The “Science & More” talks are a series of work in progress talks at the Center for Logic, Language and Cognition (LLC) in Turin and run by the ERC project. We use it to present our own work in progress and to learn about the ongoing research of our colleagues. From time to time, also speakers from outside Turin present their work.
Thematically, the talks are centered around philosophy of science, but we are also open to topics from related areas (e.g., logic, epistemology, philosophy of language) and other philosophical subdisciplines where exact methods are applied.
The talks take place in Palazzo Nuovo (Via Sant’Ottavio 20) from noon (= 12:00) to 13:00, usually on Wednesdays, followed by a joint lunch in one of the surrounding restaurants. They are meant to be low-key events, open to everybody and aiming at the improvement of ongoing work through critical, but constructive discussion.
The next Science & More Talks will be hosted by the meeting and conferencing platform Cisco WebEx. To join us, you just have to click on the link indicated under the date of each event and procede through the following three steps: i) enter your name and your email address (the password is already set); ii) download the plugins needed for your WebEx meetings (only if it’s the first time you use it); iii) once you have entered the meeting, select “Communicate” in the bar on the top of your WebEx window, then select “Audio Connection” and click on “Using Computer for Audio”. The link will be enabled 10 minutes before the beginning of the event.
Silvia Tossut (University of Turin): The Psychological Science Accelerator: An Epistemological Perspective
Wednesday, 3 June, noon
The Psychological Science Accelerator (PSA) is the most recent attempt to overcome the replicability crisis in psychology. It consists in a globally distributed network of labs, whose main goal is the collection of a huge amount of comparable evidence.
In this talk, I analyze the PSA’s organizational structure and its official policies from an epistemological point of view, to state whether it can be effective to contrast the replicability crisis.
The comparison with previous projects addressing the replicability crisis in the field, indicates that the PSA exhibits several elements of epistemological interest. I focus mainly on two connected assumptions of the PSA: (i) that open and transparent communication among the members can help in reaching an epistemic desideratum; (ii) that the acceleration of evidence acquisition is relevant to overcome the crisis.
Starting from a thesis of Zollman’s network epistemology, I suggest that the relation between full communication in a network and acceleration of knowledge within it is not straightforward. Then, I argue that social epistemology can provide the instruments to analyze and improve the organizational structure of a network with an epistemic desideratum. I show what this could mean in practice in the case of the PSA.
In the conclusion, I state that the PSA will arguably be good for psychological science, but for reasons other than acceleration.
Noah Van Dongen (University of Turin): A systematic review of the essay and opinion literature on null hypothesis significance testing
Wednesday, 27 May, noon
In the social sciences, this is a period of fierce debates on failed replications and failing statistical methods. It is our opinion that these debates in particular and methodological development in general could benefit from an increased understanding of the ubiquitously used statistical tool, the Null Hypothesis Significance Test (NHST). To this end, we will systematically review the literature on the misconceptions and limitations of NHST, and alternative methods that are therein suggested. Specifically, we focus on essays and opinion pieces in the academic literature that identify and discuss these issues, either in favour or against NHST, with the use of arguments supported by references to empirical and mathematical evidence.
This project is still in progress. In this presentation, I will talk about its conception, aims, methods, and preliminary results.
Maria Paola Sforza Fogliani (University School for Advanced Studies IUSS Pavia): Pluralism about Criteria
Wednesday, 20 May, noon
According to logical pluralism (LP), more than one account of logical consequence is correct or legitimate; the contrasting view is, of course, logical monism. In particular, so far, LP has been advanced as the view that more than one logical theory complies either with (i) a given legitimacy criterion or (ii) a certain set of criteria – these being familiar parameters of the abductive methodology (e.g. simplicity, adequacy to the data, fruitfulness), or crucial philosophical requirements (e.g. necessity, normativity, formality). I’ll here argue for a different perspective, which consists in allowing for a plurality of legitimacy criteria or sets of legitimacy criteria themselves; call this – unsurprisingly – pluralism about criteria. After having presented the position, I’ll sketch a quasi-mechanical procedure that, being fed some selection criteria, is able to generate the spectrum of (nearly all) the possible views that can be maintained with respect to the number of legitimate logics out there. In the end, I’ll highlight some of the advantages that pluralism about criteria has over traditional LP, especially in answering monist objections.
Joachim Frans (Vrije Universiteit Brussel): Unificatory Understanding and Explanatory Proofs
Wednesday, 13 May, noon
One of the central aims of the philosophical analysis of mathematical explanation is to determine how one can distinguish explanatory proofs from non-explanatory proofs. There seems, however, little consensus on which proofs are genuinely explanatory. Instead of identifying proof(s) as the starting point of this task, I suggest we start by analyzing the concept understanding. More precisely, I will defend four claims: (i) understanding is a condition for explanation, (ii) unificatory understanding is a type of explanatory understanding, (iii) unificatory understanding is valuable in mathematics, and (iv) mathematical proofs can contribute to unificatory understanding. As a result, in a context where the epistemic aim is to unify mathematical results, I argue it is fruitful to make a distinction between proofs based on their explanatory value.
