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Southeastern Epistemology Conference

About the Event

The Southeastern Epistemology Conference is an occasion for philosophers across the southeastern United States to come together and talk about various cutting-edge issues in epistemology. It will be taking place over Zoom on October 23-24. It is free and open to the public, though attendees are asked to register in advance by contacting dept@phil.ufl.edu.  To see the abstracts for the talks, click here.

Program

  • October 23, 2020

  • 8:30am – 9:00am
    • Online warm-up, *coffee service* (i.e. BYOC), and welcome.
  • 9:00am – 10:30am
    • Keynote Address: Georgi Gardiner (University of Tennessee, Knoxville)
    • Comments: Ted Poston (The University of Alabama)
    • Chair: Rodrigo Borges
  • 10:40am – 11:30am
    • Ben McGraw (University of South Carolina Upstate)
    • Chair: Elizabeth Palmer
  • 11:40am – 12:30pm
    • Jonathan Matheson (University of North Florida)
    • Chair: James Gillespie
  • 12:30pm – 2:00pm
    • Lunch
  • 2:00pm – 2:50pm
    • John Biro (University of Florida)
    • Chair: Chase Wrenn
  • 3:00pm – 3:50pm
    • Matthew Frise (Santa Clara University)
    • Chair: Tim Butzer
  • 4:00pm – 4:50pm
    • Andrew Moon (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Kenny Boyce (University of Missouri)
    • Chair: Michael Veber
  • 5:00pm – 5:50pm
    • Sara Wright (University of Georgia)
    • Chair: Gene Witmer
  • 6:00pm Onward
    • Zoom reception and hangout
  • October 24, 2020

  • 8:30am – 9:00am
    • Online warm-up, *coffee service* (i.e. BYOC)
  • 9:00am – 9:50am
    • Rodrigo Borges (University of Florida)
    • Chair: Ted Poston
  • 10:00am – 10:50am
    • Everett Fulmer (Loyola University, New Orleans)
    • Chair: Matt Frise
  • 11:00am – 11:50am
    • Kevin McCain (University of Alabama, Birmingham)
    • Chair: James Simpson
  • 12:00pm – 1:30pm
    • Lunch
  • 1:30pm – 2:20pm
    • Chase Wrenn (University of Alabama)
    • Chair: John Biro
  • 2:30pm – 3:20pm
    • Tim Butzer (University of Alabama)
    • Chair: Ben McGraw
  • 3:30pm – 4:20pm
    • Jamie Watson (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)
    • Chair: Chris Dorst
  • 4:30pm – 5:20pm
    • Michael Veber (East Carolina University)
    • Chair: Greg Ray
  • 5:30pm Onward
    • Zoom hangout and dinner

Abstracts

Lottery Beliefs and Knowledge John Biro (U. of Florida)

Lottery beliefs appear to yield a counterexample to the analysis of knowledge as justified true belief distinct from the one Gettier examples are thought to. The appearance is misleading, though, for the same reason in both cases: one does not have the justified belief one is alleged to have. This also shows that the so-called lottery paradox is not really a paradox.

Infallible Knowledge Rodrigo Borges (U. of Florida)

A typical argument against infallible knowledge relies on the assumption that justification, a necessary condition on knowledge, is fallible. Here I criticize this argument and propose a simple account of infallible knowledge that allows for fallible justification.

When Racially Biased Perception is Incompetent (and when it is isn’t) Tim Butzer (U. of Alabama)

I argue that racially biased perception can be incompetent in a way that undermines perceptual warrant. When a subject’s racial bias causes their perceptual system to encode inaccurate information about their environment, or to process information in an epistemically incompetent manner, this can reduce their perceptual competence, and thus their perceptual warrant. I discuss two cases that illustrate how my proposals treat various instances of racially biased perception. I then distinguish my view from a competing proposal from Jessie Munton (2019) which claims that racially biased priors are epistemically incompetent because they are gerrymandered. A gerrymandered prior is one whose accuracy depends on ongoing manipulations of the environment. I argue that the kinds of manipulations that Munton cites do not necessarily impact perceptual competence and that her proposals and that my account better explains how racist institutions and societal structures can impact the epistemic competence of perceivers.

Forgiving without Remembering Matthew Frise (Santa Clara U.)

Many theories of interpersonal forgiveness are cognitive, such that forgiveness involves certain remembering or believing. In this paper I evaluate several alleged cognitive components of forgiveness and the alleged content of these components. I challenge the common view that forgiving requires a (change in a) pro-attitude that has certain evaluative content about the past. I find no (change in) pro-attitude that is necessary for forgiveness. This leaves unclear whether forgiveness has any cognitive component. A promising alternative is that forgiveness has a negative epistemic requirement, a requirement I explore.

Epistemic Satisfaction in the Internalism-Externalism Debate Everett Fulmer (Loyola U., New Orleans)

The debate over whether externalist anti-skeptical rejoinders are epistemically satisfying turns on the precise meaning of “epistemic satisfaction.” However, that notion has remained either notoriously obscure or rendered precise in a way that makes the debate fruitless—implying that externalism’s critics are complaining that externalism is not internalism. In this talk, I aim to forward this debate by proposing a charitable, precise, and philosophically fruitful notion of epistemic satisfaction.

