Javier Gonzalez de Prado Salas


How to Doubt Yourself Rationally

26 October 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Higher-order evidence can make an agent rationally doubt the reliability of her reasoning. When this happens, it seems that the agent should adopt a cautious attitude towards her original conclusion. This is so even if the higher-order evidence is misleading and the original reasoning was actually impeccable (say, it was a good piece of deductive reasoning). On the face of it, this is puzzling. Why should the agent refrain from endorsing her initial conclusion, if her original reasons to endorse it remain as strong as before? My proposal is that the (misleading) higher-order evidence undermines the agent’s possession of her original first-order reasons, constituting what I call a dispossessing defeater. After acquiring the higher-order evidence, the agent is not anymore in a position to rely competently on the relevant first-order considerations as reasons for her original conclusion. In this way, such considerations stop being available to the agent as reasons for the conclusion. So, an agent with misleading higher-order evidence can adopt a cautious attitude while properly responding to the set of reasons that she possesses – a set that is reduced due to the acquisition of higher-order dispossessing defeaters.

Fernando Broncano-Berrocal

Autonomous University of Madrid

Lottery Propositions and Unsafe Doubts

19 October 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: It is fair to say that views based on the safety principle (if an agent S knows a proposition p, not easily would S have believed that p without it being the case that p) stand among the most popular in the epistemological landscape. In spite of their many virtues, safety-based views have a pebble in their shoes: the so-called lottery problem. According to one way to understand it, the lottery problem is the problem of explaining why mere reflection on the long odds that one will lose the lottery does not yield knowledge that one will lose. By giving an adequate explanation of why we don’t know that we won’t win the lottery on the basis of statistical evidence, one can thereby explain why the premises of the knowledge version of the lottery paradox are false. Informally, the lottery paradox is generated as follows: if you know that a given lottery ticket will be a loser, then you can know this for every ticket, but since you also know that one ticket will be winner, you know inconsistent propositions, namely that all tickets will lose and that one ticket will be a winner, but knowing inconsistent propositions is not possible. This paper makes a negative and a positive point. The negative point is that no formulation of the safety principle for knowledge is able to explain why we don’t know lottery propositions and hence to solve the lottery problem. The positive point is that the fact that lottery propositions are not known can be still explained in terms of safety and, in particular, in terms of the idea that lottery players have (or should have) unsafe doubts that defeat their knowledge of lottery propositions.

Free Attendance

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

We congratulate Elton Marques for finishing his PhD!

Elton’s PhD thesis, Sobre Determinismo e Eternismo: argumentos e relações possíveis entre teses [On Determinism and Eternalism: Arguments and Possible Relations between Thesis] was successfully defended at the University of Lisbon.

Unconscious Pains and Unconscious Suffering
Sam Coleman
University of Hertfordshire
21 September 2018, 16:00
Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa
Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)
Abstract: I will distinguish a few different kinds of suffering, zeroing in on one that involves the ‘intrinsic’ qualitative character of a mental/bodily state, paradigmatically exemplified in the case of suffering severe pains, e.g. as when burning one’s hand on a hot stove. I am interested in the question of whether if pains can exist unconsciously, then such suffering could also occur unconsciously. I will make the case for an affirmative answer to this question. I will also briefly make the case that there are such things as unconscious pains. So overall I defend the claim that there is such a thing as unconscious suffering in the relevant sense. If I have time I’ll hope to say something about the connection of such suffering to moral regard.
Occipital and left temporal instantaneous amplitude and frequency oscillations correlated with access and phenomenal consciousness

8 June 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Vítor Pereira

Abstract: Given the hard problem of consciousness (Chalmers, 1995) there are no brain electrophysiological correlates of the subjective experience (the felt quality of redness or the redness of red, the experience of dark and light, the quality of depth in a visual field, the sound of a clarinet, the smell of mothball, bodily sensations, etc.). However, there are brain occipital and left temporal electrophysiological correlates of the subjective experience (Pereira, 2015). Notwithstanding, as evoked signal, the change in event-related brain potentials phase (frequency is the change in phase over time) is instantaneous, that is, the frequency will transiently be infinite: a transient peak in frequency (positive or negative), if any, is instantaneous in electroencephalogram averaging or filtering that the event-related brain potentials required and the underlying structure of the event-related brain potentials in the frequency domain cannot be accounted, for example, by the Wavelet Transform or the Fast Fourier Transform analysis, because they require that frequency is derived by convolution rather than by differentiation. However, as I show in the current original research report, one suitable method for analyzing the instantaneous change in event-related brain potentials phase and accounted for a transient peak in frequency (positive or negative), if any, in the underlying structure of the event-related brain potentials is the Empirical Mode Decomposition with post processing (Xie et al., 2014) Ensemble Empirical Mode Decomposition.