Matteo Plebani (University of Turin) and Michele Lubrano (University of Turin): Parts of Structures
Wednesday, 29 April, noon
“Nor is it self-contradictory that a proper part should be identical (not merely equal) to the whole, as is seen in the case of structures in the abstract sense. The structure of the series of integers, e.g., contains itself as a proper part” (Goedel, “Russell’s Mathematical Logic”, p. 130 in his Collected Works). When it comes to judging whether something is contradictory or not, Goedel is quite an authority. However, his claim is puzzling. On the one hand, he seems to be right: mathematics displays a variety of fractal-like structures. On the other hand, the idea that something is a proper part of itself sounds contradictory: what makes a part proper is precisely that it is not identical to the whole. Our aim is to show how this tension can be partially solved, by means of a definition of ‘proper part of a structure’ that connects in a natural way systems of objects with their abstract structures. We will also show that our account of what counts as part of an abstract structure has many interesting and surprising consequences.
Mattia Andreoletti (University of Turin) and Malvina Ongaro (University of Turin): Non-Epistemic Uncertainties in Evidence-Based Policy
Wednesday, 22 April, noon
The last few decades have seen the rise of a movement calling for more evidence in social policy. Within this trend, randomized experiments occupy a prominent place. The number of studies involving randomization has been constantly on the rise, receiving an increasingly large attention in economics. However, philosophers of science have argued time and again that the strive for evidence-based policy tends to assign excessive weight to effectiveness considerations. And overconfidence in the epistemic merits of randomization leads to overlooking the non-epistemic aspects of policy-making. A complete understanding of evidence-based policy requires therefore an understanding of these latter. But while considerations on evidence abound in the philosophical literature, exhaustive analyses of non-epistemic issues are still lacking. In this paper, we aim to remedy this.
The importance of evidence in policy-making lays in its potential to reduce uncertainty. Since arguably any policy decision happens under conditions of uncertainty, then resorting to evidence should lead to better decisions. Against this backdrop, we claim that (i) non-epistemic uncertainties play a key role in the assessment of the evidence and (ii) the extent to which a policy decision is determined by the evidence depends on how non-epistemic uncertainties are resolved.
Lorenzo Casini (Université de Genève): Causal Heterogeneity and Independent Components
Wednesday, 15 April, noon
Successful policy requires estimates of causal effects that are also useful predictors of possible interventions. An obstacle to finding suitable estimates is the causal heterogeneity of the population where effects are estimated. In this talk, I sketch a solution to the problem of heterogeneity based on an “independent component” (IC) representation of the data, as may be recovered by statistical techniques for blind source separation (e.g., independent component analysis). In previous work (Casini, Moneta, and Capasso 2020), I argued that the IC representation can aid causal inference by identifying “ill-defined variables” responsible for “ambiguous manipulations” (Spirtes and Scheines, 2004). Here, I suggest that this result may be brought to bear on the issue of causal heterogeneity. The key idea is that, in the presence of heterogeneity, the cause of interest trasmits its effect ambiguously — because it is a coarse-grain variable with heterogeneous causal roles in different subpopulations, or because its influence is modulated by latent causes of the outcome. By uncovering hidden sources of variation, the IC representation can separate different component effects underpinning the aggregate effect. This strategy promises to help assess the reliability of causal models and to reduce the uncertainty of model-based decisions.
Casini, L., Moneta, A. and Capasso, M. (2020). Variable definition and independent components. Unpublished manuscript.
Spirtes, P. and Scheines, R. (2004). Causal inference of ambiguous manipulations. Philosophy of Science, 71(5):833–45.
Cristina Sagrafena (University of Turin): Scientific Rationality is and can be Silent
Wednesday, 1 April, noon
Samir Okasha (2011), applying Arrow’s theorem (1951) to theory choice on the basis of the Kuhnian epistemic criteria (Kuhn, T., 1977), argues that there is no acceptable theory choice rule, namely there is no theory choice rule that satisfies the Arrovian desiderata for social choice rephrased for theory choice. The only promising escape route seems to be enlarging the information that the theory choice rule takes in, so that its inputs provide more-than-ordinal information and permit inter-criteria comparisons, following Amartya Sen’s work for social choice (1970). Regarding the argument just sketched, Seamus Bradley (2017) points out that Okasha relies on an objective reading of rational theory choice according to which there are agent-independent standards for choice among theories. Conversely, he proposes to use Sen’s escape in the light of a subjective idea of rational theory choice. In fact, individual scientists’ choices among theories implicitly reveal subjective trade-offs among the virtues which can meet Sen’s escape desiderata. In this talk I ask what happens to social choice framework applied to theory choice if we impose on the latter the desideratum of objectivity, arguably the most important desideratum for theory choice. For this purpose, I take into consideration two ideas of objectivity: objectivity as transformative criticism (Longino, 1990) and objectivity as value-free-ideal. I will show that since in both cases, subjective trade-offs of epistemic (and contextual) values are recognized (and encouraged), Sen’s escape route should be used in light of a subjective reading of rational theory choice.
Federico Boem (University of Turin) and Stefano Bonzio (Polytechnic University of the Marche): A Logic for Scientific Attitude?
Wednesday, 25 March, noon
Individuating the (but also “a”) logic of scientific discovery appears a very hard task. An easier effort is trying to figure out a way to logically describe the epistemic attitude in certain experimental contexts of scientific practice. Accordingly, we claim that classical logic cannot play such a descriptive role. We propose, instead, one of the three-valued logics in the Kleene family: the one apparently classified as the less attractive, namely Hallden’s logic (for which there is no philosophical interpretation yet). We will show that, within certain experimental contexts, researchers tend to reason in ways that are not adequately represented by (classical) inferential schemes, as witnessed by the failure of modus ponens. However, this does not mean that scientists abandon a logical stance or any regulative idea of rationality. Indeed, researchers do make inferences. These inferences may seem “weak” when compared to traditional ones. However this weakness is not detrimental. On the contrary, it nicely captures the type of scientific thinking occuring in these situations.
