Huw Price's presentation "The Effective Indexical" at the philosophy research seminar; 8.5.2009, Helsinki

Dear all,

The research seminar at the Department of philosophy will meet on
friday, 8.5 at 12-14 (Siltavuorenpenger 20 A, 2nd floor, room

Huw Price: The Effective Indexical

The seminar is open for all, including students. Welcome!

In a famous paper in Noûs in 1979, John Perry points out that action depends on indexical beliefs. In addition to "third-person" information about her environment, an agent need "first-person" information about where, when and who she is. This conclusion is widely interpreted as a reason for thinking that tensed claims cannot be translated without loss into untensed language; but not as a reason for realism about tensed facts.

In another famous paper in the same volume of Noûs, Nancy Cartwright argues that action requires that agents represent their world in causal terms, rather than merely probabilistic terms: for, Cartwright argues, there's a distinction between effective and ineffective strategies, that otherwise goes missing. This is widely taken as a reason for thinking that causal claims cannot be translated without loss into merely probabilistic claims; and also – in contrast to Perry's case – widely regarded as a reason for realism about causation. In this paper I ask whether the latter conclusion is compulsory, or whether, as in Perry's case, the need for causal beliefs might merely reflect some "situated" aspect of a decision-maker's perspective.

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