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Research Unit for Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Philosophy of Cognition

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The unit coordinates research on interrelated issues in analytical epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of cognition. Currently prominent research questions within the unit concern modal conditions for knowledge and knowledge of modality, epistemic norms, dispositions and response-dependence, non-representational theories of cognition, process ontology, the role of intuitions and conceivability for modal cognition, mathematical knowledge, scientific realism, naturalism, and pragmatism.

The unit has a strong international profile, with solid ties to several of the worlds most prominent research centers in the field. 

The unit arranges a permanent research seminar with weekly meetings during term time, with a university-wide following, and often hosts workshops and conferences.

Please contact the coordinator of the unit if you wish to get involved!

Unit Coordinator

Events Fall 2020

Welcome to our Fall 2020 Research Colloquium in Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Philosophy of Cognition, which, unsurprisingly, will be livestreamed as zoom webinar but also, as long as possible,  take place as physical event in 1465/616 (or as otherwise announced).   

Please contact Johanna Seibt for the Zoom link. 

Our webinar/meetings will take at the usual time, Fridays 12:30-14:30.   

Sept 25:  Røgnvaldur Ingthorsson, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

McTaggart’s Paradox: Obscure or Misunderstood? 

There are few items in the philosophy of time that have received as much attention for the last century than McTaggart’s notorious argument for the unreality of time, often called McTaggart’s Paradox. Richard Gale observes that if “one looks carefully enough into the multitudinous writings on time by analysts, one can detect a common underlying problem, that being that almost all of them were attempting to answer McTaggart’s paradox” (1968, p. 6). The argument has in any case been extremely controversial. Practically everyone rejects the conclusion that time is unreal, and hardly anybody agrees on the content or professed validity of the argument, or of any of the many reinterpretations that have been offered. In this talk I will argue (or, really, demonstrate) that the argument has been found to be obscure because it has always been treated as a self-contained argument that is independent of the rest of McTaggart’s metaphysics. It has been treated that way in spite of McTaggart’s own words to the contrary. When it is treated as an argument that takes McTaggart’s metaphysics as given, then it comes across as a straightforward demonstration of a contradiction from certain premises. I will present what those premises are and how the argument builds on them. This does not mean that I think McTaggart is right. I think he is wrong but my disagreement with him revolves around the validity of the initial premises rather than on some mistake in the argumentation. In particular it is interesting that one of the premises is a thesis that is known today as the principle of temporal parity; the thesis that all moments of time are equally existent and real. The principle of temporal parity is a cornerstone in the so-called B-view of time, but it is typically rejected by adherents to the A-view. To my mind, this shows that McTaggart’s argument is circular when used by proponents of the B-view as a refutation of the A-view, and consequently as an argument in favour of the B-view.

 

Oct. 2: Jani Hakkarainen, Tampere University

               Main Questions of Metaphysics

 

Oct 7: Johanna Seibt, AU

                Types of Dynamic Continuity in General Process Theory

 

Oct 23: Rasmus Jaksland, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

 

Title: Metaphysical approximation in Metaphysics of Science

 

Abstract:
In science and particularly in physics, we have a developed notion of approximation. We possess, in many cases at least, quantitative means with which to assess the epistemic risk of using an approximation (i.e. Newtonian Gravity) rather than a theory known to be more precise (i.e. general relativity). This paper explores how this aspect of approximations transfers to metaphysics of science: what epistemic risk are we for instance taking in assuming an object ontology in social theorizing rather than the more relational ontology suggested by quantum mechanics? The paper argues that we do have examples where we can derive the epistemic risk of a metaphysical approximation directly from the scientific theories; absolute simultaneity being an example. But for other metaphysical approximations, it is less evident how this obtains; relational vs. object ontology being an example. The paper closes with a speculation wheter this is (a) because metaphysical approximation is an alien concept, (b) because these approximations are not well understood in the scientific context either, or (c) because such ontological elements cannot actually be related by approximation. With further development in metaphysics and science (a) and (b) should be resolvable, whereas (c), it seems, would have rather extensive consequences for theorizing based on non-fundamental metaphysics.

 

 

Oct 30: Anna-Sofia Maurin, University of Gothenborg,

                TBA

 

Nov 13   Asbjørn Steglich Pedersen, AU

            TBA

 

Nov. 20:  Helen Stewart, University of Leeds

Laws Loosened: How to make Way for Freedom in a Law-Governed World

 

In this paper, I shall consider a number of different ways in which philosophers in recent years have attempted to offer conceptions of natural law which in various respects suggest that the grip of law on reality might be less tight than has been traditionally supposed. One such loosening is represented by the suggestion that many laws might be best thought of as probabilistic rather than deterministic. A second kind of loosening has been the admission that some laws (perhaps even all laws) might hold only ceteris paribus. Yet a third is the suggestion that laws form a ‘patchwork’, not a pyramid, with the cover of law only “loosely attached to the jumbled world of material things” (Cartwright, 1999). How, though, are these different suggestions related to one another? Which kinds of loosening might entail which other kinds? And which, if any, might be most promising as regards making room in the universe for free will? In this paper I shall try to suggest that the first and second strategies are far less useful than the third in making the kind of space which would be required to subserve the reality of free will; and that a fourth kind of loosening – from laws as dictators to laws as constrainers might yet be more useful than any of the other three in this respect.

 

Nov. 27:  Philip Goff, Durham University

                (The Implications of Panpsychism for Meta-ethics, precise title to be announced)