Horowitz Wins Sanders Prize

Just saw this on Facebook. Fantastic news, and well-deserved congratulations to Sophie!

Congratulations to Sophie Horowitz, Assistant Professor at Rice University, for winning the 2015 Sanders Prize in Epistemology. Sophie’s paper, “Accuracy and Educated Guesses,” will be published in Oxford Studies in Epistemology.

Credences, unlike full beliefs, can’t be true or false. So what makes credences more or less accurate? I offer a new answer to this question: credences are accurate insofar as they license true educated guesses, and less accurate insofar as they license false educated guesses. I argue that this account can be used to justify certain coherence constraints on rational credence, and has other advantages over rival accounts of accuracy.

CFP: 6th Annual Edinburgh Graduate Epistemology Conference

Call For Papers

Sixth Annual Edinburgh Graduate Epistemology Conference

The 6th Annual Edinburgh Graduate Epistemology Conference will take place 6th-7th June 2016 at the University of Edinburgh. This year’s keynote speakers will be Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins (British Columbia) and Alan Millar (Stirling). All graduate presentations will have respondents from faculty members at Edinburgh or a neighbouring university.

We invite graduate students to submit essays within any area of epistemology (broadly construed). Essays should be under 4000 words, and should be anonymised for blind review.

We would really like the conference to be representative of the graduate community and so we strongly encourage submissions from anyone working on epistemology who is a member of an under-represented group.

We will be happy to help arrange free childcare for any attendees who would find it helpful. Please feel free to get in touch to discuss this, or any accessibility requirements you may have.

The deadline for submissions is 16th February, 2016, 00:00 GMT. For more information, including details of how to submit, please visit our conference page: http://www.ppls.ed.ac.uk/events/view/sixth-annual-graduate-epistemology-conference

This conference is generously sponsored by the Eidyn Research Centre, the University of Edinburgh, and is supported by the Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group.

The Dart Board Case

From Sophie Horowitz’s paper “Epistemic Akrasia,” which we are talking about in our epistemology reading group today. Here’s the case:

“You have a large, blank dartboard. When you throw a dart at the board, it
can only land at grid points, which are spaced one inch apart along the horizontal and vertical axes. … Although you are pretty good at picking out where the dart has landed, you are rationally highly confident that your discrimination is not perfect: in particular, you are confident that when you judge where the dart has landed, you might mistake its position for one of the points an inch away (i.e. directly above, below, to the left, or to the right). You are also confident that, wherever the dart lands, you will know that it has not landed at any point farther away than one of those four. You throw a dart, and it lands on a point somewhere close to the middle of the board.” (p. 19)

So, it sounds to me as if this is the situation: it kinda looks like it hit in the center, but you can’t be sure. Horowitz then reports Williamson’s assessment of the case (we suppose the grid for the board is 1-5 along both axes (so it kinda looks like it landed at <3,3>)):

“So let’s suppose that when the dart lands at <3,3>, you should be highly confident in the proposition that it landed at either <3,2>, <2,3>, <3,3>, <4,3>, or <3,4>–so, you can rationally rule out every point except for those five. … Williamson agrees with this verdict, and supposes further that your credence should be equally distributed over <3,2>, <2,3>, <3,3>, <4,3>, and <3,4>. So, for each of those five points, you should have .2 credence that the dart landed at that point.” (p. 20)

This strikes me as exactly wrong. As I read the case, my guess as to where the dart landed is that it landed at <3,3>, but I can’t be sure. I might easily mistake its position for an adjacent one. But then I’m not egalitarian with respect to the 5 possible positions. I don’t make guesses without some evidential substance to support them as opposed to alternative hypotheses, so when I guess that it landed at <3,3>, that means that the look in question supports a greater degree of confidence in that hypothesis than the others. It may also mean that my probability for that hypothesis is greater than .5. In any case, I’m more confident in one of them than in the others, and this confidence is based on the indefinite look in question (and, we may suppose, rationally so).

Of course, we can change the case so that my powers of discrimination are indeterminate between the five regions, but then I also won’t be able to use my powers of discrimination to rule out areas out side of the five in question, since I’m no more confident that the dart landed in the center of the 5-region territory than at the edge.

In short, I don’t see how the case is supposed to get the Williamsonian indifference between the 5 regions, compatible with one’s perception putting one in a position to rule out all other regions on the board.

Conference “Science versus Common Sense?”

