Monday, May 28, 2007

Epistemology Workshop

There was an epistemology workshop here on Friday, at which the speakers were Nico Silins, me, Declan Smithies and Jim Pryor. Some photos taken by Ole Koksvik are already online.

Nico talked about (and rejected) a new argument for the view that visual experience only provides justification for a proposition p in virtue of one's having independent reason to reject defeaters for that justification. The argument held that this view would supply the best explanation of why defeaters of experience are defeaters. Nico eventually rejected the argument, arguing both that this explanation would not be a good one and that others are available which are at least as good and involve no commitment to the target thesis.

Declan talked about the epistemic role of acquaintance, which (if I understood him right) he identified as concept-based conscious attention to (aspects of) percepual experience. His aim was to identify something that could provide knowledge both of things and of truths, i.e. to fill (some of) the role that Russell attributes to 'acquaintance'.

Jim talked about warrant transmission failure and the Moorean argument from 'I have hands' (as justified by experiences as of hands) to the existence of an external world. He said that the appearance of "fishiness" in this argument is not due to transmission failure. Rather, he said, there are other features which explain the fishiness, namely that doubts about the conclusion tend to undermine your experiential warrant for the premise that you have hands, and that having an open mind about the conclusion "activates" doubts of this kind.

My paper discussed Tim Williamson's recent position on modal knowledge, rejecting some aspects, particularly the reduction of modal epistemology to counterfactual epistemology, but accepting others, particularly the idea of a third epistemic role for experience, neither merely enabling nor properly evidential. I then talked a bit about my own motivation (from concept grounding) for believing in a third role for experience and how it might resemble and/or come apart from Williamson's third role.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Philosophy Talk

Update: The show is now confirmed and scheduled for August 12th. The lineup of forthcoming programmes is available for perusal. I'm looking forward to 'Philosophy of Science' with Peter Godfrey-Smith and 'What Are Numbers?' with Gideon Rosen.

This should be fun: I'm provisionally scheduled to appear on the US radio program Philosophy Talk this August, hosted by Ken Taylor and John Perry.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Modal Knowledge Paper

My paper Concepts, Experience and Modal Knowledge has been conditionally accepted at Synthese, so I'm posting the current version with a view to soliciting comments from any helpful people who might be interested.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Now my camera problems are fixed I'm working on getting a backlog of photos up online. Available so far are photos from the Arché Basic Knowledge Workshop that I organized in November, and my trip to Leuven in February. More to follow soon ...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Backwards Explanation and The 'Real' Explanation

Update: The current draft of Backwards Explanation is now online. Comments welcome.

Some good news from my inbox this morning: Daniel and my joint paper, 'Backwards Explanation and The 'Real' Explanation' has been accepted for this year's Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference.

'Backwards' event explanation is explanation of an earlier event by a later event. The paper argues that prima facie cases of backwards event explanation are ubiquitous. Some examples:

(1) I am tidying my flat because my brother is coming to visit tomorrow.
(2) The scarlet pimpernels are closing because it is about to rain.
(3) The volcano is smoking because it is going to erupt soon.

We then look at various ways people might attempt to explain away these prima facie cases by arguing that in each case the 'real' explanation is something else. We argue that none is successful, and so any plausible account of explanation should either make room for backwards explanation or have a good story to tell about why it doesn't have to.