Program and Abstracts

Program

Note: if the temperatures are as high as they have been over the past few days, we will move the afternoon session into the air-conditioned lecture hall, A704. Signs will be posted on the door of the original room to inform you of any location changes.

July 23rd, 2015
University of Konstanz; Room: H306

Time  Speaker and Topic
09:30 – 09:45  Coffee
09:45 – 10:00  Welcome
10:00 – 11:30  Ralph Wedgwood: Epistemic Teleology: Synchronic and Diachronic
11:45 – 13:15  Jennifer Carr: Accuracy without Consequences
13:15 – 15:00  Lunch Break
15:00 – 16:30  Jochen Briesen: Epistemic Consequentialism — Its Relation to Ethical Consequentialism and the Truth-Indication Principle
16:45 – 18:15  Joshua Schechter: Indispensability to a Rationally Required Project
20:00  Conference Dinner (Wessenberg Cafe Restaurant Bar; Wessenbergstraße 41; 78462 Konstanz)

July 24th, 2015
University of Konstanz; Room: H306

Time  Speaker and Topic
09:45 – 10:00  Coffee
10:00 – 11:30  Catherine Z. Elgin: Epistemic Norms
11:45 – 13:15 Clayton Littlejohn: The Right in the Good
13:15 – 15:00  Lunch Break
15:00 – 16:30 Anna-Maria A. Eder: No Commitment to the Truth
16:45 – 18:15 Branden Fitelson (joint work with Ted Shear): Two Approaches to Belief Revision

Abstracts

Ralph Wedgwood: Epistemic Teleology: Synchronic and Diachronic
Many philosophers assume that that when we evaluate beliefs as “correct” or “rational” or “justified”, we are making normative judgments about these belief. Some philosophers have recently proposed that these normative notions can be analysed in the teleological style that is familiar from the classical semantics for standard deontic logic. (This proposal has been variously described as “epistemic consequentialism”, “cognitive decision theory”, and “epistemic utility theory”; but the core of this proposal is this teleological interpretation of the epistemic norms that apply to belief.) Selim Berker and Hilary Greaves have recently argued that this teleological approach faces certain problems. In this paper, it is shown that these problems only count against a specific interpretation of the teleological approach – namely, an interpretation according to which it offers a certain sort of explanation of norms of diachronic rationality. The teleological explanation of the norms of synchronic epistemic rationality has no analogous problem. Moreover, there is a way in which the teleological approach can explain the norms of diachronic rationality that also avoids all these problems.

Jennifer Carr: Accuracy without Consequences
Veritism is the claim that the fundamental source of epistemic value of doxastic states is accuracy. I present some puzzles that show that in order for epistemic utility theory to vindicate veritism, its decision rules must be revised. But the revisionary form of epistemic utility conflicts with evidentialism. So epistemic utility theorists face a dilemma: they must give up either evidentialism or veritism. I argue that we should reject both traditional and revisionary epistemic utility theory as decision theories, and I provide a non-normative interpretation of epistemic utility theory’s mathematical machinery.

Jochen Briesen: Epistemic Consequentialism — Its Relation to Ethical Consequentialism and the Truth-Indication Principle
Consequentialist positions in philosophy spell out normative notions by recourse to certain aims. Hedonistic versions of ethical consequentialism spell out what is morally right/justified via recourse to the aim of increasing pleasure and decreasing pain. Veritistic versions of epistemic consequentialism spell out what is epistemically right/justified via recourse to the aim of increasing the number of true beliefs and decreasing the number of false ones. Even though these theories are in many respects structurally analogous, there are also interesting disanalogies. For example, popular versions of veritistic epistemic consequentialism implicitly endorse the truth-indication principle (which claims that a belief is epistemically justified only if there are factors indicating that the belief itself is true), whereas popular versions of hedonistic ethical consequentialism do not subscibe to an analogous pleasure-indicating principle (which claims that an act is morally justified only if there are factors indicating that performing the act itself is pleasurable). In a first step I will argue that this difference rests on the fact that plausible versions of epistemic consequentialism have to meet certain constraints, which versions of ethical consequentilialism do not have to satisfy. As these constraints can be easily met by incorporating the truth-indication principle, epistemic consequentialists tend to subscribe to it. In a second step I will investigate whether the identified constraints can also be met independend from the truth-indication principle. Are there plausible versions of veritistic epistemic consequentialism that reject the principle, thereby allowing that some beliefs can be epistemically justified even though no factors speak in favor of their truth?

Joshua Schechter: Indispensability to a Rationally Required Project
We are epistemically justified in employing Modus Ponens, Inference to the Best Explanation, and other rules of inference despite lacking a non-question-begging justification for these rules. What explains this justification? On my account (developed jointly with David Enoch), our justification for employing certain rules of inference as basic stems from their importance to our thought. More specifically, the account makes two main claims. First, there are certain cognitive projects that rational agents ought to engage in irrespective of their goals and desires.  Second, a thinker is justified in employing a rule of inference that is “pragmatically indispensable” for successfully engaging in one of these projects.  Strictly speaking, this view is not a form of epistemic consequentialism. However, it faces many of the same objections. In this talk, I discuss the problems that are shared by my account and epistemic consequentialism and show how they may be answered.

Catherine Z. Elgin: Epistemic Norms
According to epistemic consequentialism, the overriding epistemic objective is to believe as many truths and as few falsehoods as possible. This position is problematic. It assigns undue value to believing trivial truths. It courts skepticism. It cannot accommodate the epistemic standing of science, for cutting edge scientific claims are typically doubtful and often involve models which are known not to be true. Rather than deriving from the ends they promote, I argue that epistemic norms are products of responsible epistemic agency. Drawing on Kant, I urge that the members of a community of inquiry can be understood as legislating members of a realm of epistemic ends. They collectively make and reflectively endorse the rules, standards and methods that govern their epistemic practice and the assessment of its products. This yields an epistemic imperative: an agent should accept only considerations she could advocate and reflectively endorse as a legislating member of a realm of epistemic ends.

Clayton Littlejohn: The Right in the Good
I shall discuss some of the difficulties that arise for epistemic rule consequentialism (e.g., problems that have to do with trade-offs, the theory of epistemic value, and the priority of the good to the right). While there’s a sense in which the good might be prior to the right, I don’t think that this supports any sort of consequentialist view. I shall distinguish two ways of understanding the priority of the good to the right in epistemology and argue that there’s a kind of teleological approach that’s preferable to a consequentialist one.

Anna-Maria A. Eder: No Commitment to the Truth
Several epistemologists consider the notion of (epistemic) justication to be normative. According to what I call the ought account, a proposition is justified for an agent iff she (epistemically) ought to believe it. In contrast, according to what I call the permissibility account, a proposition is justified for an agent iff she is (epistemically) permitted to believe it. Both accounts are based on the idea that justified belief is advisable. But why is it advisable? A popular answer involves that justified belief adequately serves an appropriate end. In this line, I presuppose that some kind of (epistemic) consequentialist position with respect to justification is correct. It is characteristic for such positions that they claim that a proposition is justified for an agent iff her believing the proposition adequately serves (or would serve) the appropriate end.
I first present popular consequentialist position that have been proposed. I argue against these positions and propose a new one. According to the new position, one is not committed to aiming at believing propositions that are true. Finally, I argue that this new position favors the permissibility account over the ought account.

Branden Fitelson (joint work with Ted Shear): Two Approaches to Belief Revision
In this paper, we compare and contrast two approaches to belief revision: the well-known (logic-based) AGM approach, and a (broadly) Bayesian approach which is inspired by epistemic utility theory.