Deliberation, Interpretation and Confabulation

June 19, 2015 - June 20, 2015
VU University Amsterdam


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WORKSHOP: Deliberation, Interpretation and Confabulation
19th-20th June 2015, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Keynote speakers:
Lisa Bortolotti (University of Birmingham)
Quassim Cassam (University of Warwick)
Pamela Hieronymi (UCLA)

Other speakers:
Fleur Jongepier (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Naomi Kloosterboer (VU University Amsterdam)
Lena Ljucovic (University of Potsdam)
Christoph Michel (University of Stuttgart)

Deliberation, Interpretation and Confabulation

The role of reflection, deliberation and understanding in our lives is increasingly contested by empirical research. Whatever our higher cognitive capacities seem to tell us, they do not reflect what ‘really’ goes on in our heads. They do not determine which mental attitudes we hold, nor do they influence the actions we perform, at least not in any reliable sense. On the contrary, it is claimed that these capacities conceal the lack of access we have to our mental lives and obfuscate the real causes of our judgments and our behavior. This claim is supported by studies on confabulation, implicit bias,  choice blindness, heuristic bias, and so forth. Can we conclude from these studies that introspection is unreliable? And do they indicate that reason-responsive agency is an illusion?

The aim of this workshop is to understand and analyze the scientific claims and to discuss two possible philosophical responses to them: the interpretationist and the deliberativist approach. The interpretationist approach takes the scientific research at face value and investigates which role in our lives is left for our higher cognitive capacities. One of its central claims is that the way in which we can acquire knowledge of our own mental attitudes is similar to the way in which we acquire knowledge of the attitudes of someone else, i.e. through interpreting behavior. The deliberativist approach, by contrast, criticizes the conceptualization of our cognitive capacities underlying the scientific research and develops a different view of those capacities. Acquiring knowledge of our mental attitudes is, according to the deliberativists, not a matter of being the best observer of those attitudes, but of determining one’s mental attitudes through deliberation.

Questions to be addressed in the workshop are, for example:

(1)  What is the empirical basis of the claim that introspection is
unreliable? What are the implicit assumptions underlying this claim? And
which mental attitudes does the claim address?
(2)  What are the conditions under which confabulation arises? Is it
possible to specify conditions under which it does not arise? And what is
the relation between confabulation, deliberation and reason-responsive agency?
(3)  Do we need to take the empirical data seriously in a theory of
self-knowledge and, if so, why is that?
(4)  What kind of mental agency underlies deliberation? What is the relation
between self-knowledge and reason-responsive agency?
(5)  What are the deliberativist and interpretationist approaches? What are
their differences and similarities? Are they really in opposition to one
another or can they be combined?

Further Information:
Further information and a call for registration will follow. For any
inquiries, please contact Irma Verlaan:

Organizing committee:
Leon de Bruin
Naomi Kloosterboer
Jeroen de Ridder
Irma Verlaan
René van Woudenberg

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