. Epistemic purism is false.

The argument harbors some fundamental assumptions. First, subjects S1 and S2 are thought to be the same with respect to position of epistemic strength because they are said to be evidential twins. One implicit fundamental assumption then is this: only evidence effects position of epistemic strength. Second, S1 and S2 are thought to be evidential twins, because it is thought that practical interests do not effect how much evidence one has.

The notion of evidence, for F and M, is meant to be "a broad intuitive concept, that internalists and externalists might analyze in different ways." And in defense of their position, they remark that "it ought to be common ground between theories of evidence that having a lot at stake in whether p is true does not, by itself, provide evidence for or against p." Further, they explain that evidence for p, but not stakes in whether p, affect the probability of p (in some appropriate sense of 'probability').

Here is a possible reply that I discussed at the Epistemic Value Conference. Having a lot at stake does affect evidence. Consider, when stakes are high, evidence previously ignored becomes salient. Such "new" evidence may reduce the probability that p is true. For instance, S1 knows that the train is the Express train based on another traveler's testimony, but had it meant more to him to be right he might have recalled that a small number of travelers are clueless. Weighing in that a small number of travelers are clueless suddenly reduces the probability that the train is the Express. If practical interests can make salient previously ignored evidence, then Assumption 2 is false. Practical interests do affect the amount of evidence one has, and so, by Assumption 1, practical interests (at least indirectly) affect the strength of one's epistemic position.

August 25, 2006

Danish Epistemology Workshop

The Danish Epistemology Network, Namicona, and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Copenhagen hosted an epistemology workshop on August 22. Speakers included Lars Gundersen (Aarhus), Jesper Kallestrup (Edinburgh), Berit Brogaard and yours truly.

Gundersen developed an account of why neither disjunctivism nor contextualism has the resources for dealing adequately with “abominable conjunctions”. The natural way for these theories to deal with such conjunctions leaves them vulnerable when we reformulate the conjunctions in terms of claimability/assertibility: (1) it is claimable that I know that p (where p is some ordinary proposition); (2) if it’s claimable that p and claimable that p entails q, then it is claimable that q; and (3) it is not claimable that I know that q (where q is the negation of the skeptical hypothesis).

Kallestrup’s paper, “Reliabilist Justification: Basic, Easy and Brute”, offered a way of blocking track-record versions of the easy knowledge objection. The key is to motivate a Wrightian restriction on the transmission of justification across valid deduction. Doing so blocks the very first inferential step in the track-record/bootstrapping arguments.

Brogaard in her presentation “In Defense of a Perspectival Semantics for ‘Knows’” first defends relativism against objections (including Stanley’s objections that it cannot accommodate the factivity of ‘knows’ and that it entails that circumstances of evaluation have features that cannot be shifted by any intensional operator), but then shows that a perspectivalist semantics can do all the same work without relativizing sentence truth to contexts of assessment.

I presented “Knowability Noir: 1945-1963”, which evaluates an unpublished debate between Fitch and Church in 1945. Their debate was primarily over the effectiveness of the proof we today call the “knowability paradox”. My primary concern was to offer an account of what Fitch perceived to be the significance of the proof in his 1963 paper. I argued that the significance was to draw general and special lessons about how to avoid conditional fallacies in philosophical analysis.

Epistemic Value (Day 2)

The final day of the epistemic value conference included a paper by Ward Jones. He developed some ideas about the nature of doxastic goods in his attempt to say what it is that makes knowledge valuable. Pascal Engel’s position was that none of the arguments for pragmatic encroachment on truth, evidence, justification or knowledge work. Christian Piller argued that our interest in truth is not captured by the idea that we desire to believe all and only truths. In particular, he argued, that we do not wish to believe only truths. And Martin Kusch developed an account of the social value of knowledge partially in terms of a very interesting fictional geneology of a proto-concept of knowledge.

August 20, 2006

Epistemic Value Conference (Day 1)

Here are some highlights from a full day of interesting talks at the epistemic value conference. Wayne Riggs developed a conception of epistemic luck to compliment his credit approach to the value problem. Much use was made of Jennifer Lackey's published criticisms of the credit approach and her criticisms of Pritchard's theory of luck.

Matt Weiner explained that knowledge is like a Swiss army knife. Its value is derivative of the value of its components. Moreover, knowledge is not more valuable that any of its proper parts. Matt's positions hinged on the connections between knowledge and practical rationality.

Berit Brogaard argued that a perspectivalist semantics supports epistemic value monism better than does contextualism or relativism. Along the way she denies that there are any genuinely relative truths.

Mark Kaplan came to terms with human fallibility by arguing that a determination of one's confidence that p does not determine her opinion regarding p; "being confident" is different from "being willing to say". Without paradox I can take it to be highly likely, say, that there are errors in my book, even though I endorse all of the claims therein.

There were other interesting talks as well. Must get some sleep before tomorrow's marathon.

August 19, 2006

Epistemic Value Conference (Day 0)

Today was the pre-conference workshop on epistemic value at the University of Stirling. Stephen Grimm set up a dilemma for epistemic value monism. Either epistemic appraisals apply only to "interesting truths" (Alston, Goldman) or they apply to all truths equally (Lynch). If the former, then absurdly epistemic appraisals such as 'is justified' do not apply to uninteresting true beliefs. If the latter, then believing that there are n blades of grass in the yard is absurdly as valuable as any other belief.

Jason Baehr argued that the guiding intuition behind the value problem does not warrant the standard formality and generality constraints on a solution. That is, the intuition that knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief does not motivate the traditional thought that one or more components of knowledge must have "truth-independent" value or the thought that knowledge is always more valuable than true belief.

Jay Wood discussed a wide spectrum of epistemic values and argued against a sharp distinction between epistemic and moral value.

August 14, 2006

Epistemic Value Conference

This week I'm off to the conference on Epistemic Value at the University of Stirling. If my laptop isn't confiscated at the airport and I have internet access, then I expect to report from there.