“Epistemic and Ethical Conditions for Media Freedom” by Onora O’Neill

Philosophy Seminar Series: 23 Feb 2012, 1-3pm, AS7 Seminar Room B; Speaker: Onora O’Neill, Professor, University of Cambridge; Moderator: Dr. Loy Hui Chieh

Classical arguments for media freedoms do not converge on a shared view of acceptable constraints. Miltonian arguments stress the importance of meeting epistemic requirements for truth seeking, but take too thin a view of these demands and exaggerate the effectiveness of absence of censorship. Millian arguments for rights of self expression minimise ethical and epistemic demands, but cannot plausibly be extended to the media. Arguments that take the epistemic and ethical needs of readers, listeners and viewers into account are more plausible and suggest that media regulation should constrain process but not content.

About the speaker: Baroness O’Neill comes from Northern Ireland and was educated at Oxford and Harvard, where she worked under the late John Rawls. She has taught in the US and the UK, was Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge until 2006 and teaches Philosophy in Cambridge. She was President of the British Academy, the UK National Academy for Humanities and Social Sciences from 2005-9, and chaired the Nuffield Foundation from 1998-2010. She has been a member of the House of Lords since 1999, and is an independent, non-party peer. She has served on the Select Committees on Stem Cell Research, BBC Charter Review, Genomic Medicine, Nanotechnology and Food and Behavioural Change. She writes on ethics and political philosophy, with particular interests in international justice, the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and bioethics. Her books include Faces of Hunger: An Essay on Poverty, Development and Justice (1986), Constructions of Reason: Explorations of Kant’s Practical Philosophy (1989), Towards Justice and Virtue (1996) and Bounds of Justice (2000), Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics (2002), A Question of Trust (the 2002 Reith Lectures) and Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics (jointly with Neil Manson, 2007). She is currently working on practical judgement and normativity, trust and accountability in public life; and the ethics of communication.
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

“Problems in Epistemic Space” by Jens Christian Bjerring

Philosophy Seminar Series: 9 Feb 2012, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Jens Christian Bjerring, Lecturer, Aarhus University (Denmark); Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

When a proposition might be the case, for all an agent knows, we can say that the proposition is epistemically possible for the agent. In the standard possible worlds framework, we analyze modal claims using quantification over possible worlds. It is natural to expect that something similar can be done for modal claims involving epistemic possibility. The main aim of this paper is to investigate the prospects of constructing a space of worlds—epistemic space—that allows us to model what is epistemically possible for ordinary, non-ideally rational agents like you and me. I will argue that we cannot successfully construct such a space of worlds without giving up core tenets of the standard possible worlds framework. In turn, this will make a case for the conditional claim that if we want to model epistemic possibility for ordinary agents, we must look for alternatives to the possible worlds framework.

About the speaker: Dr. Bjerring was awarded the PhD degree in philosophy from the Australian National University in November 2010. Currently, he is lecturing at Aarhus University (Denmark). He is particularly interested in issues in epistemology, philosophy of language, logic, mind and metaphysics.


More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

Saving Sosa’s Safety, by Mark McBride (1 Sept 2011)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 1 Sept 2011, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Mark McBride, DPhil candidate, Oxford University, and Postdoctoral fellow, NUS; Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

My purpose in this paper is to defend safety as a necessary condition on knowledge. First, I introduce Ernest Sosa’s (1999) safety condition. Second, I set up and grapple with Juan Comesaña’s (2005) putative counter-example to safety as a necessary condition on knowledge; Comesaña’s case forces us to consider Sosa’s updated (2002) safety condition. From such grappling a principled modification to Sosa’s (2002) safety condition emerges. Safety is safe from this, and like, attacks.

mcbrideAbout the speaker: Mark McBride a DPhil candidate at the Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford University. During AY 2011-12, he is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Faculty of Law.
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

Talk: No-Alternative Arguments, by Stephan Hartmann (12 April 2011)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 12 April 2011, 2-3:45pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Stephen Hartmann, Chair in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, Director of the Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Tilburg University, The Netherlands; Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

Abstract: We construct a Bayesian model to show that the observation that no one has yet found an alternative to a proposed hypothesis supports the hypothesis in question. Our model has various applications in epistemology and philosophy of science (such as the realism debate and IBE) which we also discuss. The talk is based on joint work with Richard Dawid (Vienna).

HartmannAbout the Speaker: Stephan Hartmann is Chair in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy at Tilburg University and Director of the Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science. He was formerly Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and Director of LSE’s Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science. From 2002-2005, he directed the research group Philosophy, Probability and Modeling at the University of Konstanz. His primary research and teaching areas are general philosophy of science, formal epistemology, philosophy of physics, and political philosophy. Hartmann published numerous articles and the book Bayesian Epistemology (with Luc Bovens) that appeared in 2003 with Oxford University Press. His current research interests include formal social epistemology, modeling deliberation, the philosophy and psychology of reasoning, methodological questions regarding the use of mathematics and statistics in the social sciences, intertheoretic relations, and probabilities in physics.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

Stephen Hartmann

Chair in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, Director of the Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science

Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Talk: Perceptual Constancy and the Sensation/Perception Distinction, by John O’Dea (15 March 2011)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 15 March 2011, 2-3:45pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: John O’Dea, Assistant Professor,  University of Tokyo; Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

Abstract: Under non-ideal conditions, which are most conditions, objects can appear to have properties which we know they do not have. A coin held at an angle can look oval, not circular. This phenomenon, which introduces the first of Russell’s Problems of Philosophy, always  accompanies its opposite, namely perceptual constancy, our tendency to compensate for conditions and perceive things more or less as they really are.  We are not fooled by the angle of the coin.  The role, and indeed reality, of perceptual “mere appearances” as the other side of perceptual constancy has been a vexed issue for theories of perceptual experience for many years. In this talk I sketch a new theory of the role that perceptual constancy plays in perceptual experience which, I will argue, can make sense of it all. It will emerge that some classes of allegedly simple experiences, such as the visual experience of redness, are actually impossible given our perceptual systems.

