Program and Abstracts

June 16
Room: Gartensaal, KWI

Time  Speaker and Topic
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee
11:00 – 12:00 Magdalena Balcerak Jackson: “Can Epistemic Analyticity Explain A Priority?”

(Chair: Insa Lawler)

12:00 – 13:00 Christian Nimtz: “Armchair Speculation and Contingent Truths in the Philosophy of Mind”

(Chair: Insa Lawler)

13:00 – 14:15  Lunch
14:15 – 15:15 Mark Pinder: “Does Explication Have a Role in Conceptual Clarification?”

(Chair: Lars Dänzer)

15:15 – 15:30 Coffee Break
15:30 – 16:30 Marc Andree Weber: “The Method of Thought Experiments – Why Conceptual Possibility Suffices”

(Chair: Miguel Hoeltje)

16:30 – 17:30 Timothy Williamson: “Abductive Philosophy”

(Chair: Anna-Maria A. Eder)

18:30 Dinner at the restaurant Venezia

June 17
Room: Gartensaal, KWI

Time  Speaker and Topic
09:30 – 10:30 Anna-Maria A. Eder: “Consider the Purposes of the Theory of Justification When You Characterize Justification”

(Chair: Raphael van Riel)

10:30 – 11:30 Daniel Cohnitz “Thought Experiments and the Irrelevance of Intuitions”

(Chair: Raphael van Riel)

11:30 – 11:45  Coffee Break
11:45 – 12:45 Catarina Dutilh Novaes: “Carnapian Explication as an Ameliorative Project: Logic and Social Change”

(Chair: Insa Lawler)

12:45 – 14:00  Lunch
14:00 – 15:00 Eve Kitsik: “Yes, But Not Really: How Philosophical Explications Relate to Common Sense”

(Chair: Insa Lawler)

15:00 – 16:00 Sebastian Lutz: “Armchair Philosophy Naturalized”

(Chair: Anna-Maria A. Eder)

16:00 – 16:15 Coffee Break
16:15 – 17:15 Hannes Leitgeb: “Mathematical Empiricism. A Methodological Proposal”

(Chair: Anna-Maria A. Eder)

 18:30  Dinner at the restaurant Ponistra


Magdalena Balcerak Jackson (University of Miami): “Can Epistemic Analyticity Explain A Priority?”

One of the most important motivations for the philosophical interest in the notion of analyticity has always been the prospect of using such a notion to explain our acquisition of a priori knowledge in logic, mathematics, but also in philosophy. Analyticity comes in two flavors: On the metaphysical conception of analyticity a true thought is analytic if and only if it is true purely in virtue of meaning. On the epistemic conception of analyticity a true thought is analytic if and only if understanding it puts one in a position to know it. While Quinean doubts have convinced many that it is hard to spell out a coherent notion of analyticity in metaphysical terms, many philosophers – following Paul Boghossian – hold on the idea that an epistemic notion of analyticity is coherent, non-empty and that it provides a good ground to explain a priori knowledge. On the standard elaboration of that conception, some thoughts are epistemically analytic because they are such that whoever understands the relevant concepts and the way they are composed assents to them, or is at least in some robust sense disposed to assent to them. Therefore, the crucial question any epistemic conception has to answer is the question what it takes to understand concepts and thoughts. Only against a plausible account of understanding can we see whether any thought is epistemically analytic at all, and whether a notion of epistemic analyticity can indeed explain interesting a priori knowledge. In this paper, I present a dilemma for an epistemic account of analyticity. The main line of thought is the following: We can construe understanding either thinly or thickly, and both options lead to unwelcome consequences. I use these two complementary lines of thought to argue that while epistemic analyticity might be of interest to some philosophical projects, it is of very limited use for the project of explaining interesting a priori knowledge.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes (University of Groningen): “Carnapian Explication as an Ameliorative Project: Logic and Social Change”

