Program and Abstracts


Thursday, July 18, 2019
Universitätsstraße 37, 50931 Köln (Seminargebäude); room S25

Time Speaker and Topic
10:00 – 10:20 Coffee and Welcome
10:20 – 11:20 Jim Pryor: Suspended Belief and Prospective Justification

Chair: Anna-Maria A. Eder

11:30 – 12:30 Nick Hughes: Dilemmic Epistemology and the Guidance Objection

Chair: Anna-Maria A. Eder

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:00 Verena Wagner: Epistemic Conflict and Doxastic Suspension

Chair: Francesco Praolini

15:10 – 16:10 Anna-Maria A. Eder: Evidence-of-Evidence as Higher-Order Evidence

Chair: Francesco Praolini

16:10 – 16:30 Coffee Break
16:30 – 17:30 Jenny Yi-Chen Wu: A Defense of Epistemic Permissivism

Chair: Sofia Bokros

17:40 – 18:40 Thomas Grundmann: Preemptive Authority: The Challenge from Outrageous Expert Judgments

Chair: Sofia Bokros

20:00 Workshop Dinner — Belgischer Hof; Brüsseler Straße 54; 50674 Köln

Friday, July 19, 2019
Universitätsstraße 37, 50931 Köln (Seminargebäude); room S25

Time Speaker and Topic
09:10 – 09:30 Coffee
09:30 – 10:30 Catarina Dutilh Novaes: Adversarial Collaboration and Transferability in Mathematical Proofs

Chair: Peter Brössel

10:40 – 11:40 Michael Hannon: Skepticism Vs. Ordinary Life

Chair: Peter Brössel

11:50 – 12:50 Giacomo Melis: Moderate and Strong Epistemic Akrasia Stand or Fall Together

Chair: Peter Brössel

12:50 – 14:20 Lunch
14:20 – 15:20 Javier González de Prado Salas: Epistemic Conflict and Loss of Reasons

Chair: Filippo Vindrola

15:20 – 15:40 Coffee Break
15:40 – 16:40 Aleks Knoks: Epistemic Conflicts and Defeasible Rules

Chair: Filippo Vindrola


Catarina Dutilh Novaes: Adversarial Collaboration and Transferability in Mathematical Proofs The idea of adversarial collaboration has been introduced and practiced (albeit modestly) in the social sciences in the last decades. It consists in a protocol whereby scientists who disagree with each other on a particular issue can collaborate in investigating it. Now, that there is something like adversarial collaboration in mathematics has been known for a long time, at least since Lakatos’ Proofs and Refutations; according to him, it is through the ‘dialectic of proofs and refutations’ that mathematical knowledge is produced. (One can accept this general point even while disagreeing with some aspects of Lakatos’ account.) However, for adversarial collaboration in mathematics (thus understood) to be successful, proofs must be formulated in such a way that members of the relevant mathematical community who critically scrutinize a proof can understand it. In other words, proofs must have the property of *transferability*, a concept introduced by Easwaran (2009). In my talk, I develop the concept of adversarial collaboration in mathematics in terms of a rational reconstruction of mathematical proofs as dialogues involving two fictive participants: Prover and Skeptic, and the notion of transferability. I then discuss three examples: the reception of Gödel’s incompleteness proofs in the 1930s, E. Nelson’s failed proof of the inconsistency of Peano arithmetic in 2011, and the still ongoing saga of Mochizuki’s purported proof of the ABC conjecture.

Anna-Maria A. Eder: Evidence-of-Evidence as Higher-Order Evidence In everyday life and in science we acquire evidence of evidence and based on this new evidence we often change our epistemic states. An assumption underlying such practice is that the following EEE Slogan is correct: ‘evidence of evidence is evidence’ (Feldman 2007, p. 208). We suggest that evidence of evidence is best understood as higher-order evidence about the epistemic state of agents. In order to model evidence of evidence we introduce a new powerful framework for modelling epistemic states, Dyadic Bayesianism. Based on this framework, we then discuss characterizations of evidence of evidence and argue for one of them. Finally, we show that whether the EEE Slogan holds, depends on the specific kind of evidence of evidence.

Javier González de Prado Salas: 
Epistemic Conflict and Loss of Reasons First-order and higher-order epistemic reasons sometimes appear to be in conflict. It may seem that an agent fails to properly respond to reasons if, in the face of misleading higher-order evidence, she revises an attitude that is actually decisively supported by her original first-order reasons. My aim is to show that this is not so. My proposal is that (misleading) higher-order evidence can undermine the agent’s possession of her first-order reasons, constituting what I call a dispossessing defeater. After acquiring the higher-order evidence, the agent is no longer in a position to rely competently on some of her original first-order reasons, which therefore stop being accessible to her when deliberating (even if these reasons are not attenuated). Revising her initial attitude may be the proper way for the agent to respond to the (first-order) reasons that remain accessible after the acquisition of dispossessing higher-order evidence. 

