Epistemic Agents: Norms, Control and Responsibility in the Theory of Knowledge

Canadian Society for Epistemology
Annual meeting

November 17-18 2017
Université de Montréal (Québec, Canada)



It is often assumed that believing, judging, and reasoning do not merely happen to us. In some sense, we seem to be active with respect to such states, events or acts. The idea of epistemic agency is widely discussed in epistemology, debates about metacognition, reasoning, and norms of rationality. At first sight, it implies that at least some of our epistemic states are brought about by some kind of voluntary and norm-governed activities, similar to struggling to retrieve a memory. After all, we seem to be responsible for our beliefs, judgments and inferences. And how can you be responsible for something that we don’t control? On reflection, however, it might also turn out to be misleading. Most notably, beliefs can hardly be deemed “voluntary” or as falling under our intentional control.
Do beliefs, judgments and inferences impose liability of any kind to the epistemic agent? Must we be in charge (in what sense?) of what we believe in order for a belief to be knowledgeable? Does believing, judging or reasoning share something important with bodily actions? Are beliefs governed by ethical norms? Are epistemic norms merely evaluative or do they underwrite deontic statements or offer guidance? These are some of the questions we’d like to discuss at this year’s annual meeting of the Canadian Epistemological Society.

Michael Williams (Johns Hopkins University), title TBA

This two days conference invites contributions from epistemologists dealing with any of (but not limited to) the following topics:
– Are epistemic norms reducible to practical norms? Or derivable from epistemic goods like having accurate beliefs or knowledge?
– Is the idea of “mental agency” anything more than a metaphor? In what sense and why is it impossible to believe at will? Are the concepts of self-consciousness or spontaneity helpful in thinking about this?
– What kind of control, if any, do we have on our cognitive states?  Do we control our beliefs, e.g., by reasoning or judging?
– Do we have epistemic duties? Can they be explained in terms of epistemic virtues?
– Are there epistemic “wrongdoings”? How should we think about epistemic injustice?
– How can a belief be both epistemically right but morally wrong, and vice versa?
– Are we epistemically liable for our beliefs? How is the idea of believing responsibly related to epistemic agency? Do ideas about epistemic agency have interesting consequences for the internalism/externalism debate?
– What is the status and nature of epistemic norms and norms of rationality? How does coherence and responsiveness to reasons relate to each other?

Abstracts (500 words max) should be prepared for double-blind reviewing process. Both documents should be submitted via EasyChair at https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=cse20171

Deadline: September 15 (2017).

Notification of acceptance: October 2 (2017).

If you have any further queries, please contact:
Aude Bandini: aude.bandini[at]umontreal.ca

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