Contact: harvey [DOT] lederman [AT] princeton [DOT] edu                                          Photo Credit: Princeton University, Office of Communications,  Denise Applewhite (2013).                                                      

ABSTRACTS /

Peter Fritz, "A Path to Worldliness"

Abstract: Call the investigation of the fineness of grain of propositions, properties and relations "grain science". In last year's talk, I presented on a negative contribution to grain science, showing that propositions cannot be so finely individuated as to admit a relation of immediate logical ground. How then, are they individuated? According to a familiar view, they can be individuated in terms of possible worlds: propositions are identical if they are true in the same worlds. This view can be motivated by appealing to desirable features such as consistency and usefulness. In this year's talk, I will present on a positive contribution to grain science, providing a more direct motivation for the possible-worlds view of propositions. This involves several steps. Some of them are well-known, such as the observation that certain propositions play the role of possible worlds if propositions form a certain kind of structure (roughly, a complete atomic Boolean algebra). Others will be new, including some steps in an argument for the claim that propositions form such a structure. Back to Schedule

Tamar Lando, "Pointless Space"

Abstract: On our ordinary ways of representing space, space is made up of points—indivisible, dimensionless, spatial atoms. But our experience of the world seems to put us in contact only with regions of space that are extended. Over the years, philosophers and logicians have doubted whether there are any point-sized regions of space, and relatedly, whether we do well to take points as primitives in a theory of space. Region-based theories of space reverse the usual atomistic picture. These theories take regions as primitives and understand points as infinitary abstractions from regions. But there are well-known obstacles to understanding size, or measure, in the region-based setting. In this talk I propose a new approach to measure in region-based theories of space. Back to Schedule

Harvey Lederman, "A Non-Substitutional Semantics for Attitude Reports."

Abstract: Suppose Plato did not know that the planet visible in the evening, which he called "Hesperus'', was the planet visible in the morning, which he called "Phosphorus". It is natural to describe this situation by saying "Plato didn't know that Hesperus was Phosphorus". A simple semantics which allows a true reading for this sentence treats "Hesperus'' and "Phosphorus'' as having different semantic values in contexts naturally suggested by the background suppositions above. But such non-substitutional semantic theories face well-known difficulties with quantification. For suppose (i) that Plato knew that Hesperus was a planet, (ii) that Plato knew that Phosphorus was a planet, and (iii) that there were no other heavenly bodies that Plato knew to be planets. It is natural to think that "There is exactly one heavenly body Plato knew to be a planet" is true in this scenario: since Hesperus is Phosphorus, there is one and only one heavenly body Plato knew to be a planet. But a flatfooted treatment of quantification within a non-substitutional theory predicts that the sentence will be false: there are two entities (the different semantic values of "Hesperus" and "Phosphorus" in context) which are heavenly bodies and which Plato knew to be planets. This talk defends a new non-substitutional theory which solves this problem. I begin by describing what are in essence two standard solutions to the problem, which I call Surrogatism and Existentialism. I present two new arguments in favor of Existentialism. But the standard version of Existentialism suffers from an important problem: it leads to the failure of the duality of the universal and existential quantifiers. I show how this problem can be solved, and conclude with general remarks on the prospects of this new non-substitutional semantics. Back to Schedule

Michael Caie, "Semantic Indecision"

Abstract: It is a difficult and, I take it, open question what vagueness consists in. An attractive thought, however, is that vagueness is, at bottom, a linguistic phenomenon. One way of developing this idea is to say that vagueness consists in semantic indecision. According to this view, there are a number of precise meanings that the lexical items, phrases and sentences of a language could have. For a language to be precise just is for there to be a single assignment of such meanings that is uniquely best given our use of language and other metasemantic factors that serve to determine its representational contents.  And for a language to be vague just is for there to be a multiplicity of such assignments that are all equally good given our use of language and other metasemantic factors. The semantic indecision account, so construed, tells us what it is for a language to be vague or precise. Importantly, though, this account doesn't explicitly tell us what contents, if any, are expressed by the lexical items, phrases and sentences of a vague or a precise language. In this paper, I take up this question. I'll argue that the standard supervaluationist view about the representational significance of the semantic indecision account of vagueness is mistaken. Instead, I'll argue that, given the semantic indecision account of vagueness, while the lexical items, phrases and sentences of a precise language each express a unique content, the lexical items, phrases and sentences of a vague language instead express multiple contents of the same type expressed by a precise language. Having argued for this claim, I'll then consider what sorts of constraints the phenomenon of vagueness, so construed, imposes on our epistemic states, and argue that matters here are more subtle than is commonly assumed. Back to Schedule

Kenny Easwaran, "What is Epistemic Rationality?"

Abstract: In this chapter, I consider the concept of rationality for degrees of belief more generally. I take a pragmatist stance, arguing that all rationality norms must follow from the central role degree of belief plays (whether pragmatic or alethic), but I argue that different perspectives yield different overall sets of norms. Many disputes about epistemic rationality are thus, I claim, terminological disputes, about which perspective is the "right" one. From one perspective, the only norms of rationality will be probabilism, conditionalization, and logical omniscience, yielding a very permissive conception of rationality. But from other perspectives, there could well be additional norms. Probabilism, conditionalization, and logical omniscience themselves have very different force because they derive from very different sources. These contrasting views of rationality are connected to the distinction between an "internal" and an "ecological" conception of rationality, the question of whether attitudes or policies are the right level of evaluation, and the contrast between ideal and non-ideal theories of rationality. I argue that epistemology, even for a purely solitary agent, needs to consider issues from social and political theory. Back to Schedule

Jeremy Goodman, "Intentionalism"

Abstract: Intentionalism is the view that conscious experience is one of the propositional attitudes, alongside knowing, believing, perceiving, remembering, wanting, intending, etc. In a slogan, experience is experience that p. The goal of this paper is to articulate a more precise statement of intentionalism than those currently on offer. So formulated, the view offers a simple and unified account of perceptual knowledge and phenomenal consciousness. Perhaps surprisingly, accounting for hallucination turns out to be a major challenge for the view rather than its selling point. Back to Schedule

Ray Briggs, "When to Seek a Second Opinion"

Abstract: All other things being equal, consensus lends more support to a view than a lone peer or expert opinion.  But when there is dependency among sources (e.g., when all your friends share opinions because they read the same newspaper), two opinions are not worth much more than one.  What does such dependence amount to?  Existing characterizations are probabilistic or justificationist; I supplement them with a causal account that turns on relations of indirect causal dependence. Back to Schedule

Bernhard Salow, "Sequential Decisions under the Idea of Freedom"

Abstract: I introduce some new(-ish) problems for Causal Decision Theory, based on cases where one faces a sequence of decisions, with the outcome of the first providing evidence relevant to the second. I diagnose these problems as arising from the fact that Causal Decision Theory, in its simple form, builds in an implausibly strong version of the Kantian idea that agents must always regard their actions as free while they are deliberating. I then consider whether more sophisticated versions of Causal Decision Theory, inspired by similar ideas, can escape the problem – with largely negative results.  Back to Schedule

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