AboutMe I'm a Senior Lecturer at the New College of the Humanities in London and the Assistant Director of the Duesseldorf Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science. My main area of expertise is the philosophy of science but I also have active research interests in metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of logic, philosophy of artificial intelligence and meta-philosophy.
Recent Publications:
'Perception and Observation Unladened', Philosophical Studies, forthcoming, DOI 10.1007/s11098-014-0319-7.

'Objectivity in Confirmation: Post Hoc Monsters and Novel Predictions',Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 2014, vol. 45(1): 70-78.
'Ad hoc-ness and Monstrousness' - The aim of this talk is to throw some light on the notion of ad hoc-ness and its value to scientific methodology. In discussing the notion, I focus and attempt to explicate one particular undesirable characteristic associated with it, namely what I dub ‘monstrousness’. Roughly speaking, monstrousness reflects the degree to which parts of a hypothesis are unnaturally joined together. (Presented at the Unification and Coherence workshop, University of Duesseldorf, January 16 2014).

'An Inferentialist Account of Confirmation' - The aim of this talk is to defend the inferentialist view from a challenge that originates in predictivism. It is argued that predictivism and its challenge fail because the non-inferential elements it introduces invariably lead to the issuing of contradictory confirmational judgments. (Presented at the Workshop on Inferentialism in Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, UNED Madrid, November 11-13 2013).

'Logic as Ultra-Physics' - The number of rival logical systems is growing without an end in sight. This has proved to be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we have a rich set of formal tools that allows us to model inferences in a variety of ways. On the other hand, the existence of rival logical systems threatens to undermine logic’s role as a univocal and definitive arbiter of disagreements over the validity of inferences. If, for any given inference, one can always find a logical system that sanctions its validity and another that forbids it, then it seems that the aforementioned role no longer befits logic. The most that we can hope for are intrasystem evaluations of the validity of inferences. The consequences for rational debate are dire. Disputes in philosophy, science and beyond run the risk of turning into trivial squabbles as anybody who finds themselves in a logical pickle may be able to slip away to a more agreeable logical system. The aim of this talk is to mount a defence of the view that logic can, and in actual fact does, univocally and definitively answer questions about the validity of at least some inferences. This is tantamount to saying that some rules (and potentially axioms) are the right ones. If you like, they are the ones that would fill the pages of a book on the one ‘true’ logic. More controversially, I argue that their rightness is determined by the physical world itself. Indeed, I argue that the right logic, but obviously not our conception of it, is itself a structural feature of the world. For obvious reasons I call the emerging view ‘logic as ultra-physics’. As a case study of this ultra-physics, I utilise the principle of non-contradiction. (Invited talk, presented at the Departmental Colloquium, California State University Los Angeles, October 10 2013).

'Positivism in the 21st Century' - In this talk I argue that, despite various differences, there are substantial connections between 'Universal Empiricism' and the old Logical Positivism movement. The upshot is that the former can be viewed as a successor movement to the latter, continuing much of what made the Logical Positivist movement such a success a century ago. (Invited talk, presented at Aldo Antonelli's graduate seminar, University of California Davis, October 8 2013).

'Empiricism Unchained' - Empiricism has a long and venerable history. Aristotle, the Epicureans, Sextus Empiricus, Francis Bacon, Locke, Hume, Mill, Mach and the Logical Empiricists, among others, represent a long line of historically influential empiricists who, one way or another, placed an emphasis on knowledge gained through the senses. In recent times the most highly articulated and influential edition of empiricism is undoubtedly Bas van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism. Science, according to this view, aims at empirically adequate theories, i.e. theories that save all and only the observable phenomena. Roughly put, something is observable in van Fraassen’s view if a member of the human epistemic community can detect it with their unaided senses. Critics have contested this notion, citing, among other reasons, that most of what counts as knowledge in natural science concerns things that are detectable only with instruments, i.e. things that are unobservable and hence unknowable by van Fraassen’s lights. Beg-the-question accusations fly back and forth. As a consequence a stalemate has ensued. In this talk, I put forth a liberalised conception of observability and an associated, and accordingly liberalised, conception of empiricism. ‘Universal observability’ and ‘universal empiricism’, as I call them, unchain themselves from traditional conceptions of experience while remaining firmly tethered to what, I argue, is the true source of epistemic merit in the senses. (Invited talk, presented at the Bay Area Philosophy of Science seminar, San Francisco State University, October 03 2013).