Thomas Grundmann: 
Preemptive Authority: The Challenge from Outrageous Expert Judgments Experts are highly trustworthy testifiers in their respective domains of expertise. Typically, they are better informed and have superior reasoning skills in these domains than we (laypeople) do. Under normal conditions, we thus rationally defer to their testimony. However, the situation is completely different when experts deliver judgments that seem outrageous in their domains of expertise. With “outrageous judgments” I refer to judgments that strike us as obviously false. The very fact that your trusted expert tells you something that is obviously false seems to be a perfect reason to not follow her lead and to dispute her authority on this matter. 

Interestingly, the intuition is highly relevant for the assessment of two conflicting views about the evidential status of expert judgments for laypeople. According to one of these views, experts are simply heavyweight epistemic sources (Fricker 2006, Lynch 2016, Lackey 2018) whose judgments have a high evidential weight relative to a layperson’s own reasons. However, this does not mean that the layperson should not rationally use her own reasons. Her final verdict always results from adding the testimonial reasons provided by an expert judgment to her further reasons and weighing all available reasons according to general principles of aggregation. On the alternative view, experts are (preemptive) authorities (Zagzebski 2012, Constantin & Grundmann 2018). Their judgment that p does not only deliver a strong reason for the layperson to follow suit, it also normatively screens off all the other reasons which the layperson may possess with respect to p. If this is correct, there seem to be no rational resources left to rationally dispute even the most outrageous expert judgments. On the authority view of experts, we thus seem to be unable to rationally reject outrageous expert beliefs such as the ones mentioned above and that would be a highly counterintuitive consequence of this view. One might even argue that this amounts to a reductio ad absurdum for preemptive authorities.

In my talk, I will investigate how serious this challenge to the authority view on expert judgments really is. In sect. 1, I will define the key concepts of the debate. In sect. 2, I will present what I take to be the best motivation for the authority view. In sect. 3, I will argue that Zagzebski’s own attempt to reconcile the dismissal of outrageous expert judgments with preemptive authorities does not work. In sect. 4, I will argue that, properly understood, the authority view does not preempt all reasons that are relevant to the assessment of some proposition p, but only domain-specific reasons. I will then show that in some, but not all cases of outrageous judgments, the layperson still has sufficient resources to dispute outrageous expert judgments. In sect. 5, I will address the question whether it is generally problematic for a given view on expert judgments that it cannot rationally dismiss outrageous judgments. I will argue that for a judgment to be outrageous does not generally exclude its truth and that perfectly rational judgments can seem outrageous to laypeople, simply because a layperson’s lack of knowledge or training lets it appear outrageous and not because it really is a silly judgment. I will conclude by claiming that the authority view has the resources to dismiss expert judgments that are outrageous for domain-independent reasons and that accepting the rest is not a big bullet to bite. Outrageousness in expert judgments in itself is not a good reason to reject these judgments.

Michael Hannon: 
Skepticism Vs. Ordinary Life What is the relationship between skepticism and the concerns of daily life? A central motif in Hume’s writings is that of an irreconcilable clash between two perspectives: our everyday outlook and the attitude to which we are led by philosophical reflection. This conflict has been a recurrent theme in discussions of skepticism ever since. Many have sought to resolve this clash between philosophy and daily life by appealing to one perspective against the other. In this paper, I attempt to reconcile this conflict by reflecting on the purpose of the concept of knowledge. I argue that skepticism invites us to abandon the very purpose of speaking of knowledge, in which case it would be surprising why such a concept should have entered into our vocabulary at all. It is not that skepticism is itself an unacceptable result, but rather that skeptical standards do not draw the distinctions that are important to us.

Nick Hughes: 
Dilemmic Epistemology and the Guidance Objection I have defended a view – Dilemmism – according to which conflicts between the norms ‘believe only truths’ and ‘be rational’ give rise to epistemic dilemmas: situations in which one faces conflicting epistemic requirements with the result that whatever one does, one is doomed to do wrong from the epistemic point of view. A common objection to Dilemmism, and to dilemmic epistemology in general, is that it fails to give us useful, usable, guidance. In this talk, I’ll explore what it takes for a normative epistemology to give guidance, and argue that Dilemmism does no worse than the alternatives on this front. The upshot is that the guidance objection fails to undermine Dilemmism, and, more broadly, that guidance considerations are not nearly as important to normative epistemology as many epistemologists have thought.

