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LSE PhD Student Session: Deren Olgun & Silvia Milano
26 April, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Deren Olgun: “Reasons make actions rational”
Abstract: When is something a reason for you to act? All existing answers to this question either run into conflict with ordinary language in the cases in which we are mistaken (e.g. ‘non-psychologism’) or in the cases in which we aren’t (e.g. ‘psychologism’) or they fail to offer a univocal characterisation of the relation (e.g. ‘disjunctivism’). I suggest that an alternative relation, the relation of ‘making rational’ avoids the problems affecting existing answers. Specifically, I suggest:
p is a reason for A to Φ if an only if p makes it rational for A to Φ
I suggest that both psychological and non-psychological facts can make actions rational. This talk concentrates on showing how, in particular, non-psychological facts can make actions rational: I argue that although actions are made rational firstly by beliefs, that (1) if A has a justified belief that p then the justifications it is based on also make rational whatever actions the belief makes rational; and (2) if A knows that p then the fact that p makes rational whatever actions the belief that p makes rational. I suggest that this relation well characterises the instances in which we ordinarily say that someone has a reason or that some p is a reason for them to act.
Silvia Milano: “The problem of de se beliefs”
Abstract: Perry (1979) raises the problem of essentially indexical or de se beliefs: information about one’s own identity and self-location is essential to explaining action but is not reducible to objective beliefs about what the world is like.
Here I consider the problem of de se beliefs in the form of two related questions: what is the content of de se beliefs? Can agents be uncertain about de se information?
I distinguish three responses to the problem of de se beliefs:
Denial, Weak Acceptance (accepting that de se beliefs are not reducible, but denying that agents can be genuinely uncertain about de se information), and Strong Acceptance (accepting both that de se beliefs are irreducible, and that agents can be genuinely uncertainty about them).
I dismiss Denial on the grounds that it does not address the problems raised by Perry. I then argue that Weak Acceptance is prima facie an attractive response to the problem of de se beliefs, but its best formulation – put forward by Stalnaker – relies on an implausible set of assumptions. I conclude that Strong Acceptance is the right position to adopt with respect to the problem of de se beliefs.