Giuliano Rosella (University of Turin) and Vita Saitta (University of Genoa): Truthmakers and Modality
Wednesday 18 March, noon
Truthmakers and truthmaking relations are the subject of one of the most florishing debates within contemporary philosophy. In our work, we will focus on an inquiry concerning truthmakers of modal truths, i.e under what conditions something in the world makes true (is a truthmaker of) a statement of the form “possibly A” or “necessarily A”. After introducing the novel formal framework of truthmaker semantics (recently developed by Kit Fine in a series of publications [Fine, 2012, 2016, 2017]), we will propose our idea of extending this framework by means of a new model theoretic structure which is able to account for the truthmaker conditions of modal statements. We will argue that our approach has some philosophical advantages over Kit Fine’s system. Finally, we will: (i) explore some possible connections between our semantic framework and non-classical modal logics, and (ii) show how this framework may help us gain new insights into the different philosophical conceptions of truthmakers of modal truths.
Stefano Bonzio (Polytechnic University of the Marche): How to believe long conjunctions of beliefs: probability, quasi-dogmatism and contextualism
Wednesday, 29 January, noon, Aula 21, Palazzo Nuovo
Introduction: Federico Boem
Chair: Mattia Andreoletti
Comments by Vincenzo Crupi and Jan Sprenger
According to the Lockean thesis, a rational agent believes a proposition if and only if he assigns to it a probability which is greater than a previously fixed threshold r. The validity of this thesis is threatened by the Preface paradox, which is usually taken to show that the Lockean thesis clashes with the requirement that a rational agent should believe the conjunction of his own beliefs. In this talk, I show in which cases the Lockean thesis is compatible with such requirement and hence can be consistently adopted as a reliable defining criterion for rational belief. In particular, relying on well known results in probability theory, it is possible to compute the bound s such that, if a rational agent believes each of n statements with a probability at least s, then he also believes their conjunction with probability greater than the Lockean threshold r. Moreover, I show how, adopting non-standard probability, the Preface paradox is dissolved and the Lockean thesis is fully compatible with the conjunctive closure requirement. The price one has to pay for the proposed solutions to the paradox is the adoption of a view of rational belief, dubbed here “quasi-dogmatism”, for which a rational agent should believe only those propositions of which he is “nearly certain”.
The talk is based on joint work with Gustavo Cevolani and Tommaso Flaminio.
Matteo Grasso (University of Wisconsin-Madison): IIT’s roadmap to a quale: how to explain any experience in 3 simple steps
Wednesday, 15 January, noon, Aula 21, Palazzo Nuovo
Liked by some, hated by many, Integrated Information Theory (IIT) is one of the main protagonists in the current debate on consciousness. In this talk I will propose a conceptualization of IIT’s methodology to explain the content of experience. After a brief introduction to IIT’s core ideas, I will propose a “roadmap to a quale”, a plan of action in 3 steps to explain any particular content of experience using the conceptual and empirical tools of IIT. As an instance of this approach, I will discuss and evaluate IIT’s recent account of the experience of visual space (Haun & Tononi, 2019). Finally, I will outline IIT’s plan for the future to tackle other contents of experience (such as phenomenal time, object invariance, and local qualities like color and pain).
Mattia Andreoletti and Michal Sikorski (University of Turin): Epistemic and Social Functions of the Replicability Principle in Experimental Sciences
Wednesday, 11 December, noon, Aula 21, Palazzo Nuovo
In the literature on the so-called “replicability crisis” there are two general sentiments about the scope and the scale of the crisis. On the one hand, methodologists and meta-researchers share a high general excitement. In this view, the crisis is appreciated as a period of intense examination and improvement of science (e.g., Vazire 2018). The crisis is bringing about many salient changes both in the methodology and in the social structure of scientific practice. According to the epistemic activists of replicability, we are witnessing a revolution that unquestionably improve science and its methods. On the other hand, philosophers of science have been more skeptical about this (e.g., Leonelli 2018; Andreoletti and Teira 2016; Norton 2015), as they have contested the “power” of replicability as a guiding principle to improve science. Aiming at replicability and acting accordingly is not a panacea for all the issues at stake in the crisis. Here we propose an alternative way to interpret the replicability principle and to evaluate the consequences of the methodological and social changes which science is undergoing. More specifically, we want to show that the replication is both epistemically and socially relevant. Firstly, we will show that replicability is not only epistemically useful, but also that the turn toward replicability is consistent with the traditional philosophy of science. We will provide a taxonomy that will be helpful to appreciate the epistemic import of replicating scientific experiments. Secondly, from a social standpoint, we can see recent “calls for institutionalizing replicability” as a way to restore the credibility of scientific enterprise. With this regard, replications are inheriting some functions which were usually assigned to other institutions, such as peer review and journals, which have recently proved to be less reliable than we thought.