She Said, He Said: Rape Accusations and the Balance of Evidence Georgi Gardiner (U. of Tennessee)

Legal standards of proof are epistemic thresholds that must be met for institutions to impose sanctions on individuals accused of misconduct. The preponderance of the evidence standard, also known as the ‘balance of probabilities’ standard, formerly governed Title IX proceedings for sexual misconduct hearings in educational institutions in the US. But since August 2020, universities have been able to choose either the ‘preponderance’ standard or the more demanding ‘clear and convincing evidence’ standard. This change is widely decried by feminists.

I articulate five claims that enjoy initial plausibility. But, I argue, the claims jointly support the view that the ‘preponderance’ standard is not sufficiently demanding to govern Title IX proceedings. The claims are, in brief: (1.) The ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard is satisfied if, given the evidence adduced, the proposition is probably true. (2.) In ‘she said, he said’ situations, given the evidence typically available, the accusation is probably true. (3.) Finding an individual culpable of at least some kinds of sexual misconduct warrants significant sanctions, such as expulsion or termination of employment. (4.) Liberal Claim: In some cases of mere one-on-one conflicting testimony, considerable institutional sanctions—such as expulsion—are not legitimatized because the evidence is one-on-one competing testimony, absent further significant case-specific evidence; (5.) Connector Claim: At least some conflicting testimony cases described by Claim 4 are ‘she said, he said’ cases, like those featured in Claim 2; Claims 2 and 4 can describe the same testimonial conflict.
Claims (1.) through (5.) constitute, I argue, a liberal feminist argument for the conclusion that the preponderance of the evidence standard is too low to govern Title IX proceedings. Advocates of the current standard for Title IX proceedings—and I count myself amongst them—must deny at least one of the claims.

Why Think for Yourself? Jonathan Matheson (U. of North Florida)

Life is a group project. It takes a village. The same is true of our intellectual lives. Since we are finite cognitive creatures with limited time and resources, any healthy intellectual life requires that we rely quite heavily on others. For nearly any question you want to investigate, there is someone who is in a better epistemic position than you are to determine the answer. For most people, their expertise does not extend far beyond their own personal lives, and even here we can sometimes find others who are more reliable. Without relying on them we would know very little about the world. Since others are typically better positioned to determine the answers to the questions we have, it should make us wonder why we should bother to try and figure out much of anything at all for ourselves. After all, when trying to find an answer to a question, we should take the best route to the answer, and the most reliable route to the answer to most questions is to rely on the minds of others. At the same time, there is something defective about an intellectual life that outsources nearly all of its intellectual projects. That is, it seems that individuals ought to think for themselves, at least about some issues and at least some of the time. The puzzle is in determining why it is epistemically valuable to think for yourself, since doing so will almost always not be the best available route to the answer of your question. In this paper, I will first clarify our central question and sharpen this puzzle regarding epistemic autonomy. Having done so, I will argue that autonomous deliberation can be epistemically valuable to inquirers both when it is successful, as well as when it is unsuccessful. I conclude by gesturing at how these considerations point us toward an account of epistemic autonomy as an intellectual virtue.

Taking a Close Look at the Looks View of Perceptual Justification Kevin McCain (U. of Alabama, Birmingham)

Matthew McGrath (2018) has recently challenged all theories that allow for immediate perceptual justification, i.e. dogmatist views of justification. His challenge comes by way of arguing for what he calls the “looks view” of perceptual justification. McGrath argues that dogmatism and the looks view cannot both be correct, and since the looks view is true, dogmatism is false. In this paper I argue that McGrath’s argument against dogmatism fails. In particular, I argue that McGrath’s argument in support of the looks view is unsound and the view itself faces a serious problem. Additionally, I argue that the advantage that McGrath claims the looks view has over dogmatism when it comes to explaining defeat is illusory. In sum, the looks view lacks proper motivation, and dogmatism emerges from McGrath’s attack unscathed.

Quasi-Doxastic Propositional Faith. Ben McCraw (U. of South Carolina Upstate)

This paper defends a quasi-doxastic model of propositional faith whereby faith that p entails a disposition to believe that p. I argue for this model set against its main competitors: doxasticism, where faith that p entails belief that p, and non-doxasticism, where faith that p implies some non-belief propositional attitude towards p. I survey several key arguments in the debate and argue that only the quasi-doxastic approach can affirm all considerations provided by such arguments. Then I turn to a set of theoretical explananda that, again, only quasi-doxastic faith can explain. Thus, we have two direct reasons for this model. I end with a third, indirect consideration; namely, that a quasi-doxastic approach to faith reorients or redirects religious epistemology away from proposition-centric rationality to agent-centric accounts of rationality. When evaluating whether one’s faith that p is rational, then, isn’t principally about p (itself in abstraction) but about the agent’s character expressed in having a disposition to believe p.

