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H2020

DIAPHORA Report Summary

Project ID: 675415
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - DIAPHORA (Diaphora: Philosophical Problems, Resilience and Persistent Disagreement)

Reporting period: 2016-01-01 to 2017-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

DIAPHORA is a joint European research and training platform for collaborative research on the nature of philosophical problems, their resilience, the sources of persistent divergence of expert opinion about their resolution, and the similarities and dissimilarities they bear to certain hard problems in the practical sphere that would likewise seem to give rise to persistent disagreement among the well-informed.
Philosophical problems are difficult to articulate and precisify and prove disconcertingly resilient. Progress has undeniably been made in the forging of logical and conceptual tools suited to address philosophical problems. But despite significant gains in clarity, articulation and precision, the recent history of the subject has not seen its practitioners converge on a single set of solutions. Instead they endorse and defend opposing views. Indeed, philosophical disputes serve as stock examples in social epistemology’s current debate about peer disagreement. Yet, that debate takes such divergence of opinion for granted and is more concerned with the question of whether or not one ought to revise one’s beliefs in its light. The debate thus is silent on how such divergence may arise in the first place.
Philosophy is not the only area of thought which presents us with intellectual challenges that are unlikely to make for solutions demanding universal consent. Outside the academic arena, policy makers and organisations for conflict management face up to such hard problems on a regular basis; and often the difficult initial task is to describe the factual situation in ways acceptable to all parties involved.
DIAPHORA’s research programme is driven by 3 overarching objectives:
(A) to diagnose what makes philosophical problems so resilient and to clarify to what extent the sustained lack of convergence in philosophy can successfully be explained by the hardness of its problems
(B) to explain why the tendency has not been towards a general agnosticism about candidate solutions, but rather towards divergence, and to identify features of philosophical method that allow for such persistent peer disagreement
(C) to explore whether the dynamics of philosophical debate bears important and instructive resemblances to the dynamics of debates about more practical matters
The network approaches these issues, from the bottom up, by studying particularly hard philosophical problems arising in the philosophies of logic and language, metaphysics and epistemology, by clarifying the structure and preconditions of reasoned debate itself, and by interacting with non-academic players in the practical sphere.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

In October 2016 the network hired 14 Early Stage Researchers (ESR) from 10 different countries. The ESR’s research projects are fully integrated into DIAPHORA’s work package (WP) structure which comprises 7 research WPs in which numerous network participants collaborate.
In WP1 on the nature of disagreement and philosophical method significant progress was made on at least two fronts: it was shown to what extent the conception of philosophy as rational reconstruction provides room to accommodate divergence; methodological choice-points and presuppositions were identified that shape the contemporary debate about the metaphysics of the natural modalities. Participants in WP2 on the paradoxes of truth and vagueness advanced the current discussion of substructural solutions; significant progress was also made in the study of hyperintensional logics. In WP3 on determinism and the open future, important contributions were made to the study of tensed conceptions of reality, exposing ambiguities in our intuitions about the open future and identifying faulty background assumptions in the debate about temporal existence. Participants in WP4 on the a priori and the epistemology of modality made significant contributions to the debate about the role of abstraction for our knowledge of necessities, and to the current debate on scepticism about the a priori/a posteriori distinction with important ramifications for philosophical method. In WP5 on conceptual and perceptual content, participants collaborated to advance the understanding of conceptual variability as one source of disagreement, issuing in a forthcoming state-of-the-art collection on the topic; significant progress was also made in the study of the contents of perception and imagination. In WP6 on the structure of warrant and entitlement, significant progress was made on at least two fronts: it was shown that the conception of entitlements as non-evidential warrants faces potentially unsurmountable problems; a structural account of justification was offered that is open to both externalists and internalists, thereby reorienting the current debate. Participants in WP7 on first-person thought and self-knowledge collaborated to advance the understanding the nature and communicability of first-person thoughts, issuing in a state-of-the-art collection on the topic; significant progress was also made in the study of concept possession.
Collaborative research in each of these different work packages produced numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, monographs and edited collections, published in internationally renowned venues. Since its inception DIAPHORA has organised 3 workshops and 1 conference for research training, 4 Training Days for complementary skills training, and 1 Open Day for public outreach.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The network’s researchers intend to continue their research in pursuit of the WP-specific objectives and to splice the different threads of the research undertaken in the individual WPs in order to arrive at a well-founded and novel diagnosis of the reasons for the lack of convergence, and divergence of, expert opinion on solutions to philosophical problems. The network will intensify its efforts to interact with its non-academic partners and organise research activities specifically dedicated to issues in metaphilosophy. A particular focus will be on the prospects of a conception of philosophy as rational reconstruction and its relation to a more naturalistically minded conception that sees philosophy as continuous with science. Debates in contemporary metaphysics will provide a test-case for comparative assessment of these conceptions.
The network will organise 3 further workshops on WP-related themes: one on the structure of warrant, to be held in 5/2018; one on determinism and open choices, to be held at the Univ. de Neuchâtel in 12/2018, and another on self-knowledge, to be held in 6/2019. The final conference, intended to cover topics within the remit of various WPs, will take place in 9/2019. All these events, which are open to the public, will feature talks by the project’s ESR, senior project members and invited scholars from outside the network. In addition to these network events, DIAPHORA will organise 4 more Training Days for the complementary skills training of its fellows, and 1 more Open Day for public outreach. The last Training Days will prepare the fellows for entering the job market, focusing on the application process and job interviews.
By the end of project, the network’s 14 ESR are expected to have completed their dissertations, with a reasonable number of scientific publications, submitted or ready for submission, an international academic profile, and work experience in the non-academic sector, that promise to give them a head start upon entering the job market.
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