Carlo Debernardi (University of Florence), Eleonora Priori (University of Turin) and Marco Viola (University of Turin): Simulating epistemic bias in Academic recruiting
Wednesday, 27 November, noon, Aula di Medievale, Palazzo Nuovo
According to some authors (e.g. Gillies 2014, Viola 2017), when researchers are called to express a judgment over their peers, they might exhibit an epistemic bias that make them favouring those who belong to their School of Thought (SoT). A dominant SoT is also most likely to provide some advantage to its members’ bibliometric indexes, because more people potentially means more citations. In the long run, even the slight preference for one SoT over the others might lead to a monopoly, hampering the oft-invoked pluralism of research. In academic recruitment, given that those who recruited to permanent position will often become the recruiter of tomorrow, such biases might give rise to a self-reinforcing loop. However, the way in which this dynamics unfolds is affected by the institutional infrastructure that regulates academic recruitment. In order to reason on how the import of epistemic bias changes across various infrastructures, we built a simple Agent-Based Model using NetLogo 6.0.4., in which researchers belonging to rival SoTs compete to get promoted to professors. The model allows to represent the effect of epistemic and bibliometric biases, as well as to figure out how they get affected by the modification of several parameters.
Mara Floris (University of Turin): Language and Categorisation: A Critique of Bottom-Up Approaches to the Effects of Labels on Perception
Wednesday, 6 November, noon, Aula 25, Palazzo Nuovo
In the past decades, the relationship between language and categorisation has been investigated by cognitive psychology, especially in the domain of developmental psychology. The main question is whether learning the names of objects affect the way they are categorised. There is little disagreement about the presence of such an effect, but the explanation of this phenomenon is still debated. According to the traditional view, labels affect categorisation because this is what language does: names refer.
Against the traditional view, two bottom-up explanations of this effect were proposed by Sloutsky (Sloutsky et al. 2001) and Plunkett (Plunkett et al. 2008). They both consider labels as perceptual features which increase or decrease perceptual similarity of visual stimuli. I will discuss their positions and present some objections.
Erik Nyberg (Monash University): Automating Explanations of Evidence Impact and Model Selection
Wednesday, 30 October, noon, Aula di Medievale, Palazzo Nuovo
In a recent AI effort, as part of the CREATE-BARD project, we began to develop automated explanations of causal Bayesian network features. Our explanations have some interesting aspects, when compared to the extensive, prior philosophical work on scientific explanation. Rather than explaining why things happen (e.g. the causes), which has been the predominant goal of philosophers, our main goal is to explain the impact of evidence on other beliefs — including hypotheses and predictions. Yet the structure of these evidential explanations is markedly similar to causal ones, including the use of background variables and sensitivity. Rather than very simple networks, we try to explain longer, tangled paths and interactions between multiple pieces of evidence. Rather than using one probabilistic measure, as some philosophers have advocated for causal or explanatory power, our explanations will benefit from using multiple measures. Rather than assuming a network model, some of our explanations will address model selection. The implications of all this for the philosophy of scientific explanation, or vice versa, are not entirely clear.
Noah van Dongen and Jan Sprenger (University of Turin): A Fresh Look at Popper: A Bayesian Perspective on Severe Testing
Wednesday, 23 October, noon, Aula di Medievale, Palazzo Nuovo
The central concepts of Karl R. Popper’s account of hypothesis testing
are /falsifiability/ and /severity/. The less potential observations
conform to the theory, the more falsifiable it is. A test of that
theory, by contrast, is the more severe the more likely it is to produce
observations inconsistent with the theory if it is actually incorrect.
It is a common critique of Bayesian inference that these concepts,
although methodologically valuable in science, drop out of the picture.
Our attempt to take a fresh look at Popper from a Bayesian perspective
consists of five parts:
1) We contrast our understanding of severe testing to Mayo’s
conceptualization of severity.
2) We connect these conceptualizations to statistical notions of fit and
3) We operationalize falsifiability and severity as testing specific
hypotheses (i.e., a small range of parameter values) in contrast to an
all-encompassing alternative hypothesis (e.g., all non-null parameter
4) We put this testing of specific hypotheses into practice in a
5) We explore the potential benefits of our account for hypothesis
testing in scientific practice.
Fabrizio Calzavarini (University of Bergamo), Fabrizio Elia and Franco Aprà (San Giovanni Bosco Hospital, Turin), Vincenzo Crupi (LLC, University of Turin): Rationality, Biases, and Nudges in Healthcare: the Case of Hand-Hygiene
Wednesday, 16 October, noon, Aula di Medievale, Palazzo Nuovo
Recent research in cognitive science indicates that human choices do not usually arise as the logical consequences of stable preferences and beliefs, as it has been traditionally assumed. They are largely driven by heuristic processes, instead, which can be systematically biased and highly context-sensitive. This is not necessarily bad news, though: insights into the quirks and limitations of human rationality can help us improve decision outcomes by the design of suitable nudges. A nudge implies a non-coercitive change of the choice context which exploits inherent tendencies of agents in order to promote beneficial outcomes.
Nudging strategies have been recently applied in many domains, including healthcare.
Hand hygiene in the hospital is one of the most interesting areas where various effective interventions investigated are best understood as nudges. For instance, poster campaigns with messages emphasizing the advantages of hand hygiene, rather than the risks of noncompliance, have been found to be effective in increasing hand hygiene compliance among professionals, since gain-framed messages are more psychologically persuasive in encouraging prevention behaviour than loss-framed appeals. Similarly, the placement of the dispensers at the bedside of every patient, where all professionals have to work most of the time, has a significant role in improving hand hygiene compliance, because human agents perform more easily procedural steps that are not functionally isolated from the principal course of action.
