Workshop: Semantics and Pragmatics of Ceteris Paribus Conditions

Pictures from the workshop

Date: June 28-29, 2012

Place: Meeting Room 3, Level 1, Building 16.11 (Rektorat/Zentrale Verwaltung), University of Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf (click here for a map; the workshop room is indicated by a red circle in the center of the map).

OrganizersMatthias Unterhuber, and Alexander Reutlinger

Short link to this

The workshop is organized as a part of the DFG (German Research Foundation) research group FOR 1063 Causality, Laws and Explanation at the Intersection of Science and Metaphysics.

Workshop description: Many philosophers of science agree that a range of laws discussed in the special sciences (biology, sociology, etc.) must be qualified by appeal to ceteris paribus (CP) conditions. While it has been often appreciated that ceteris paribus laws (CP laws) are needed, their exact nature, semantics and pragmatics remains controversial. Diverse semantics for CP laws, such as dispositional, stability-based (CP laws are counterfactually stable or stable under interventions), and normality-based approaches (e.g. 'most agents act in a way that maximizes utility' and 'agents normally act in a way that maximizes utility') have, thus, been proposed.

In this workshop we shall bring together ideas from the present discussion on CP laws on the one hand and approaches in formal models/semantics of conditionals, generics and possibly causal networks on the other hand, and discuss what an adequate (formal) semantics/pragmatics of ceteris paribus laws would look like. Two questions that naturally arise in that context are the following: In what ways does the resulting semantics relate to existing approaches to conditional logic and non-monotonic logic? Can the resulting semantics/pragmatics model all types of ceteris paribus laws equally well, such as normic ceteris paribus laws (e.g., 'agents normally act in a way that maximizes utility') and comparative ceteris paribus laws (e.g., 'ceteris paribus an increase of demand of a commodity leads to an increase of price')?

The Speakers include Nancy Cartwright, Alice Drewery, Andreas Hüttemann, Berhard Nickel, Francis Pelletier, Alexander Reutlinger, Markus Schrenk, Gerhard Schurz, Wolfgang Spohn, Michael Strevens, Matthias Unterhuber, and Brad Weslake. 

Abstracts: You can find the Abstracts of the talks here.


June 28, 2012

  • 10.00-10.05 Welcome
  • 10.05-11.05 Gerhard Schurz (Duesseldorf) Ceteris Paribus and Ceteris Rectis Laws: the Problems of Content and Accidentality
  • 11.15-12.15 Bernhard Nickel (Harvard) The Role of Kinds in CP-Laws
  • 13.30-14.30 Jeff Pelletier (Alberta, SFU Vancouver) Reasoning with Defaults: Generic Statements and Ceteris Paribus Restrictions
  • 14.40-15.40 Wolfgang Spohn (Konstanz) A Ranking-Theoretic Account of Ceteris Paribus Conditions
  • 16.00-17.00 Matthias Unterhuber (Duesseldorf) Less Lazy than We Might Think - Ceteris Paribus Conditions in the Context of Lewis' Best System Analysis
  • 17.10-18.10 Nancy Cartwright (LSE London) When Causal Laws are Fit for Use

June 29, 2012

  • 10.00-11.00 Andreas Hüttemann (Cologne) Ceteris Paribus Laws in Physics
  • 11.10-12.10 Alice Drewery (Reading) Ceteris Paribus Clauses and the Division of Linguistic Labour
  • 13.30-14.30 Brad Weslake (Rochester) Statistical Mechanical Imperialism
  • 14.40-15.40 Alexander Reutlinger (Cologne) Against Statistical Accounts of Special Science Laws
  • 16.00-17.00 Markus Schrenk (Cologne) Better Best Systems and the Issue of Ceteris Paribus Laws
  • 17.10-18.10 Michael Strevens (NYU) Ceteris Paribus Hedges: Causal Voodoo That Works
  • 18.10-18.15 Farewell

Guests are welcome!

We ask persons interested in attending the workshop to register by email, by contacting Matthias Unterhuber at unterhuberphil.uni-duesseldorfde.

This workshop is funded/supported by the DFG (German Research Association) research group project Causality, Laws and Explanation at the Intersection of Science and Metaphysics.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Matthias Unterhuber by email to unterhuberphil.uni-duesseldorfde.