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Counterfactuals, Compatiblism, and Rational Choice

October 27 @ 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM

Headshot of Robert Stalnaker

The University of California, Berkeley is pleased to announce our upcoming virtual Howison Philosophy Lecture on October 27 with Professor Robert Stalnaker from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We hope you can join us for this live streamed event on the Berkeley Graduate Lectures website. As an audience, you’re encouraged to submit questions during the event using a Google form on this lecture’s webpage.

Headshot of Robert StalnakerCounterfactuals, Compatibilism and Rational Choice

October 27, 2021 at 4:10 p.m.
Robert Stalnaker, Lawrence S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
This lecture will be streamed live on the Berkeley Graduate Lectures website.

About the Lecturer and Lecture

Robert Stalnaker is the Laurence S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stalnaker’s interests are wide-ranging, from philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and decision theory to pragmatics.
Of his lecture, he notes: “I will discuss a puzzle about counterfactuals and determinism that parallels a more familiar puzzle about free will and determinism, arguing  first, that the general puzzle gives us reason to look more closely at the details of the semantics for counterfactuals, and second that the parallel with the standard argument for incompatibilism  gives us reason to look more closely at the central role of counterfactuals in practical reasoning. In this context, I will look at some debates about the foundations of decision theory, and at the interaction of causal, epistemic, and temporal concepts in reasoning about what to do, and about how to explain why rational agents do what they do.”

A prolific writer, Stalnaker is the author of four books: Inquiry (MIT Press, 1984), Our Knowledge of the Internal World (Oxford, 2007), Mere Possibilities (Princeton Press, 2012), and Context (Oxford, 2015). His most recent book, Context, explores the notion of the context in which speech takes place, its role in the interpretation of what is said, and in the explanation of the dynamics of discourse. He recently published, “Counterfactuals and probability” as a chapter in Conditionals, Paradox and Probability: Themes from the philosophy of Dorothy Edgington, Oxford University Press (2021).

Robert Stalnaker received his PhD from Princeton University in 1965, and subsequently taught, over the next fifty years, at Yale University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Cornell University and MIT. In addition to the works mentioned above, he has published three collections of papers, all with Oxford:  Context and Content (1999), Ways a World Might Be (2003), and Knowledge and Conditionals (2019). He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.


October 27
4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
Event Category:




Berkeley Graduate Lectures