Friday, February 23, 2007

Leuven Epistemology

The Epistemology Workshop has just ended (one talk early, as unfortunately Crispin Wright was not able to attend). Highlights included Finn Spicer laying into the Canberra Planning of Frank Jackson as applied to the project of analysing our concept of knowledge. Finn offered some challenges to the idea that the best theory of the relationship between our platitudinous intuitions about knowledge and the reference of our concept of knowledge is Jackson's.

This made me think more about the Canberra Plan, and in particular how it offers an answer to Field's question (from his recent paper on the a priori):

"Why should the fact, if it is one, that certain beliefs ... are integral to the meaning of a concept show that these principles are correct? ... Maybe the meaning we've attached to these terms is a bad one that is irremediably bound up with error."

The Canberra Planner's answer, I take it, is that the platitudes determine what if anything our concept refers to, but good old-fashioned empirical work has to be done to find out whether there is anything that is a good enough deserver to allow us to decide that the concept does refer. In other words, good old-fashioned empirical work is needed before we have a right to treat the concept as if it is not 'a bad one that is irremediably bound up with error' but rather one whose attendent platitudes get things right to a reasonable degree.

(Of course, this answer does not seem to rescue conceptual analysis as a means of securing a priori knowledge. Therefore it is not as good as a concept grounding account. But that goes without saying on this blog. :)

I leave you with another image from Leuven. Here I am with my new mate Cardinal Mercier (founder of the Higher Institute of Philosophy):

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