Most Counterfactuals Are Still False by Alan Hajek

Featured

Most Counterfactuals Are Still False

Abstract:
I have long argued for a kind of ‘counterfactual skepticism’: most counterfactuals are false. I maintain that the indeterminism and indeterminacy associated with most counterfactuals entail their falsehood. For example, I claim that these counterfactuals are both false:
(Indeterminism) If the chancy coin were tossed, it would land heads.
(Indeterminacy) If I had a son, he would have an even number of hairs on his head at his birth.
And I argue that most counterfactuals are relevantly similar to one or both of these, as far as their truth-values go. I also have arguments from the incompatibility of ‘would’ and ‘might not’ counterfactuals, and from Heim (‘reverse Sobel’) sequences.
However, counterfactual reasoning seems to play an important role in science, and ordinary speakers judge many counterfactuals that they utter to be true. A number of philosophers have defended our judgments against counterfactual skepticism. David Lewis and others appeal to ‘quasi-miracles’; Robbie Williams to ‘typicality’; John Hawthorne and H. Orri Stefánsson to ‘counterfacts’, primitive counterfactual facts; Moritz Schulz to an arbitrary-selection semantics; Jonathan Bennett and Hannes Leitgeb to high conditional probabilities; Karen Lewis to contextually-sensitive ‘relevance’.
I argue against each of these proposals. A recurring theme is that they fail to respect certain valid inference patterns. I conclude: most counterfactuals are still false.

Date: 25 May 2018, Friday
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Alan Hájek studied statistics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne (B.Sc. (Hons). 1982), where he won the Dwight Prize in Statistics. He took an M.A. in philosophy at the University of Western Ontario (1986) and a Ph.D. in philosophy at Princeton University (1993), winning the Porter Ogden Jacobus fellowship. He has taught at the University of Melbourne (1990) and at Caltech (1992-2004), where he received the Associated Students of California Institute of Technology Teaching Award (2004). He has also spent time as a visiting professor at MIT (1995), Auckland University (2000), and Singapore Management University (2005). Hájek joined the Philosophy Program at RSSS, ANU, as Professor of Philosophy in February 2005. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He was the President of the Australasian Association of Philosophy, 2009-10.
Hájek’s research interests include the philosophical foundations of probability and decision theory, epistemology, the philosophy of science, metaphysics, and the philosophy of religion. His paper “What Conditional Probability Could Not Be” won the 2004 American Philosophical Association Article Prize for “the best article published in the previous two years” by a “younger scholar”. The Philosopher’s Annual selected his “Waging War on Pascal’s Wager” as one of the ten best articles in philosophy in 2003.

All are welcome

Consent and Intentions by Massimo Ranzo

Consent and Intentions

Abstract:
What does it take to give morally valid consent? This question, concerning the “ontology of consent,” has received significant attention in the news recently, primarily in relation to consent to sex. Following a number of high profile cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault scandals, a heated public debate was sparked in the media, with movements such as MeToo and Time’sUp calling, among other things, for new attention to the question of when someone can be said to have given valid consent to sex. I will suggest that to answer this question we need to consider why we value having the moral power to consent. There is an obvious connection between how the power operates and why we have the power to begin with, but this connection has been overlooked in the philosophical debate. I will try to make progress in articulating this connection by considering the role played by the consenter and by the recipient of consent in cases of morally valid consent.

Date: 26 April 2018
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Dr Massimo Renzo is a Reader in Politics, Philosophy & Law at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London. Previously he was an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick and before that a Lecturer at the York Law School. He has held visiting appointments at the Australian National University, the universities of Virginia and Arizona, the Centre for Ethics and Public Affairs at the Murphy Institute (Tulane University) and Osgoode Hall’s Nathanson Centre for Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security. He is an affiliated researcher at the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War & Peace and the Honorary Secretary of the Society for Applied Philosophy. He is also one of the editors of the journal Criminal Law & Philosophy.

