Workshop on Group Agency and Social Epistemology


Date: April 2nd, 10:00.  Location: Phil 716.

Philip Kitcher
Social Agnotology

Agnotology stands to ignorance as epistemology stands to knowledge. This talk will be focused on social mechanisms that sustain ignorance. Some forms of ignorance are fruitful. Most are not. I begin with some distinctions. Those distinctions are then used to consider particularly noxious (and live) forms of contemporary ignorance: specifically, kinds of ignorance that persist in spite of knowledgeable people within the community, and that endure because those who remain ignorant cannot tell who is expert with respect to an important debated issue (example – confusions about anthropocentric climate change). I argue that the intellectual credit economy, useful in sustaining valuable diversity within the scientific community, interacts with other valuable social conditions (wide recognition that scientists should inform the general public) to erode the markers of epistemic authority on which all of us depend.

Cailin O’Connor
Power, Bargaining, and Evolution

Nash famously showed that power differences across players in game theoretic models can translate into advantages in bargaining scenarios. In this talk, I discuss joint work with Justin Bruner where we explore how power, hashed out in several different ways, can lead to bargaining advantage in evolving social populations. I show how these models can inform the emergence of norms of collaboration across hierarchies in academia, and other bargaining norms in populations with more and less powerful groups.

Gregory Wheeler
Mispriced gambles: What peers learn when they disagree

The Preservation of Irrelevant Evidence (PIE) Principle maintains that a resolution strategy to peer disagreements should be able to preserve unanimous judgments of evidential irrelevance among the peers. It is well-known that no standard Bayesian resolution strategy satisfies the PIE Principle, and some — such as Carl Wagner — have argued so much the worse for PIE. In this paper we respond by giving a loss aversion argument in support of PIE and against Bayes. Another response is for each peer to dig in her heels and remain ‘steadfast’ or cave-in to a single dictator. Thomas Kelly advocates the former approach and nobody, so far as I know, the latter. In any case, we respond by arguing that a disagreement introduces to the peers the serious possibility that they may have mispriced the random quantities in dispute. The theory of imprecise probability offers tools to clear up these matters, but it also uncovers new issues that are unfamiliar to standard probabilistic modelings for a single agent. Thus, we introduce the notion of a set-based credal judgment to frame and address some of that subtleties that arise in peer disagreements.

Kevin Zollman
The credit economy and the economic rationality of science

Scientists are motivated by the credit they are given for their discoveries by their peers. Traditional theories of the scientific method in philosophy do not include this motivation, and at first blush it appears as though these theories would regard it as inappropriate. A number of scholars have suggested, however, that this motivation serves to perpetuate successful science. It has been proposed as a mechanism to encourage more scientific effort and a mechanism to effectively allocate resources between competing research programs. This paper presents an economic model of scientists’ choices in which these claims can be formalized and evaluated. Ultimately, the paper comes to mixed conclusions. The motivation for credit may help to increase scientists effort in science, but also may serve to misallocate effort between competing research programs.

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