Program

July 9, 2018
Room: GA 04/187, Ruhr-University Bochum

9:15-9:30 Coffee & Welcome
9:30-10:30 Amy Flowerree: “Evidentialism in Action”
10:30-10:45 Coffee break
10:45-11:45 Clayton Littlejohn: “The Value of Epistemic Value”
11:45-12:00 Coffee break
12:00-1:00 Susanne Mantel: “Reasons, Evidence, and Rationality”
1:00-2:30 Lunch break
2:30-3:30 Thomas Raleigh: “Instability and Anti-Expertise”
3:30-3:45 Coffee break
3:45-4:45 Stefan Mandl: “Against Cognitivism about Intention Rationality”
4:45-5:00 Coffee break
5:00-6:00 Errol Lord: “Reasons to Withhold and the Failure of Evidentialism”
7:00 Dinner at Livingroom

ABSTRACTS

Amy Flowerree (Cologne/Texas Tech): “Evidentialism in Action”
When our evidence suggests we should believe one thing, and our practical interests suggest another, what should we believe? Philosophers have taken this to be the question are there practical reasons for belief? Evidentialists argue that there cannot be any such reasons. Putative practical reasons for belief are not reasons for belief, but (to quote Pamela Hieronymi) reasons to manage our beliefs in a particular way. Pragmatists are not convinced. They accept that some (or perhaps all) reasons for belief are practical. According to the Pragmatist, there is a nontrivial way in which practical reasons could justify belief.
In this paper, I argue for three related theses: First, that we should reformulate the question as what reasons govern belief management? When we do, existing views are not adequate. Evidentialism is mute; Pragmatism incurs a heavy explanatory burden. Secondly, I develop an account of belief management, and characterize two forms that belief management might take: alethic and manipulative. Our original cases are asking whether manipulative belief management is rationally permissible (or required). Finally, I argue that the nature of practical reason itself gives us categorical (though potentially defeasible) reasons to engage in alethic belief management. Evidentialism, I conclude, percolates from action.

Clayton Littlejohn (King’s College London): “The Value of Epistemic Value”
A challenge that we should confront if we work on knowledge and/or justified belief concerns its/their value. Why should anyone care whether they have beliefs that are justified and/or constitute knowledge? I fear that on many leading proposals about what justification consists in, there is no good explanation as to why we should care to have justified beliefs. (I’ll briefly mention some bad answers.) On the approach that I’ll explore, the most fruitful strategy for dealing with this challenge is one that tries to account for the value of knowledge and/or justified belief in terms of principled connections between knowledge and/or justified belief and something non-epistemic. On my preferred approach, the connection to look at is the connection between beliefs that attain positive epistemic standing and reasons. We’ll look at some recent proposals concerning links between knowledge and/or justification and reasons
and see that the costs of trying to account for the value of justification and/or knowledge in terms of their connection to normative reasons is prohibitively high. An alternative connection
between knowledge and/or justification and motivating reasons might be a more fruitful idea to explore.

Susanne Mantel (Saarland): “Reasons, Evidence, and Rationality”
Many authors hold that practical reasons are facts which favor action (e.g., Alvarez, Dancy, Parfit, and Scanlon) and which together determine what we ought to do. Some authors argue that rationality consists in responding to those of these reasons which we possess, and that only these possessed reasons determine what we ought to do. This would show that rationality is normative: we always ought to do what it requires. However, I think that this view of rationality is committed to implausible claims about normative reasons and oughts – both reasons and oughts become implausibly relative. I will suggest that rationality is not a matter of actually doing what possessed reasons favor, but of manifesting a tendency to do what normative reasons require. Rational actions should be understood as actions manifesting deliberative dispositions which tend to help agents do more of what they ought to do and less of what they ought not to do, objectively. On this view, there is not always a normative reason to do what rationality requires in a given situation, but if one could choose between a) having no stable deliberative dispositions at all, b) having rational ones, and c) having any non-rational ones, almost everyone ought to choose rational dispositions.

Thomas Raleigh (Bochum): “Instability and Anti-Expertise”
In decision theory, instability is the phenomenon whereby the very fact of choosing one particular possible option rather than another affects the expected values of those possible options. More precisely: An act is stable iff given that it is actually performed its expected utility is maximal. Instability occurs when there is no stable choice available. Examples of instability – such as Gibbard & Harper’s (1978) classic ‚Death in Damascus‘ case – seem to pose a dilemma for practical rationality. But a structurally very similar kind of instability, which occurs in cases of anti-expertise, also seems to create dilemmas of epistemic rationality. A subject, S, is an anti-expert with respect to a proposition, p, when the following condition holds: S believes that p iff p is false. One possible line of response to such cases, endorsed by both Jeffrey (1983) and Sorensen (1987), is to insist that a rational agent will never accept that such an anti-expertise condition applies to herself. According to this line of thought it can be rational for a subject to discount even very strong empirical evidence that the anti-expertise condition applies to oneself. I present a new variety of anti-expertise scenario where no particular empirical stage-setting is required, for the proposition in question is an intrinsically anti-expertise proposition. So the subject can deduce a priori, just from the meaning of the proposition, that the anti-expertise condition must hold. This kind of anti-expertise case is therefore not amenable to the sort of response that Jeffrey and Sorensen recommend and thus seems to pose an especially difficult kind of rational dilemma.

Stefan Mandl (Duisburg-Essen): “Against Cognitivism about Intention Rationality”
Cognitivists about intention rationality seek to explain the apparent normative force of the rational requirements governing intentions by arguing that they are, at bottom, requirements of theoretical rationality or at least derived from these. In order for this strategy to get off the ground, cognitivists have to assume a tight connection between intentions and beliefs, that is, they have to assume that intending to φ involves some belief concerning one’s φ-ing. Even though the claim that intention has a positive doxastic condition is highly controversial, I will not challenge it in my talk. Instead, I will argue that even if we grant that intention involves belief, we still have good grounds to think that cognitivism is not a plausible position. One of the main reasons for this is that there seems to be no satisfactory way for the cognitivist to deal with a simple yet powerful objection raised by Michael Bratman against any cognitivist explanation of the instrumental principle, an objection which relies on the possibility of having false beliefs about one’s intentions. I will proceed by examining three of the most prominent cognitivist accounts and I shall argue that none of them is convincing.

Errol Lord (Pennsylvania): “Reasons to Withhold and the Failure of Evidentialism”
The aim of this paper is to argue against several evidentialist theses by examining the nature and rational profile of withholding belief. The paper has two main parts. First, I defend an account–the Interrogative Attitudes account–of the nature of withholding. I then argue against several evidentialist theses by showing that they conflict with the rational profile of withholding. Along the way I argue that my account best accommodates the rational pressures of higher-order evidence and provide an explanation of pragmatic encroachment on epistemic rationality.