Historical and Systematic Issues

3 – 9 July 2017        Send to printer

Course description:

Over the last two decades social epistemology has emerged as one of the most innovative and productive fields in philosophy. At the same time, and relatedly, semantic and epistemic forms of relativism and contextualism have found a number of new, original advocates and opponents. This summer school will bring these discussions together, and in both systematic and historical perspectives. We will discuss questions like the following: What is the relationship between epistemic and semantic relativism? Is knowledge a natural or a social kind? What implications do different answers have for issues of relativism or normativity? How does feminist epistemology conceptualize relativism and objectivity? How should we think about disagreements

concerning fundamental principles of rational belief formation? What role do epistemic and semantic forms of relativism play in the sociology of knowledge? What can we learn about relativism from late nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century debates? And how should we conceptualize the relationship between judgement and cognitive relativism?

This is the second IUC Summer School organized by the Vienna ERC Advanced Grant Project “The Emergence of Relativism: Historical, Philosophical and Systematic Issues” (2014-19) in co-operation with Croatian and other colleagues.

Here is a brief description of the different topics:

- “Relativism in Feminist Epistemologies” (Ashton): We will look at different conceptions of relativism and objectivity in feminist epistemology. We will discuss key texts from a systematic perspective.

- "Relativism and Relativistic Semantics in Epistemology" (Belleri): When it comes to epistemic notions like knowledge and justification, we can assume (broadly construed) relativistic positions about the conditions in which knowledge itself or justification itself obtain; or we can elaborate a semantic theory that tells us when sentences like "S knows that P" or "S is justified to believe that P" are true. Various epistemological and semantic options will be presented and their mutual relationships will be analyzed.

- "Epistemic and Semantic Relativism in the Sociology of Knowledge" (Kusch): Authors developing the “Strong Programme” in the “Sociology of Scientific Knowledge” have long defended both epistemic and semantic (“finitist”) forms of relativism (e.g. David Bloor and Barry Barnes). This session will assess their proposals in light of recent philosophical discussions of related issues.

- “Naturalism and Sociologism in Contemporary Epistemology” (McKenna): In contemporary epistemology there is a divide between those who tend to view knowledge naturalistically and those who tend to view it as a kind of social product. Prominent figures on the naturalistic side of the divide include W.V.O. Quine and Hilary Kornblith; prominent figure on the social side include Robert Brandom and Martin Kusch. Many epistemologists fall somewhere in the middle (e.g. Ernie Sosa). This session will look at both sides of the divide, with a strong focus on the issues of relativism and normativity.

- “Rationality, Testimony and Disagreement” (Raleigh): Can it ever be rational to lower one's confidence in a fundamental principle of rational belief formation because an epistemic peer disagrees with you about that rational principle? We will briefly review some of the familiar issues concerning Testimony and Peer Disagreement and then go on to consider what we should say about rationality in these kinds of tricky cases.

“Historical and Sociological Perspectives: Epistemology in late 19th and early 20th Century German Philosophy” (Steizinger): We shall focus on relevant texts of historical key figures (Nietzsche, Dilthey, Simmel and Lukács), analyze their innovative methodologies (genealogy, hermeneutics, sociology of knowledge and historical materialism) and consider their contribution to the debate on relativism.

"Judgment and Cognitive Relativism" (Jure Zovko): TBA

The course is open to Master and PhD students. The language of instruction is English. The number of participants is restricted to 25. It is possible to earn 5 ECTS credits throughattending the course and fulfilling the course requirements (preparatory reading, regular attendance, active participation in the discussions, oral presentation, and a final paper of around 5000 words).

The course fee is €50. It can be waived in case of financial hardship. Successful applicants will normally have to cover the costs of their travel, hotel and meals, though financial assistance is likely to become available for students of the University of Vienna. Applications should be sent (electronically) to: Martin Kusch martin.kusch@univie.ac.at

The deadline for applications is March 1st, 2017.

The application should contain a copies of degrees, a transcript of marks, a letter explaining motivation, and one letter of recommendation. The latter should be sent directly to the above email address and should reach us by March 1st. Successful candidates will be informed by April.

Course lecturers

Robert James McKenna, University of Vienna, Austria
Martin Kusch, University of Vienna, Austria
Thomas Raleigh, University of Vienna, Austria
Natalie Ashton, University of Vienna, Austria
Johannes Steizinger, University of Vienna, Austria
Delia Belleri, University of Vienna, Austria
Jure Zovko, University of Zadar/University of Zagreb, Croatia
Leonie Smith, University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Work Schedule

Monday 3rd July, Kusch:

Barnes, Bloor, Henry (1996). Scientific Knowledge pp. 46-59, 69-73, 100-109.

Barnes and Bloor (1982). Relativism, Rationalism and the Sociology of Knowledge.

Bloor (2007). Epistemic Grace.

Tuesday 4th July, Steizinger:

Passages from Nietzsche (1887), Genealogy of Morality Passages from Simmel (1990), Philosophy of Money

Wednesday 5th July, Raleigh:

Lasonen-Aarnio, M. (2014). Higher-order Evidence and the Limits of Defeat.

Srinivisan, A. (2015). The Archimedean Urge.

Thursday 6th July, Zovko:

Boghossian, P. (2014). What is Inference?

Sankey, H (2010). Witchcraft, Relativism and the Problem of the Criterion.

Wieland, W (1981). The Philosophy of Science: its Possibilities and Limits

Friday 7th July, Ashton:

Collins, P.H. (1986). Learning from the Outsider Within.

Longino, H.E. (1997). Feminist Epistemology as Local Epistemology.

Saturday 8th July, McKenna:

Kornblith, H. (1999). Knowledge in Humans and Other Animals.

Williams, M. (2015). What's So Special about Human Knowledge?

Sunday 9th July, Belleri:

MacFarlane, J. (2005). The Assessment Sensitivity of Knowledge


Marques, T. (2014). Relative Correctness.

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