Evidence and Epistemic Norms

December 5, 2023 - December 7, 2023
The Taiwan Association for Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, The Center for Asian Philosophy and Analytic Philosophy

Nietzsche Hall (B1)
No.85, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Rd.,


Washington University in St. Louis

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2023 Wendy Huang Lectures Annoucement

The Wendy Huang Lectures, originally established as The Formosa Lectures in Philosophy in 2013 and subsequently known as the Wendy Huang Visiting Fellowship (2014-2016), are a prestigious initiative by the Department of Philosophy at National Taiwan University. Founded in 2013 with the generous support of Wendy Huang and Shun Yih Ltd., these lectures fosters the development of analytic philosophy in Taiwan.

We are delight to announce that Professor Matthew McGrath from Washington University in St. Louis will be the esteemed speaker for the 2023 lecture series. The schedule and details are as follows:

Dates and Times:

•December 5, 6, 7     14:30 - 16:30

•December 10.          09:10 - 10:50

Venue: GIS NTU Convention Center, Nietzsche Hall (B1)  

•Address: No.85, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Rd., Da’an Dist., Taipei 



Lecture Series: Evidence and Epistemic Norms

Lecture 1: The General Project: Motivation and Defense

•Date: 12/05

•Time: 14:30-16:30

•Abstract: This lecture sets out the general project undertaken in the lecture series. The project is to understand two sorts of normative claims about people and their beliefs. On the one hand, we often claim a person should or shouldn’t believe something, taking their evidence as given and unquestioned. Premier Chamberlain shouldn’t have believed what Hitler told him at Munich in 1938: his evidence pointed strongly against it. On the other hand, we sometimes claim that a person should or shouldn’t believe something, taking into account not only the evidence they had but also the evidence they should have had. Perhaps your doctor did believe in accord with their evidence when they prescribed you the drug that had been shown ineffective in recent trials. They didn’t know about the trials but they should have known. We can criticize them by saying they “shouldn’t have thought the drug was effective, because they should have known the recent trials showed it wasn’t effective.” The overall project is to improve our understanding these two sorts of normative claims, what determines their truth, and how they relate to one another. 

Two objections to the general project are considered and answered. The first questions whether normative notions like should and appropriate apply to us in respect of our beliefs. If they don’t, the project would seem misplaced. The second questions whether there is any distinctive normativity at issue in our investigation, as opposed to some familiar non-epistemic sort of normativity, such as moral or prudential. If there is no distinctive sort of normativity at issue here, the project would be highly constrained and would lose some of its importance. 

Lecture 2: We Have Positive Epistemic Duties

•Date: 12/06

•Time: 14:30-16:30

•Abstract: This lecture examines evidence-uncritical claims about what people should or shouldn’t believe. It argues that in some cases, people should believe certain propositions. To put it more vividly: we sometimes have positive epistemic duties. This position runs contrary to a current trend within epistemology that sees normative epistemology as limited to issuing permissions and proscriptions and never giving us prescriptions. I argue that the acceptance of certain paradigm negative epistemic duties commits us to the existence of positive epistemic duties. Along the way, I argue for a second conclusion. Contrary to the popular view called evidentialism, what we should or shouldn’t believe (in the evidence-uncritical sense) is not merely a function of the evidence we have. It depends as well on our abilities and opportunities. 

Lecture 3: The Problem of Suspension

•Date: 12/07

•Time: 14:30-16:30

•Abstract: This lecture continues the examination of evidence-uncritical claims about people should or shouldn’t believe. It’s highly plausible that if you epistemically should believe a proposition p, then it’s false that you epistemically should suspend judgment on whether p. This link between norms for belief and norms for suspension would be easily accommodated if suspension were the mere absence of belief or if it were a state of having an intermediary credence. However, I argue that such views of suspension are independently implausible. The best views of suspension take it to be an agential phenomenon, consisting in postponing or at least refraining from judgment. But it is unclear how an agential phenomenon could come under epistemic norms at all. I explore two possible solutions to this problem, which I call the “problem of suspension.” 

Lecture 4: Should Have Known and Epistemic Appropriateness of Belief

•Date: 12/10

•Time: 09:10-10:50

•Abstract: The final lecture turns to evidence-critical claims about what we should or shouldn’t believe. It asks whether such claims are epistemic in a strict sense that is connected to the notion of knowledge. I ask: does the evidence one should have had matter to what one epistemically should or shouldn’t have believed? My response has two parts. First, in a strict sense, the answer is no. Only evidence-uncritical claims about what we should or shouldn’t believe are epistemic, not evidence-critical claims. However, we should not think that evidence-critical claims rely on some entirely distinct form of normativity – chocolate as opposed to vanilla, if you will. Rather, and this is the second claim, evidence-critical claims about what we should or shouldn’t believe depend for their truth both on strictly non-epistemic norms concerning evidence possession and on a strictly epistemic norms concerning belief given one’s evidence (and abilities and opportunities). The resulting position could be expressed this way: being a good doctor, a good parent, a good inquirer consists in part but not in whole in believing in an epistemically appropriate way on the relevant issues. 

•Note: This lecture serves as the keynote speech of the Fifth Taiwan Philosophical Colloquium (https://philevents.org/event/show/112466)

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