LIRa session: Daniel Hoek

Speaker: Daniel Hoek (New York University)

Date and Time: Thursday, May 4th 2017, 15:30-17:00

Venue: KdVI Seminar Room F3.20, Science Park 107.

Title: Logical Omniscience and the Epistemology of Phone Numbers.

Abstract. There are two major schools of thought about the nature of belief. According to the first school, our beliefs are different aspects of a single, coherent picture we have of the world. This overall picture can be represented as a set of possible worlds. This account of belief has many theoretical virtues and meshes nicely with decision theory. But it is widely regarded as unrealistic, because it faces the so-called problem of logical omniscience. We can call this the map theory of belief, after Ramsey’s slogan for it: “belief is the map by which we steer”. Opposed to the map school is the belief box school, according to which our beliefs are separate entities that are to be represented as sentences or other syntactically structured objects such as Russellian propositions. While the belief box model is much more popular amongst philosophers, only the map model plays a role of any significance in economics and cognitive science.
In this talk, I develop a proposal from Yalcin (2016) to show there is a third way. According to Yalcin’s theory, the objects of belief aren’t pieces of information or sentences. Rather, they are answers to specific questions. This allows us to form a conception of belief according to which our beliefs are connected insofar as their subject matters are related. On this theory, there are constitutive links holding all or most of our beliefs together into a single web, but the beliefs in the web need not add up to a single, coherent overall picture of the world. I will try to show that this third way marries the applicability of the map theory with some of the central advantages of the belief box theory.