In this talk, we discuss the effectiveness of various nudging interventions to improve hand hygiene compliance rates among healthcare professionals in hospital settings. We also present the methodology and the initial results of an experiment conducted at the San Giovanni Bosco Hospital, ASL TO2, Turin, Italy.
Vlasta Sikimić (University of Belgrade): Epistemic characteristics of modern science: group structures and epistemic openness
Wednesday, 10 July 2019, noon, Aula 3, Palazzo Nuovo
Contemporary natural science is growing over several dimensions: the total number of researchers, the size of research teams, time spent on projects, and general funding. The structure within research groups is complex, the publishing process complicated, and the pressure for acquiring funding is high. Social epistemology of science uses different tools to tackle the question of optimization of the scientific pursuit, such as simulations, statistical analyses, mixed-methods, etc.
In the talk, I will focus on the question of optimal structures of research groups and on epistemically optimal communication between scientists. First, I will present results obtained by computer simulations that indicate that levels of hierarchy are helpful over different epistemic landscapes. However, this is not the case for egalitarian and centralized groups. In particular, while the egalitarian group performs best for finding the optimal hypothesis in simple epistemic landscapes, its efficiency drops when the complexity of the landscape increases. Then, I will turn to a data-driven study on epistemic openness of researchers. In this study, we tested connections between epistemic tolerance and scepticism about the scientific method on the one hand, and the nature of research on the other hand.
Olav Benjamin Vassend (Nanyang Technological University): Trusting the Predictions of a Hypothesis vs Believing that the Hypothesis is True
Wednesday 26 June, 12:00-13:00, Aula 5, Palazzetto Goressio in Via Giulia di Barolo 3/a
Scientists will often trust a hypothesis for predictive purposes even if they believe that the hypothesis is false. Moreover, it is clear that trust—like belief—comes in degrees and ought to be updated in response to evidence. I argue that degrees of trust and degrees of belief are governed by different updating norms and that they are therefore two fundamentally distinct epistemic attitudes, neither one of which may be reduced to the other.
Agostino Pinna Pintor (University of Eastern Piedmont and Institut Jean Nicod, Paris): The Opacity of Embodied Cognition
Wednesday, 22 May 2019, 12:00-13:00, Aula di Medievale, Palazzo Nuovo
Over the past few decades, the idea that cognition is embodied (hereafter EC) has gained growing attention (cf. Mahon 2015). Both scientists and philosophers of mind have increasingly proposed reasons for believing cognition to be embodied. However, what exactly they take EC to mean is not always crystal clear. Despite the use of a common label, people notoriously hold different positions (cf. Wilson 2002), which are frequently formulated without precision and often contain expressions whose meaning is quite ambiguous. The work of Goldman (2012, 2014) does represent a notable exception to such lack of conceptual precision. Goldman’s idea is that cases of EC are cases of b-formats reused, where “reuse” refers to the redeployment of brain structures for new functions and “b-format” picks out specific vehicles coding for bodily properties. The aim of this talk is to show how, despite its merits, the b-formats view does not solve the opacity of EC, for its core notions seems neither conceptually clearer nor empirically more fruitful than the notion of EC. The solution, I will argue, has to be found elsewhere.
Michal Sikorski (University of Turin): Values, Bias and Replicability
Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 12:00-13:00, Aula di Medievale, Palazzo Nuovo
The value-free ideal of science is a view which claims that scientists should not use non-epistemic values when they are justifying their hypotheses. Recently, it is generally regarded as obsolete (e.g., Douglas 2009, Elliott 2011 or Tsui 2016). I will defend the value-free ideal by showing that if we accept the uses of non-epistemic values prohibited by it, we are forced to accept, as legitimate scientific conduct, some of the disturbing phenomena of present-day science(e.g., founder bias or questionable research practices). My strategy will be to demonstrate that the only difference between legitimate and problematic cases is that during the course of the problematic ones the non-epistemic values motivate methodological decisions. Because of that, if we reject the value-free ideal we are no longer able to explain, in a principled way, why we should not accept the problematic cases. I will show how two well-known proposals, value-laden science from Douglas 2009 and a proposal concerning ontological choices from Ludwig 2015, lead to this problem and present examples from actual scientific practice. Then, I will show that when different scientists share different non-epistemic values, the use of them prohibited by value-free ideal contributes to the replication crisis. This makes the crisis a direct consequent of value-laden science. Finally, I will present two strategies which, when followed, make the value-free ideal realizable. Firstly, following Betz 2013, scientists can avoid problematic (value-laden) methodological choices by highlighting uncertainties and formulating their results carefully. Secondly, as proposed by Levi 1960, a scientific community can instantiate a scientific convention which recommends a particular solution for a given methodological problem and therefore makes a corresponding (value-laden) choice unnecessary.
Marco Viola (University of Turin): Cognitive functions and neural structures: population-bounded mappings
Wednesday, 3 April 2019, 12:00-13:00, Aula 7, Palazzo Nuovo (first floor)
For a long time, cognitive neuroscientists tried to unravel the ‘true’ function of some brain structure, i.e. the function that accounted for all and only its activation. However, nowadays there is a growing skepticism about the assumption that one-to-one mapping (function-to-structure) is to be found. Several scholars are thus suggesting that the ontology of cognitive neuroscience must be contextualist (function-to-structure-in-context). In my talk, I urge for a contextualist framework that takes into account patterned inter-individual differences. While establishing structure-function mappings have been traditionally conceived as a universal enterprise about every normal mind/brain, I seek to show how relaxing this universality claim is both necessary and fruitful: necessary, because specific populations of individuals do develop idiosyncratic function-structure mappings due to ontogeny or clinical reasons; fruitful, because it broadens the scope of cognitive functions that can be mapped.
