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.

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