Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Archive for the ‘Epistemology’ Category

Talk at Bilkent 31 March: Mehmet Elgin

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Mehmet Elgin (Muğla University)

“Why Do Evolutionary Biologists Formulate A Priori Laws Rather Than Empirical Laws?”

Friday 31 March, 2017, 11-12:30, G160.



Abstract: Unlike any branch of physics, evolutionary biology is peppered with a priori mathematical models. It is important to explain why this is the case. I will argue that when we examine the principle of natural selection carefully, we see that this law relates fitness to gene frequencies. Fitness appealed to in this law is stripped away from any physical or biological details and it represents a mere mathematical value. When we relate this value to gene frequencies, we are relating two mathematical values. As a result we end up with a priori laws. I will then provide a more general argument for this fact: Fitness is a genuine multiply realizable property. Only laws that can be formulated about genuinely multiply realizable states are a priori laws. Therefore, only laws that can be formulated about fitness are a priori laws. I will finally argue that such a priori laws in evolutionary biology have very important functions: They are essential for us to be able to formulate empirically testable causal hypotheses about the evolution of specific populations and they are also indispensable in developing causal explanations systematically.

Written by Sandrine Berges

March 27, 2017 at 3:30 pm

Lucas Thorpe at Bilkent

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Lucas Thorpe (Boğaziçi University)

“Knowledge Doesn’t Entail Belief: Avoiding the Seductive Charm of Indo-European Grammar and Remembering Unbelievable Kisses”


Date: Thursday 22 December, 2016

Time: 1040-1230

Place: G160

Abstract: In this paper I will sketch a model of the relationship between perceptual knowledge and belief. My position is influenced by the work of the 18th century Scottish common sense philosopher Thomas Reid. I will argue that knowledge is a much simpler mental state than belief and that the capacity to know is developmentally prior to the capacity to believe. I will argue that perceptual knowledge is objectual whereas beliefs are propositional attitudes; perceptual knowledge involves grasping the world conceptually, whereas belief involves taking an attitude towards our concepts, namely marking them as instantiated. Belief require some capacity for meta-cognition, whereas perceptual knowledge does not. It is possible to deploy a concept in an act of perception without also taking an attitude towards this concept. If this is right then we need to drop what I call the entailment thesis: namely the claim that knowing entails believing. I will suggest that philosophers such as Tim Williamson who support a “knowledge first” epistemology have no good reason to accept the entailment thesis. I will also provide a number of thought experiments and appeal to some recent empirical research to support my position.

Written by Sandrine Berges

December 19, 2016 at 11:59 am

Eylem Özaltun at Bilkent

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Eylem Özaltun (Koç University)

“Acting as a Way of Knowing the World”

Abstract: Philosophers generally agree that agents bear a special epistemic relation to their own intentional actions. But what exactly does an agent know aboueylem-o%cc%88zaltunn2-01t her action by acting intentionally? The traditional two-factor account answers this question as follows: what an agent knows in virtue of acting intentionally is her intention, and what actually happens is known separately, by observation or inference. Against the traditional account I defend the view that what an agent knows in virtue of acting intentionally is what actually happens; acting intentionally is a way of knowing how things are outside of the mind and body. In this talk I do not argue for this view directly but by way of undermining the appeal of the traditional account. I focus on the reasons provided by epistemologists of action in favor of the two-factor approach. I show that what motivates the traditional account is a genuine difficulty of giving a unified analysis of two important, but seemingly incompatible, features of knowing by acting: immediacy and fallibility. Then I argue that these features are not specific to an agent’s knowledge of her actions; in fact they are the necessary features of our epistemic activities in general, and they are no easier to account for in the case of perception. I conclude that the two puzzling features of an agent’s knowledge do not by themselves give us a reason to deny that action is, in its own right, a way of knowing the world.

Date: Friday 16 December, 2016

Time: 1640-1800

Place: G160


Written by Sandrine Berges

December 13, 2016 at 2:29 pm

İlhan İnan at Bilkent

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“Is the Speed of Light Knowable A priori?”

