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November 2016

Eric Olson (Sheffield): “Why definitions of death don’t matter”

9 November 2016, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Definitions of death are said to be important because they tell us at what point someone dies, which ethicists need to know in order to work out when someone loses the intrinsic moral status of the living. This paper argues we need not know what death is or when it occurs in order to answer these ethical questions. Questions about the significance of death are really questions about the significance of the various specific losses that figure in definitions of death. Which of those losses amounts to death makes no difference.

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Feraz Azhar (Cambridge): “Three aspects of typicality in multiverse cosmology”

14 November 2016, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Extracting predictions from cosmological theories that describe a multiverse, for what we are likely to observe in our domain, is crucial to establishing the validity of these theories. One way to extract such predictions is from theory-generated probability distributions that allow for selection effects – generally expressed in terms of assumptions about anthropic conditionalization and how typical we are. In this talk, I urge three lessons about typicality in multiverse settings.

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Justin Sytsma (Victoria University of Wellington): “Are religious philosophers less analytic?”

15 November 2016, 2:00 pm3:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Some researchers in philosophy of religion have charged that the sub-discipline exhibits a number of features of poor health, prominently including that "partisanship is so entrenched that most philosophers of religion, instead of being alarmed by it, just take it for granted". But while these studies indicate that there is a correlation between religious belief and judgments about natural theological arguments, they do not establish that causation runs from belief to judgment as has been claimed. In this paper I offer an alternative explanation, suggesting that thinking style is a plausible common cause.

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Matthieu Gallais (University of Lille): “A Modal Epistemology of Scientific Models: Structures, Make-Believe and Properties”

16 November 2016, 3:00 pm4:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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The modal epistemology I develop aims to describe how scientific models and target systems are related by comparing theoretical properties with world-lines, that is to say to epistemic constructions across possible situations. I suggest that what must be considered as remaining the same from models to real systems is the properties, rather than the structures.

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Johanna Thoma (LSE): “Temptation and Preference-Based Instrumental Rationality”

16 November 2016, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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In the dynamic choice literature, temptations are usually understood as temporary shifts in an agent’s preferences. What has been puzzling about these cases is that, on the one hand, an agent seems to do better by her own lights if she does not give into the temptation, and does so without engaging in costly commitment strategies. This seems to indicate that it is instrumentally rational for her to resist temptation. On the other hand, resisting temptation also requires her to act contrary to the preferences she has at the time of temptation. But that seems to be instrumentally irrational as well. I here consider the two most prominent types of argument why resisting temptation could nevertheless be instrumentally rational, namely two-tier and intra-personal cooperation arguments.

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Improv Your Mind: Philosophy, Music, and Making Things Up (the Forum)

16 November 2016, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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From Nietzsche’s dalliances with tragic drama and Adorno’s adoration of Schoenberg to Badiou’s writing on dance, philosophy’s love affair with the performing arts has been long and thoughtful. In this debate, we discuss the ways philosophy thinks about performance.

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Luke Fenton-Glynn (UCL): “Probabilistic Actual Causation” (BSPS Lecture)

21 November 2016, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Actual (token) causation – the sort of causal relation asserted to hold by claims like the Chicxulub impact caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene exitinction event, Mr. Fairchild’s exposure to asbestos caused him to suffer mesothelioma, and the H7N9 virus outbreak was caused by poultry farmers becoming simultaneously infected by bird and human ‘flu strains – is of significance to scientists, historians, and tort and criminal lawyers. It also plays a role in theories of various philosophically important concepts, such as action, decision, explanation, knowledge, perception, reference, and moral responsibility. Yet there is little consensus on how actual causation is to be understood, particularly where actual causes work only probabilistically. I use probabilistic causal models to cast some light on the nature of probabilistic actual causation.

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Does the Universe Have a Purpose? (the Forum)

21 November 2016, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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The traditional answer to this question is that God has a plan for the universe and we are part of it. Almost as traditionally, atheists have countered that the universe has no purpose since a benevolent God does not exist. But what if the purpose of the universe does not involve us – or God – at all?

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Barbara Osimani (LMU Munich): “Exact replication or varied evidence? Reliability, robustness and the reproducibility problem”

22 November 2016, 5:00 pm6:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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The “Reproducibility Project: Psychology” by the Open Science Collaboration caused some stir among psychologists, methodologists as well as scientists, since less than half of the replicated studies succeeded in reproducing the results of the original ones. The APA has attributed this result to hidden moderators that rendered the replications ineffective. Also publication bias and low power have been identified as possible sources for such mismatch. While some analysts have provided formal confirmation for the plausibility of such explanations (Etz and Vandekerkhove, 2016), others have further insisted on the problem of noisy data and suggested that “to resolve the replication crisis in science we may need to consider each individual study in the context of an implicit meta-analysis” (Andrew Gelman).

I investigate these positions through the lenses of Bayesian epistemology, and in particular of recent results on the Variety of Evidence Thesis.

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Davide Grossi (Liverpool): “Mutual Persuasion”

23 November 2016, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Two agents are faced with a choice between two options. They are uncertain about which option is the right one and are endowed with a personal bias, each in favor of a different option. They first acquire independent information by observing a private signal with known quality. They then need to reveal their private signal to the other agent, but may decide to manipulate some of the evidence the signal provides, in order to persuade the other agent in the direction of their own bias. In this talk Davide Grossi presents a Bayesian model capturing this form of persuasion, analyses the strategies available to the agents and characterises the possible outcomes of the interaction.

