The workshop last Friday on "Revelation and Humility" was very enjoyable. Some materials from the workshop are now available: the detailed handout for Daniel Stoljar's talk on revelation, Derk Pereboom's paper on humility (plus handout), and the Powerpoint for my talk on revelation and humility. Note that all of these are very much works in progress. Uriah Kriegel posted summaries of and comments on the talks (Stoljar, Pereboom, Chalmers) at Desert Landscapes shortly after they happened, breaking new frontiers in philosophical live-blogging. My own brief recap here, three days after the event, is belated by comparison.
In Daniel's talk, "Lewis on Revelation" he characterized the revelation thesis for a property as requiring that subjects know all essential properties of that property, under certain conditions. He argued that this captures the notion relevant to Lewis's "Identification Thesis" in "Should a Materialist Believe in Qualia?", but he argued contra Lewis that folk psychology is not committed to revelation about qualia (since it requires subjects to be metaphysicians of qualia, among other reasons), and that neither is Kripke in "Naming and Necessity". I suggested in discussion that one might read Lewis as invoking a weaker notion of revelation (along the lines of the 2D thesis discussed in my paper below), and that it's not implausible that Kripke is committed something in the vicinity of this thesis. Daniel agreed that something like this might capture Lewis's notion, but doubted all the same that Kripke or folk psychology is committed to this claim.
Derk's talk, "Physicalism and Absolutely Intrinsic Properties", gave a detailed treatment of the thesis of humility regarding intrinsic physical properties, in the different forms in which it arises in Leibniz, Locke, and Kant. He especially emphasized the need for substantival intrinsic properties, not just any old intrinsic properties, to ground other properties of physical substances, focusing especially on the notion of solidity. And he brought this to bear on the contemporary discussion of the mind-body problem by pointing to these subsantival intrinsic properties as a promising place for the Russell-style physicalist to focus. Discussion focused especially on whether and how we might possess a notion of "perfect solidity" (akin to Edenic perfect redness), and on whether some sort of inference to the best explanation (from physics and/or phenomenology) could ground knowledge of intrinsic properties.
My talk, "Revelation, Humility, and the Structure of the World" attempted to characterize "revelatory" and "humble" concepts and their role in our conception of the world. I then looked at links between these notions and issues concerning Russell's and Carnap's structuralism and Lewis's Ramsey-style program. Both the Russell/Carnap and Lewis programs tend to lead to humility about intrinsic properties, and both have a threat of vacuity (Newman's problem, Putnam's model-theoretic argument) at least for their pure forms (pure structuralism, global Ramsification). The vacuity problem can be avoided either by an appeal to natural properties or better, by grounding their description of the world in revelatory concepts (primitive relations, fundamental O-terms). I explored a couple of forms of this weak structuralism: spatiotemporal structuralism (not far from Lewis's view?) and nomic/phenomenal structuralism (a view I have sympathy with). In the final bit I threw caution to the winds by linking all this to the Kantian distinction between the phenomenal world (the world of revelation) and the noumenal world (the world of humility). Here, I like the idea that the phenomenal world (here construed as an intentional world) stands to the noumenal world roughly as Eden stands to the Matrix. Derk pointed out afterwards that Kant's phenomenal world is really driven as much or more by what we have scientific access to as by what is revealed in phenomenology. So one might instead make a three-way distinction between the phenomenological world (Eden), the noumenal world (the Matrix), and the scientific world (the realm of nomic/phenomenal structure).
Thanks to all who participated for a very interesting day.