Workshop on Moral and Pragmatic Encroachment

University of British Columbia, January 20–21

Workshop Organizers: Jonathan Ichikawa and Sarah Moss
Sponsored by the UBC and the University of Michigan Philosophy Departments

Department event page        Facebook event page

According to traditional ideas about belief, knowledge, and evidence, whether someone should believe something, and whether one knows it, are fundamentally matters of ‘purely epistemic considerations’, like whether it is true and what evidence is available in favour of or against it. In recent decades, however, a number of contemporary epistemologists have challenged this idea by arguing that additional factors, such as moral and practical factors, also play central roles in whether it is reasonable to have a given belief, or whether one has knowledge.

For example, according to “pragmatic encroachment” theorists, there can be pairs of cases that are evidentially identical, but where in one case, one ought to believe, but in the other, one ought to suspend judgment, just due to the practical importance of the question. One typical version of this view will have it that in “higher-stakes” situations, more evidence is required to have a responsible belief, or to have knowledge.

In recent years, some epistemologists have argued something similar for moral considerations, especially involving hypotheses that seem potentially to be well supported by evidence, but for which believing them might be morally problematic, whether because of the harm such belief causes, or because such beliefs themselves are inconsistent with a virtuous character. Apparent racist beliefs based in potentially sound statistical evidence provide central examples.

Exploration of such “moral encroachment” and “pragmatic encroachment” on epistemology constitutes a cutting-edge philosophical subject-matter. This workshop brings together several researchers to share works in progress on these topics.

This workshop is free and open to the public. (Be advised that the talks have been prepared for a specialist academic audience.)

All talks will be in BUCH D324.


Saturday January 20


Sarah Moss (Michigan)

Moral Encroachment


Rima Basu (USC)

The Moral Stakes of Our Beliefs

Lunch break — we’ll suggest some options on campus


Deborah Hellman (Virginia)

The Epistemic Commitments of Nondiscrimination


Michael Pace (Chapman)

The Truth Goal Argument for Moral/Pragmatic Encroachment

Informal drinks at Mahoney’s Pub

7:00 Workshop dinner — for speakers only

Sunday January 21


Jonathan Ichikawa (UBC)

Pragmatic Encroachment and Epistemic Duties


Rebecca Kukla (Georgetown)

Pragmatic Encroachment in Cartography and Geographic Information Systems