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I presented “Knowability Noir: 1945-1963”, which evaluates an unpublished debate between Fitch and Church in 1945.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.

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