February 25-27, 2016,
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

This conference seeks to address the nature, limits, and value of common sense, especially in relation and possibly in contrast to science and scientific knowledge.
It is often claimed that science debunks common sense: much of our naive physics, chemistry, and biology has been replaced by superior scientifically informed accounts of physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. In recent years, various bits of our commonsensical self-understanding as free, rational, moral, and self-knowing beings has also come under attack from science. Various kinds of scientific debunking arguments are flourishing.
At the same time, it seems obvious that we cannot do without common sense. Arguably, science and the scientific method itself was built on, and continues to depend on, common sense and common sense still plays an important role as a touchstone in much philosophical theorizing.
All of this raises questions about the nature of common sense, its relation to science and philosophy, and its tenability in the face of various kinds of attacks from science and philosophy.

Key questions include:
· What is common sense? A source of knowledge, a fixed body of knowledge, an approach to knowledge, or something else?
· What is the nature of scientific knowledge? How does it differ from commonsensical knowledge?
· How are common sense and science related? Is science best thought of as ‘the long arm’ of common sense or are they more discontinuous? To what extent does science gives us reason to become skeptical about common sense (e.g., through debunking arguments)?
· How are common sense and philosophy related? What role ought common sense to play in philosophy? Are there philosophical reasons to distrust common sense?
· What are suitable epistemological pictures / models to think about the relations between science, common sense, and philosophy?

Keynote Speakers
· Russ Shafer-Landau (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
· Katia Vavova (Mount Holyoke College)
· Duncan Pritchard (University of Edinburgh)
· Noah Lemos (College of William & Mary)

Deadline Abstract & Notification
· Send an abstract of at most 500 words to Irma Verlaan by December 5, 2015: g.h.verlaan@vu.nl
· Notifications of acceptance will be sent by December 10, 2015.

Organizing committee
René van Woudenberg
Jeroen de Ridder
Rik Peels
Irma Verlaan


The workshop is part of the research program Science Beyond Scientism (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). The organizers gratefully acknowledge the support of the Templeton World Charity Foundation.

Proposals Requested for Faith Project Summer Seminar

Everyone with an interest in the nature, value, and virtue of faith is invited to apply to the 2016 Faith Project Summer Seminar. The seminar will be held in either Columbia or St. Louis, MO, from June 27th to July 21st, 2016. Participants will receive $4000, as well as a generous stipend for travel, food, and board. Guest lecturers: Linda Zagzebski, Ed Wierenga, and Sandy Goldberg.

For more information and instructions on how to apply, see:


Deadline for Application:  December 1, 2015

Announcement of Award Winners:  January 10, 2016

Session on “Belief and Reasoning” at the Minds Online Conference

This month at the Brains blog we are hosting an online conference in the philosophy of mind, and this week’s session on Belief and Reasoning is likely to be of interest to the audience at Certain Doubts. The papers are:

Ram’s paper, which offers a new account of the basing relation, is the most epistemology-heavy, but everything here should be of interest to anyone working on belief, reasoning, evidence, etc. The discussion on these papers is open through Friday, September 18. Please, join in!

What do you want to do with that? Answers from philosophers outside the academy

What do you want to do with that?
Call for Participation
October 23-24, 2015
Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, LMU Munich

Philosophers are everywhere—-in private industry, nonprofit organizations, government, the arts, and even universities. It should come as no surprise to find philosophers thriving throughout all corners of society. What is surprising, and what this conference is conceived to respond to, is the degree to which philosophers inside the academy remain isolated from those outside of it.

This two-day conference brings together a distinguished group of philosophers who know of life inside and outside the academy, and who will share their insights and experiences navigating the transitions from one realm to another; which insights and experiences translate well, and which do not; and what habits and best practices the broader community of philosophers can and should adopt to create opportunities for philosophers at all stages of their careers, but especially for philosophy undergraduate and graduate students.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Jeffrey HelznerEliciting Expert Knowledge When Time is Scarce, the Stakes are High, Scalability is a Concern, and the Distributions are Skewed
  • Andreas EdmüllerThe World of Business Needs Philosophy!
  • Rebekka Reinhard ‘What are You Living for?’ On How to be a Free-Lance Philosopher
  • Zachary Ernst Barriers to Exit: Real and Imaginary

Each lecture will be filmed and made available on the MCMP iTunes video archive. In addition, each speaker will lead a workshop to allow for one-on-one discussions that draw on their experiences in starting a consulting business, joining a fast growing startup, managing a public profile and mass media engagements, and leading interdisciplinary research and development teams within a corporate environment.

Stephan Hartmann
Gregory Wheeler

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: http://mjhannon.com/understanding-seminar

Direct all questions to Michael Hannon: mhannon11@fordham.edu.

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: https://sites.google.com/site/religiousbeliefiu/

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.