Paola Berchialla (University of Turin) & Daniele Chiffi (Politecnico di Milano): Can you believe the results of a meta-analysis? The heterogeneity, the power and the case of small meta-analyses
Wednesday, 13 March 2019, 12:00-13:00, Aula TBA, Palazzo Nuovo, first floor
Meta-analysis is a procedure by which the results of multiple studies are combined to provide a higher level of statistical evidence. One of the key components of a meta-analysis is the heterogeneity, which is the total variation across the studies included. Assessing the heterogeneity is a crucial methodological issue, especially in small meta-analyses, since it may affect the choice of the statistical model to apply.
From a statistical perspective, power is related to all those features impacting on heterogeneity; namely, effect size, type I error, and sample size. Considering the statistical power of the original studies provides a different point of view for reviewing the meta-analysis. On the other hand, not considering statistical power may have an impact on study conclusions, especially when they are drawn from meta-analyses based on underpowered studies, or when the difference in statistical power of single studies is not considered.
According to a review by Turner and colleagues, most meta-analyses include studies that do not have enough statistical power to detect a true effect. In this study, we propose a modified way to assess heterogeneity based on a posteriori statistical power, which is calculated on the basis of the actual sample size. Two motivating examples based on published meta-analyses are presented to illustrate the relationship between a posteriori power and the results of meta-analyses and the impact of the statistical power on the assessment of the heterogeneity.
Refining judgement of heterogeneity across studies based on a posteriori power may provide an informative and applicable way to improve the evaluation of meta-analytic results.
Noah van Dongen and Michał Sikorski (LLC, University of Turin): Objectivity for the Research Worker
In the last few years, many problematic cases of scientific conduct were diagnosed; some of which involve outright fraud (e.g., Stapel, 2012) others are more subtle (e.g., supposed evidence of extrasensory perception; Bem, 2011). We assume that these and similar problems are caused by a lack in scientific objectivity. The current theories of objectivity do not provide scientist with conceptualizations that can be effectively put into practice in remedying these issues. We propose a novel way of thinking about objectivity; a negative and dynamic approach. It is our intention to take the first steps in providing an empirically and methodologically informed inventory of factors (e.g., Simmons, Nelson & Simonsohn, 2011) that impair the scientific practice of researchers. The inventory will be compiled into a negative definition (i.e., what is not objective), which can be used as an instrument (e.g., check-list) to assess deviations from objectivity in scientific practice.
Fabrizio Calzavarini (University of Bergamo and LLC, University of Turin): Work on the dual structure of lexical semantic competence
Wednesday, 6 February, 12:00-13:00, Aula 22, Palazzo Nuovo, first floor
Philosophical arguments and neuropsychological research on deficits of lexical processing converge in indicating that our competence on word meaning may have two components: inferential competence, that takes care of word-word relations and is relevant to tasks such as recovery of a word from its definition, pairing of synonyms, semantic inference and more; and referential competence, that takes care of word-world relations, or, more carefully, of connections between words and perception of the outside world (through vision, hearing, touch). Interestingly, recent experiments using neuroimaging (fMRI) found that certain visual areas are active even in purely inferential performances, and a current experiment appears to show that such activation is a function of what might be called the “imageability” of linguistic stimuli. Such recent results will be presented and discussed. In addition, future studies on lexical inferential competence in congenitally blind subjects will be also presented and discussed.
[This presentation is partly based on the outcomes of a research project titled The role of visual imagery in lexical processing, funded by “Compagnia di San Paolo di Torino”, P.I. Diego Marconi].
Andrea Strollo (Nanjing University): Truth Pluralism and Many-Valued Logic: How to solve the problem of mixed inferences
Wednesday, 16 January, 11:00-12:00 (!), Aula di Medievale
According to truth pluralism there is not a single property of truth but many: propositions from different areas of discourse are true in different ways. This position has been challenged to make sense of validity, understood as necessary truth preservation, when inferences involving propositions from different areas (and different truth properties as well) are involved. To solve this problem, a natural temptation is that of replicating the standard practice in many valued logic, thus appealing to the notion of designated values. Validity would just be preservation of designation. Such a simple approach, however, is usually considered a non starter, since, in this context, ‘designation’ seems to embody nothing but a notion of generic truth, namely what truth pluralists abhor. In my talk, I show how to defend such a simple solution relying on designation by exploring the analogy with Many-Valued Logic even further.
Michele Lubrano (University of Turin): Mathematical Explanation: Some Reflections on Steiner’s Model
Wednesday, 12 December, 12:00-13:00, Aula di Medievale
Mathematical explanation has recently started to receive attention by philosophers interested in mathematical practice. Professional mathematicians usually distinguish between explanatory and not explanatory proofs of theorems. Indeed, there can be proofs of a mathematical statement that, despite providing perfectly acceptable justifications of it, offer no clue on the reasons why it holds. On the contrary other proofs have the virtue of telling why the statement is true, in a way that, once one understands the argument, such a statement doesn’t look surprising or mysterious any longer. The first interesting theorization of mathematical explanation was proposed by Mark Steiner in 1978. In his model a proof of a statement S about an entity E is explanatory if and only if it makes reference to some essential properties of E. Although Steiner’s model works well in a number of examples, some critical issues have emerged over time. I would like to propose a reworking of his model, able to capture in a more precise way Steiner’s underlying idea – which seems to me fundamentally correct – and also able to face the objections.
