2016 Midwest Epistemology Workshop

UPDATE 8/24: A few days remain before the reduced rate for accommodation expires (see below). Act soon!

The Tenth Annual Midwest Epistemology Workshop (MEW) will be held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on September 30 and October 1, 2016.  Hosted by John Bengson and Mike Titelbaum, and open to everyone in the world, the workshop will feature presentations by:

Paul Boghossian (NYU, keynote)
Dana Tulodziecki (Purdue)
David Sosa (UT-Austin)
Brian Kim (Oklahoma State)
Billy Dunaway (UMSL)
Imogen Dickie (Toronto)
Avery Archer (George Washington)
Carrie Swanson (Iowa) and Margaret Atherton (UW-Milwaukee) in a panel on Epistemology and its History

Participants at large include:

David Alexander (Iowa State)
Julianne Chung (Louisville)
Sinan Dogramici (UT-Austin)
Sophie Horowitz (Rice/UMass-Amherst)
Dan Korman (Illinois-UC)
Jack Lyons (Arkansas)
Declan Smithies (Ohio State)

Schedule: MEW sessions will begin on Friday morning, September 30 and conclude in the evening on Saturday, October 1.  Saturday night will feature a special MEW tenth anniversary banquet at Cento, one of Madison’s premiere restaurants.  Prof. Boghossian will also be giving a public lecture “Should we be moral relativists?” at 5pm the afternoon of Thursday, September 29.  MEW attendees arriving early are encouraged to attend.

Registration and conference dinner: There is no cost for the conference, but attendees are required to register by e-mailing titelbaum@gmail.com.  When you register, please indicate whether you will attend the anniversary banquet.  The cost is $45 per person for faculty and $25 for students.  (This includes dinner, dessert, and wine.)  Banquet seats are limited, and will be allocated to those who reply soonest.

Accommodation: A limited number of rooms have been set aside at two local hotels for conference attendees.  The Graduate is closer to the conference venue (Helen C. White Hall), but is more expensive than the InnTowner Madison.  To reserve a room at The Graduate, call them and mention the “Midwest Epistemology Workshop”, or use this link with booking code “MEG092916”.  To reserve a room at the InnTowner, use Group Code “PHIL16”.  Reservations at either location must be made by August 28.

Financial assistance: We would very much like to encourage participation by graduate students and other philosophers not in the tenure stream.  Please contact us to discuss various ways of relieving the financial burdens of attendance, including (but not limited to) finding local students with whom you could room for the event.

Accessibility, etc.: All venues are wheelchair accessible, and a variety of diets can be accommodated.  Please e-mail with other accessibility concerns; we will do our best to find solutions.  We are also happy to work with parents on finding childcare, space for nursing, and other related needs.  Note, however, that it’s much easier for us to address these needs with ample advance noticeat least two weeks, and preferably much more than that.



Minsun Kim and Yuan Yuan: “Cross-Cultural Universality of Knowledge Attributions”

New paper by Kim and Yuan: pdf.


We selected three effects of knowledge attribution recently reported about English speakers, i.e., (1) ceteris paribus people are less willing to ascribe knowledge for true beliefs based on probabilistic evidence than for true beliefs based on perceptual evidence; (2) ceteris paribus people are less willing to ascribe knowledge for true beliefs based on apparent evidence than for true beliefs based on authentic evidence even in Gettierized scenarios; and (3) ceteris paribus people are more willing to attribute knowledge to a protagonist when she engages in harmful activities than when she engages in beneficent activities even in Gettierized scenarios. And we translated the materials used in these existing studies into Chinese and Korean and then ran the studies with participants in China and South Korea. Strikingly, all three of the effects that had been found with Western participants also emerged with participants from these other cultures. Drawing on these results, we argue that it is time for a pivot in our more meta-philosophical discussions, namely, we should start systematically theorizing about the rather extraordinary cross-cultural similarities (instead of unfounded divergences) in people’s epistemic intuitions.