In his 1950 The Logical Foundations of Probability, Carnap presents the methodology of explication, which consists in taking informal, mundane concepts and giving them a scientific (often formal) reformulation. It is the methodology that he uses in much of his work on philosophical concepts (e.g. in Meaning and Necessity), and critics such as Strawson have voiced the worry that such a formalistic, scientistic approach is inadequate to treat purely philosophical problems. However, both critics and proponents of Carnapian explication often fail to highlight sufficiently the extent to which it is essentially an ameliorative project, ultimately aiming at developing conceptual frameworks which could potentially improve people’s lives. Indeed, according to Carus’ (2007) interpretation, Carnapian explication is aligned with the best Enlightenment ideals: breaking free from the shackles of a primitive, unsystematic conception of reality, or from entrenched but crippling social practices, in favor of scientific knowledge and arrangements informed by it. If so, Carnapian explication can be enlisted for projects of social criticism and social change, thus having a political dimension. In this sense, it resembles more recent ameliorative projects such as Sally Haslanger’s (2012) ‘social construction’ project. In my talk, I will present Carnapian explication as an ameliorative project, drawing on Haslanger to illustrate what it means for a project to be ameliorative. Thus understood, Carnapian explication shows that logical, formal analysis and social critique can go hand in hand, contrary to what is sometimes assumed.

Anna-Maria A. Eder (University of Salzburg & University of Duisburg-Essen): “Consider the Purposes of the Theory of Justification When You Characterize Justification”

A characterization is typically taken to be the result of a conceptual clarification. In epistemology, the standard method of conceptual clarification is the method of conceptual analysis. In my presentation, I propose that one provides a characterization of (epistemic) justification by explicating rather than analyzing the concept of justification. I present the standard conception of explication, which traces back to Carnap 1950. Since the standard conception of explication is not entirely suitable for epistemological purposes, I improve it for such purposes. I thereby argue that it is essential that the normativity of justification is taken into account when explicating the normative concept of justification. That it is to be taken into account and how it is to be taken into account is due to the purpose for which the respective theory of justification is proposed. Since there are different such purposes, the method of explication that I propose leaves room for different characterizations of justification. I conclude by drawing a pluralistic picture with respect to justification.

Eve Kitsik (University of Tartu): “Yes, But Not Really: How Philosophical Explications Relate to Common Sense”

Philosophers who ask whether there are tables and chairs, or whether they know that they are not always dreaming, face a problem: the ordinary senses of expressions like “There are Fs” and “S knows that p” seem to dictate affirmative answers to their questions. A potential escape is a special context, where special standards apply to the use of the crucial terms. After this move, however, it becomes unclear how the philosophical claims relate to “common sense”, ordinary thought and talk on the matter. I will address this problem, arguing that one can still criticize non-philosophers’ attitudes and say quite sensibly that “Yes, chairs exist, but they don’t really exist”, or “Yes, you know that p, but you don’t really know”. The suggestion is that the philosophers should remain permissive regarding ordinary action-oriented beliefs, but can make prescriptions regarding another, more theoretical level of cognition.

Hannes Leitgeb (MCMP, LMU Munich): “Mathematical Empiricism. A Methodological Proposal”

I will propose a way of doing philosophy which I am calling ‘mathematical empiricism’. It is the proposal to rationally reconstruct language, thought, ends, decision-making, communication, social interaction, norms, ideals, and so on, in conceptual frameworks. The core of each such framework will be a space of “possibilities”, however, these “possibilities” will consist of nothing else than mathematical structures labeled by empirical entities. Mathematical empiricism suggests to carry out (many) rational reconstructions in such mathematical-empirical conceptual frameworks. When the goal is to rationally reconstruct a part of empirical science itself (which is but one philosophical goal amongst many others), it will be reconstructed as “taking place” within such frameworks, whereas the frameworks themselves may be used to rationally reconstruct some of the presuppositions of that part of empirical science. While logic and parts of philosophy of science study such frameworks from an external point of view, with a focus on their formal properties, metaphysics will be embraced as studying such frameworks from within, with a focus on what the world looks like if viewed through a framework. When mathematical empiricists carry out their investigations in these and in other areas of philosophy, no entities will be postulated over and above those of mathematics and the empirical sciences, and no sources of epistemic justification will be invoked beyond those of mathematics, the empirical sciences, and personal and social experience (if consistent with the sciences). And yet mathematical empiricism, with its aim of rational reconstruction, will not be reducible to mathematics or empirical science. When a fragment of science is reconstructed in a framework, the epistemic authority of science will be acknowledged within the boundaries of the framework, while as philosophers we are free to choose the framework for reconstruction and to discuss our choices on the metalevel, all of which goes beyond the part of empirical science that is reconstructed in the framework. There is a great plurality of mathematical-empirical frameworks to choose from; even when ultimately each of them needs to answer to mathematical-empirical truth, this will underdetermine how successfully they will serve rational reconstruction. In particular, certain metaphysical questions will be taken to be settled only by our decisions for or against conceptual frameworks, and these decisions may be practically expedient for one purpose and less so for another. The overall hope will be to take what was good and right about the distinctively Carnapian version of logical empiricism, and to extend and transform it into a more tolerant, less constrained, and conceptually enriched logical-mathematical empiricism 2.0.

