App Assisted Middle Ground (Faculty E-learning project)
Jan Albert van Laar
The goal of this initiative is to exploit the outcomes of an applied philosophy and critical thinking project, called Middle Ground. In this project, we have developed an educational method for deliberative negotiation, i.e. a transparent, non-manipulative discussion about a controversial (moral or political) issue aimed at a reasonable compromise that fairly reflects the participants’ diverging perspectives. The current initiative specifically aims: at developing an app that enables large numbers of small groups of students to engage in such deliberative negotiations; developing a number of flexible course modules for a diversity of university and other curricula in which to embed the app; and at promoting the app.
External member of project team, PI's are Olivier Roy (Bayreuth) and Mikael Cozic (Paris)
Rational Dynamic and Reasoning (Ammodo/KNAW 2016-2020)
It is striking that we effortlessly engage in complex social activities, where we recognize one another as rational beings, ascribe intentions to each other, keep track of information, and perform joint actions. Modern logic has been fueled by the phenomenon of intelligent interaction, leading to a multitude of logics, especially epistemic logic, deontic logic, logics of intention and combinations thereof. Yet these logics are not flawless. Epistemic logic faces the problem of logical omniscience. As agents are modeled, they know all logical consequences of their knowledge. Agents are flawless, draw conclusions immediately, and draw all conclusions that are in principle available to them. In epistemic logic one cannot represent a situation where an agent knows a logical puzzle without the agent knowing its solution. Deontic logic faces the problem of moral conflicts. Standard deontic logic is such that if two actions are incompatible, then one can- not be obliged to perform both. Yet, ordinary moral agents face such conflicts all the time, for instance when one makes conflicting promises or when one has different obligations stemming from different authorities. Logics of intention face the problem of side effects. One problematic inference pattern underlies these problems. The proposed research provides a logical model where an agent can be committed to the premises of a valid inference without being committed to its conclusion. In the same way an agent can consistently have conflicting obligations, and have intentions without intending its side effects. The model will not be without a normative logical bite, by requiring the dynamics of the information states and moral situations to be rational.
The Language of Fiction and Imagination (NWO VIDI 2016-2021)
When I tell you a wizard had been helping me write my grant proposals, you'll think I've gone crazy. But when a novelist writes about a school for wizards in the English countryside, nobody bats an eye. In the context of a fiction, all the usual expectations of truth and reference are out the window, yet we can still interpret the text and even be emotionally involved with the characters described. The aim of the present project is to develop a formally explicit account of fiction interpretation that explains this fundamental difference between fiction and everyday communication.
Weighing evidence reliably (NWO VENI 2016-2020)
We learn from what others tell us all the time, yet others are not always reliable. The aim of the project is to determine how we should factor considerations about the reliability of our sources of information into our overall procedures for weighing evidence.
Sustainable Cooperation (NWO Gravitation programme 2017-2027)
Member of project team, PI is Rafael Wittek (UG / Sociology), see SCOOP project website
Epistemology of the Multiverse (NWO VENI 2016-2019)
FIT (Fellowship for Innovation in Teaching, University of Groningen, 2017), jointly with Benjamin Bewersdorf
Epistemology and the Regress Problem: A Probabilistic Approach (NWO Free Competition 2012-2017)
In epistemology the regress problem traditionally takes on the form of an epistemic chain: a belief in a proposition may be epistemically justified by a belief in another proposition, which is epistemically justified by a belief in still another proposition, and so on, ad infinitum. Since the chain does not have a final link from which the justification springs, it seems that there can be no justification at all.
A new approach to the regress problem is known as infinitism, which implies that there is nothing wrong with an infinite epistemic chain. Like many of their contemporaries, and against epistemological tradition, infinitists are sympathetic to the view that justification is to be understood in terms of probabilistic support. However, up till now no infinitist has realized the far-reaching consequences of this view for the regress problem.
The proposed program intends to remove this shortcoming. It aims to develop a thoroughly probabilistic form of infinitism, which is more robust and more encompassing than the current versions, and which offers a new way to tackle the old regress problem.
The Scientific Approach to Epistemology', (Leverhulme International Trust Network Grant, 2015-2017)
with partners from LMU Munich, Carnegie Mellon University, Lund, and Tilburg.
The Roots of Deduction (VIDI 2011-2016)
Catarina Dutilh Novaes
In a deductive argument, the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises with no recourse to external information. As simple as this may sound, there are a number of philosophical puzzles and open questions related to the concept of deduction. When do we, human agents, reason deductively, if at all? What is the pay-off of reasoning deductively? Where does the idea of ‘following of necessity’ come from? The project will investigate these and related issues by means of an integrative approach, relying on logic, philosophy, empirical data from psychology, and cognitive science, and the history of logic and mathematics, to unravel the roots of deduction. Project website Roots of Deduction
What are the chances? An explication of single-case probability (VIDI 2011-2016)
This research project targets the concept of chances: numbers between 0 and 1 that can be assigned to events and that do not express a shaky personal opinion, but rather an objective characteristic of the events themselves. In the project we investigate how chances relate to the, often deterministic, mechanisms underlying the events, thereby contributing to debates over the reference class problem, randomness, and reductionism. Next to this, the research will help to improve the statistical methods by which we can determine chances, specifically in the area of model selection and causal modelling using Bayesian networks.
Logics for intelligent interaction: expressivity and succinctness (VIDI 2009-2015)
One of the prominent themes in logic today is intelligent interaction, which occurs in any social situation. There is a multitude of logical theories in this area to such an extent that for one and the same subject, there is more than one approach. There is a great need to establish whether alternative approaches actually provide fundamentally different perspectives, or whether the differences are merely superficial. By focusing on the expressivity and succinctness of these logics, possible differences in their underlying conceptual frameworks are revealed, thus advancing our understanding of these conceptual frameworks and thereby of intelligent interaction itself.
Formal Epistemology: Foundations and Applications (Odysseus 2007-2010; Endowed Chair RUG 2010-2015)
The Formal Epistemology Project (FEP) arrives in Groningen under the direction of Igor Douven. Based in the Department of Theoretical Philosophy, FEP is an interdisciplinary research project dedicated to investigating the foundations and applications of formal epistemology. FEP combines methodological and research expertise from philosophy, logic, probability theory, psychology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence.
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