Disputatio’s 25th anniversary

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the journal Disputatio, Prof. Timothy Williamson (Oxford) gave a lecture on October 7 on “Degrees of Freedom: Is Good Philosophy Bad Science?”. The lecture was hosted by the LanCog group at the Centre of Philosophy of the University of Lisbon. The recording of the lecture can be found here: https://youtu.be/uT-8nvRgXLc

Degrees of Freedom: Is Good Philosophy Bad Science?

Timothy Williamson

Abstract: The lecture starts by considering analytic philosophy as a tradition, and its global spread over recent years, of which Disputatio’s success is itself evidence. The costs and benefits of the role of English as the international language of analytic philosophy are briefly assessed. The spread of analytic philosophy is welcomed as the best hope for scientific philosophy, in a sense of ‘science’ on which mathematics, history, and philosophy can all count as sciences, though not as natural sciences. Arguably, experimental philosophy provides no plausible alternative methodology for philosophy, only a way of psychologizing it. However, it serves a useful purpose by highlighting the inadequacy of current methods for detecting errors in judgments on possible cases, which may result from reliance on possibly universal but imperfectly reliable cognitive heuristics. The problem is exacerbated by analytic philosophers’ tendency to regard increased flexibility in a theoretical framework as progress, where natural scientists would treat it as methodologically vicious profligacy with degrees of freedom. The result is a familiar type of bad science, overfitting theory to uncritically accepted data. The recent ‘hyperintensional revolution’ may be an example of such overfitting, it is suggested. The lecture ends with a call for a more miserly attitude to degrees of freedom.

Prof Timothy Williamson also gave a second talk, on October 8, at the LanCog group research seminar, on “A Priori and A Posteriori: The Case of Proof”, the recording of which is available here: https://youtu.be/J3PyULGZHmg