All are welcome

Graduate Research Seminar Talks by Jeremias Koh, Nicole Kuong and Farooq Jamil Alvi

Date:10 April 2018
Time: 2-5pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

2pm to 3pm: Jeremias Koh, NUS, “Scalarity Across Normative Domains”

Abstract:
In his paper “Scalar Consequentialism the Right way” (2017), Neil Sinhababu argues that ordinary thought supports the notion that the rightness of moral action is a scalar property, and develops a consequentialist theory that accounts for this. After briefly explaining the relevant aspects of Sinhababu’s arguments, I’ll consider how they can be combined with those made by Brian McElwee (2017) in “Supererogation Across Normative Domains”, as well as some implications of this combination for epistemic normativity.

About the speaker:
Jeremias is a Master’s student at the NUS Department of Philosophy. His current research interests are in moral philosophy. His broader interests include Chinese and political philosophy, philosophy of mind, and epistemology.

3pm to 4pm: Nicole Kuong, NUS, “Zarathustra’s reactive attitudes towards Eternal Recurrence”

Abstract:
“The most abysmal thought” and “the heaviest weight” are the words Nietzsche used to describe the doctrine of eternal recurrence. Although the doctrine is believed to give people an attitudinal orientation, it is presented as a cosmological thought in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Within this narrative, the readers follow Zarathustra’s journey in coming to terms with this radical world view. It is the purpose of this paper to examine this highly emotional journey towards eternal recurrence, from its revelation to its final acceptance. Zarathustra’s emotions, although mentioned by scholars, are often overlooked for their significance in understanding the developmental process of his embracement of eternal recurrence and eventually becoming “the teacher” of this doctrine. I further draw a connection between Zarathustra’s emotional reactions in the narrative and Peter Strawson’s seminal theory of reactive attitudes. In doing so, it is my hope to tease out Nietzsche’s use of particular literary devices in order to construct an interpersonal framework that allows Zarathustra to fully commit to eternal recurrence, and eventually to love life.

About the speaker:
Nicole holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy and Literature from University of Warwick, UK. Her main research interests are in Nietzsche, philosophy of literature and Chinese philosophy. Other interests include ethics and continental philosophy.

4pm to 5pm: Farooq Jamil Alvi, NUS, “The phenomenal world of imagination”

Abstract:
The aim of my talk is to make a persuasive case for a crucial role of phenomenology within imagination. Specifically, I will argue that there can be no changes to what is imagined without a change in the phenomenology of that imagining. The representationalist framework of mind will serve as the basis for this thesis. Accordingly, I will argue my case by focusing on showing why we should consider it plausible to hold that the representational content of an imagining is derived from the phenomenal character of the imagining. This is a specific application of the Phenomenal Intentionality thesis to the act of imagination. I will further support this claim by investigating the Cognitive Phenomenology thesis as it applies to sensory phenomenology within imagination.

My purpose is to provide support to accounts of imagination that argue for the necessary nature of sensory phenomenology within imagination, such as the one advanced by Kind (2001). These are accounts of imagination with much controversy. I argue that this arises because such accounts are beset by a fundamental worry: if sensory phenomenology is inextricable from imagination, what exactly is its supposed role within an imagining? By focusing on phenomenology in general (not just of the sensory type), I contend that we will be able to diffuse this controversy and bring such theories of imagination on more stable footing.

The talk is based on a paper in progress and will provide ample opportunity for discussion. Given the subject, the talk intends to make use of a number of enticing metaphors and visual examples to illustrate the key points.

About the speaker:
Farooq has a cross-disciplinary background, with a Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering and nearly a decade in the corporate world focusing on market innovation and strategic communications. His interest in Philosophy stems from his desire to challenge the assumptions underlying much of his practical knowledge and experience. He aims to question the very questions that are considered answered in traditional empirical frameworks. His specific area of interest is Philosophy of Mind, with a current focus on phenomenal consciousness.

All are welcome

Calling for Facilitators for Inter-School Philosophy Dialogue (ISPD) 2018

Featured

(From the organizers)

Hello everyone,

The Inter-School Philosophy Dialogue (ISPD) turns 15 this year!

It will be held on 13th July (Friday), from 1500h to 1900h, in Raffles Institution.

