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Showing posts from June, 2009

Non-Classical Mathematics 2009 (introductory remarks)

Finally, I can write something about what's going on now. I'm in Hejnice, lodged in a cell (it's quite comfortable though) in a monastery pretty much in the middle of Czech mountains. I was here two years ago, but this time I have wireless internet access. It's pretty cool.

So, what's going on? Well, it seems, Non-classical Mathematics (surprisingly??) attracted more mathematicians than philosophers and logicians. In fact, most of the people present here are rather mathematically-minded. This, of course, is not a complaint. For a philosopher (or a philosophically-minded logician, for that matter), dealing with mathematicians is a bit of a challenge though. They usually spend less time looking for philosophical motivations for their work and more time doing real mathematics. This means, if you're a philosopher, listening to mathematical talks will require more effort. You have to overcome the first impression that people sometimes get into extremally complicate…

FMER, Leuven, June 10-12, cont'd

Day 3, after lunch

Lara Buchak (joint with Branded Fitelson who couldn't make it to the conference) -Is it rational to have faith? - Lara was trying to cash out what having faith commits one to, and on the analysis she presented faith in X requires that one not actively look for further evidence for the truth or falsity of X. This move seems to collide with the expected utility theory of rationality. Then, she argued that the claim that expected utility maximisers should always perform cost-negligible experiments neglects the phenomenon of risk aversion. It turns out that for individuals who take risk into account in a certain way it is sometimes rational to refrain from gathering further evidence.

One issue was raised, if I remember well, by Joshua - namely, if this is the way you understand faith, Richard Swiburne doesn't have faith, for he actively looks for evidence pertaining to the truth of religion. Perhaps (now that I think of it) this can be circumvented by saying tha…

FMER, Leuven, June 10-12, cont'd

Day 3, before lunch

Edward Wierenga talk titled Developing Molinism employed fairly complex modal stuff (you know, actuality, counterfactuals and all that) to help formulate Molinism, the view that God has a knowledge of propositions that are intermediate between being necessarily true and independent of God's will or creative ativity, and contingently true propositions dependent on God's will. These are contingent true propsitions not dependent upon God's will (in the intended interpretations: propositions about future but free actions of men).

This knowledge is often taken to be a knowledge about certain counterfactuals (like "If Adam were placed in the Garden of Eden, he would freely eat the forbidden fruit"). This knowledge would assist God in devising the world so that it is the best world possible without interfering with human free decisions. The technical problem is that it's difficult to find right truth-conditions for counterfactuals of this sort whic…

FMER, Leuven, June 10-12, cont'd

This is getting overwhelming. I haven't finished posting about FMER and I'm already at another conference (Non-classical mathematics) that I also would love to blog about. I'll do my best to complete the FMER mini-series as soon as possible.

Day 2, after lunch

Alan Hajek talked about Blaise and Bayes. He first surveyed a few variants of arguments usually given as reconstructions of Pascal's wager in terms of "dominance" and "expected utility". It was fun, especially since he also showed that they're invalid, for some slightly surprising but equally obvious reasons. He discussed certain emendations that can be made to salvage the wager.

Joshua Thurow's talk was titled Does religious disagreement actually aid the case for theism? Disagreement trailblazing for the miraculous. He pointed out that disagreement about an inferentially-based belief may not automatically force one to suspend judgment en block. Divide the evidence for and against religio…

Time Travel paper online

At FMER I had an opportunity to chat with Michael Tooley about time travel. Two years ago I had this paper about Tooley's example of loopless time travels and conditional logics. Michael put forward this example to indicate that if Lewis-Stalnaker semantics for conditional logics is adequate, then there are impossible cases of backward causation even without causal loops. Later on the argument was interpreted as an argument against the adequacy of conditional logics from the possibility of time travel (I recall that seemed to be the interpretation of Charles Cross, I was commenting on his talk at WCPA 2006 in Vancouver).

My point was that the impossibility of the situation described not only follows from basic assumptions of LS semantics, not only can be proven syntactically as holding in many conditional logics (that was Charles' observation), but also can be proven using fairly weak assumptions, weaker that those of Charles, and that the possibility of the situation is not ve…

FMER, news from the trenches (cont'd)

Here's Day 2, before lunch. *

The day started with a talk by Benjamin Jantzen titled Peirce on Miracles: The Failure of Bayesian Analysis. Benjamin started with a brief explanation of Hume’s criticism, according to which no testimony could be sufficient to justify belief in a miracle, given that the probability of fraudulent or mistaken testimony is always greater than the probability of the miracle occurring. He then considered Hume’s argument as an instance of Bayesian probabilistic inference. The basic idea is that the probability of a miracle having occurred given various testimonies to that effect is computed from the probability that each witness would report accurately given the occurrence of the miracle, the joint probability of the occurrence of such a collection of testimonies, and the antecedent probability of the miracle. Finally, Ben argued that given the Peircean criticism of the Bayesian approach, the probabilistic analysis of this sort is seriously flawed. The ma…

FMER, Leuven, June 10-12, News from the Trenches

Formal Methods in the Epistemology of Religion took place in Leuven, June 10-12 2009. The conference was amazing, I really had a blast. I was transiting from Ghent every day, and the schedule was quite intense, so only now I have a few moments to write about it.

Jake Chandler (of the choice & inference fame) and Victoria Harrison, with the financial support of the Centre for Logic and Analytical Philosophy have pulled off an excellent event, gathering together many prominent scholars working on formal stuff and philosophy of religion.

Most of the talks were related to Bayesian epistemology and its applications. It’s not the framework I usually deal with, so I've learned a lot. Also, after Prof. Swinburne’s talk I had the opportunity to give a talk about his modal argument in his presence, criticize his views, and see how he responds. That was pretty cool.

Anyway, here are some general remarks about the conference. I’ll start with Day 1 (the conference started in the afternoon, so…

Philosophers' Rally, Cracow 2009 (Poland)

After having spent an intensive weekend in Cracow, I'm on a plane back to Brussells (well, actually, after I just got on it, all passengers were asked to disembark and identify their own luggage because we had one suitcase extra that didn’t seem to belong to anyone…) Anyway, although I was slightly frustrated with the previous large philosophical conference in Poland I went to (see more details here), I was quite delighted to attend this one (also, I like the fact that I could catch up with some of the GdaƄsk students, who decided to take the trip and participate). Hence a few general comments about what Philosophers' Rally is and about philosophy in Poland in general.

As far as I know, there are two fairly regular, large and general philosophical events in Poland. One is the Philosophical Congress (the 2008 edition took place last September in Warsaw). In a way, it’s similar to large general conferences like CPA in Canada or APA in the States. What’s similar is a huge number o…