İlhan İnan (Boğaziçi University)

i%cc%87lhan-i%cc%87nan-poster-01Abstract:  Given the current “definition” of the concept of meter a simple argument appears to show that some scientists could come to know the answer to the question “how many meters does light travel in a vacuum in one second?” without having to do any observations or calculations. It would then seem that their knowledge of the speed of light would have some unusual epistemic properties such as being certain, infallible and indubitable, and perhaps also analytic. What is more shocking is that we may also be able to conclude that these scientists know the speed of light a priori. This appears to be a new version of the puzzle about how long the “standard meter bar” is, which Wittgenstein discusses in his Philosophical Investigations, later taken up by Saul Kripke in Naming and Necessity yielding the puzzling conclusion that certain contingent truths are knowable a priori. In this talk I discuss how the new version of the puzzle differs from the old one, why Nathan Salmon’s and Keith Donnellan’s “solutions” to the old puzzle are really not solutions, how the current literature on mental files can be employed to approach the puzzle. I then argue the notion of apriority employed in the argument requires further elaboration so that we may conclude, following Nenad Miscevic, that “interesting a priori knowledge cannot be gotten for cheap.”

Date: Wednesday 7 December, 2016

Time: 1100-1230

Place: G160

Written by Sandrine Berges

December 1, 2016 at 12:51 pm

Three talks at Bilkent, 15-18 February

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John Shaheen
Department of Philosophy
University of Gent
Is Metaphysical Explanation Only Metaphorically Explanatory?

DATE: Monday 15 February 2016
TIME: 16:40-18:30
PLACE: G-160

Abstract: In this talk, I will present evidence of a systematic ambiguity in our explanatory terminology, as well as my preferred account of that ambiguity: the causal metaphor account of metaphysical explanation. I will then discuss how that account explains the attraction of grounding skepticism. I will close by considering whether, in addition, it can be the basis of a convincing argument for grounding skepticism.

Adam Murray 
Department of Philosophy
University of Toronto

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by István Aranyosi

February 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Talk at Bilkent by Ulf Hlobil (Pittsburgh): “Do It! But Don’t Listen to Me!: Moral Testimony and Practical Inference”

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Ulf Hlobil
Department of Philosophy
University of Pittsburgh

“Do It! But Don’t Listen to Me!: Moral Testimony and Practical Inference”

DATE: Wed 10 February 2016
TIME: 15:40-17:30
PLACE: G-160, Bilkent University, Ankara


What, if anything, is wrong with acting on moral beliefs that we accept
merely on the say-so of others? Why could it be problematic to act on a
moral belief that we take to be true without understanding why it is true?
I defend a qualified and novel version of what is called “pessimism” in
the controversy over pure moral testimony. I argue that we can rationally
come to hold the premises of moral reasoning through testimony, but that
moral testimony is problematic in cases where the agent lacks the ability
to make the correct practical inference. The problem is that inferential
abilities cannot be shared via testimony. The role that moral testimony
can play in our moral lives is therefore limited. My account gives the
correct verdicts for common examples in the literature on moral testimony.
It, moreover, incorporates many of the optimists’ insights and is more
general and informative than rival accounts.

Written by István Aranyosi

February 4, 2016 at 8:12 am

Prof. Osman Bakar // The Epistemologies of al-Farabi and al-Ghazzali: Comparative Perspectives

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Istanbul Sehir University Philosophy Talks 17



“The Epistemologies of al-Farabi and al-Ghazzali: Comparative Perspectives”

Prof. Osman Bakar

Distinguished Professor and Director Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS) Universiti Brunei Darussalam

Al-Farabi (870 AD– 950 AD) and al-Ghazzali (1058 AD – 1111 AD) are among the intellectual giants in the history of Islam. They were separated in time by nearly two centuries but judging from their writings they appeared to have been contemporaries. They belonged to two different intellectual schools of thought, al-Farabi to the Peripatetic school and al-Ghazzali to the school of kalam (“dialectical theology”). Their thoughts have both similarities and differences. Professor Bakar will discuss their similar ideas such as in their acceptance of the ideas of hierarchy of knowledge and tawhidic epistemology as well as their differences with regard to their understanding of the relationship between intellect-reason and revelation, their notions of philosophy, and the relationship between religion and philosophy. Professor Bakar presents arguments that despite their differences on many intellectual issues they are united in their thinking at a deeper level and as such are to be regarded as coming from the same intellectual universe of Islam.


Written by metindemirsehir

December 11, 2015 at 1:35 pm