Sebastian Lutz (MCMP, LMU Munich): “Armchair Philosophy Naturalized”

In the talk, I will outline an artificial language methodology (ALM) that, when applied in philosophy, leads to the conceptual engineering of the later Carnap (a paradigmatic armchair philosophy). I will then argue that ALM also features prominently in the sciences, so that there is an armchair philosophy that fulfills a strong form of methodological naturalism. This result I defend against claims to the contrary by Demopoulos and Papineau.

Christian Nimtz (Bielefeld University): “Armchair Speculation and Contingent Truths in the Philosophy of Mind”

Philosophers as different as Jackson (1998), Williamson (2007), Papineau (2009/2014) and Nolan (2015) have recently taken to defend armchair philosophy. I add to this defense of armchair approaches. I do so by considering what we can learn from an influential instance of armchair speculation in the philosophy of mind, viz. Perry’s argument for an indexicalist theory of belief based on his famous case of the absent-minded shopper (and cases like it). Cappelen and Dever (2013) have recently dismissed Perry’s argument as hopeless, arguing that it fails for methodological reasons. I agree that Cappelen and Dever have a strong case to make. Perry aims to establish a contingent truth about a subject matter where empirical science is the acknowledged arbiter of truth. This arguably puts his argument under strict methodological requirements. Cappelen and Dever appear to take it as given that Perry cannot meet those. I argue that he can. I conclude that Perry’s argument provides a model as to how empirical armchair speculation may successfully deal with contingent hypothesis.

Mark Pinder (University of Hertfordshire): “Does Explication Have a Role in Conceptual Clarification?”

Carnap’s method of explication is a method for replacing one concept (the explicandum) with a more precise counterpart (the explicatum). But Strawson claimed that, in replacing one concept with another, explication merely changes the subject. When explication is construed as a method of conceptual clarification, the objection is serious: how can one clarify a concept by looking at a different concept?
I begin by considering a recent attempt by Jonah Schupbach to overcome the objection. I claim that Schupbach’s response fails: it does not explain how explication, despite replacing the explicandum, can clarify the explicandum.
I then offer a new response to Strawson’s objection. I argue first that we can clarify a concept by reflecting upon *its relation to* distinct concepts. I then argue that explication clarifies the explicandum by putting it into a particular kind of similarity relation with the explicatum.

Marc Andree Weber (University of Freiburg): “The Method of Thought Experiments – Why Conceptual Possibility Suffices”
Timothy Williamson’s theory of thought experiments constitutes a conceptual foundation of thought experimentation in all areas of science and philosophy (see his The Philosophy of Philosophy, Blackwell, 2007). According to Williamson, paradigmatic thought experiments such as Gettier cases constitute arguments with two premises, the first stating the possibility of the underlying scenario and the second stating the counterfactual that if the scenario were realised, some particular state of affairs would hold; the conclusion then claims that it is possible that this state of affairs holds.

I agree with Williamson on this logical form. Pace Williamson, I will argue that the modal operator in the first premise should be understood not, as he suggests, in terms of metaphysical possibility but in terms of conceptual possibility – albeit not in Williamson’s sense of the expression. This has two welcome consequences: There are more dependable thought experiments; and thought experiments can be conducted more easily.

Timothy Williamson (University of Oxford): “Abductive Philosophy”
I will argue that philosophy already does to some extent, and should to a greater extent, use an abductive methodology, roughly, one of inference to the best explanation, in a broad, non-causal sense of ‘explanation’. This involves comparing theories by criteria such as simplicity and strength as well as fit with the evidence. It does not imply that philosophy should be assimilated to the natural sciences, since they are not the only disciplines to use an abductive methodology; even mathematics and logic do, in the assessment of first principles. The role of deduction in philosophy is best understood within such an abductive framework. I will discuss what differences the proposal involves in current philosophical practice. In particular, I will show how the use of simplicity to solve the problem of overfitting theories to data in science applies to philosophy too, and provides a response to the charge of error-fragility made by some experimental philosophers against current philosophical methodology.
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