Copenhagen epistemology workshop

University of Copenhagen
October 29


10.00-10.30: Coffee

10.30-12.00: Adam Carter (Edinburgh/Geneva):
Knowledge, Testimony and Philosophical Expertise

12.00-13.15: Lunch

13.15-14.45 Matthew S. Liao (Oxford):
Disagreeing with Peers

14.45-15.00: Break

15.00-16.30: Peter Graham (UC Riverside):
Reliability and Entitlement

16.30-16.45: Break

16.45-18.15: Mikkel Gerken (SERG, Copenhagen):
Univocal Reasoning and Inferential Presuppositions

*Venue*: Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen (Amager), Room

*Registration and enquiries*: There is no registration fee. However, if you would like to attend the workshop—or have any enquiries concerning the event—please contact Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding Pedersen (nikolaj(at)


Speaker: Adam Carter (Edinburgh/Geneva)
Title: Knowledge, Testimony and Philosophical Expertise
Abstract: It is widely thought that one could come to gain knowledge on some scientific matter simply by consulting an expert—namely a scientist. That this is so owes at least in part to the fact that science is a subject matter that admits of expertise; not all scientific opinions are of equal worth. Presumably, (or so we’d like to think), the same holds in the area of philosophy, where likewise (we suppose) not all opinions are of equal worth. But on a given philosophical matter—say the matter of “what constitutes the good life”—can one come to gain the relevant item of knowledge simply by consulting an expert—namely (in this case) by seeking the testimony of a moral philosopher? It doesn’t seem so. At the very least, we’d be inclined to say that one’s inquiry into philosophical questions—unlike one’s inquiry into (for example) scientific questions—could not rightly be said to end at the testimony of an expert. Why exactly is this? A more general tension emerges between three intuitive, but jointly inconsistent claims:

(1) For any subject area S that admits of expertise, one can come to gain knowledge of (at least some) S-questions simply by consulting the testimony of S-experts.

(2) Philosophy is a subject area that admits of expertise.

(3) One can’t come to gain knowledge of philosophical questions simply by consulting the testimony of philosophical ‘experts.’

The aim of my paper will be to resolve this triad of inconsistent claims, and in a way that does not require a denial of philosophical expertise.

Speaker: Matthew S. Liao (Oxford)
Title: Disagreeing with Peers
Abstract: What should you do in a case of disagreement with an epistemic peer? Are you epistemically justified in sticking to your guns or does the mere fact of the peer disagreement require at least some belief revision on your part? In this paper, I argue that one should distinguish between two kinds of peer disagreements: Surface Disagreements and Reflective Disagreements. I first argue that in Surface Disagreements, belief revision is required. But the explanation I offer as to why belief revision is required is, as I shall explain, different from the explanation given in the literature. Next, I argue that in Reflective Disagreements, you can stick to your guns. I first consider and reject what I call the Downgrade View, according to which, you can stick to your guns because you can downgrade the status of your epistemic peer. I then sketch and defend what I call the Set Aside View, according to which, you can stick to your guns because you can set aside the fact that your peer disagrees with you.

Speaker: Peter Graham (University of California, Riverside)
Title: Reliability and Entitlement
Abstract: Reliability theories of epistemic entitlement face two familiar counterexamples: the brain-in-a-vat and clairvoyant powers cases. To avoid these cases, reliability theorists restrict entitlement conferring reliability to reliability in certain circumstances. The BIV’s processes are reliable in C, but clairvoyant powers are not reliable in C. The challenge is to come up with the correct C, to explain why entitlement should turn on reliability in C. By adding a few tools to the reliabilist toolbox, the challenge can be met. By adding the etiological notions of function, normal functioning and normal conditions, we can avoid the cases while explaining why reliability should turn on reliability in normal conditions.

Speaker: Mikkel Gerken (SERG, Copenhagen)
Title: Univocal Reasoning and Inferential Presuppositions
Abstract: I pursue an answer to the psychological question “what is it for S to presuppose that p?” I will not attempt a general answer. Rather, I will explore a particular kind of presuppositions that are constituted by the mental act of reasoning: Inferential presuppositions. Indeed, I will consider a specific kind of inferential presuppositions – one that is constituted by a specific reasoning competence: The univocality competence. Roughly, this is the competence that reliably governs the univocal thought-components operation as univocal in a line of reasoning. I will argue that the exercise of this reasoning competence constitutes certain inferential presuppositions. More specifically, I conceive of a conception of an inferential presupposition as a non-attitudinal but genuinely psychological and rationally committing relation that holds between a reasoner and a proposition. Thus, inferential presuppositions may be distinguished from tacit or standing attitudes of the sort that may function as
premise-beliefs in reasoning. Likewise inferential presuppositions may be distinguished distinct from other kinds of presuppositions. Finally, I note some epistemological features of inferential presuppositions that bear on the epistemology of inference.