CSSiP Summer School, “Rationality, Objectivity, Disagreement”

The 11th Cologne Summer School in Philosophy (CSSiP) on

“Rationality, Objectivity, Disagreement”

will take place in Cologne, July 25 through July 29, 2016. This year’s special guest will be Thomas Kelly (Princeton University). Since more than a decade Kelly promoted a number of refreshing new ideas in epistemology and consequently initiated rethinking of epistemological orthodoxy. Among his main themes are the epistemology of disagreement, the nature of epistemic evidence, and the limits of instrumental rationality within epistemology. The Summer School will focus on these and related 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 April 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 Kelly’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 our website:

Prof. Dr. Thomas Grundmann
Philosophisches Seminar
Universität zu Köln

New empirical studies on epistemic contextualism

Epistemic contextualism is the view that the verb “know” is a context sensitive expression. As a first approximation, epistemic contextualism states that in order for us to truthfully say a person “knows” a proposition, that person must meet the standards set by our context and, critically, the standards change across contexts. The variation is thought to be theoretically important partly because it might indicate an ingredient of (the truth conditions of) “knowledge” statements beyond the traditional factors of belief, evidence, and truth.

Contextualists motivate their view based on a set of empirical claims about competent speakers’ linguistic behavior in certain situations. A famous way of illustrating the idea involves a pair of cases about a man who wants to deposit a check and is deciding whether to wait in a long line at the bank on a Friday afternoon, or come back on Saturday morning when the line would be short. But the question arises: is this bank actually open Saturday morning? The man visited this bank two Saturdays ago and it was open then, but banks do sometimes change their hours. In the “low stakes” version of the case, nothing serious hinges on whether he deposits the check before the weekend is over, and the man says, “I know that the bank is open tomorrow.” In the “high stakes” version of the case, something very serious hinges on whether he deposits the check before the weekend is over, and the man says, “I don’t know that the bank is open tomorrow.”

Contextualists claim that competent speakers will judge that the man truthfully says he “knows” in the low stakes version, and that the man truthfully says he “doesn’t know” in the high stakes version.

Do people behave as contextualists predict? Prior research on this empirical question has yielded mixed results. Taking into account methodological objections raised by contextualists,* I ran another series of studies to investigate the issue.** I found that, just as contextualists predicted, people judged that the man truthfully says he “knows” in the low stakes case, and that the man truthfully says he “doesn’t know” in the high-stakes case. Continue reading

What philosophers think might not be what you think they think

Professional philosophers often appeal to patterns in ordinary thought and talk — “commonsense” — in order to support theories or assumptions. In recent years, the emerging interdisciplinary field of experimental epistemology has revealed many instances where commonsense epistemology has been seriously mischaracterized. But even if professional philosophers misidentify what the folk think about knowledge, certainly they know what they themselves think about knowledge. Right?


In a fascinating paper forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, a pair of researchers tested ordinary people and professional philosophers (“experts”) on a range of cases.* A principal finding concerns knowledge attributions in cases where an agent sees an object that is surrounded by visually indistinguishable fakes. Continue reading

Fundraising effort to support fired faculty at Mount St. Mary’s

As I discussed earlier, two faculty members at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland were fired earlier this week for “disloyalty” to the institution. For the latest on this story, use the Google.

Nearly 8,000 academics have signed a statement of protest calling for the faculty to be reinstated. What’s needed now are contributions to a fundraising effort to help cover their legal fees. To contribute please visit gofund.me/mountfaculty.

As Brian Leiter observes, part of why this effort is so important is that a strong showing here could scare the university into backing down on their own. It will also send a message to administrators elsewhere that this sort of thing will not be allowed to stand.

Note also that excess contributions will be donated to Bottom Line, Inc. (http://www.bottomline.org/), a charity devoted to helping disadvantaged college students get in to college, graduate, and go far in life.

Statement of Protest Regarding Faculty Firings at Mount St. Mary’s University

I taught for several years at Mount St. Mary’s University, where Thane Naberhaus, a (tenured) professor of philosophy, was abruptly fired yesterday afternoon for his role in opposing a plan to dismiss at-risk freshmen in their first semester of college.

For more on the story, you can visit Daily Nous.

To sign a statement of protest from members of the academic community, please visit http://tinyurl.com/msmprotestform.