'Science with Artificially Intelligent Agents: The Case of Gerrymandered Hypotheses' - Barring some civilisation-ending natural or man-made catastrophe, future scientists will likely incorporate fully fledged artificially intelligent agents in their ranks. Their tasks will include the conjecturing, extending and testing of hypotheses. If we are to hand over at least some of the aforementioned tasks to artificially intelligent agents, we need to find ways to make explicit and ultimately formal, not to mention computable, the more obscure of the methods that scientists currently employ with some measure of success in their inquiries. This talk puts forward a fully articulated formal solution to the problem of how to conjecture new hypotheses or extend existing ones such that they do not save phenomena in gerrymandered or ad hoc ways. (Presented at the 2nd Conference on the Philosophy and Theory of Artificial Intelligence (PT-AI 2013), University of Oxford, September 21-22 2013).

'The Scientific Method' - In this talk, I argue, contrary to popular belief, that there is such a thing as the scientific method and that we already possess some of its principles or at least approximate versions of them. The popularity of the opposite view can be traced back to the fact that most attempts to identify the scientific method involve an overly strong conception and are therefore bound to fail. I propose a weaker conception, one that maintains that there is core methodology shared across all domains of inquiry while at the same time allows for variation on the periphery. (Presented at the British Society for the Philosophy of Science Annual Conference, University of Exeter, July 4-5 2013).

'Objectivity in Confirmation' - The study of confirmation is the study of the conditions under which a piece of evidence supports, or ought to support, a hypothesis as well as of the level of that support. There are two major kinds of confirmation theories, objective and subjective. Objective theories hold that confirmation questions are settled via purely objective considerations. Subjective ones hold that at least some non-objective considerations come into play. With some exceptions (see, for example, Williamson 2010), most confirmation theorists nowadays opt for subjective theories. The pessimism over objective theories is most probably due to the fact that it has proved very hard, some may even say impossible, to find reasonable principles that decide every question about confirmation in purely objective terms. The aim of this talk is to reverse some of that pessimism by putting in place some cornerstones in the foundations for an objective theory of confirmation. This is achieved by considering lessons not from the failures of subjective theories, which, no doubt, there are many, but rather from the failures of predictivism, a mini theory of confirmation that is typically conceived of as objective. (Presented at the Philosophy of Science in a Forest (PSF2013) Triennial Conference, Leusden, Netherlands, May 23-25 2013).

'Post-Hoc Monsters and the Frankenstein Theory of Confirmation' - This talk concerns the highly vexing issue of how a confirmation theory ought to handle post-hoc monsters, that is, post-hocly constructed or modified hypotheses like Velikovsky's theory or Ptolemaic astronomy. One approach to this issue has been to demonise post-hocness itself, arguing that no hypothesis earns support from evidence that has been used in its construction or modification. Another approach has been to attempt to segregate the monstrous from the non-monstrous post-hoc hypotheses and to argue that only the latter earn support from accommodated evidence. In this talk, I'd like to put forth a more subtle approach which I call the 'Frankenstein' theory of confirmation. According to this approach, even post-hoc monsters earn confirmation from accommodated evidence but the confirmation earned does not spread evenly throughout the content of such hypotheses. (Invited talk presented at the Logos Colloquium, Logic, Language and Cognition Research Group, University of Barcelona, April 18 2013).

'The Houdini Argument for Intrinsic Properties' - The aim of this talk is two-fold. First, to motivate some desiderata for an adequate conception of the intrinsic vs. extrinsic property distinction. Second, to try to answer the question whether any scientific properties qualify as intrinsic (in a sense that satisfies the above desiderata) through a series of related thought-experiments. The thought-experiments center around the idea of shielding objects to prevent them from causal interactions with other objects and seeing what, if anything, remains invariant and is therefore a good candidate for being intrinsic. (Invited talk presented at the Metaphysics of Scientific Realism Workshop, Department of Philosophy and History of Science, University of Athens, March 1-2 2013).

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Duesseldorf Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science (DCLPS), Heinrich-Heine Universitaet Duesseldorf, Universitaetsstrasse 1, Geb. 23.21,
40225 Duesseldorf, Germany. Tel.: +49 (0) 211 81-12198, Fax: +49(0) 211 81-11750. Email: votsis@phil.hhu.de