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::: center home >> events >> annual lecture series >> lectures 2006-07

47th annual lecture series, 2006-07

Truth Unbound
Solomon Feferman, Stanford University, Professor Emeritus,
Mathematics and Philosophy
Friday, 29 September 2006, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: Ever since Alfred Tarski defined the notion of truth for certain formal languages in 1933, his T-scheme has been taken as one of the main criteria for both philosophical and formal theories of truth. As Tarski showed, the scheme cannot be admitted without restriction for languages which contain their own truth predicate, on pain of contradiction. Nevertheless it is natural to consider such languages, and so considerable work has gone into salvaging consistency by either restricting the T-scheme or modifying the logic. Often the latter is accomplished by an interpretation of the language in which the internal logic is different from the external logic, though it is felt that they ought to be the same. The lecture will consider this and other criteria for a formal theory of truth and provide a new interpretation of a language containing its own truth predicate in which the internal and external logics coincide with that of classical first-order logic.

Rational Belief and Reasonable Belief, A Ramseyian Distinction
James Joyce, University of Michigan, Philosophy
Friday, 13 October 2006, 3:30 pm  
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: It often seems as if Bayesians are forced into one of two untenable positions. They can follow Bruno de Finetti and Leonard Savage and ‘go subjective’ by embracing a thoroughgoing personalism that judges any set of probabilistically coherent opinions to be as legitimate as any other, and which portrays any appearance of objectivity in beliefs as being the result of intersubjective agreement secured by a sufficient influx of evidence.  Alternatively, they can “go objective” with Harold Jeffries and E. T. Jaynes and hope to show, by a priori arguments based on the principle of indifference or the requirement to maximize entropy, that there are uniquely correct ‘informationless priors’ that can be employed in many evidential situations.  Both these alternatives have serious and well-known shortcomings (some of which I will briefly rehearse).  There is, fortunately, a third option.  Near the end of his famous essay “Truth and Probability” F. P. Ramsey drew a distinction between rational belief and reasonable belief.  Whereas a set of beliefs is rational provided only that it does not “sin against the laws of formal logic or formal probability,” the reasonableness of a person’s beliefs is tied to their overall accuracy and to the reliability of the mechanisms that produced them.  I will sketch some components of an account of reasonable belief that neither lapses into an objectionable personalism nor invokes any implausible a priori constraints on priors.  The view’s two key elements are (i) the idea that degrees of beliefs can be assessed for accuracy in much the same way that full beliefs can be, and (ii) the idea that there can be plausible rules for aligning one’s degrees of belief with one’s evidence that do not invoke the principle of indifference, entropy maximization, or any other suspect a priori principle.  The ultimate result of this stance will be to blur the boundary between ‘classical’ and ‘Bayesian’ approaches to statistical reasoning.

Can Evolutionary Biology Resolve the Debate Between Egoism and Altruism
Stephen Stich, Rutgers University, Philosophy
Friday, 10 November 2006, 3:30 pm 
G-8 Cathedral of Learning (ground floor)
Reception following in 817 Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: During the last 30 years there has been a great deal of discussion of ways in which evolutionary theory might contribute to the venerable philosophical debate between psychological egoists and psychological altruists. In this talk, I will begin by setting out some crucial ideas used in the philosophical debate and explaining why the debate is important for moral theory. I will then consider several arguments aimed at using evolutionary theory to show that altruism is unlikely or impossible, and argue that all of them fail. In the remainder of the talk, I will consider Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson's recent attempt to use evolutionary theory to argue that humans probably do exhibit psychological altruism. That argument, I maintain, also fails. The conclusion I'll offer is that if we are to make progress in the egoism vs. altruism debate, the science to look to is psychology, not evolutionary biology.

From Tolerance to Reciprocal Containment
Thomas Ricketts, University of Pittsburgh, Philosophy
Friday, 12 January 2007, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: In a 1954 exchange of letters, Carnap asks Quine to specify which of his objections to analyticity apply to formal languages and which to natural languages. Quine rejects this dualism of formal and natural language, saying that it does not matter. This difference between Carnap and Quine illuminates their philosophies. I maintain that Carnap’s Principle of Tolerance, and the under-standing of analyticity and empiricism it yields, rests on a ‘hilbertian’ conception of formal languages. Quine rejects this conception. I discuss how his understanding of the relationship between colloquial language and the familiar notation of quantificational logic shapes his particular understanding of naturalism and empiricism.

The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in Evolutionary Science
Elisabeth Lloyd, Indiana University, History and Philosophy of Science
Friday, 30 March 2007, 3:30 pm 
G-24 Cathedral of Learning   

Aristotle on Intentionality: How to Receive Form without the Matter
Victor Caston, University of Michigan, Philosophy
Friday, 13 April 2007, 3:30 pm
817R Cathedral of Learning  

Abstract: Brentano and others in the tradition locate Aristotle's conception of intentionality in several doctrines from his theory of perception. Most will not do the work required. But one, regarding how form is "received without the matter" (De anima 2.12), does concern intentionality -- just not in the way traditionally envisaged. According to Thomists, it is a special "spiritual" or "intentional" type of change, distinct from all natural changes in the perceiver. I shall argue on the contrary that it is effected entirely through natural changes. Perception for Aristotle essentially involves the transmission of information, in which perceptible forms are not replicated (as forms are in other natural changes), but transduced; and something analogous is supposed to hold for understanding as well (De anima 3.4). Aristotle does not intend this manner of receiving form to provide a model for intentional states generally. But it is meant to offer some explanation of what transpires at two junctures, which are critical for the contents our mental states possess, one between the world and our perceptual experience of it, the other between that experience and rational understanding.

The Annual Lecture Series is hosted by the Center for Philosophy of Science.

Generous financial support for this lecture series has been provided by
the Harvey & Leslie Wagner Endowment.      

Revised 9/28/10 - Copyright 2006