The Metaphysics of Knowledge: Epistemic Indexing, Workshop, Arché, St Andrews, September 2016.

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organising a conference


Since Nozick (1981) it has become standard practice to index various modal principles—such as tracking conditions and safety conditions—to methods (or bases). The guiding motivation is roughly this: if we are to properly test a belief that p for reliability then we need to test the reliability of the method which produced this belief. So, for example, on a sensitivity based conception of reliability, in order to test a belief that p for sensitivity to falsity we need to check whether the subject believes that p in the nearest not-p worlds where the subject is using (roughly) the same method of belief formation that they are using in the actual case. Put this way, indexing to methods seems to be just a form of good epistemological housekeeping, of no great importance to the larger, more vital debates within epistemology. The theme of this conference is that such a view is mistaken—that indexing to methods (and bases) ought to be a central topic in epistemology. For one thing, indexing to methods and bases can clarify and make rigorous a variety of important principles governing knowledge and justification, and thereby help us get clearer on the nature of knowledge, justification, and reliability. Moreover, a strong case can be made that getting clear about what methods and bases are and just how we should index to them, will also help illuminate and unlock a number of epistemological puzzles such as Cartesian Scepticism, Cartesian Meta-Scepticism, the various forms of Lottery Scepticism, the Paradox of Dogmatism, Kripke’s Red-Barn Closure Puzzle, the paradoxes of confirmation, and more. Despite the centrality and prominence of epistemic indexing, there has been very little scrutiny of the nature and application of methods and bases—from either a formal or philosophical direction. The purpose of this workshop is to initiate such scrutiny. Some of the many questions addressed will include: What should we index? Belief ascriptions, knowledge ascriptions, anything else?

What should we index to? Methods, bases, or something else?

What exactly are methods? What are bases? How do they relate to each other?

How should we individuate methods or bases? Internally or externally?

How does such individuation impinge upon the generality problem?

How do methods or bases interact? What of conjunctive or disjunctive methods?

Are methods/bases monotonic?

What is the importance of Nozick’s distinction between one-sided and two-sided methods?

How can methods or bases be formally represented in some suitable epistemic logic?

What is the best indexed formulation of safety?

What is the best indexed formulation of singe-premise and multi-premise closure?

How can indexing help illuminate the various puzzles and paradoxes concerning knowledge?

How does one best make sense of epistemic indexing from within a Knowledge-First Epistemology?

This workshop is one of two workshops which explores the broad theme of the metaphysics of knowledge. A second Arché/Eidyn workshop, The Metaphysics of Knowledge II, will be hosted by Eidyn at the University of Edinburgh and will organised by Professor Jesper Kallestrup.
Period14 Oct 201615 Oct 2016
Event typeWorkshop
Degree of RecognitionInternational