The success of ISPD depends on our very helpful facilitators who are able to engage our participants in collaborative rational inquiry. To kick-start our prep for ISPD 2018, please take a minute register yourselves at this link, to let us know that you will be joining us:

https://tinyurl.com/15thISPDfacilitatorregform

More information will be sent closer to the date of the event.

Lastly, if you know of anyone who is Philosophy-trained and is an experienced facilitator, and would like to join us for ISPD, please feel free to forward the above link to them.

We look forward to meeting all of you at our annual gathering and hope to see everyone at ISPD.

 

A Three-Dimensional Approach to Cooperation: Implications for Social Cognition by Anika Fiebich

A Three-Dimensional Approach to Cooperation: Implications for Social Cognition

Abstract:
The aim of my talk is twofold. First, I argue for cooperation as a three-dimensional phenomenon lying on the continua of (i) a behavioural axis, (ii) a cognitive axis, and (iii) an affective axis. Traditional accounts of joint action argue for cooperation as involving a shared intention. Developmental research has shown that such cooperation requires rather sophisticated social cognitive skills such as having a robust theory of mind – that is acquired not until age 4 to 5 in human ontogeny. However, also younger children are able to cooperate in various ways. This suggests that the social cognitive demands in joint action are a matter of degree, ranging from cognitively demanding cooperative activities involving shared intentions that presuppose sophisticated social cognitive skills such as having a theory of mind to basic joint actions like intentional joint attention. Moreover, any cooperative phenomenon can be located on a behavioural axis, ranging from complex coordinated behaviours (potentially determined by rules and roles) to basic coordinated behaviours such as simple turn-taking activities. Finally, cooperative activities may be influenced by (shared) affective states and agent-specificities. Hence, cooperation can be located on the continuum of an affective axis that is determined by the degree of ‘sharedness’ of the affective state in question. Second, I discuss the implications of the three-dimensional approach for social cognition. The main theories in the contemporary debate on social cognition argue for mental state attribution via folk psychological theories or simulation routines playing a key role in everyday social understanding, leading to a limited focus on those cooperative phenomena that presuppose sophisticated social cognitive competencies. Alternative approaches to social cognition, in turn, tend to overemphasize the role of social interaction in social cognition, leading to a limited focus on those cooperative phenomena that lie on a high point on the behavioural dimension. A pluralist theory of social understanding, by contrast, is able to capture the whole variety of cooperative phenomena and draws its assumptions on findings from social psychology that are neglected by traditional theories.

Date: 29 March 2018
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Anika Fiebich is a postdoctoral research fellow of the Centre for the Study of Social Action (CSSA) at the University of Milan. After finishing her Ph.D. in philosophy at the Ruhr-University Bochum, she was a postdoctoral Humboldt fellow at the Departments of Philosophy of the University of Memphis, University of Wollongong and Duisburg-Essen University. Anika Fiebich is working on various topics in the philosophy of mind and action. In particular, she is interested in social cognition and defending a pluralist approach to the explanation of social understanding. At CSSA she is working on collective intentionality and minimal approaches to cooperation.

All are welcome

Honours Thesis Presentations by Ms Mary Ann Lim Hui Ming, Mr Teng Kuan Ping, Ms Yeo Jie Ling Zoey & Mr Yeo Xiao Feng Kaine – 15 March 2018, 2pm at AS3-05-23

2.00pm to 2.45pm
1st Presentation by Ms Mary Ann Lim Hui Ming

Title
The virtuous life, the just life and the good life: Examining eudaimonia in the Crito

Abstract
Ancient ethical Greek thought is commonly understood through its commitments to the concept of eudaimonism. As such an extensive amount of philosophical literature has been dedicated to examining the role of eudaimonia within Socratic thought, and its relation towards the virtues he directly addresses in the Socratic dialogues as chronicled by Plato.
However, while eudaimonism holds a substantial role in the arguments found within the Crito, there has been little scholarly work dedicated towards examining the specific function eudaimonism has in motivating Socrates’ arguments against why he should escape his inevitable death sentence.
As such, the main portion of my thesis hopes to provide an adequate interpretation of how readers might plausibly understand Socrates’ assertions of eudaimonistics in the Crito. More specifically I will examine these assertions through their relations with virtue that Socrates refers to in Crito, in attempting to provide a clearer picture of how these different relational interpretations might affect the larger arguments made in the Crito.