Aleks Knoks: Epistemic Conflicts and Defeasible Rules The goal of my talk is to advance our understanding of simple epistemic rules, such as “if the agent’s epistemic situation includes a perception that X, then the agent ought to believe that X” and “if the agent’s situation includes an outstanding testimony that X, then the agent ought to believe that X”. Anyone who accepts that there are some simple rules must also account for cases in which these rules come into conflict, such as the one where you perceive that X and have an outstanding testimony that not-X. The two most promising accounts suggest weakening the above statements of the rules: According to the first, simple rules have built-in hedges or unless-clauses specifying the circumstances under which the rule doesn’t apply; according to the second, simple rules don’t say that the agent ought to believe that X, but only that she has a reason to believe that X. I will discuss the results of exploring these two strategies in a simple formal framework—motivated by the work in defeasible logic—and argue that their most plausible versions are equivalent, in spite of the apparent differences. 

CANCELED — Victoria Lavorerio:
 The Epistemic (In)Significance of Deep Disagreements Deep disagreements are persistent and systematic disagreements between parties with different worldviews. They are widespread in our social and political life and can be found in debates about polemic issues. Although epistemologists have engaged critically with the phenomenon, there are signs that this interest may be short-lived, as scepticism over the significance of deep disagreements is starting to grow. This article is an attempt to dissipate the dismissive attitude towards deep disagreements by showing that it is the construal of deep disagreements as rationally irresolvable disputes between radically incommensurable frameworks which is responsible for it. But we are under no obligation to regard deep disagreements in these terms. With a different construal, their study can be epistemologically enlightening. 

Giacomo Melis:
 Moderate and Strong Epistemic Akrasia Stand or Fall Together I outline a theory of justified suspension of judgment, and I argue that it supports the view that accepting the Undercutting Principle (if you have justification to believe that you are not justified in believing P, then you ought not to believe P) gives one reason to accept the Feldman Principle (if you have justification to suspend judgment about whether you are justified in believing P, then you ought to suspend judgment about P) as well. I conclude by making some exploratory suggestions about the epistemic significance of the difference between the two principles.

Jim Pryor: Suspended Belief and Prospective Justification This paper considers some different ways of understanding the notion of agnosticism or suspended belief; and different ways of understanding the notion of “propositional” or prospective/ex ante justification. It explores how these are related to each other, and to the possibilities of defeat and epistemic dilemma.

Mona Simion: Reasons, Evidence and Defeat 
This talk is up to an ambitious task: it aims to put forth an integrated externalist account of doxastic warrant, reasons, evidence and defeat. Furthermore, although I’m mainly concerned with epistemic normativity, the view is meant to make progress in the direction of unifying the normativity of action and belief.

Verena Wagner: 
Epistemic Conflict and Doxastic Suspension In cases of epistemic conflict, e.g. conflicting evidence that speaks equally for and against the truth of a proposition p, it seems appropriate for (and even demanded of) a rational epistemic subject to suspend judgment with regard to the truth or falsity of p.

The guiding questions for this paper are:

a. What are epistemic subjects doing when they suspend judgment in a situation of conflicting evidence?

b. Are epistemic subjects rationally required to suspend judgment in situations of conflicting evidence?

In order to address the first question, I will provide my own account of doxastic suspension as a voluntaristic endorsement of one’s own doxastic state of non-belief. Given this account that I call “settled indecision,” I will answer the second question in the negative. Doxastic suspension, I will argue, primarily serves the aim of establishing psychological ease in situations in which an agent finds herself torn between conflicting bits of evidence.

Jenny Yi-Chen Wu: 
A Defense of Epistemic Permissivism One focus in epistemology is whether evidence can be permissive. To elaborate, provided a set of evidence, if it is rationally permissible to believe a proposition, is it then irrational to have any other attitudes about instead? Philosophers who propose a positive answer are proponents of the Uniqueness thesis. In contrast, permissivists reject Uniqueness. I defend permissivism by responding to an argument against it that is often called Argument from Arbitrariness. This reductio allegedly exposes an absurd result of all permissive views. Correspondently, I demonstrate how one permissive view is resistant to White’s attack. Specifically, I delve into the theoretical resources generated from the discussions about Pragmatic Encroachment (PE). PE stands for views that jointly claim that to some extent, the practical encroaches the epistemic. I argue that despite the diversifying formulations, all mainstream PE views can be recognized as permissive views that are immune to White’s attack.