Summer Seminar on Understanding

Fordham University, New York City
June 20-21, 2016

Fordham University will host a two-day seminar on human understanding in Manhattan. Seven invited speakers will lead the seminar and discuss their work on understanding with 16 graduate students and junior faculty (no more than 10 years past the PhD).

We are holding open applications for these 16 spots. Accepted seminar participants will receive a $600 honorarium plus travel, daily meals, and accommodation.

Seminar themes include: the nature of understanding, varieties of understanding (e.g., moral, scientific, aesthetic, etc.), the value of understanding, early cognitive development, empathy and its relationship to understanding, the relationship between understanding and knowledge, verstehen and understanding in the social sciences, understanding and testimony, and other topics. Faculty guests include: Gordon Graham, Allan Hazlett, Alison Hills, Michael Strevens, Tania Lombrozo, and Deena Weisberg.

In addition to attending the two-day seminar, successful applicants are expected to attend our Capstone Conference in the three days immediately following the seminar (June 22-24, 2016). Capstone speakers include distinguished philosophers and psychologists such as Elizabeth Camp, Susan Carey, Richard Foley, Alison Gopnik, Jennifer Gosetti, Frank Keil, Ernest Sosa, and Linda Zagzebski.

For information on how to apply, please visit the website:

Direct all questions to Michael Hannon:

The seminar is made possible by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

New Study: No Difference in Gettier Intuition Across Cultures

Within the more metaphilosophically-oriented literature on experimental philosophy, there has been a great deal of discussion of the philosophical implications of cross-cultural differences in intuitions about Gettier cases. This work has been extremely impressive from a purely philosophical perspective, but at times, I worry that it has not been sufficiently closely connected to the actual empirical work in this area. In particular, much of it starts off from the assumption that people of different cultures differ in their intuitions about Gettier cases, but it turns out that the majority of the empirical studies actually find that Gettier intuitions do not depend on culture in this way (see here, here and here). So it sometimes seems that people are investigating the philosophical implications of an effect that doesn’t actually exist.

Happily, Noûs has just published a truly amazing study on this topic by a team of experimental philosophers (Machery, Stich, Rose, Chatterjee, Karasawa, Struchiner, Sirker, Usui & Hashimoto), and I think this new study gives us a much better understanding of the relevant empirical facts. The researchers presented two different Gettier cases to participants in the United States, Brazil, India and Japan, yielding a total sample size of 521 participants. The study is extraordinarily impressive from a methodological perspective and very much worth reading in full, but the basic result can be expressed pretty simply in the following figure:


Overall, the study finds no significant cross-cultural difference but instead a robust tendency, found across all four cultures, to conclude that people do not have knowledge in Gettier cases.

Of course, this finding does not mean that philosophers were mistaken to think that there was something of deep metaphilosophical importance about looking at Gettier intuitions in different cultures. On the contrary, the result obtained here is a truly fascinating one, which surely has rich metaphilosophical implications. The key point is just that the metaphilosophical question we need to be asking is the opposite one from the one people have been discussing thus far. The question worth asking is not ‘What are the metaphilosophical implications of cross-cultural differences in Gettier intuitions?’ but rather ‘What are the metaphilosophical implications of the extraordinary cross-cultural similarity in Gettier intuitions?’ This latter question has not yet been sufficiently explored, but it opens up a whole new range of exciting issues that I hope philosophers will begin exploring over these next few years.

[Cross-posted at Experimental Philosophy. The full paper is available to subscribers at Noûs, but please do feel free to write in with comments even if you have not yet read the paper itself.]

Conference: Social Epistemology of Religious Belief

October 8-10, 2015
Indiana University, Bloomington

The beautiful wooded campus of Indiana University, Bloomington will be the site of a conference focused on social dimensions to the eistemology of religious belief. Topics to be addressed include testimony and trust, intellectual authority in science and religion, the role of faith communities in individual faith development, and religious disagreement.

Speakers/Commentators: Charity Anderson, Michael Bergmann, Caleb Cohoe, Trent Dougherty, Peter Graham, John Greco, Adam Green, John Hawthorne, Jon Kvanvig, Maria Lasonen-Aarnio, Ben McMyler, Tim O’Connor, and Steve Wykstra.

For further details, including conference registration and securing local housing, please visit the conference website:

Organized by Tim O’Connor and Tim Perrine, this conference is sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation and by the Philosophy Department at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Rationality is permissibility

Many philosophers seem to think that – even if the notions of a belief’s being “justified” or “rational” are indeed normative notions, as is widely held to be the case – to say that a belief is “justified” is “rational” is to say something stronger than merely that the belief is permissible.

This is a mistake. It is easy to prove that if the notions of a belief’s being “justified” or “rational” are normative at all, then the permissibility of a belief is sufficient for the belief’s being justified or rational. Continue reading

2015 Tennessee Value & Agency (TVA) Conference: Knowledge & Agency

2015 Tennessee Value and Agency (TVA) Conference

Knowledge and Agency

September 4 & 5, 2015

1210 McClung Tower, University of Tennessee 



9-9.30: Breakfast (provided on site)

9.30-11: Sharon Mason (Indiana University), “Externalism for Doxastic Agents?”

11-12.30: Reza Hadisi (University of Illinois-Chicago), “Doxastic Voluntarism as Epistemic (But Not Practical) Agency”

12.30-1.30: Lunch (provided on site)

1.30-3: Suzy Killmister (University of Connecticut), “How Does Ignorance Affect Autonomy?”

