Johanna Wolff

King’s College London

Adventures in the Metaphysics of Quantities:
A Third Way Between Comparativism and Absolutism?

13 December 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: One of the key issues in the metaphysics of quantities is the dispute between comparativists and absolutists. What is the debate about and who has the upper hand? I argue that neither absolutism nor comparativism as they have been presented in the debate are attractive positions in the metaphysics of quantities and offer a form of sophisticated substantivalism as an alternative.

Sam Baron

University of Western Australia

Grounding vs. Causation

6 December 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: What is the difference between grounding and causation? A number of philosophers have advocated the temporal criterion: causation occurs across time, grounding does not. The temporal criterion has been challenged on two fronts. First, directly, by offering examples of grounding that occur across time and, second, indirectly, through the development of metaphysical models that make use of transtemporal grounding. In light of these challenges, a new temporal criterion is proposed. The difference between grounding and causation involves the use that they make of time: causation requires time to connect spatially distant relata, grounding does not. This difference speaks to an important aspect of the job description of grounding: namely, that it can construct the world over space. (This work is based on ‘Grounding at a Distance’, with Kristie Miller and Jonathan Tallant.)

Sam Baron

University of Western Australia

Unification and Mathematical Explanation

4 December 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Room B? (close to the Faculty’s Library)

Abstract: Mathematics clearly plays an important role in scientific explanation. Debate continues, however, over the kind of role that mathematics plays. Mathematics may be playing a ‘thick’ explanatory role, in this sense: there are some physical phenomena that occur for mathematical reasons. Alternatively, it may be that mathematics is playing a ‘thin’ explanatory role by merely representing the physical reasons why certain phenomena occur. It has been argued that the explanatory indispensability of mathematics under-determines the kind of role that mathematics plays, and so doesn’t provide a reason to believe that mathematics is playing a thick role. I argue that if mathematical and physical explanations are indispensably unified within science, then we have good reason to believe that mathematics is playing a thick role. The argument provides guidance on the types of explanation we should be looking for to establish that mathematics is genuinely explanatory.

Peter Sullivan

University of Stirling

Anscombe’s ‘Retractation’:
A Reconsideration of Ramsey and the Tractatus

29 November 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: In 1965 Elizabeth Anscombe published a short paper in Analysis, ‘Retractation’, in which she reviewed and revised important aspects of the interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus advanced in her pioneering and insightful study of the work, An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (1959). These aspects of her interpretation were developed in the book largely through criticism of the ideas of Frank Ramsey, most fully expressed in his 1925 paper ‘Universals’. They involved, she came subsequently to think, a wrong estimation of the force of Ramsey’s arguments, and consequent misreading of related themes in the Tractatus. Summing up her reconsideration of these issues she said in the 1965 paper, “I now think Ramsey was righter than I ever realized”. In my talk I will argue that she was right about this, but that even in her revised view Anscombe still under-estimates Ramsey, that Ramsey was “righter” than she even then realized – and that understanding just why this is so sheds a broad light on Wittgenstein’s intentions in the Tractatus.

Free Attendance

For further information, please contact CFUL at c.filosofia@letras.ulisboa.pt

José Manuel Mestre

LANCOG & University of Stirling

Whence the Paralysis?

22 November 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: In the spring of 1913, Wittgenstein presented Russell with an objection to his multiple relation theory of judgement that supposedly ‘paralysed’ him. The fact that there is no detailed record of the objection has led to a great deal of speculation concerning its precise meaning. Commentators have typically assumed the objection to be valid, given its impact on Russell. Yet interpretations divide in a way that suggests a sort of dilemma: roughly, internal objections are weak, strong objections are external. One might therefore want to disentangle the question of what exactly Wittgenstein’s point was, both from what Russell took it to be, and from what the intrinsic demerits of Russell’s theory are. Here I’ll review some of these interpretations, and then raise a different objection that rather relates to Ramsey’s own insightful discussion of the multiple relation theory.