2.45pm to 3.30pm
2nd Presentation by Mr Teng Kuan Ping

Title
Is Rationality Empirically Testable?

Abstract
Violations of formal rules – for example, the probability axioms – are taken by some researchers to indicate a kind of human irrationality. The empirical results are said to provide evidence for this. But there are unresolved issues about the appropriate standard of rationality to use, about what counts as a good test, and about whether there can be one in the first place. I first clarify these issues, and then raise doubts about whether these tests can be done in a meaningful way.

3.30pm to 4.15pm
3rd Presentation by Ms Yeo Jie Ling Zoey

Title
Role or Virtue Ethics?
A critical rejoinder to Ames’ and Rosemont’s claim that role ethics is distinct from virtue ethics

Abstract
This thesis argues against Ames’ and Rosemont’s claim that role ethics, which they propose as an interpretation of Confucian ethics, is distinct from virtue ethics. in so doing, they argue against the dominant interpretation of Confucian ethics in recent philosophical literature as a form of virtue ethics. They chose to distance Confucian ethics from virtue ethics based on their construal of the latter on a familiar category of Western ethical theory – Aristotelian virtue ethics. However, the assumption that all forms of virtue ethics are theoretically equivalent to Aristotelian virtue ethics is groundless. Virtue ethics, as a genus, is able to accommodate role ethics as a species. This thesis is not concerned with whether Confucian ethics is best read as role ethics or virtue ethics; rather, this is a theoretical project aiming to show that role ethics is not conceptually distinct from virtue ethics and is, in fact, a variety of virtue ethics.

4.15pm to 5.00pm
4th Presentation by Mr Yeo Xiao Feng Kaine

Title
Responsibility without Volitional Control

Abstract
When are moral agents open to appropriate responses on the basis of what they do or how they are? That is, when are they morally responsible? Some believe that it is only when agents possess volitional control in some relevant way. Others disagree, for they believe that when an agent’s actions or states are indicative of the agent’s moral self, responsibility obtains even without volitional control. My project is threefold. First, I argue for the latter view over the former view. Next, I provide the strongest particular account of this view. Finally, I consider the implications of this account: for what might it consider us responsible?

All are welcome

Epistemology Workshop on 16 March 2018

Julien Dutant, King’s College London, “Safety for Credences” (10:15am-11:35am)

The distinctions between belief, true belief, justified belief and knowledge are well-established in the epistemology of full beliefs. It is still an open question, however, whether there are analogue categories for credences. In this paper I spell out an account according to which there are. The starting point is Tang’s (2016) and Pettigrew’s (ms) theory of reliable and justified credence. Put roughly, they hold that one’s credence in a proposition is reliable or justified iff it matches the objective probability of that proposition given one’s evidence. I argue that the account faces an analogue of the missed cues problem for Lewis’s account of knowledge for full belief (Schaffer 2001): it allows credences that accidentally match the relevant objective probability to count as reliable or justified. In the full belief case, a good solution to Lewis’ is to replace his evidentialist condition with a safety one. I spell out an analogue strategy for the case of credences. The key idea is to use Tang’s (2016) and Pettigrew’s (ms) as an analogue of truth for credences. The resulting account guarantees that knowledgeable credences are probabilistically consistent and allows one’s probabilistic knowledge to be imprecise. Finally, I sketch one way to extend the account to justification for credences, extending ideas from Smith (2016).

