“Infectious Normative Uncertainty (Or: Why You Should Open God’s Presents)” by Mr Abelard Podgorski

Philosophers commonly distinguish norms that tell us what to do in light of all the facts, objective norms, from norms that take into account our uncertainty and ignorance, subjective norms. But our uncertainty comes in two kinds. On the one hand, we can be uncertain about matters of descriptive fact, such as the effects of some proposed action or policy. On the other hand, we can be uncertain about fundamentally normative matters – what is valuable or what the right moral principles are. While philosophers are generally happy to accept that there are norms sensitive to descriptive uncertainty, a controversy has recently developed over whether there are any interesting norms sensitive to our distinctly normative uncertainty.

In this talk, I address this controversy by drawing attention to puzzling cases of infectious normative uncertainty, where our uncertainty about the way things are descriptively depends on our uncertainty about the way things are normatively. Many existing views about subjective norms give intuitively absurd recommendations in such cases, and violate minimal constraints on the relationship between objective and subjective norms. Ultimately, I argue that we need subjective norms to be sensitive not just to our descriptive uncertainty, and not just to our descriptive and our normative uncertainty taken separately, but also to the relation between the two.

Philosophy Seminar Series
Date: Monday, 13 June 2016
Time: 11am – 1pm
Venue: AS3 #05-23
Speaker: Mr Abelard Podgorski
Moderator: A/P Loy Hui Chieh

About the Speaker:

Mr Abelard Podgorski received his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Mathematics at Michigan State University, and have recently completed his PhD at the University of Southern California. His primary research interests are in ethics, the study of rationality, and epistemology, driven by a general concern with the way idealization plays a role in different normative theories. His work can be found in Mind, Philosophical Studies, and Ergo.

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