Eylem Özaltun

Koç University

Action Awareness as the Source of Flexibility in Skillful Copings

1 June 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: As observed by Descartes, human action is distinctive for the wide range and specificity of skills we display. Many of these skills are highly flexible, and can be employed in varied circumstances and for varied goals. Now, how is our being self-conscious, self-aware and rational related to the distinctive way in which we act? Almost everyone agrees that we must be self-conscious and rational to acquire these skills, but the role of self-awareness and reasoning in exercising these skills is in dispute. Recently, a number of authors have argued that action awareness is in fact indispensable for successful performance. I think these recent studies make our ability to cope skillfully even more puzzling: how does the agent manage to synthesize this vast information about the context, current state of affairs, the goal, the current state of herself and her abilities; provided by diverse monitoring forms, available at different levels of reflection, in multiple sensory modalities; with respect to diverse factors that bear on the novel case at hand in such a way that she can give the highly specific bodily response that the situation requires here and now? This is what I call the problem of orchestration. I aim to show that this is a cognitive problem with motor solution, i.e., that the flexible motor control cannot proceed without the guidance of cognitive control. The main idea is that we do not solve the problem of orchestration blindly: there must be a type of awareness distinct from all the different forms of awareness that are specified by recent studies which go into the execution of action as input. I aim to specify this type of awareness that enables the agent to exert cognitive control all the way down to the motor output.

Monika Betzler

University of Munich

Inverse Akrasia: A Case for Reasoning about One’s Emotions

25 May 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: So-called “inverse akrasia” is meant to describe cases in which an agent acts against her better judgment out of an emotion. Such cases of akrasia are “inverse” as acting according to one’s countervailing emotions proves in the end to be the right thing to do. Cases of inverse akrasia challenge the assumption that akrasia is always irrational. This insight has motivated philosophers to draw further lessons from such cases. They maintain that (i) best judgments are nothing but beliefs (Arpaly), and that (ii) emotions can track reasons equally well and lead to a particular kind of understanding (Brady). The first view gives up on any plausible idea of agential guidance. The second view does not have the resources to distinguish between emotions that are reason-tracking and those that aren’t. So far, little work has been devoted to the question of what cases of inverse akrasia can teach us with respect to our reasoning. My aim is to examine how we can reason about our emotions so as to distinguish reason-tracking emotions from irrational emotions, and transform our best judgment on the basis of our reasoned emotions.

Yonatan Shemmer

University of Sheffield

Subjectivists May Disagree

18 May 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Subjectivists, it is often said, cannot account for disagreement since on their view apparently conflicting moral judgments turn out to be compatible reports of the different beliefs of the speakers about their own conative attitudes. Jackson (2008) has argued that compatible belief reports can still constitute disagreement if the reports are reports of conflicting underlying attitudes. Thus when I say ‘I believe the wall is green’ and you say ‘I believe the wall is red’ we disagree even though our claims may well both be true. I do believe the wall is green and you do believe it is red.  We think that Jackson’s reply is the most natural way for subjectivists to address the objection but claim that this reply commits the subjectivist to provide an account of disagreement in conative attitudes. Typically accounts of disagreement in conative attitudes fail to fit into a unified theory of disagreement because they understand disagreement about non-normative matters to be a case of inconsistency whereas they understand disagreement about normative matters to be a case of pro-attitudes that cannot both be satisfied.  Such accounts also struggle to match our intuitions since they struggle to explain why two people who wish to kill each other do not thereby disagree. We argue that our Normative Theory of Disagreement (Priestley-Shemmer 2017) solves both of these problems and thus complements Jacksons approach. At the heart of our theory lies the thought that disagreeing peers have reasons to modify their attitudes in light of their disagreement. We then address an important objection to our theory, namely, that deviant incentives may give reasons to modify attitudes in such a way that would force our theory to classify the parties as disagreeing when in fact they are not.

Alan Hájek

Australian National University


11 May 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Probability theory is the dominant approach to modeling uncertainty. We begin with a set of possibilities or outcomes, usually designated ‘Ω’. We then assign probabilities—real numbers between 0 and 1 inclusive—to subsets of Ω. Nearly all of the action in the mathematics and philosophy of probability for over three and a half centuries has concerned the probabilities: their axiomatization, their associated theorems, and their interpretation. I want instead to put Ω in the spotlight. Ω is a set of possibilities, but which possibilities? While the probability calculus constrains our numerical assignments, and its interpretation guides us further regarding them, we are entirely left to our own devices regarding Ω. What makes one Ω better than another? Its members are typically not exhaustive—but which possibilities should be excluded? Its members are typically not maximally fine-grained—but how refined should they be? I will discuss both philosophical and practical problems with the construction of a good Ω. I will offer some desirable features that a given Ω might have, and some heuristics for coming up with an Ω that has them, and for improving an Ω that we already have.

Filippo Ferrari

University of Bonn

How to Disagree with the Agnostic

4 May 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: In this paper I aim to offer a positive reply to the following question: Can the agnostic — i.e. someone who suspends judgement about whether a certain proposition <p> is true — be in a state of disagreement with someone who (dis)believes <p>? The project is that of developing a theoretically fruitful account of the notions of ‘suspended judgement’ and ‘disagreement’ which explains how and why the agnostic is in a state of disagreement with both the believer and the disbeliever on the very question whether it is true that p. The plan is as follows: I will first elaborate on a doxastic-non-cotenability view of disagreement (MacFarlane 2014); second, following some recent work by Friedman (2013), (2015), I will provide an account of suspended judgement as a sui generis cognitive mental attitude. The focus will be in particular on developing the normative profile associated with the attitude of suspended judgement in contrast with that of belief and disbelief. My proposal is to understand part of the normative profiles of these cognitive mental attitudes in terms of the normative commitments that they engender in the context of enquiry. Disagreement is then explained in terms of the incompatibility between the sets of normative commitments that the agents involved in a situation of disagreement are subject to in virtue of their possessing contrasting attitudes.