Ethics, epistemology and social institutions - Special Workshop at the IVR World Congress 2022

July 3, 2022 - July 8, 2022
International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy


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CFP for the Special Workshop 

‘Ethics, epistemology and social institutions’

at the 30th World Congress of the International Association for the Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy (IVR), July 3-8, 2022, Bucharest, Romania 


Adam Dyrda (Jagiellonian University), Maciej Juzaszek (University of Wrocław)

This workshop aims to debate and deliberate upon the ethical and epistemological aspects of beliefs underlying social institutions. 

Social institutions are social artifacts, which means they exist mainly because people bring them to life by acting and judging collectively. Realistic theories of institutions assume that social (legal) institutions are mind-independent only in a weak sense. Although the institutions exist independently of individuals' beliefs, their existence depends on the collective beliefs concerning their content, structure, and way of functioning. Moreover, these beliefs fulfil a performative role only under certain conditions: without them, social institutions would not begin to exist in the first place.

The existence of commonly shared beliefs of a specific type (so-called mutual knowledge, common beliefs, shared beliefs, reflexive beliefs) has been recognized by social ontologists (such as J. Searle, R. Tuomela, and M. Gilbert) as one of the necessary conditions for the existence of social institutions. However, rarely (if never) they have asked the questions about epistemic (cognitive) and ethical criteria that such beliefs ought to fulfil. It is particularly interesting considering that epistemological evidentialists assume that holding unjustified beliefs is a cognitive and moral error (e.g. it leads to excessive credulity of others). Hence, the question arises what the cognitive status and justification of beliefs focused on the constitution of social institutions really is. 

Possible questions related to this central theme include but are not limited to:

-What are the relations between social ontology, epistemology, and ethics? 

-What are the ontological assumptions behind the ethics of institutional beliefs?

-What are the epistemological and ethical assumptions behind social ontology?

-What are the applications of ethics of belief in legal philosophy?

-How does epistemic appraisal relate to ethical appraisal? 

-Can we be doxastically/epistemically/morally responsible for our institutional beliefs? 

-Do we have control over our institutional beliefs?

-Is there moral or epistemic luck concerning institutional beliefs?

-What are the differences (if any) between moral and epistemic responsibility for institutional beliefs?

-Are there any moral duties concerning institutional beliefs?

-Are there any non-moral epistemic duties concerning institutional beliefs?

-What are the epistemic and moral virtues concerning institutional beliefs?

-Is epistemic/moral paternalism permissible in the context of institutional beliefs?

-Should every type of institutional belief be assessed from the epistemological and ethical point of view in the same manner?

-What kind of theory of ethics of belief should be used to evaluate institutional beliefs? Fideism, evidentialism, or maybe others?

-Can holding false institutional beliefs be practically or ethically justified just because holding them leads to beneficial consequences?

-What is the status of traditional beliefs? How are past folk beliefs relevant to both creation and justification of social and legal institutions?

-Can a belief-reflecting utterance such as "The institution X exists, but I do not believe it" be meaningful? Can people commit themselves to belief into something they take to be non-existent (fictional – given the fictionalist account of social/legal institutions)?

-Do the same ethical and epistemological standards apply to institutional beliefs concerning law and legal institutions shared by laypeople and to beliefs shared by legal experts?

-Do the functions of institutions influence the ethical and epistemological justification of beliefs underlying the existence and content of institutions?

-Does the practice of existing institutions influence the beliefs underlying the existence and content of institutions?

-What are folk theories of ethics of institutional beliefs?

How to submit?

Abstracts (500-1000 words) and authors' CVs should be sent to [email protected] by April 30, 2022. Please note that all accepted presenters must register as Congress participants. 

It would be great if all presenters sent draft versions of their papers by June 5, 2022, so that the rest of the participants could read them, which would make our workshop more fruitful. The chosen authors will have an opportunity to publish their papers in the book edited i.a. by Adam Dyrda.   

The workshop is part of the research project ‘Ethics of institutional beliefs’ (no. 2020/37/B/HS5/00272) funded by the Polish National Science Centre and carried out in the Department of Legal Theory, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland.

Please forward this to any appropriate persons that might be interested.

Best regards,

Adam Dyrda & Maciej Juzaszek

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April 30, 2022, 11:45pm EET

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Istanbul Ayvansaray University

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