An Explanationist Defense of Proper Functionalism. Andrew Moon (Virginia Commonwealth U.) and Kenny Boyce (U. of Missouri)

We begin by noting how proper functionalists should grant that warrant is compatible with some malfunction involved in the production of the belief. We then develop and defend a more precise version of proper functionalism, explanationist proper functionalism, to accommodate this. According to this theory, a belief B is warranted only if it is the non-coincidental fulfillment of truth-aimed cognitive proper function. S’s belief B is the non-coincidental fulfillment of truth-aimed cognitive proper function if and only if, for some of the cognitive faculties involved in the forming or sustaining of B, B fulfills the truth-aim of those faculties, and the fact that B does so is explained by the truth-aimed cognitive proper function of those faculties (in a manner that precludes that fact’s being a mere coincidence) in a way that is attributable to the goodness of S’s cognitive design plan. We also show how explanationist proper functionalism helps block Swampman-style objections.

On Staying in One’s Lane: Expertise, Trespassing, and Epistemic Range Jamie Watson (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)

The world is abuzz with experts—real experts—who can help us in the many domains where we know little, or at least too little, to help ourselves. When we need legal advice, we turn to attorneys; when we need tax advice, we turn to accountants, and so on. But sometimes experts in one domain carry their privileged status as experts into other lanes, that is, into domains outside their specialization, where they give advice or otherwise presume to speak authoritatively. Nathan Ballantyne (2019) calls these extensions “epistemic trespassing” and argues that they are usually, though not always, epistemically bad—that is, speaking outside one’s domain of specialization violates epistemic norms. In the few cases where it is permissible, he contends, there should be regulative checks (“easements”) on the experts who are crossing domain boundaries. I argue that lane-hopping is warranted more often than Ballantyne allows. And while Ballantyne argues that such domain crossing is prima facie problematic, I argue that the cases I have in mind are not instances of “trespassing” to begin with, and thereby, should not be flagged as concerning. Further, I think identifying these cases of what I call “epistemic neighborliness” bolsters Ballantyne’s project, making it easier for novices and other experts to recognize genuine cases of expertise and more easily identifying genuine epistemic trespassing and, thereby, to avoid them for the norm-violating reasons Ballantyne cites.

What the Goal of Inquiry Isn’t, and What it Might be Instead Chase Wrenn (The University of Alabama)

Inquiry is a goal-driven activity, and philosophers often suppose one or more goals are essential to it. Among the proposals are that inquiry aims for belief (Peirce 1982), justified belief (Rorty 1995), true belief (Lynch 2009), justified true belief, knowledge (Kelp 2014), and knowledge that you know (Millar 2011). No such goal is essential to inquiry as such. That’s not to say that inquirers never have such states as their goal, but only that none of them is built into inquiry itself. In broad strokes, my argument is as follows. You can rationally and sincerely inquire while fully aware that have the relevant belief/true belief/justified belief/knowledge/etc. You can’t rationally and sincerely try to bring something about in full awareness that it’s already the case. So, those states can’t be essential goals of inquiry. Inquiry is goal-oriented, but the only goal essential to it is that of improving your epistemic situation, and such improvement is possible even for those who know they know the answer.

Epistemic Authority and Understanding Injustice Sarah Wright (U. of Georgia)

If the goal of our epistemic practices is understanding (rather than simply true belief) the epistemic authorities we recognize ought to be what Christoph Jäger (2016) has characterized as “Socratic authorities” – those who are well-poised to serve as a source of understanding for others. The maieutic abilities of these authorities depend not only on their own understanding but also on their relations to those they seek to enlighten. Guiding someone to their own understanding requires a nuanced picture of that person’s capacities, experiences, and theoretical frameworks. Standpoint theory raises a potential problem for the goals of Socratic authorities. Those who have experienced social injustices plausibly have a special claim to epistemic authority concerning those injustices. But when these authorities try to guide others to understand these injustices they may be thwarted by the gap between their epistemic standpoints. The difficulty of transmitting understanding between divergent standpoints raises two questions. 1) How can we recognize authorities in contexts of social and epistemic injustice? 2) How can we gain understanding from those authorities when their experiences are radically different from our own? I argue that the gulf between the standpoints of authorities and non-authorities must be closed from both directions; both participants will be aided in this project by developing the hermeneutic virtues appropriate to their roles.

Surprise Quizzes, Blindspots, and Disagreement Michael Veber (East Carolina U.)

The first step of the surprise quiz paradox says that if students know there is a surprise quiz one day this week, they also know it cannot be on Friday (because then they would know it is coming). The blindspot solution says it is possible to give a surprise quiz on Friday because, in the event that Thursday passes quizless, ‘there will be a surprise quiz one day this week’ becomes an instance of Moore’s paradox. Students start off knowing that there will be a surprise quiz one day this week but, once Thursday passes, they cease to know that. In defending against a criticism of the blindspot solution, Roy Sorensen argues that the student’s ignorance extends to any epistemic peer of the student. This paper argues against this move.