Abelard Podgorski, NUS, “Skepticism about Propositional and Doxastic Justification” (2:00pm-3:00pm)

One common story about epistemic rationality goes something like this: for each agent, at each time, there is some doxastic attitude towards P that is propositionally justified for them. In order to be rational, the agent must hold the attitudes that are propositionally justified for them, and in addition, they have to be doxastically justified in holding those attitudes, which is a matter of them actually holding the attitude on the basis of the epistemic reasons that support it. In this talk, I want to distinguish the basic commitments of this picture, and raise doubts about one in particular that has not received much attention: that we can identify, in a principled way a reasons base for each agent which determines what is propositionally justified for them. I will try to argue that there is no way to identify such a base without appealing to the things that propositional justification is supposed to explain or else severing the connection between doxastic justification and rationality. One potential response to the problem would be to try and reverse the direction of explanation between propositional and doxastic justification; I will propose something a little more radical – that neither propositional nor doxastic justification has any significant role to play in explaining the rationality of agents.

Bob Beddor, NUS, “Reliabilism, Reasons, and Defeat” (3.10pm to 4.10pm)

Reliabilism purports to explain justification in entirely naturalistic terms. One challenge to this reductive goal comes from cases of defeat. In order to avoid counterexamples, reliabilists need to invoke a “No Defeaters” clause. However, it proves difficult to formulate a satisfactory No Defeaters clause without smuggling in unreduced epistemic notions. After criticizing extant reliabilist strategies for handling defeat, I propose a solution. My solution is to integrate reliabilism with Pollock’s influential reasons-based approach to justification and defeat. The resulting view is a sort of “Reasons First Reliabilism”. Justification and defeat are explained in terms of reasons to believe, and reasons to believe are then analyzed along reliabilist lines.

Weng Hong Tang, NUS, “Evidentialism and Fit” (4.20pm to 5.20pm)

According to evidentialists, we have justification for a belief—whether binary or partial—if and only if our evidence fits the belief. But surprisingly little has been said about the notion of fit. In this talk, I’ll consider some attempts to cash out the notion. The first attempt involves an appeal to epistemic probability. The second attempt, favoured by Feldman and Conee, as well as McCain, involves an appeal to inference to the best explanation. The third attempt involves an appeal to a match between belief content and the content of one’s evidence. I’ll argue that all three attempts fail to satisfy certain desiderata that an account of fit should satisfy. In particular, either (i) they are unilluminating, or (ii) they fail to account for inferential justification, or (iii) they fail to account for ultima facie justification, or (iv) they fail to account for the justification of partial belief.

All are welcome

Honours Thesis Presentations by Mr Joshua Thong Zheng Jie, Ms Puah Xin Yi, Ms Mah Wan Ying Sara & Mr Nicholas Khaw Hong Song

2.00pm to 2.45pm
1st Presentation by Mr Joshua Thong Zheng Jie
Title

The Bayesian and the Dogmatist.

Abstract:
The Dogmatist potentially faces two sources of conflict when trying to combine with Bayesianism: the Bayesian Objection (White, 2006) and the Weisberg Paradox (Weisberg, 2009). Miller (2016, 2017) has proposed two different ways on how to solve these conflicts. In my paper, I argue against Miller that none of his proposals work. The first proposal has no hope of resolving conflict with the Weisberg Paradox while the second violates Bayesianism itself, or more specifically, it violates Richard Jeffrey’s motivations for Jeffrey Conditionalization. I will also propose a new solution which has the potential to resolve these two sources of conflict, while addressing some objections it might face.

2.45pm to 3.30pm
2nd Presentation by Ms Puah Xin Yi
Title

Zhuangzi and the Skillful Killer

Abstract
In the Zhuangzi, one finds a collection of passages that depict skillful exemplars excelling at what they do. It is generally thought that these stories give an account, at least in part, of Zhuangzi’s positive ethical vision. In contemporary literature, a criticism, which I will call the skillful killer critique, has been raised against Zhuangzi’s account. This thesis aims to clarify the nature of the critique such that it can be better understood as a legitimate problem for Zhuangzi, and the possible replies available to address it. In particular, I explore in more detail the type of response that draws on sceptical resources in the Zhuangzi, assessing the viability of this sceptical response to the critique.

3.30pm tp 4.15pm
3rd Presentation by Ms Mah Wan Ying Sara
Title

The Public in Hume’s theory of Justice

Abstract
Hume’s theory of Justice was mainly discussed in the Treatise of Human Nature and in the Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals. While his arguments focus on the nature of justice as being a virtue based on social conventions and being directed towards public interest, less words were spent on who constituted this society or public.

