UV The nature of judgement (Johannes Brandl)
In this course, we will look at the nature of judgments about what is true and what is false, such as the judgment that there will be more than ten billion people on Earth in 2050. Although judgments have many similarities with assertions, they are traditionally understood as psychic phenomena in themselves. Two ways in which judgements can be understood independently of our linguistic abilities have emerged: Philosophers who take a “content-first” view postulate a range of abstract (and presumably language-independent) statements as objective bearers of truth and falsehood. In contrast, philosophers who take an “act-first” view want to show that sentences exist only as correlates or products of (presumably language-independent) mental actions such as “acknowledging” or “predicating”. The course is divided into four parts: (1) the history of the “content first” view (B. Bolzano and G. Frege), (2) the history of the “act first” view (F. Brentano and W. Windelband); (3) the problem of the objectivity of truth (K. Twardowski and H. Moltmann), (4) the problem of the unity of propositions. (S. Soames and P. Hanks).
UV Higher-Order Evidence (Brett Topey)
Suppose I am highly confident that I’ll soon get a promotion at work; I then gain some evidence indicating that I’m prone to wishful thinking in career-related matters. What effect should this evidence have on my confidence that I’ll soon get a promotion? Intuitively, it should make me less confident. But this evidence works in an unusual way. It doesn’t bear directly on how likely I am to get a promotion — instead, it is higher-order evidence, evidence that suggests that my own reasoning has up to this point been rationally subpar. Higher-order evidence, it turns out, has a number of features that are puzzling from the perspective of standard models of rational belief revision, and so the assessment of this evidence has been a much-discussed topic in the recent epistemological literature. This course will introduce students to this relatively new area of epistemology and, along the way, will provide an accessible entry point into formal methods widely used by epistemologists.
SE Philosophy of Scientific and Epistemic Tools (Rawad El Skaf)
It is usually claimed that natural science in general, and physics in particular is a successful human enterprise, mainly because its theories are based on and/or tested against observations and experiments. However, in addition to theories, observations and experiments, a scientist’s toolbox contains several tools such as Scientific Models, Computer Simulations, Analogical Reasoning/Experiments, Thought Experiments. These tools play many roles in science and the aim of this course is to get introduced to the many philosophical and epistemic questions they raise, such as: can we learn something new about nature and/or our theories with these tools, that is without performing real direct experiments and obtaining new empirical data about our target system? If so, then what is the nature of the cognitive/epistemic good they aim at providing, e.g. knowledge, understanding, explanatory power, consistency, prediction, application of theories, etc.? Most importantly, are they reliable modes of inquiry for their intended purposes? If so, then how do they justify their outcomes? In addressing these questions, we will tackle topics in general history and philosophy of science such as empiricism/rationalism, confirmation/disconfirmation, inconsistencies in science, representation, surrogative reasoning, idealizations, abstractions, the role of fiction and imagination in science. The approach undertaken during this course will take scientific practice seriously: we will analyze the different philosophical/epistemic accounts of these tools found in the ‘recent’ literature and assess them in light of historically/scientifically analyzed case studies.
SE Whose Lives Matter? (Beatrice Kobow)
In this course, we are aiming to understand the conditions of (normative) judgments. We focus on contemporary feminist critiques, such as standpoint theory, which we consider and evaluate. Our investigation primarily concerns the conditions of knowledge, scientific method and our understanding of a ‘scientific world-view’, but also economic and linguistic structures. Does the point of view of the knower come into our concept of ‘truth’ and if so, how? The course concerns itself with issues of epistemology and agency. The realm of deontic relations and the nature of brute, social and institutional facts, alongside a problematization of their proper theoretical rendering, and the use of heuristic fictions in general are discussed. Special attention is given to the application of such foundational concepts to contemporary questions, such as well-being, gender / race and value.
SE Teleological Epistemology, Epistemic Consequentialism, and Virtue Epistemology (Raimund Pils)
Consider ethics. You are told: “You should not murder”. Why not? Because it brings an ethically bad state of affair about. Or so the ethical consequentialists tell us. Now consider epistemology. You are told: “You should not believe that 2+2=5”. Why not? Because it brings an epistemically bad state of affair about. Or so the epistemic consequentialists tell us. But cannot both statements have exceptions? And where do such norms and values come from anyway? Structurally, there are more similarities between normative ethics and normative epistemology than philosophers realized for a long time. The discussion around epistemic consequentialism is currently one of the hottest topics in epistemology, promising to solve many long lasting problems. This goes even as far as philosophers such as Riggs and Pritchard starting to speak of a “value-turn” in epistemology. After an introduction, the course starts with some classical text on epistemic value and virtue epistemology and then focuses on the current discussion of teleological epistemology and epistemic consequentialism. We analyze the main arguments in favor of such views; we discuss the disagreement about what the fundamental epistemic values can be or should be; and we examine the very recent attacks on epistemic consequentialism and teleological epistemology.
Epistemology of disagreement and self-doubt (Mariangela Cocchiaro)
We are all fallible thinkers and we know it. We know that even if we assess the arguments and evidence on some topic as carefully as possible, we can still reach the wrong conclusion. In other words, we often make epistemic mistakes. But how should we accommodate evidence of our own epistemic imperfection? Should such evidence lead us to doubt ourselves and our beliefs? Or are we rationally permitted to dismiss it? One way in which we might get evidence of our own error is through disagreement. The discovery that someone you respect disagrees with you can make you lose confidence in or even abandon your beliefs altogether. But should it? Does disagreement provide evidence of a mistake? Is it epistemically significant? If so, why?In this course we will approach these questions by looking at current (formal and informal) work on the epistemology of disagreement and this will lead us to more general issues about evidence, such as higher-order evidence and rationality that are central to both recent and traditional epistemology.
Introduction to the Philosophy of Economics (Mariangela Cocchiaro)
The science of economics has come to play a major role in both the public and the private sphere. It occupies a central position in contemporary political rhetoric – no other science gives rise to such heated emotion. It also informs our personal lives qua economic actors who exchange goods or services for money on a daily basis. In this introductory course we will consider basic philosophical questions concerning the role that economics plays in both spheres, by taking an interest in rational choice theory and welfare economics. More precisely, among others, we will address questions like how one can assess the rationality of individual choices as well as of social choices and examine how they are and ought to be related to the preferences and judgments of individuals. We will take a look at some intricate question concerning rationality in strategic situations in which the final outcomes depend on the choices of multiple individuals. We will conclude with questions concerning normative economics and the different possible ways to think of well-being.
SE Ethics for a Broken World
Imagine living in a not too distant future world damaged by humankind, where resources are insufficient to meet everyone’s basic needs and where a chaotic climate makes life precarious. Then imagine looking back to the past — to our own time — and assessing the ethics of the early twenty-first century. This is what Tim Mulgan’s Ethics for a Broken World does. The book is imagined to be a future textbook for studying the ethics and political philosophy texts of a past age affluence — our own. As it turns out, the ethical questions of our own time are shown to look very different from the perspective of a ruined world. After all, from the perspective of our grand grand children, it is in large part the ethics of the twenty-first century that is to blame for the degradation of future humans’ leaving conditions. In this seminar, we will read Mulgan’s Ethics for a Broken World, as well as a few more selected classics. The seminar has a twofold aim: to serve as an engaging and provocative introduction to contemporary political philosophy, and to stimulate critical reflection on the contingency of contemporary ethical and political ideas.
SE Philosophy of Imagination (Christopher Gauker)
Philosophy of Imagination: Imaginative thinking is fundamental to problem-solving, both in science and in everyday life. But it does not conform to the familiar models of rationality deriving from logic and scientific methodology. In some ways imagining is free from the constraint of representing reality, but in other ways imagining must conform to reality in order to be useful. The topic of this course is the nature of imagination in its practical applications. We will consider both propositional imagination and sensory imagination. Texts will be drawn from psychology as well as from contemporary philosophy.
SE Emergence and Reduction in Science (Patricia Palacios)
The topic of emergence and reduction is nowadays one of the liveliest areas of research in both science and philosophy. The reason for this is related with recent developments in a number of successful research programs within physics, biology, chemistry and social sciences. These developments have encouraged us to rethink the relationship between complex entities and their parts as well as the relationship between different theories and, in this way, to revise claims about reduction and emergence in science. In this course we will address issues concerning this topic from an inter-disciplinary perspective. We will begin with the study of contemporary classics that will allow us to grasp the concept of emergence and reduction, then move forward to analyse potential examples of emergence in physics, continue with the discussion of potential examples of emergence in biology, and lastly, consider possible examples of reduction in economics. The main goal of this course is to introduce students to recent discussions in emergence and reduction in dif- ferent sciences. Since technicalities will be kept to a minimum, scientific background is not required.
SE Self-Control (Hannah Altehenger)
Self-control is needed to resist the desire for the extra slice of cake while dieting, the urge to yell at someone who has angered us, or the ongoing temptation to look at one’s phone during a boring lecture. Self-control has been studied by psychologists for decades, but in recent years it has also become an important topic in philosophy. In this class, we will have a close look at some of the key topics within the philosophical debate on self-control: What is self-control and how does it relate to philosophical conceptions of intentional action? Is self-control a unified theoretical kind? Is self-control valuable and if so, why exactly? Is it possible to have too much self-control?