PERSP Final Conference. ABSTRACTS

PERSP Final Conference, 8-10 September 2014, Barcelona


Luís Duarte d'Almeida (Edinburgh)

'The Representation of Legal Rules'

Many legal theorists find it plausible to think of legal rules as universally quantified conditionals attaching normative consequences to the occurrence of some fact or facts. It also seems plausible to think that legal rules may be subject to exceptions. But these two thoughts appear to conflict; it would seem that they cannot both be accommodated by any adequate representation of the form of legal rules. On the one hand, the popular ‘incorporationist’ account fails to distinguish between exceptions and negative rule‑elements. On the other hand, the strategy of granting that with our rule-statements we cannot mean to indicate sufficient conditions seems to imply that only non-monotonic accounts of the justification of judicial verdicts can be given. Is there a way of representing legal rules that succeeds in discharging both tasks? In this paper I discuss and dismiss a recent attempt at solving this persistent jurisprudential problem.

John Gardner (Oxford)

‘Holding on and Letting Go - in Life and in Law’

It is a mistake to live in the past. But is it a mistake to care for one’s own past, to try to keep faith with it or make peace with it, to cry for what was taken away, to dwell on the traces or scars that one left on others? Do reasonable people look only to the future? ‘What’s gone and what’s past help / Should be past grief.’ says Paulina in The Winter’s Tale. But is she right? ‘[H]olding on comes easily; / we do not need to learn it’, writes Rilke in Requiem for a Friend. But should we try to unlearn it? In this lecture, part of a book in which I will explore backward-looking aspects of life and law, I will try to persuade you that it is pro tanto reasonable to hold on to what one has, and even, sometimes, to try go back to it when it is taken away. I will also reflect a little on the implications of this somewhat conservative view for law, for justice, and (perhaps) for politics more widely

Brie Gertler (Virginia)

 "Subjectivity and Agency: what Makes my Attitudes Mine?" 

What is the relation between a subject and her own attitudes, in virtue of which those attitudes are hers?  According to one traditional approach, an attitude belongs to a subject if (though perhaps not only if) she has epistemically privileged access to that attitude.  Philosophers such as Tyler Burge and Richard Moran have recently challenged this epistemic approach as regards beliefs and intentions. They argue that it is the subject’s agential relation to her beliefs and intentions, rather than any epistemic relation, that makes those attitudes her own. This position, which I call “agentialism”, charges that the traditional, epistemicapproach portrays subjects as mere observers of a passing cognitive show, and thereby neglects the fact that in believing and intending we are rational agents engaged in cognitive activity. In this talk, I defend the epistemic approach from the agentialist challenge by showing how that approach can accommodate agentialism’s guiding intuition: namely, that genuinely owning an attitude is tied to the capacity to recognizeit as an expression of one’s rational agency, rather than to the capacity simply to observe the attitude (even introspectively).In particular, I propose a broadly epistemic construal of what it means to occupy an agential perspectiverelative to a belief or intention.

Bryan Pickel (Edinburgh)

'A Solution to the Problem of Recurring Demonstratives'

(with B. Rabern and J. Dever)

Indexical pronouns such as ‘I’, ‘now’, and ‘here’ make different truth conditional contributions in different contexts. A sentence containing such a pronoun—such as ‘I am hungry’—may be true when uttered in one context, but false in another. This variation is not mere ambiguity, or else language would be unlearnable. Fortunately, Montague (1968) and Kaplan (1989a) showed that one need not suppose that indexicals are ambiguous in this way, by treating context as a parameter at which a sentence is semantically processed. But, the threat of massive ambiguity reemerges when one considers recurring demonstratives. The problem arises from the fact that one may truly utter a sentence in a context c with two occurrences of a demonstrative such as (1) ‘that is identical to that’. The difference in truth conditional contributions cannot be accounted for by standard parameter sensitivity, according to which a sentence is assessed relative to a single context c and the truth conditional contribution of the demonstrative pronoun ‘that’ is a function of its linguistic meaning and c. We solve this problem using two radical devices. First, we allow context to systematically shift in the evaluation of a sentence, so that one evaluates the two occurrences of ‘that’ at different contexts. But this is not enough. We argue that the problem of recurring demonstratives requires reimagining the role of context as containing information about the evolution of discourse. Along the way, we show that more conservative solutions are untenable.

