Upcoming events

Background photo by Erik Johansson.

Conference on Post-Truth and the Objectivity of Epistemic Norms

November 7-8, 2019

Arts A108

Department of Philosophy

University of Sussex, UK


Tony Booth (Sussex), Matthew Chrisman (Edinburgh), Jumbly Grindrod (Reading), Anandi Hattiangadi (Stockholm), Martin Kusch (Vienna), Teresa Marques (Barcelona), Sara Packalén (Stockholm), Sarah Sawyer (Sussex), and Tim Williamson (Oxford).



November, 7th

09.30 – 10.50 Matthew Chrisman (Edinburgh University), Doxastic Freedom, Epistemic Responsibility and Robust Realism

10.50 – 11.05 Coffee Break

11.05 – 12.25 Sarah Sawyer (University of Sussex), Epistemic Normative Realism and Conceptual Fixed Points

12.25 – 13.45 Lunch

13.45 – 15.05 Jumbly Grindrod (Reading University), Wrongful Ways to Raise the Epistemic Standard

15.05 – 15.20 Coffee Break

15.20 – 16.40 Teresa Marques (University of Barcelona), Disagreement with a Bald-Faced Liar

16.40 – 16.45 Short Break

16.45 – 18.05 Tony Booth (University of Sussex), The Primacy of Doxastic Ought Simpliciter


November, 8th

09.45 – 11.05 Anandi Hattiangadi (Stockholm University), Post-Truth and Relativism

11.05 – 11.20 Coffee Break

11.20 – 12.40 Martin Kusch (University of Vienna), Relativism and Post-Truth

12.40 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 15.20 Sara Packalén (Stockholm University), Disagreement about What One Ought to Believe

15.20 – 15.35 Coffee Break

15.35 – 16.55 Tim Williamson (University of Oxford), Morally Loaded Cases in Epistemology

About the conference

Our current ‘post-truth’ predicament is characterized by a widespread and blatant disregard for evidence, an overt hostility towards experts and expertise, the debunking of scientific knowledge, and the popular acceptance of appeals to emotion and gut instincts to decide not just moral and political questions, but empirical questions that are morally or politically charged: whether vaccines are safe, whether greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming, or whether HIV causes AIDS, to take a few prominent examples.

In many cases, people who disagree on these empirical questions are also in implicit normative epistemic disagreement: concerning what one ought to believe, or what oneor is permitted to believe, given a certain body of evidence; what sources of evidence one ought to trust; or how sources of evidence ought to be weighted. This raises a host of meta-normative issues with a renewed urgency: Do normative epistemological claims represent how things are? If so, do they represent natural or non-natural facts? Are normative epistemological claims true in an objective sense or only relative to standards or systems of norms? What is the correct semantics for normative epistemic claims? If there are normative epistemological truths, can they themselves be known? And if so what does it mean to know them? These questions, which have analogues in meta-ethics, play out differently in interesting and illuminating ways in the epistemological domain, particularly in connection with the post-truth turn.

For instance, the epistemic relativist thesis that there is no objective fact of the matter what one ought to believe given one’s evidence seems to allow for the possibility that a belief based on personal preference or bias is permitted, as does the non-cognitivist thesis that normative epistemic disagreement involves clashes of non-cognitive attitudes. Furthermore, the current post-truth predicament raises the quietism challenge to relativism and expressivism: In the face of anti-scientific climate change denial, relativists and expressivists seem to be in no position to defend the objectivity of scientific norms when engaged in first order disagreements about what to believe.

At the same time, realists about epistemic normativity face an array of difficulties familiar from meta-ethics where various forms of anti-realism have the upper hand. Naturalist normative realists, who hold that normative properties are identical to or grounded in natural properties, seem to have trouble accounting for genuine normative disagreement: if two communities differ significantly enough in their use of normative terms, their respective terms pick out distinct natural properties and there is no possibility of genuine normative disagreement between them. Non-naturalist normative realists must explain how we can have normative knowledge of sui generis normative properties or facts.

The primary aim of this conference is to bring about a constructive dialogue between leading researchers with different takes on the status of epistemic norms.

Attendance is free of charge but registration is required. To register, and for any information about the conference, please contact Corine Besson.

The conference is organized by The Foundations of Epistemic Normativity research group in partnership with the University of Sussex and the Southern Normativity Group (SoNG).