Australasian Cognitive Science Conference



My paper has been accepted as a paper for the Australasian Society for Cognitive Science’s conference.

TITLE:  Defending confirmational chorism against holism: Limited coherence and coordination as sources of epistemic justification.    

KEYWORDS: coherence, coordination, epistemology


This paper examines the role of coherence as a source of epistemic justification, particularly the argument that all beliefs must cohere within one’s ‘web of belief’, aka confirmational holism. Confirmational holism runs across a potentially devastating argument that a more coherent set of beliefs resulting from the addition of a belief to a less coherent set of beliefs is less likely to be true than the less coherent set of beliefs. I propose confirmational chorism (CC) to avoid this troubling outcome. CC posits that coherence adds epistemic justification by limited, logically consistent sets of beliefs exhibiting a satisficing degree of strength, inferential and explanatory connection. Limited coherence may resolve the above argument, but raises the need for another kind of justification: coordination (integration across sets of beliefs). Belief coordination requires suppressing some beliefs and communicating other beliefs to ensure convergence on the right action for performance success. Thus, a belief in any particular context is justified not just because it is reliably formed and coherent, but also because of how it is coordinated between local and holistic goals.


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New metric for ranking philosophy journals

I have been making metrics ranking philosophy journals based on both subjective (philosopher ranked) and objective (citation data) criteria, two of my metrics have been linked and commented on by Brian Leiter on his blog.

DEVITT’S LGS-INDEX Top Philosophy Journals (Leiter + Google Scholar)

This was my first metric that combined the Leiter ranking plus pure Google Scholar data. I was initially intrigued by how many journals Google didn’t include in their category ‘philosophy’ that were highly valued by philosophers. I was also curious why subjective and objective measurements ranked journals so differently.

DEVITT’S LGSCD-INDEX Top Philosophy Journals (Leiter + Google Scholar + Citable Documents)

My second metric modified the impact of the Google Scholar ranking  by a third factor, ‘citable documents’. Quite a different result is found by taking volume of publications into consideration, because a given philosophy journal can publish between 13 (e.g. The Philosophical Review) and 153 (Synthese) articles a year.

DEVITT’S GSCD-INDEX Modified Google Scholar Metric Top Philosophy Journals

After publishing my second metric above, some philosophers requested a metric that modified the Google Scholar data, but stripped out the reputational data from Leiter’s measure. This final metric ranks interdisciplinary philosophy journals much more highly than many traditionally prestigous philosophy journals, though many top philosophy journals retain their high ranking no matter what the metric (e.g. The Journal of Philosophy always ranks in the top 6).

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Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness 2014



Title:  Can reliabilism explain how conscious reflection justifies beliefs?



This poster addresses the justificatory role of conscious reflection within a naturalized, reliabilist epistemology. Reliabilism is the view that implicit, mechanistic (System 1) processes can justify beliefs, e.g. perceptual beliefs formed after a history of consistent exposure to normal lighting conditions are justified in a given context with normal lighting. A popular variant of reliabilism is virtue epistemology where the cognitive circumstances and abilities of an agent play a justificatory role, e.g. the cooperation of the prefrontal cortex and primary visual cortex of the individual perceiving the Müller-Lyer illusion partly justify the belief that the lines are equi-length. While virtue epistemology is a well-endorsed reliabilism for implicit beliefs, its application to explicit, consciously reflective (System 2) processes is more controversial. Critics ask: How can iterations of dumb reliabilist processes produce higher order justification? To respond to this concern, I draw on another agent-centred, normative and reliabilist epistemology—Bayesian epistemology. A Bayesian virtue epistemology argues that reflective hypothesis-testing generated by (largely) implicit Bayesian mechanisms offers higher order reliabilist justification for beliefs. Iterative Bayesian mechanisms (e.g. hierarchically nested probabilistic models) explain the development of higher order beliefs about abstract concepts such as causation, natural laws and theoretical entities traditionally explained by recourse to vague concepts such as ‘the a priori’, ‘intuition’ or ‘the intellect’. A hybrid Bayesian virtue epistemology offers an iterative reliabilist framework to explain how conscious reflection justifies beliefs. However, I acknowledge limitations on Bayesian accounts of justification such as confirmational holism, commutativity, and the frame problem.

Download poster


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Susannah Kate Devitt

I am Associate Lecturer in the School of Information Systems, Science and Engineering Faculty, Queensland University of Technology.

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S. Kate Devitt

Research Associate, Institute for Future Environments and the Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology