Thursday 5 March 2015

Epistemic and Practical Normativity: Explanatory Connections

Logo of the Normativity Project
On 16th January the Department of Philosophy at the University of Southampton hosted a one day workshop on Epistemic and Practical Normativity: Explanatory Connections. The workshop was the second in a series of three workshops, which are being held as part of the Normativity: Epistemic and Practical project at Southampton. 

The first speaker was Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen (Aarhus), giving a paper entitled ‘Epistemic Normativity: Absolute or Instrumental?’ Steglich-Petersen argued that some features of epistemic assessment which have been thought to support an absolutist conception of epistemic rationality (and speak against an instrumentalist conception), actually suggest a problem of normative insignificance for the absolutist. He offered a positive proposal of epistemic normativity which made use of aim-restricted instrumental assessment, the idea was that epistemic assessment could be a version of assessment of this kind. This means that the correctness, say, of a belief that p, does not on its own permit or require believing that p. For one to be permitted or required to believe that p, one would need a reason to pursue the aim which governs the activity of believing. Epistemic reasons were argued to be hypothetical ones, and whether they are taken up depends on whether one has other reasons to take up the aim of belief. On Steglich-Petersen's view epistemic assessments alone do not have normative significance.

Next Daniel Star (Boston) gave a paper entitled ‘Reasoning with Reasons’. He considered two analyses of reasons, both of which he took to be unified across various types of reasons. The first account cast reasons as premises of good reasoning, the second account cast reasons as evidence. Star rejected these accounts and proposed a third: For the fact that p to be a reason for S to ϕ is for there to be a good pattern of reasoning from the knowledge that p, perhaps together with other correct attitudes which S has, to ϕ-ing. He concluded by considering two versions of this claim, one in terms of what one ought to do, and one in terms of what one is permitted to do.

In her paper ‘Two Kinds of Wrong Reasons’, Ulrike Heuer (Leeds) argued for two theses. The first was that the Reasons Theorist and the Fitting Attitudes Theorist mean different things when they talk about the right and wrong kinds of reasons. The second was that the Wrong Kind of Reasons problem which arises for Fitting Attitudes theory, does not arise for reasons for attitudes in general. This means that it is not a feature of all reasons that we are able to draw a distinction between the right and wrong kind of reasons.

In the final paper of the workshop ‘Why and How to Be an Epistemic Non-Consequentialist’, Kurt Sylvan (Southampton) argued that if a teleological account of epistemic norms were true, we would be unable to explain why there is good epistemic reason to believe what it is epistemically rational to believe (not merely apparently good reason). He then argued against a teleological conception of epistemic norms, before giving a positive account of how we can use a non-consequentalist approach to explain the normativity of rationality in the epistemic domain.

The third workshop of the project will be held in June this year, followed by a conference in September.

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