The main chapters of this thesis aim to answer the question “To whom are we supposed to be just?” Given his criteria for justice to be applied to free, civilised, equal people, Hume’s theory of justice presents many questions on what these criteria mean.

Hume briefly discusses some cases in Enquiry 3.18-19, namely those of the pseudo-human, the barbarian, and women. Using his arguments, I also extend these cases to animals, children, handicapped people, and immigrants since they in some way do not necessarily meet these criteria, as well as to some variations to the cases he does discuss. In doing so, I attempt to provide a way for Hume to give a satisfactory explanation for whether we need to treat these people justly and vice versa.

4.15pm to 5.00pm
4th Presentation by Mr Nicholas Khaw Hong Song
Title

A contextualist reading of Hume on miracles

Abstract
Hume’s work in part I if on miracles has traditionally been read as an objective attack against belief in miracles. This essay suggests that Hume’s piece might be much more subjective and contextualist in nature. A testimony concerning an act M might be a miracle to some people in a particular context and not to other people in a different context. I suggest that Hume’s arguments are only binding to people(s) who currently deem M as a miracle. Objections and how it ties in with part II are further discussed.

The Evil Demon Inside by Nicholas Silins (1 March 2018)

The Evil Demon Inside

Abstract:
In the “new evil demon” scenario, it seems that we could still have justified beliefs about the external world, even if we failed to be reliable about the external world. My own goal is to examine how new evil demon problems arise for our access to the internal world of our own minds. In the first part of the talk, I argue that the internalist/externalist debate in epistemology has been widely misconstrued—we need to reconfigure the debate in order to see how it can arise about our access to the internal world. In the second part of the paper, I argue for the coherence of scenarios of radical deception about our own minds, and I use the scenarios to defend a properly formulated internalist view about our access to our minds. The overarching lesson is that general epistemology and the specialized epistemology of self-knowledge need to talk—each has much to learn from each other.

Date: 1 March 2018
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Resource Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Professor Silins is Associate Professor in the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University. He did his graduate work in Philosophy at Oxford University, where he received his PhD in 2004 and his BPhil in 2001. Professor Silins developed his interest in philosophy by studying literature and philosophy at Princeton University, where he received his BA, magna cum laude, in Comparative Literature in 1999. He works in epistemology and the philosophy of mind. He has special interests in the epistemology of perception, self-knowledge, and the interplay between views in epistemology and views about mental content and mental causation. He joined the Sage School in Fall 2006, after completing a Bersoff Fellowship at New York University. He has also held a fellowship at the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University.

All are welcome

Classical Chinese and Philosophical Linguistics Workshop with Professor Christoph Harbsmeier

You are cordially invited to the Classical Chinese and Philosophical Linguistics Workshop with Professor Christoph Harbsmeier organized by Associate Professor Loy Hui-Chieh on 12th and 13th February 2018 at the Wan Boo Sow Research Centre for Chinese Culture, NUS FASS AS8-05-49.

There will be four sessions in the workshop:

Session 1: Guo Xiang on the Philosophy of Zhuangzi (Day 1, 10am to 12pm)

Session 2: Self-Construal in Traditional China: A Comparative Perspective (Day 1, 2pm to 4pm)

Session 3: Anaphora and Coreference in Classical Chinese (Day 2, 10am to 12pm)

Session 4: Are Some Languages Better than Others? (Day 2, 2pm to 4pm)

As lunch and refreshments will be provided, please RSVP by 5 February 2018 at https://tinyurl.com/classical-chinese-workshop.

About the speaker: Christoph Harbsmeier is Professor Emeritus at the University of Oslo. He also holds honorary professorships at Peking University, Fudan University (Shanghai), Wuhan University, Zhejiang University, Shanghai Normal University, and East China Normal University. His main work is in the history of science (logic), conceptual history, historical linguistics, and modern Chinese Cartoons.

Sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore, and co-sponsored by the Division of Humanities, Yale-NUS College. Special thanks to the Wan Boo Sow Research Centre for Chinese Culture for granting the use of their facilities.

Some photos of the event below: