Wednesday, 29 January 2014

CfP: Formal Ethics 2014, EIPE, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Call for Papers

Formal Ethics 2014,

EIPE, Erasmus University Rotterdam

The application of formal tools (e.g. from logic, rational choice theory, natural language semantics, AI) to the analysis of ethical concepts and theories is a rapidly growing field of research. It has shed new light on a variety of concepts that are central to ethical theory, such as freedom, responsibility, values, norms, and conventions. For information about previous Formal Ethics conferences, please take a look at or The program, tutorial, and working session links there will provide some indication of the breadth of possible topics and formal approaches.

We invite submissions to Formal Ethics 2014, to be held at the Erasmus Institute for Philosophy and Economics (EIPE) at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. The workshop aims to bring together researchers who are employing formal tools to address questions in ethics and/or political philosophy. We encourage graduate students and members of underrepresented groups to submit to this conference.

Keynote speakers

MARC FLEURBAEY (Princeton and Paris)
ULLA WESSELS (Saarbruecken)

Authors should send an extended abstract (1000 words max, pdf or postscript format) suitable for anonymous review, together with their name, institutional affiliation(s) and current position(s) in the body of the email to the Organizing Committee with the subject 'Submission' in the email topic.

Submission topics
Submissions in all areas of formal ethics, broadly construed, are welcome. For Formal Ethics 2014, submissions related to intergenerational ethics, such as population ethics, environmental ethics, and intergenerational justice as well as happiness and freedom are particularly welcome.

Important Dates
Deadline for submissions: March 1, 2014
Notification of acceptance: March 31, 2014
Conference: May 30 and 31, 2014

Local Organizing Committee
Constanze Binder (Rotterdam)
Conrad Heilmann (Rotterdam)

Steering Committee of Formal Ethics Conference Series
Albert J.J. Anglberger (Munich), Constanze Binder (Rotterdam), Conrad Heilmann (Rotterdam), Paul McNamara (New Hampshire)

Contact and further information
Email: (

Institutional Support
Formal Ethics 2014 is supported by the Erasmus Institute of Philosophy and Economics (EIPE) and the Faculty of Philosophy at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO) and the Marie Curie programme (FP7) of the European Union.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

CfP: Explanation Beyond Causation (MCMP, 23-24 October 2014)


LMU Munich, 23-24 October 2014

The presently received view regarding the question “what is a scientific explanation?” is the causal model of explanation. According to this model, the sciences explain by providing information about causes and causal mechanisms. However, in the recent literature, an increasing number of philosophers argue that the explanatory practices in the sciences are considerably richer than the causal model suggests. These philosophers argue that there are non-causal explanations that cannot be accommodated by the causal model. Case studies of non-causal explanations come in a surprisingly diverse variety: for instance, the non-causal character of scientific explanations is based on the explanatory use of non-causal laws, purely mathematical facts, symmetry principles, inter-theoretic relations, renormalization group methods, and so forth. However, if there are non-causal ways of explaining, then the causal model cannot be the whole story about scientific explanation. The goal of the conference is to shed light on, by and large, unexplored philosophical terrain: that is, to develop a philosophical account of various aspects of non-causal explanations in the sciences.

We invite submissions of extended abstracts of 1000 words for contributed talks by 1st March 2014. Decisions will be made by 15th March 2014.

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Tim Maudlin (NYU), Margaret Morrison (Toronto), Bradford Skow (MIT), and Jan Sprenger (Tilburg)

ORGANIZERS: Stephan Hartmann and Alexander Reutlinger

Monday, 20 January 2014

Two CfPs: Trends in Logic XIV and ESSLLI workshop on epistemic logic

Here is reminder that there are two CfPs still open (the one for Trends in Logic closes today!) potentially of interest to M-Phi readers.

* Trends in Logic XIV: The Road Less Travelled -- Off-stream applications of formal methods (Ghent, Belgium, July 8-11 2014).

* ESSLLI workshop 'Epistemic Logic for Individual, Social, and Interactive Epistemology' (Tübingen, Germany, August 11-15 2014).

