Carnegie Mellon University

Lectures & Colloquia

Spring 2021

Friday, March 5
Richard Pettigrew, University of Bristol - Philosophy Colloquium
Talk Title: Accuracy, Epistemic Risk, and the Demands of Rationality
4:00-5:20pm, Location: Remote via Zoom

Abstract: Which credences does rationality permit you to have in response to your total evidence? Some, such as the subjective Bayesian, say that rationality is permissive: for many bodies of evidence, there are many rational credal responses. Others, such as the objective Bayesian, say that rationality is impermissive: for any body of evidence, there is a unique rational credal response. I'll argue for permissivism about epistemic rationality. And I'll do that within the framework of accuracy-first epistemology. My argument runs roughly as follows: There are many different rationally permissible attitudes to risk in the epistemic setting; if we represent those different attitudes within accuracy-first epistemology, there are correspondingly many different rationally permissible credal responses to most bodies of evidence; therefore, epistemic rationality is permissive. I'll show how this approach allows us to answer the usual objections to epistemic permissivism.

Friday, March 12
David Danks and Mandy Simons, Carnegie Mellon University – Philosophy Colloquium
Talk Title: The Conceptual Underpinnings of Bridging
4:00-5:20pm, Location: Remote via Zoom

Abstract: Bridging is the name given by Clark 1975 to cases where an NP is interpreted as related to an entity previously introduced in the discourse, as in Jane walked up to the house and knocked on the door, where the door is understood to be the door of the just-mentioned house. In this paper, we provide an account of bridging in terms of conceptual structure, where concepts are represented by probabilistic graphical models (Danks 2014). We propose that bridging is a result of local, non-directed cognitive processes which occur without reference to speaker intention or considerations of coherence. The primary cognitive mechanism involved is spreading activation over conceptual structures. We show that this treatment provides satisfying accounts of several features of bridging: knowledge dependence; non-monotonicity; and informativity.

Friday, April 23
Eleonora Cresto, CONICET, Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas-SADAF – Philosophy Colloquium
Talk Title: A Constructive Condorcet Jury Theorem
4:00-5:20pm, Location: Remote

Abstract: There is a well-established research program that relies on the Condorcet Jury Theorem (CJT) to provide justification for democracy and majority voting from an epistemic perspective. In a nutshell, the idea is that majority voting can be justified because it tracks the truth: in the limit, if certain conditions hold, a large group of voters will always pick the ‘right’ option. In this talk, I discuss the applicability of the CJT beyond epistemicism. I propose a version of the CJT that does not presuppose the existence of an objective fact of the matter (or moral fact) on which group members need to vote; I dub it ‘Constructive CJT'. The possibility to bypass the epistemic perspective, so to speak, shows that the basic structure of the original CJT is more versatile than we might have thought. In addition, I argue that the constructive version of the theorem reveals us a surprising feature of a close relative of majority voting: for certain scenarios, gathering information on what the majority of people in a group intend to do (say, through an opinion poll) can be shown to foster cooperation, assuming certain conditions are met.

Fall 2020

Friday, September 18
Katherine Hawley, University of St Andrews - Philosophy Colloquium
Talk Title: What is Impostor Syndrome?
1:00–2:15pm, Location: Remote

Abstract: People are described as suffering from impostor syndrome when they feel that their external markers of success are unwarranted, and fear being revealed as a fraud. Impostor syndrome is commonly framed as a troubling individual pathology, to be overcome through self-help strategies or therapy. But in many situations an individual’s impostor attitudes can be epistemically justified, even if they are factually mistaken: hostile social environments can create epistemic obstacles to self-knowledge. The concept of impostor syndrome prevalent in popular culture needs greater critical scrutiny, as does its source, the concept of impostor phenomenon which features in psychological research.

Friday, October 2
Anna Alexandrova, University of Cambridge - Philosophy Colloquium
Talk Title: Democratising Measurement
1:00–2:15pm, Location: Remote

Abstract: Valid measurement is a necessary precondition for causal inference and for testing. In social sciences we often measure value-laden phenomena such as well-being, educational success, fairness, equality, poverty, and so on. What is responsible measurement when value judgments are involved? In this talk I discuss why standard procedures for psychometric validation are not up for this task and how they are currently being challenged by various democratising approaches such as stakeholder engagement and co-creation.

Friday, October 30
Kevin Zollman, Carnegie Mellon University - Philosophy Faculty Colloquium
Talk Title: "Conformity, social networks, and the emergence of pluralistic ignorance"
5:00–6:15pm, Location: Remote via Zoom

Abstract: Occasionally, people refuse to publicly state their beliefs because they think others disagree.  Others do in fact share their belief, but are also afraid to speak out for similar reasons. No one is speaking out and as a result, the false group belief persists; each member thinks they believe differently from one another.  This phenomena, known as pluralistic ignorance, is puzzling for many reasons.  In this talk, I will use a new computer simulation model for the emergence of pluralistic ignorance to discover under what situations we might expect it to arise. Ultimately, I conclude that pluralistic ignorance requires relatively special conditions to arise. In particular, I argue that pluralistic ignorance will only arise in conditions where individual's beliefs are shifting for other reasons.

Friday, November 13
Kohei Kishida, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign - Alumni Colloquium
Talk Title: Quantum Paradoxes, Resources, and Programming
5:00–6:15pm, Location: Remote via Zoom

Abstract: Quantum technologies promise an immense advancement in communication and computing.  This is possible due to paradoxical properties of quantum mechanics --- but exactly which property provides computational resources for quantum computation is a crucial conceptual question that physicists and computer scientists work on (and philosophers should join in!).  At the same time, these properties pose unique challenges to formal methods in quantum programming.  In one of such challenges, the no-cloning property of quantum mechanics makes it difficult to achieve a good type theory and denotational semantics for quantum programming languages.  The primary goal of this paper is to overcome this challenge with a new, linear (and modal) dependent type theory and a categorical semantics based on what I dub a state-parameter fibration.  This fibration perspective will also shed new light on the question of quantum computational resources.