Giorgio Castiglione (University of Turin): Tolerance versus Dogma: Revising the Carnap-Quine Debate on Analyticity
Wednesday, 28 November, 16:00-17:00, Aula di Medievale
The Carnap-Quine debate dealt a blow to the thought of logical empiricism, dictating a new agenda for analytic philosophy. I propose an overview of the Quinean objections to the notion of analyticity, and claim that, in denouncing its vagueness, arbitrariness, epistemological and explanatory emptiness, Quine hinges on an erroneous interpretation of Carnapian positions. Showing Carnap’s explication at work, I outline some crucial methodological differences with Quine: divergent understandings of empiricism trace back to distinct conceptions of the tasks of philosophy. Finally, I present some reasons in favour of the Carnapian meta-philosophical paradigm, in which assuming an analytic/synthetic dichotomy, far from being an empiricist dogma, acts as a presupposition for tolerance.
Carlo Martini (San Raffaele University, Milan): Ad Hominem Arguments, Rhetoric, and Science Communication
Tuesday, 6 November, 12:00-13:00, Aula 25, 1st floor, Palazzo Nuovo
Science communication needs to be both accurate and effective. On the one hand, accurate scientific information is the product of strict epistemological, methodological and evidential requirements On the other hand, effectiveness in communication can be achieved through rhetorical devices, like powerful images, figures of speech, or amplification, aiming at getting the readers’ attention and persuading them. For their nature, rhetorical tools can distort the contents of the message, and effectiveness can be achieved at the expense of accuracy.
For example, attacking a scientist’s stance on the effectiveness of a drug, by referring to the scientist’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry that produces that drug, does not show anything about the effectiveness or (lack thereof) of the drug. Yet, under appropriate circumstances, it may be enough to discredit the reliability of the scientist’s claims. This type of argument is called ad hominem: it attacks the source of information, not the substance of the matter – i.e., whether the drug is effective or not. Ad hominem attacks, even when fallacious, can be powerful. For instance, people opposing the use of vaccination routinely use ad hominem attacks, by alleging ties between the scientists defending the use of vaccines and the pharmaceutical industry (see Davies, Chapman and Leask 2002).
The recent controversy on the safety of vaccinations and their possible links to number of conditions, including autism, presents a challenge for science communication. Critics of vaccines are well equipped with rhetorical arguments and a wealth of supposed evidence in support of their various claims: e.g., that vaccines can cause autisms and that vaccines contain chemicals harmful to children. Anti-vaccination movements appeal to anecdotal evidence and powerful imagery to persuade public and policy makers of their arguments, including alleging commercial ties between the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry. Cases of bad science and pharmaceutical disasters (see Daemmrich 2002, Russell 2009) only make the anti-vaccination arguments stronger in the eyes of the public.
In this talk, I contend that evidence-focused strategies of science communication may be complemented by possibly more effective rhetorical arguments in current public debates on vaccines. I analyse the case of direct science communication – that is, communication of evidence – and argue that it is difficult to effectively communicate evidential standards of science in the presence of well-equipped anti-science movements.
Michal Sikorski, Noah van Dongen and Jan Sprenger (LLC, University of Turin): Causal Strength and Causal Conditionals
Wednesday, 24 October, 12:00-13:00, Aula di Medievale
Causal conditionals and (tendency) causal claims share several properties, and their relation has been the object of substantial philosophical discussion. That said, the discussion mainly moves on a theoretical level without being informed by empirical results. In this project, we investigate several hypotheses on the (probabilistic) predictors of the truth values of indicative conditionals from an empirical point of view and compare them to predictors of causal strength.
- Causal conditionals are evaluated as true only if the corresponding tendency causal claim is evaluated as true.
- The subjective probability p(E|C) predicts the evaluation of both the causal conditional “if C, then E” and the tendency causal claim “C causes E”.
- Statistical relevance predicts the assessment of a tendency causal claim as true; but not the assessment of a causal conditional (in the class of true tendency causal claims).
- The effect of probabilistic factors on the assessment of tendency causal claims is greater than its effect on causal conditionals.
We present the experiment that tests these hypotheses and discuss the implication of our findings.
Lina Lissia (LLC, University of Turin): From McGee’s puzzle to the Lottery Paradox
Tuesday 9 October, 12:00-13:00, Aula di Medievale, Palazzo Nuovo
Vann McGee (1985) provided a famous counterexample to Modus Ponens. I show that, contrary to a view universally held in the literature, assuming the material conditional as an interpretation of the natural language conditional “if …, then …” does not dissolve McGee’s puzzle. Indeed, I provide a slightly modified version of McGee’s famous election scenario in which (1) the relevant features of the scenario are preserved (2) both modus ponens and modus tollens fail, even if we assume the material conditional. I go on to show that in the modified scenario (which I call “the restaurant scenario”) conjunction introduction is also invalid. More specifically, I demonstrate that the restaurant scenario is actually a version of the Lottery Paradox (Kyburg 1961), and conclude that any genuine solution to McGee’s puzzle must be a solution to the Lottery Paradox, too. Finally, I provide some hints towards a solution to both McGee’s puzzle and the Lottery Paradox.