Both look like fantastic events, so do check out the websites for further info.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

CfP: Imprecise Probabilities in Statistics and Philosophy (LMU, 27-28 June 2014)


LMU Munich, 27-28 June 2014

Imprecise probabilities offer a model of uncertainty that is more general, less idealised than the standard precise probability framework. Imprecise probabilities are receiving increasing attention in statistics (as well as in artificial intelligence and in economics). Recently, there has been a resurgence of philosophical interest in these generalised models of uncertainty. The aim of this workshop is to bring together philosophers and statisticians to see what we can learn from each other. We are sure that such interdisciplinary collaboration will be valuable both to philosophers and to statisticians. Topics on which we might expect fruitful discussions include:
  • updating imprecise probabilities and dilation;
  • foundations of imprecise probabilities;
  • procedures for eliciting imprecise probabilities;
  • decision making with imprecise probabilities.
We invite submissions of extended abstracts of 1500 words for contributed talks by 1st March 2013. Decisions will be made by 15th March 2014.
KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Fabio Cozman (São Paulo), James M. Joyce (Michigan), and Teddy Seidenfeld (CMU)

ORGANIZERS: Thomas Augustin, Seamus Bradley, Marco Cattaneo, Stephan Hartmann, and Roland Poellinger

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Formal Epistemology Workshop 2014 - 2nd CFP

Formal Epistemology Workshop 2014

Second Call for Papers

June 20-22, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

Send anonymized papers to by January 31

Further details about the conference are available at:

Submissions should be prepared for anonymous review. Initial evaluation will be done anonymously. The final program will be selected with an eye towards maintaining diversity, so graduate students, people outside the tenure track, women, and members of underrepresented minorities are particularly encouraged to submit papers.

Some funding has been secured to subsidize travel for student and non-tenure-track authors.

Please send full papers as an attachment to by Friday, January 31, 2014. Identifying information about the author(s) (including obvious self-citations) should be removed from the body of the paper, but the name (and any other relevant information) should be included in the text of the e-mail. Final selection of the program will be made by March 31, 2014.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The formal epistemologist' Theorem

The pain of finding a flaw in a proof of yours is directly proportional to the relief of fixing it, but always greater or equal in strength.

Proof: by introspection. (See here.)

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

2014 Brings New Visiting Fellowships at the MCMP

The Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP) invites applications for visiting fellowships for one to three months in the academic year 2014/15 (15 October 2014 to 15 February 2015 or 15 April to 15 July 2015) intended for advanced Ph.D. students (“Junior Fellowships") and postdocs or faculty (“Senior Fellowships"). Candidates should work in general philosophy of science, the philosophy of one of the special sciences, formal epistemology, or social epistemology and have a commitment to interdisciplinary and collaborative work. To apply, send your application (ideally everything in one pdf file) to with the subject “Junior Fellowship Application” or “Senior Fellowship Application”. Candidates should include a letter of interest (which also indicates the period of the planned stay), a CV, and a project outline of no more than 1000 words. Candidates for a Junior Fellowship should additionally supply one letter of recommendation. We offer a tax-free stipend of 800 Euro/month for junior fellows and 1200 Euro/month for senior fellows to partly cover additional expenses such as housing and transportation to and from Munich. It is also possible to stay for a longer period (e.g. if you are on a sabbatical), but stipends will be for maximally three months.

We also encourage groups of two to four researchers, which may also include scientists, to jointly apply for fellowships (“Research Group Fellowships") to work on an innovative collaborative project from the above-mentioned fields which is of relevance for the research done at the MCMP and which ideally includes a member of the MCMP as a collaborator. To apply, send your application (if possible everything in one pdf file) to with the subject “Research Group Fellowship Application”. Interested groups should include a letter of interest (which also indicates the period of the planned stay), a CV of each group member, and a project outline of no more than 2000 words that also includes information about the intended output of the project. We offer a tax-free stipend of 800 Euro/month for junior group members and 1200 Euro/month for senior group members to partly cover additional expenses such as housing and transportation to and from Munich. It is also possible to stay for a longer period, but stipends will be for maximally three months.

The deadline for applications is 20 February 2014. Decisions will be made by 1 March 2014. For further information, please contact

Monday, 6 January 2014

Two conceptions of criteria of adequacy for formalization: Tarski and Carnap

(Cross-posted at NewAPPS)

Formal/mathematical philosophy is a well-established approach within philosophical inquiry, having its friends as well as its foes. Now, even though I am very much a formal-approaches-enthusiast, I believe that fundamental methodological questions tend not to receive as much attention as they deserve within this tradition. In particular, a key question which is unfortunately not asked often enough is: what counts as a ‘good’ formalization? How do we know that a given proposed formalization is adequate, so that the insights provided by it are indeed insights about the target phenomenon in question? In recent years, the question of what counts as adequate formalization seems to be for the most part a ‘Swiss obsession’, with the thought-provoking work of Georg Brun, and Michael Baumgartner & Timm Lampert. But even these authors seem to me to restrict the question to a limited notion of formalization, as translation of pieces of natural language into some formalism. (I argued in chapter 3 of my book Formal Languages in Logic that this is not the best way to think about formalization.)

However, some of the pioneers in formal/mathematical approaches to philosophical questions did pay at least some attention to the issue of what counts as an adequate formalization. In this post, I want to discuss how Tarski and Carnap approached the issue, hoping to convince more ‘formal philosophers’ to go back to these questions. (I also find the ‘squeezing argument’ framework developed by Kreisel particularly illuminating, but will leave it out for now, for reasons of space.)

Both in his paper on truth and in his paper on logical consequence (in the 1930s), Tarski started out with an informal notion and then sought to develop an appropriate formal framework for it. In the case of truth, the starting point was the correspondence conception of truth, which he claimed dated back to Aristotle. In the case of logical consequence, he was somewhat less precise and referred to the ‘common’ or ‘everyday’ notion of logical consequence. (I’ve argued elsewhere that this is a problematic idea.)

These two conceptual starting points allowed him to formulate what he described as ‘conditions of material adequacy’ for the formal accounts. (He also formulated criteria of formal correctness, which pertain to the internal exactness of the formal theory.) In the case of truth, the basic condition of material adequacy was the famous T-schema; in the case of logical consequence, the properties of necessary truth-preservation and of validity-preserving schematic substitution. (In my SEP entry on medieval theories of consequence, I’ve done a bit of conceptual genealogy to unearth where these two conditions for logical consequence came from.)

Unsurprisingly, the formal theories he then went on to develop both passed the test of material adequacy he had formulated himself. But there is nothing ad hoc about this, since the conceptual core of the notions he was after was presumably captured in these conditions, which thus could serve as conceptual ‘guides’ for the formulation of the formal theories. Indeed, the fact of formulating conceptual/informal but nevertheless precise desiderata is one of the philosophical strengths of Tarski’s analyses both of truth and of logical consequence.

Carnap’s analysis of what counts as adequate formalization can be found in Chapter 1 of Logical Foundations of Probability (1950), namely in his famous exposition of the notion of explication:
The task of explication consists in transforming a given more or less inexact concept into an exact one or, rather, in replacing the first by the second. We call the given concept (or the term used for it) the explicandum, and the exact concept proposed to take the place of the first (or the term proposed for it) the explicatum
Carnap then goes on to formulate four requirements for an adequate explication: (1) similarity to the explicandum, (2) exactness, (3) fruitfulness, (4) simplicity. Exactness and simplicity seem to be purely internal criteria, going in the direction of Tarski’s criteria of formal correctness. Similarity to the explicandum seems to me to come very close to what Tarski refers to as ‘conditions of material adequacy’, namely that the formal explicatum should reflect the conceptual core of the informal explicandum in question. But fruitfulness, which is both the least developed and most interesting of Carnap’s desiderata, seems to me to be a true novelty with respect to Tarski’s discussion in terms of material adequacy and formal correctness, and one that makes the whole thing significantly more complicated but also significantly more interesting.

As I’ve argued in a talk at the Carnap on Logic conference in Munich last year, Carnap’s concepts of similarity and fruitfulness are in fact somewhat in tension with one another, in the sense that a formalization (explication) can be viewed as all the more fruitful if it reveals aspects of the informal concept which were not visible ‘to the naked eye’. So what Carnap added to the Tarskian framework is the idea that the goal of a formalization is not only to capture exactly what is already explicit in the informal concept in question. To be sure, Carnap himself does not say that much about what he understands under fruitfulness, and seems to focus in particular on the explicatum’s capacity to generate ‘many universal statements’. But it seems to me that the Carnapian notion of the fruitfulness of a formalization can be developed in other interesting directions, in particular in the more epistemological/cognitive direction of formalization as a tool for discovery. (I’m supposed to write a paper for the special issue ensuing from the Carnap workshop, and the plan is to develop these ideas more fully.)

Be that as it may, I hope to have made it clear that both Tarski and Carnap offer excellent starting points for (much-needed) sustained discussions of what counts as adequate formalization, and more generally of the methodological aspects of applying formal/mathematical methods to philosophical questions.

UPDATE: I want to add plugs to two excellent books on Carnap and explication: Carnap's Ideal of Explication and Naturalism (ed. Pierre Wagner) and A. Carus' monograph Carnap and Twentieth-Century Thought: Explication as Enlightenment