Elia Zardini

Complutense University of Madrid

Open Knowledge of One’s Inexact Knowledge

15 November 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: The paper presents an overarching argument to the effect that, given a certain attractive picture according to which—in certain situations, for certain obviously true propositions—(being in a position to have) knowledge iterates, single-premise closure of knowledge under logical consequence fails. The situations in question involve inexact knowledge, originating with one’s less than perfect powers of discrimination. Along the way to the main conclusion, it is first argued that the justification of margin-for-error principles as principles governing inexact knowledge is based on two flawed assumptions and that the principles themselves fail to provide a necessary condition for inexact knowledge. That crucially disposes of an influential argument against the KK-principle, whose validity—at least with respect to the highly controlled situation of inexact knowledge that will be taken as example—is then positively supported with two arguments concerning respectively the elevation of evidence for epistemically higher-order propositions and the norms of assertion and belief. A new and more powerful argument from inexact knowledge is then proposed against the KK-principle. However, it is observed that the argument crucially relies on certain closure principles that, under the extremely plausible assumption that knowledge iterates for certain obviously true propositions, can be shown to be unacceptable since they in effect license soritical principles. Finally, the model theory and proof theory of a non-regular modal logic for the knowledge modality are developed, and a consistency proof is given of the conjunction of the KK principle (a fortiori, of the assumption that knowledge iterates for certain obviously true propositions) with certain principles reflecting the inexactness of much of our knowledge.

Mark Jago

University of Nottingham

Metaphysical Structure

15 November 2019, 10:30

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Metaphysical structure is the way things hang together, in and of themselves, and aside from their causes and effects and propensities to behave. Examples include: truth depending on reality, the mind depending on the brain, sets depending on their members, disjunctions depending on their disjuncts, wholes depending on their parts, types being realised by their tokens, determinables being determined by their determinates. These might all be understood as cases of grounding – or rather, they might if we understood what grounding is. In this talk, I investigate parallels between metaphysical construction and familiar logical operators. First, there’s a link between composition (of parts into a whole) and conjunction. Second, I argue, there’s a link between some familiar metaphysical relations and disjunction. On the picture that emerges, metaphysical structure may be understood as logical structure, whilst remaining a genuine mind, concept, and language-independent feature of reality.

Jussi Suikkanen

University of Birmingham

Normative Judgments, Motivation and Evolution

8 November 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: I begin from a new taxonomy of the views that relate normative judgments to motivation. According to one state views, a positive normative judgment concerning an action consists in part of motivation to do that action. According to two state views, motivation is never an element of a positive normative judgment though such judgments can produce motivation. Finally, according to three state views, a normative judgment produces motivation only with the help of a third mental state. I then provide an evolutionary argument for the two state views. Normative judgments’ ability to shape our motivations enabled efficient planning and co-operation, which makes the psychological mechanism responsible for the adaptation a proximal mechanism. It is then more likely that we evolved to have a two state mechanism rather than a three state one because the former mechanism can be argued to be more reliable.

Hili Razinsky

LANCOG, University of Lisbon

Reconsidering Linguistic Communication

25 October 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Communication is at the heart of language, but philosophy of language’s historical focus on objectivity on the one hand and the individual subject on the other tends to bias the analysis of communication and language. I will propose that communications happen within, and form, a Wittgensteinian public language. Yet rather than being reducible to public use (Hornsby), communication takes two in a strong sense: In communication full-blown people with attitudes address one another. Addressing is uttering with interactive forces, and rather than a hearer or an interpreter, it implies an addressee-addresser, and, in principle, an ongoing communication. Addressing implies potential communicative response, addresser’s and addressee’s intentionality, and some mutual understanding, but openness of meaning and response are constitutive of communication, forms of significant success included.

Tommaso Piazza

University of Pavia & LanCog

Second Thoughts on Pollock’s Notion of a Defeater

11 October 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: In this talk I re-examine Pollock’s general characterization of a defeater (DEF), and Chandler 2013’s (until now unchallenged) objection against it. Chandler’s objection takes the form of a dilemma. He presents an example in which it is intuitive that D is a defeater for E as a reason for P, and E is not a defeater for D as a reason for P. On one horn of the dilemma allegedly illustrated by this example, DEF commits to denying that D is a defeater for E as a reason for P. On the other, it commits to saying that E is a defeater for D as a reason for P. Chandler’s objection can be resisted by showing that it presupposes a notion of reason that is different than the notion of reason to which DEF is meant to apply. Then I address the question about whether better examples can be devised that presuppose Pollock’s notion of a reason and illustrate the kind of dilemma Chandler has in mind. I show that standard Gettier cases (and possibly similar cases) provide initially more promising examples; however, on closer inspection they only raise a harmless variant of Chandler’s original dilemma. Thus, I conclude that Pollock’s DEF has not been successfully challenged by Chandler.