Mattia Andreoletti (LLC, University of Turin): The Meanings of Replicability
Thursday, 27 September, 12:00-13:00, Aula di Medievale, Palazzo Nuovo
Throughout the last decade there has been a growing interdisciplinary debate on the reliability of scientific findings: experiments (and statistical analyses in general) are rarely replicated. Intuitively, replicability of experiments is a central dogma of science, and the importance of multiple studies corroborating a given result is widely acknowledged. However, there is no consensus on what counts as a successful replication, and researchers employ a range of operational definitions reflecting different intuitions. The lack of a single accepted definition opens the door to controversy about the epistemic import of replicability for the trustworthiness of scientific results. Disentangling the meanings of replicability is crucial to avoid potential misunderstanding.
Vincenzo Crupi (University of Turin): The logic of evidential conditionals
Wednesday, 27 June, 12:45-13:45, Aula 13, 1st floor, Palazzo Nuovo
Once upon a time, some thought that indicative conditionals could be effectively analyzed by means of the material conditional. Nowadays, an alternative theoretical construct largely prevails and receives wide acceptance, namely, the conditional probability of the consequent given the antecedent. Partly following earlier critical remarks made by others (most notably, Igor Douven), I advocate a revision of this consensus and suggest that incremental probabilistic support (rather than conditional probability alone) is key to the understanding of indicative conditionals and their role in human reasoning. There have been motivated concerns that a theory of such evidential conditionals (unlike their more traditional suppositional counterparts) can not generate a sufficiently interesting logical system. I will present results largely dispelling these worries. Happily, and perhaps surprisingly, appropriate technical variations of Ernst Adams’s classical approach allow for the construction of a new logic of evidential conditionals which is nicely superclassical, fairly strong, and also (as it turns out) a kind of connexive logic.
Workshop in Philosophy of Science
Friday, 25 May, 11:00-13:30
Aula 8, Palazzo Nuovo (first floor)
Instead of the usual longer presentation on Wednesdays, we have four short ones on a Friday, featuring young and promising philosophers of science, affiliated to various European universities.
|11:00—11:35||Mike Stuart (London School of Economics): Locating Objectivity in Models of Science|
|11:35—12:10||William Peden (Durham University): Selective Confirmation Answers to the Paradox of the Ravens|
|12:20—12:55||Mattia Andreoletti (IEO Milan): Rules versus standards in drug regulation|
|12:55—13:30||Borut Trpin (University of Ljubljana): Some Problematic Consequences of Jeffrey Conditionalization|
The abstracts can be found here.
Andrea Iacona (University of Turin): Strictness vs Connexivity
Wednesday, 9 May, 12:00-13:00, Aula 23, Palazzo Nuovo (first floor)
I will compare two views of conditionals that exhibit some interesting affinities, the strict conditional view and the connexivist view. My aim is to show that the strict conditional view is at least as plausible as the connexivist view, contrary to what the fans of connexive logic tend to believe. The first part of the talk draws attention to the similarity between the two views, in that it outlines three arguments that support both of them. The second part examines the case for the theses that characterize the connexivist view, Aristotle’s theses and Boethius’ theses, and finds that the core intuition on which it rests is consistent with the strict conditional view, so it can be accommodated within classical logic.
Noah van Dongen, Felipe Romero and Jan Sprenger (LLC/University of Turin): Semantic Intuitions—A Meta-Analysis
Wednesday, 18 April, noon, Aula 16, Palazzo Nuovo (first floor)
One of the most famous papers in experimental philosophy (Machery, Mellon, Nichols, and Stich, 2004) analyzes semantic intuitions in prominent cases taken from Saul Kripke’s seminal book “Naming and Necessity” (1970). Machery and colleagues found cross-cultural differences in semantic intuitions pertaining to the reference of proper names in Kripke’s “Gödel” and “Jonah” cases, which were transformed into vignettes that are usable for experimental research. Their paper kicked off an experimental research program on cross-cultural differences in semantic intuitions. But what is the state of the art right now, almost 15 years later?
We conduct a statistical meta-analysis of experiments which investigate systematic semantic intuition differences between Westerners and East Asians and present our preliminary findings. Along the way, we explain some problems we experienced in completing the project,such as the question of which studies should be included and which ones should be left out as being too remote from the original experiment.
The project is joint work with Matteo Colombo (Tilburg University).
Wednesday, 11 April, noon.
Aula di Antica (in the Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences, second floor of Palazzo Nuovo).
Claus Beisbart (University of Bern): Reflective equilibrium fleshed out
Reflective equilibrium (RE) is often taken to be the crucial method of normative ethics (Rawls), philosophy (Lewis) or understanding more generally (Elgin). Despite its apparent popularity, however, the method is only vaguely characterized, poorly developed and almost never applied to real-world problems in an open-minded way. The aim of this talk is to present an operationalization and a formal model of the RE. The starting point is an informal characterization of what I take to be the key idea of RE, viz. an elaboration of one’s commitments due to pressure from systematic principles. This idea then is spelled out in the framework of the Theory of Dialectical Structures, as developed by Gregor Betz. The commitments of an epistemic subject are described as a position in a dialectical structure; desiderata for the positions are postulated; and rules for changing the commitments expounded. Simple examples, in which the model is applied, display a number of features that are well-known from the literature about RE. The talk concludes by discussing the limitations of the model. This paper is based upon work done jointly with Gregor Betz and Georg Brun.