Hugo Seleme (UPF, Barcelona) & José Luís Martí (UPF, Barcelona)

"Lawyering and Disagreements"

Disagreement between lawyers and their clients is an incontrovertible fact. Anyone even partly familiar with the practice of law knows that it is usual for lawyers and clients to disagree. Although the existence of disagreements is peacefully accepted, the kind of disagreement that may occur and its relevance to the practice of law of each kind is not clear. This work attempts to offer a contribution in both respects. Firstly, it offers a taxonomy of disagreements in order to, secondly, assess the relevance of one of the least explored types of disagreement: those referring to political morality. The presentation shows the manner in which disagreements should be viewed if an alternative republican political theory is adopted.

Moritz Schulz (Tubingen)

"Decisions and Higher-Order Knowledge"

An issue in Bayesian decision theory are assignments of probability 1 because they license to bet our lives for a penny. There are various possible reactions to this problem ranging from a ban on probability 1 to contextualist or sensitive invariantist solutions (Greco 2012). In response, Williamson (2005a, 2005b) has suggested that high stake decisions might require higher levels of knowledge. In this paper, I discuss how one might turn Williamson's idea into a systematic theory.

Albert Solé (UAB, Barcelona)

"Configuration Space Realism, Ontological Reduction and the Two-space Reading of Bohmian Mechanics"

In this talk I assess the consequences as regards causation of two quantum ontologies. Wave function field monism is the view that the wave function –interpreted as a physical field inhabiting configuration space– is all that there fundamentally is. Authors such as David Albert or Alyssa Ney consider that realism about ordinary non-relativistic quantum mechanics commits to this view. Bohmian mechanics is a theory empirically equivalent to non-relativistic quantum mechanics that adds particles to the ontology. According to the two-space reading of Bohmian mechanics both the wave function field in configuration space and the Bohmian particles in three-dimensional space exist. Ney (2012) argues that if the two space reading of Bohmian mechanics is true, the Bohmian particles are causally inert. Since it is assumed that macroscopic objects are constituted by Bohmian particles, macroscopic objects are causally inert as well. Therefore, the friend of the two-space reading of Bohmian mechanics is forced to a notorious revision of the manifest image regarding the causal properties that we typically attribute to the objects of our experience. In this talk I review Ney’s criticism of the two-space reading of Bohmian mechanics and I provide some plausibility arguments to the conclusion that the wave function field monist also has to revise some beliefs about causation that are part of the manifest image.

Ney, A. (2012): The Status of our Ordinary Three Dimensions in a Quantum Universe. Nous 46(3), 525–560.

Stephan Torre (Aberdeen)

'Beliefs and Utterances about the Future in the Multiverse'

I consider what we ought to say about utterances and beliefs about the future if it turns out that we inhabit a branching multiverse. One account that entails that we inhabit a branching multiverse is the Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics. In his recent explication and defense of this account, David Wallace argues that the ways in which we talk about the future “will remain fully justified in the event that we come to accept Everettian quantum mechanics as true” (The Emergent Multiverse, p.259). I evaluate Wallace’s arguments for this conclusion and argue that they are unsuccessful. Instead I argue that, given certain plausible metaphysical and semantic assumptions, many of our beliefs and utterances about the future are radically undermined if it turns out that we inhabit a branching multiverse.

Jessica Wilson (Toronto)

 'Are there Indeterminate States of Affairs?'

In 'A determinable-based account of metaphysical indeterminacy' (Inquiry, 2013), I provided an account of metaphysical (as opposed to semantic or epistemic) indeterminacy, applying to vague boundaries, quantum indeterminacy, and the open future, as involving an object's having a determinable property but no unique determinate of that property.  Here I contrast my account with the sort of 'metaphysical supervaluationist' account endorsed by Elizabeth Barnes and Robbie Williams, on which metaphysical indeterminacy consists, not in there being an indeterminate state of affairs, but in its being indeterminate which determinate state of affairs obtains.