ODEAAbout the speaker: Dr. John O’Dea is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokyo.  He obtained his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Monash University, Australia, in 2002, and has written mainly on philosophical problems associated with consciousness, and perceptual experience in particular.
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

Talk: Two Accounts of Practical Self-Knowledge, by Adrian Haddock (5 January 2011)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 5 January 2011, 2-3:45pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Adrian Haddock, Lecturer, University of Stirling, Scotland; Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

Abstract: This paper compares two different accounts of the knowledge that we have of our intentional actions: an account which is committed to the claim that if we are doing such-and-such intentionally then we know that we are doing such-and-such, and an account which is not committed to this claim.  The paper does three things: it criticises John Gibbons’ recent attempt at formulating an account of the latter sort; it offers an account of the latter sort which avoids the problems with afflict Gibbons; and it tells a story about how the accounts are related, by drawing on recent work by Michael Thompson.

Haddock_000About the speaker: Adrian Haddock is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Stirling, Scotland.  He has published on action, knowledge, and idealism. His recent work includes ‘“The knowledge that a man has of his intentional actions”’, in Anton Ford, Jennifer Hornsby, and Frederick Stoutland (eds.) Essays on Anscombe’s Intention (Harvard University Press, 2011); ‘Davidson and Idealism’, in Joel Smith and Peter Sullivan (eds.) Transcendental Philosophy and Naturalism (Oxford University Press, 2011); and (co-authored with Alan Millar and Duncan Pritchard), The Nature and Value of Knowledge: Three Investigations (Oxford University Press, 2010).

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

Talk: Is Prediction Symptomatic of Theoretical Virtues?, by Lee Wang Yen (5 October 2010)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 5 October 2010, 2-3:45pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Lee Wang Yen , Post-doctoral Fellow, Nanyang Technological University; Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

Abstract: Christopher Hitchcock and Elliot Sober defend ‘weak predictivism’ according to which prediction is only symptomatic of other virtues possessed by a theory which make it epistemically superior. Prediction is thus not intrinsically superior to accommodation, i.e. fitting a theory with its available data. They contend that an accommodating theory has a statistical tendency to fit its data in such a way that even observational errors are included (‘overfitting’). Their argument for weak predictivism crucially depends on two likelihood inequalities. Without challenging the truth of either inequality, I first argue that the second inequality does not support weak predictivism on a more plausible assumption. Without relying on the preceding argument, I argue further that the second inequality is irrelevant.

Wang YenAbout the Speaker: Wang-Yen Lee is a postdoctoral fellow at NTU and a former postdoctoral fellow at NUS (2008-10). He has a PhD in philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge. He is working on a monograph on an objective Bayesian account of probabilistic inference, and is interested in philosophy of science, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. He has published some journal articles in philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, and epistemology.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

Talk: Intentionality with an Eye on Graded Beliefs, by Tang Weng Hong (28 September 2010)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 28September 2010, 2-3:45pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Tang Weng Hong, Teaching Assistant, National University of Singapore; Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

Abstract: Philosophers recognise that taking graded belief to be more fundamental than binary belief has interesting implications for epistemology. In this talk, I shall argue that there are also implications for the philosophy of intentionality. Causal and teleological theories of intentionality tend to focus on providing a naturalised account of the intentionality of binary beliefs. But if graded belief is more fundamental than binary belief, it seems that they should focus on the former instead. I shall argue, however, that some of these theories falter if graded belief is indeed fundamental.

Weng HongAbout the Speaker: Weng Hong spent about five and a half years studying philosophy at NUS. He then obtained his PhD at the Australian National University, and is now back at NUS as a teaching assistant. He’s interested in various issues in epistemology, the philosophy of probability, and the philosophy of mind

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.

Talk: “Tracking Conjunctions”, by Rachel Briggs (31 August 2010)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 31August 2010, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room (AS3/05-23); Speaker: Rachel Briggs (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sydney); Moderator: Dr. Neiladri Sinhababu

Abstract: One cannot know a conjunction p & q without also knowing that p and knowing that q. We argue that this simple platitude is fatal to tracking theories of knowledge, according to which one knows that p if and only if one tracks p’s truth. This is the conjunction problem. This basic tracking theory may be made more sophisticated in various ways: by focusing on methods of belief acquisition, by defining tracking in probabilistic rather than subjunctive terms, and by closing the definition of knowledge under known implication. We argue that all of these theories suffer fatally from the conjunction problem.

illustration by Rachel Briggs

mypicAbout the Speaker: Rachael Briggs is a postdoctoral fellow in the “Ethics and Formal Theories of Decision” project at the University of Sydney.  She works on judgment aggregation, the semantics of conditionals, and the metaphysics of chance.  Her recent work includes “Distorted Reflection” (2009) and “Decision Theoretic Paradoxes as Voting Paradoxes” (2010), both published in Philosophical Review, and “The Anatomy of the Big Bad Bug” (2009) in Nous.  She received her PhD from MIT.

More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.