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Event Series Event Series: Super Special Seminar

Sandy Goldberg Day

March 23

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Sandy Goldberg is a Chester D.Tripp Professor of Philosophy at Northwestern University, and a professorial fellow at the University of St Andrews. He works in the areas of Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, and Philosophy of Mind. His recent research focuses on the social dimensions of knowledge and the informational responsibilities of citizens.


In the morning, Sandy will give a presentation for students and postgraduates in philosophy on PhD programs and the philosophy job market in the United States. Afterward, a few postgraduates will present their current research in epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mind.

9:30–10:30 Sandy Goldberg ‘Information Session on Academic Philosophy in the United States’


11:00–12:00 Katharina Bernhard ‘Inductive Risk Decision-Making Maximizes Expected Accuracy’

Inductive Risk requires scientists (qua scientists) to weigh the risks of error when believing or disbelieving a scientific claim. This activity requires of scientists to consider practical or social utilities and decide whether the probability of a claim’s truth is high enough to warrant belief (or low enough for disbelief) in light of those utilities. I will show that weighing the risks of error in Inductive Risk decisions can be understood as a genuine epistemic activity that – under appropriate formal constraints – can maximize (expected) accuracy. To that end, I will introduce the “Jamesian-Lockean threshold model” (echoing “generalized Lockeanism”, Dorst 2019). This model embeds Lockeanism (“believe p iff you have sufficient credence in it”), and Jamesian epistemic goals (“belief truly!” and “avoid error!”) in a framework of expected epistemic utility. It allows to determine a proposition- and context-dependent credal threshold for epistemically rational belief and disbelief. The Jamesian-Lockean threshold model entails a specific type of permissivism for rational belief. What singles out Inductive Risk decisions as a special kind of Jamesian-Lockean belief formation is how this permissivism is (or ought to be) dealt with in scientific inquiry.

12:00–13:00 Nathan Bray ‘Religious Disagreement and Divine Psychology’

The argument that religious peer disagreement should lead to moderation of one’s theistic views has been subject to objections that rely on appeals to divine psychology, such as Moon’s (2021) argument. However, such objections are suspect because humans, as finite beings, are not well-equipped to determine what God or the Holy Spirit would do. Relying on these appeals weakens the argument and risks resurrecting the logical problem of evil that skeptical theism has seemingly resolved. Theists, including Alvin Plantinga, should be accountable for making similar moves in their arguments. I conclude that most responses to this argument are examples of appeals to divine psychology, thereby diminishing their strength.


14:00–15:00 Viviane Fairbank ‘How Journalists Know: A Case Study in Epistemic Justification’

A subset of applied epistemology, the epistemology of journalism investigates how journalists know what they know, and in what that knowledge consists. In this talk, I apply an epistemological analysis to the methods used by journalists to report on and verify the facts they publish; I am interested in the journalistic practices that make a fact into a journalistic fact. Based on the literature in contemporary journalism studies, I argue that journalists are epistemic agents of a distinctive kind because of the importance they place on testimonial knowledge and on justification as verification. This makes them a particularly interesting case study for philosophers interested in developing a non-ideal epistemology of testimony—where non-ideal epistemology is epistemology that is grounded in our everyday, “real-world” knowledge practices, including the acknowledgment of structural injustices and oppression. As proof of concept, I present three case studies from contemporary journalism, each of which serves to elucidate the norms of journalistic verification. The main takeaways are that (good) journalists subscribe to a well-defined practice of “responsible communication”; they distinguish between different kinds of facts based on what kind of verification should be expected for them; and they rely on a notion of authority that is fact- and source-sensitive.

15:00–16:00 Francisca Silva ‘(In a Sense) Yes and (In a Different Sense) No’

There are conversational contexts where we are confronted with yes-or-no questions for which neither option seems entirely right but where we are inclined to answer instead with “Yes and no” where this does not commit us with true contradictions for we are, as we say, talking “in different senses”. In this talk I aim to present a model for what goes on in such conversational contexts in terms of speakers taking the inquirers to have posed a defective question which is ambiguous between two non-defective questions that the speaker could appropriately answer with “Yes” and “No”, respectively. From this model we can derive a method to determine what concepts can be employed to ask what adequate questions.

16:00–17:00 Daniel Garibay Garcia ‘Authority and Group Assertion’ 

Recently there is a lot of interest in collective phenomena; group assertion among those. In everyday conversations, it is very common that we attribute assertions not to individuals but to institutions, governments, companies, research groups,  etc. For example, when the U.K. government says “Shortages are not related to Brexit” through a spokesperson, or a research team publishes an article stating “Microplastics have been found in human bloodstream”. In this work, I offer an account of group assertion. Utterances of sentences and expressions are paradigmatically performed by individuals, then there is an interesting question about if assertions can be attributed to groups (and not just to individuals) and when. I aim to provide an account that distinguishes between group and individual assertions (meaning assertions that belong to individuals). I expect my account to inform us about the nature of group assertion as a speech act and its relation to individual assertion. In my account, group assertion requires a special kind of authority: the authority to assert on behalf of a group. An assertion is a group assertion if the individual(s) performing the utterance have the authority to assert for it. To argue that my account is better than previous accounts, I present a case of group assertion that I hold other accounts can’t explain. This is the case of what I call “individualistic collaborative assertions”. I also discuss relevant details about the concept of authority that other accounts that speak of authority in relation to group assertion have overlooked.


The event is hosted by the Arché Philosophical Research Centre Epistemology: Current Themes.


March 23


Edgecliffe G03