3-4.30: Samuel Murray (University of Notre Dame), “Awareness and Vigilance”

4.30-6: Keynote #1 — John Schwenkler (Florida State University)

6-6.30: Reception (on site)



9-9.30: Breakfast (provided on site)

9.30-11: John Hurst (Ohio State University), “Believing You’ll Act as Intended”

11-12.30: Gregory Antill (UCLA), “Belief, Intention, and Deliberation”

12.30-1.30: Lunch (provided on site)

1.30-3: Jeremy Fix (Harvard University), “Intellectual Isolation”

3-4.30: Jennifer Frey (University of South Carolina), “Agency, Practical Knowledge, and the Good”

4.30-6: Keynote #2 — Candace Vogler (University of Chicago)

6-6.30: Reception (on site)


All lectures are free and open to the public.

For further information, contact EJ Coffman:


Truth-insensitive epistemology: radical or commonsense?

Many philosophers endorse a truth-insensitivity hypothesis: certain core, philosophically important evaluative properties of a belief are insensitive to whether it is true. For example, if two possible agents believe the same proposition for the same reason, then either both are justified or neither is. This does not change if it turns out that only one of the two agents has a true belief. Epitomizing this line of thought are thought experiments about radically deceived “brains in vats.”

Proponents claim that the truth-insensitivity hypothesis is extremely intuitive and appealing pre-theoretically — we have an “overpowering inclination” to think that it’s true (Richard Fumerton). To deny the truth-insensitivity hypothesis has been labelled “extraordinary” and “dissident” (Earl Conee). However, other philosophers claim that exactly the opposite is true: the truth-insensitivity hypothesis itself is counterintuitive and violates commonsense. The appeal of truth-insensitive epistemology, they claim, is limited to narrow circles within “the professional philosophical community” (Jonathan Sutton).

In a paper forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, I investigated which side of this debate is correct. Proponents of the truth-insensitivity hypothesis illustrate their view’s plausibility with pairs of thought experiments. These pairs include mundane cases and fanciful “brain-in-a-vat” scenarios. I tested both sorts of cases.

Across three experiments (N = 1262), the results were absolutely clear: Continue reading

The Inside/Outside Distinction and Epistemic Intuitions

Psychologists sometimes distinguish between two ways of getting evidence about a particular object. One way is to actually be in some kind of contact with the object itself, either by perceiving it directly or by observing something that has been caused by it (inside view). A second way is to learn certain facts about a more general category of which this object is a member (outside view).

Clearly, these two ways of getting evidence could turn out to be similar with regard to their reliability and with regard to the extent to which they allow a person to rule out alternative possibilities. Still, it seems that people have the intuition that these two kinds of evidence are deeply different from an epistemic point of view. That is, people feel that actually perceiving or examining an object is deeply different somehow from just making inferences about the object from more general information about a category.

Psychologist Ori Friedman and philosopher John Turri have a new paper in which they apply this distinction to questions about people’s epistemic intuitions and arrive at some very intriguing results.

Continue reading

Contextualism and Skepticism — draft of chapter

link pdf

Does the contextualist seek to dissolve disputes over skepticism? And does she use a “perfectly general strategy” for doing so? Is she not interested in, or not addressing, the traditional topic of whether we really know things, instead addressing how the word “know” should be used? Is she engaged in philosophy of language instead of epistemology? Is she addressing the more important types of skeptic? And what are those? Are key aspects of her position inexpressible, by her own lights? Is she subject to a “factivity problem”? These and other questions are answered in this draft of my 4th chapter of the book I’ve been working on. Please let me know if there are other pressing worries I don’t address, or if there’s some problem with some of my answers.
For my part, I’ll be happy if I just never again have to hear anything like “The contextualist only answers the high standards skeptic.”
Oh, I forgot: :)

I suppose one question I don’t explicitly address here is whether I construe myself as
doing “ordinary language philosophy.” I’m not sure what that would be, or if I’m doing
it, but at and around the top of p. 24, I am explaining/defending one aspect of my
approach that I suppose could be construed as a way that I have at least partly taken
some “linguistic turn.”

Edinburgh 5th Annual Graduate Epistemology Conference

Registration for the University of Edinburgh 5th Annual Graduate Epistemology Conference is now open (27th-28th May 2015). Our keynote speakers this year will be Elizabeth Fricker (Oxford) and Jennifer Nagel (Toronto). Attendance is free and includes lunch and refreshments on both days. There will also be an optional conference dinner for an additional £20.

Please register online here in order to help us make appropriate catering arrangements.

Further details can be found on the conference webpage.

This conference is generously sponsored by the Eidyn Research Centre, the University of Edinburgh, the Scots Philosophical Association, the Mind Association and the Analysis Trust, and is supported by the Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group.

The 10th CSSiP on “Imagining, Knowing, Doing”

will take place in Cologne, September 28 through October 2, 2015. Our special guest in this year’s anniversary edition will be Timothy Williamson (Oxford University). Williamson is widely regarded as one of the greatest living philosophers. Over the last few decades, he has massively reshaped central parts of philosophy in general and epistemology in particular. Williamson defends a number of strikingly unorthodox ideas: that knowledge plays a fundamental role in epistemology and action (i.e., knowledge-first epistemology), that thought-experimentation and other armchair methods are not based on rational intuition or conceptual competence but on our empirically shaped imagination, or that justification and epistemic norms must be understood in a radically externalist way. The Summer School will focus on these and other Williamsonian themes in epistemology. It mainly aims at professional philosophers and graduate students.

Attendance is free, but limited to 50 participants – to be selected on the basis of motivation and qualification. Online application is possible through May 15. Please add a short letter that sketches your academic background and main motivation for participating in the Summer School. If you are interested in giving a brief presentation (approx. 20 minutes) related to Williamson’s work, please also send an abstract of no more than 1,000 words. We will inform you about the success of your application soon after the deadline.

Apply via email to:

For more information, please visit the website: