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PhD Student Session: Nick Makins and Nicolas Cote

17 February, 4:30 pm6:00 pm

This event will take place online via Zoom. 

Everyone is welcome to join using a computer with access to the internet and Zoom. To take part just follow these instructions:

Please note that these events are routinely recorded, with the edited footage being made publicly available on our website and YouTube channel. We will only record the audio, the slides and the speaker and will not include the Q&A section. However, any question asked during the talk itself will feature in the final edit.

Nick Makins: “The Balance and Weight of Reasons”

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to give a more fleshed out proposal for the ways in which our preferences reflect our reasons. I will argue that practical reasons can be characterised along two dimensions that influence our preferences: their balance and their weight. This is analogous to a similar characterisation of the way in which probabilities reflect the balance and weight of evidence in epistemology. Much attention in the philosophical literature related to practical rationality concerns the balance of reasons. That is, the degree to which our reasons favour one option over another, or not, as the case may be. However, comparatively little attention has been paid to the role of the overall weight of reasons in our practical deliberation. In this paper I will begin fill this gap, building a more complete picture of the balance of reasons and arguing that a full understanding of the weight of reasons is crucial for an adequate account of preference and choice. The upshot is a more complete picture of a particular kind of decision, labelled by Ruth Chang as “hard choices”. These are choices in which one option is better than another in some ways, the other is better than the first in some ways, but neither seems better overall. My account of the balance and weight of reasons has both explanatory and normative implications for such choices.


Nicolas Cote: “The Diagnostic Value of Freedom”

Abstract: In this paper I argue that one of the main reasons why freedom is (instrumentally) valuable to us is that it provides us with diagnostically valuable opportunities for choice, i.e. opportunities that are valuable for us insofar as choosing them enables us to improve our value judgements through learning. Diagnostically valuable learning experiences are commonplace and very salient in our lives, yet curiously this is a category of value has completely escaped the attention of philosophers. Accordingly, the bulk of my paper is aimed at elucidating this concept, examining its relevance to our lives, and defending an account of how to measure the diagnostic value of opportunities and sets of opportunities. In brief: diagnostic value is valuable because it makes us better judges of value, and the diagnostic value of an opportunity is measured by the extent to which the learning event it induces rationally requires us to revise our preferences or our confidence in the judgements these preferences encode.


17 February
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Event Category:




Online via Zoom