Jennifer Lackey

Northwestern University

The Epistemology of Groups

21 February 2020, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Groups are often said to believe, know, and do things. For instance, we talk about the Catholic Church believing that the Pope is infallible, the U.S. government knowing that greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver of climate change, and Iran firing two missiles at a Ukranian passenger plane that crashed in Tehran. But how should we understand a group’s believing, knowing, or doing something? Two answers are generally given to this question. According to summativism, a group’s states or actions are understood simply in terms of the states or actions of individual members. In contrast, non-summativism holds that a group’s states or actions are over and above, or otherwise distinct from, those of its members. While I argue that neither view is, strictly speaking, correct, I also show that epistemic states and actions come apart in how much they depend on group members. In particular, there is a far tighter connection between what a group believes or knows and what its individual members believe or know than there is between what a group does and what its members do. This has important implications for our attributions of moral and legal responsibility to groups, such as corporations and institutions.

Paulo Faria

Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul

Content, Context, and Logical Form

19 February 2020, 11:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Judgments about the validity of at least some elementary inferential patterns (say modus ponens) are a priori if anything is. Yet a number of empirical conditions must in each case be satisfied in order for a particular inference to instantiate this or that inferential pattern. We may on occasion be entitled to presuppose that such conditions are satisfied (and the entitlement may even be a priori), yet only experience could tell us whether this was indeed the case. Hence a peculiar vulnerability of our capacity to recognize logical form: whenever content is (no matter to what extent) context-dependent, logical form is apt to evade recognition. That fact has rightly been perceived as a source of incompatibility between anti-individualism (or content externalism) and first person authority. I argue that, no matter whether anti-individualism is true, empirical assumptions will often underlie judgments about the logical form of inferences, thus making it the case that such judgments are defeasible in the face of contrary empirical evidence. I argue further that such assumptions should not be construed as tacit premises in enthymematic reasoning. I round off the discussion offering a characterization, which draws on Wittgenstein’s treatment of so-called ‘hinge propositions’, of the peculiar status of such empirical assumptions.

Simone Gozzano

University of L’Aquila

Phenomenal Roles

20 December 2019, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: I argue that phenomenal properties are dispositional in nature. To this end, I argue that these properties are individuated by their phenomenal roles, which I distinguish in internal – individuating pain per se – and external – determining further non painful phenomenal states. Then I argue that such individuation overcomes difficulties raised by Lowe, because these phenomenal roles can be organized in a necessarily asymmetrical net, thus favoring their individuation. Thus organized, the individuation conditions of phenomenal roles fare better with respect to the solutions proposed by Bird and Yates, because they allow for multiple realizability. I also provide reasons to argue that these roles satisfy modal fixity, as posited by Bird, and can be considered as substantial properties entrenched in laws of nature.

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.