SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Abominable Junk
(Epistemology, English)

Abominable conditionals are indicative conditionals of the form 'If I don't know it, p'. Asserting abominable conditionals sounds bad. Dorst (2019) argues that abominable conditionals provide new evidence for the KK-principle: If one knows p, one knows that one knows p. In my talk, I will criticise Dorst's argument, arguing that abominable conditionals should not be asserted for reasons unrelated to KK.

In outline, Dorst's reasoning is this: Abominable conditionals cannot be known, as evidenced by the fact that asserting them sounds bad. However, Dorst argues, if KK can fail, abominable conditionals can be known. Therefore KK cannot fail.

In my talk, I present an analogous argument for a false conclusion. My argument concerns the case NEWSPAPER: You trust The Times and The Guardian equally. Reading The Times, you know that Manchester won yesterday. You don't know what result The Guardian reported, and assert:

(1) If The Guardian reported that Manchester won, Manchester lost.

Here is my analogous (bad) argument: (1) cannot be known in Newspaper, as evidenced by the fact that asserting (1) sounds bad in Newspaper. However, reasoning in analogy with Dorst, we can argue: If it is possible to be in Newspaper, it is possible to know (1) in Newspaper. Therefore, being in Newspaper is impossible.

The trouble with my argument is that cases like Newspaper are clearly possible. Something must have gone wrong. Whatever went wrong, it likely went wrong in Dorst's argument, too; for the two arguments resemble each other closely.

In my talk, I argue that both (1) and abominable conditionals belong to the wider class of junk conditionals, roughly conditionals that one should reject if one learnt that their antecedent is true. Asserting junk conditionals sounds bad for reasons independent of KK (Sorensen 1988). I close my talk considering and rejecting various explanations why junk conditionals are unassertable.

Time: 17:00-17:30, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: HS E.002

Richard Roth 
(New College, University of Oxford, United Kingdom)

I'm interested in epistemology and philosophy of language, currently reading for the BPhil in Philosophy in Oxford. Previously, I did a Master's at HU Berlin and my undergrad in Heidelberg.

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