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Emergence and the Limit: A Workshop in Philosophy of Physics

25 November 2016
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Recent literature on emergence in physics and on foundational issues in statistical mechanics has stressed the importance or lack thereof of the thermodynamic limit. In this workshop we will consider various case studies portraying either emergent behaviour or other important issues in statistical mechanics and assess the indispensable vs. dispensable nature of of the thermodynamic limit (or other similar limits such as the continuum limit). Our goal is is make some headway in identifying the role that such limits may or may not play in understanding emergence, reversibility, etc.

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Peter Sozou (CPNSS): “Computational Scientific Discovery”

28 November 2016, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Is there a role for computers in the formulation of scientific concepts? Scientific discovery can take various forms: direct observational discovery, finding empirical rules, and discovery of theories. I will begin by considering the roots of scientific discovery and the basic nature of (human) discovery processes. I will then survey methods and associated applications in computational scientific discovery, covering: massive systematic search within a defined space; rule-based reasoning systems; classification, machine vision and related techniques; data mining; finding networks; evolutionary computation; and automation of scientific experiments. I conclude with a discussion of the future of computational scientific discovery.

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Michael Hunter (University of California, Davis): “Germ-line or Somatic mutations? The pitfalls and concerns for deleting and replacing the concept of race in human genetics”

29 November 2016, 2:00 pm3:30 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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Abstract: Across the recent history of Population Genetics, there have been a number of calls by historians of science, philosophers of science, social scientists and biologists themselves for dealing with the concept of "race" in Population Biology. Most recently, in the article written by Yudell et al. (2016), the authors advocate that scientific journals and professional societies should encourage use…

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Colin Elliot (Tilburg): “Pragmatism and objectivity in subjective Bayesianism” + Jurgis Karpus (KCL): “Team Reasoning in Intertemporal Choice: A Game-Theoretic Account of Self-Control”

30 November 2016, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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In this week's meeting of the Choice Group, Colin Elliot (Tilburg) discusses two of the more controversial aspects of Bruno de Finetti's subjective Bayesianism – the role of operationalism and the status of de Finetti's theory as a theory of rationality – and Jurgis Karpus (KCL) presents a game-theoretic account of self-control.

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December 2016

History of Postwar Social Science Workshop

2 December 2016
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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This one-day workshop has been organised by Roger Backhouse and Philippe Fontaine and is supported by by the CNRS European Scientific Coordination Network (GDRE #711).

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Monstrosity (the Forum)

6 December 2016, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Wolfson Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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Why is art preoccupied with monsters? What can we learn about a society from the kinds of monsters it imagines? Today, when traditional ideas of the human cannot account for advances in biology and technology, can monstrous figures help us to better understand our changing sense of ourselves?

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Jossi Berkovitz (Toronto): “De Finetti’s Instrumentalist Philosophy of Probability”

7 December 2016, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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De Finetti is one of the founding fathers of the subjective school of probability, where probabilities are coherent degrees of belief. De Finetti held that probabilities are inherently subjective and he argued that none of the objective interpretations of probability makes sense. While his theory has been influential in science and philosophy, it has encountered various objections. We argue that these objections overlook central aspects of de Finetti’s philosophy of probability and are largely unfounded. We propose a new interpretation of de Finetti’s theory that highlights these aspects and explains how they are an integral part of de Finetti’s instrumentalist philosophy of probability. We conclude by drawing an analogy between misconceptions about de Finetti’s philosophy of probability and common misconceptions about instrumentalism.

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January 2017

Michael Otsuka (LSE): “Determinism and the Value and Fairness of Equal Chances”

11 January, 5:30 pm7:00 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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It follows from plausible claims about the laws of physics and the narrowness of the most relevant reference class that the positive chances between 0.0 and 1.0 that lotteries yield are almost certainly merely epistemic rather than objective. It is, for example, merely a matter of our ignorance that a given fair coin toss confers a 0.5 chance of landing heads. In actual objective fact, the chances of its landing heads are almost certainly either 0.0 or 1.0. I argue that, even if all chances between 0.0 and 1.0 are merely epistemic rather than objective, the provision of such merely epistemically equal positive chances of an indivisible, life-saving resource to those with equal claims renders things fairer by providing the equal distribution of something that it is rational to value equally.

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The Nature of Money (the Forum)

11 January, 6:30 pm8:00 pm
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics
London, WC2A 3LJ United Kingdom
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What is money, where does it come from, and why does it sometimes fail to make us better off? The banality of money makes it appear neutral with respect to political, religious, or moral values. Should we try to answer these questions in a value-neutral way, or does money shelter a value system hiding in plain sight?

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Marta Halina (Cambridge HPS): “The role of values in animal cognition research” (BSPS Lecture)

16 January, 5:15 pm6:45 pm
LAK 2.06, Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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In this talk, I argue for the importance of non-epistemic values in evaluating claims about nonhuman animal mindreading. I show how taking these values into account reveals that the consequences of false negatives are much worse than traditionally conceived.

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