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Prof. Sarah Moss (Michigan) will give a masterclass on Probabilistic Knowledge at King’s College London on March 6th-7th, 2018. The masterclass will include guest talks by Siliva Milano (LSE), Jason Konek (Bristol), Matt Mandelkern (Oxford) & Daniel Rothschild (UCL), Bernhard Salow (Cambridge) and Richard Holton (Cambridge). The keynote lecture of the masterclass is a joint session with LSE’s Choice Group.

The event is open to graduate students and researchers from any institution. Attendance is free but registration is required. To register fill in the form below.

Here is a pdf version of the programmeFinal location confirmed: though the strike is taking place and many of us would have preferred not to cross picket lines, the event will have to take place in KCL (venues below).


Sarah Moss has just published Probabilistic Knowledge (OUP 2018), a book that defends the idea that partial beliefs (credences) can constitute knowledge just as full beliefs can. The book builds on some of her previous work and has been widely noted; in addition to this masterclass, it was the subject of a symposium in Hamburg last year and will be the subject of an Author meets Critics session at the central APA next year. In addition to her work on probabilistic knowledge, Sarah Moss has published a number of significant articles in philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.

Traditional philosophical discussions of knowledge have focused on the epistemic status of full beliefs. Probabilistic Knowledge argues that in addition to full beliefs, credences can constitute knowledge. For instance, your .3 credence that it is raining outside can constitute knowledge, in just the same way that your full beliefs can. In addition, you can know that it might be raining, and that if it is raining then it is probably cloudy, where this knowledge is not knowledge of propositions, but of probabilistic contents. The notion of probabilistic content introduced in this book plays a central role not only in epistemology, but in the philosophy of mind and language as well. Just as tradition holds that you believe and assert propositions, you can believe and assert probabilistic contents.

Accepting that we can believe, assert, and know probabilistic contents has significant consequences for many philosophical debates, including debates about the relationship between full belief and credence, the semantics of epistemic modals and conditionals, the contents of perceptual experience, peer disagreement, pragmatic encroachment, perceptual dogmatism, and transformative experience. In addition, accepting probabilistic knowledge can help us discredit negative evaluations of women’s speech, explain why merely statistical evidence is insufficient for legal proof, and identify epistemic norms violated by acts of racial profiling. Hence the central theses of this book not only help us better understand the nature of our own mental states, but also help us better understand the nature of our responsibilities to each other.

The event is organized by the Formal Methods research group of KCL’s philosophy department.


The event is open to graduates and researchers from any institution. KCL philosophy undergraduates are welcome too. Attendance is free but registration is required. To register fill in the form below.



Note: venues confirmed.

All talks but the last take place on King’s College Waterloo Campus but in different buildings. The last talk will take place at the Bush House on Strand Campus. See the Waterloo campus map and Strand campus map to locate the buildings and their entrances. The buildings show up on map apps too.

Non-KCL members need to register as visitors upon entering. This will be easier if you pre-register for the conference.

Tuesday March 6th

Room 1.20, Franklin-Wilkins building, Waterloo campus. Main entrance on Stamford Street.

  • 11:00-12:30 Sarah Moss (Michigan) Probabilistic Knowledge: A Brief Introduction
    [abstract below]
  • 2:00-3:15 Silvia Milano (LSE) Moss on ‘Updating as Communication’
    [abstract below]
  • 3:30-4:45 Jason Konek (Bristol) Coherence and Probabilistic Belief

Room 2.42, Franklin-Wilkins building.

  • 5:00-6:15 Matt Mandelkern (All Souls) & Daniel Rothschild (UCL) Comments on Probabilistic Contexts

Wednesday March 7th

Room B.16, James Clerk Maxwell building, Waterloo campus.

  • 11:00-12:30 Sarah Moss Full Belief and Loose Speech
    [abstract below]
  • 2:00-3:15 Bernhard Salow (Cambridge) tba
  • 3:30-4:45 Richard Holton (Cambridge) How psychologically realistic are credences?

Room 1.03, Bush House North-East wing, Strand campus.
Joint session with LSE’s Choice Group.

  • 5:30-7:00 Sarah Moss Keynote Lecture: Probabilistic Knowledge and Legal Proof
    [abstract below]

Strike warning

The event has been scheduled long before the ongoing strike over pensions was planned and could not be moved. The event has to take place during the strike on KCL’s campuses. The organiser and many participants are not happy with crossing the picket lines but we decided to maintain it. We expect that most of the talks (incl. Sarah Moss’s) will take place.


Sarah Moss, Probabilistic Knowledge: A Brief Introduction

This talk will provide a crash course in probabilistic knowledge and its applications. I introduce and defend the three central theses of Probabilistic Knowledge—namely, that we can believe, assert, and know probabilistic contents. I distinguish several skeptical worries that one might raise for probabilistic knowledge, and I answer these worries. Finally, I argue that probabilistic knowledge has significant implications for debates about transformative experience, knowledge norms of action, and knowledge norms of assertion, as well as implications for debates outside philosophy.

Sarah Moss, Full Belief and Loose Speech

This talk develops the account of full belief introduced in chapter 3 of Probabilistic Knowledge. I defend an account of the relationship between full belief and credence, and I use that account to answer several familiar and difficult questions about belief. Does fully believing a proposition require having maximal confidence in it? Are rational beliefs closed under entailment, or does the preface paradox show that rational agents can believe inconsistent propositions? Does whether you believe a proposition depend partly on your practical interests? My account of belief resolves the tension between conflicting answers to these questions that have been defended in the literature, explaining why each answer seems correct.

Sarah Moss, Probabilistic Knowledge and Legal Proof

This talk applies probabilistic knowledge to problems in legal and moral philosophy. I begin by arguing that legal standards of proof require knowledge of probabilistic contents. For instance, proof by a preponderance of the evidence requires the factfinder to have greater than .5 credence that a defendant is liable, and also requires this probabilistic belief to be knowledge. Proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt requires knowledge of a significantly stronger content. The fact that legal proof requires knowledge explains why merely statistical evidence is insufficient to license a legal verdict of liability or guilt. In addition to explaining the limited value of statistical evidence, probabilistic knowledge enables us to articulate epistemic norms that are violated by acts of racial and other profiling. According to these norms, it can be epistemically wrong to infer from statistics that a person of Mexican ancestry is likely undocumented, for instance, even when inferring parallel facts about ordinary objects is perfectly okay.

Silvia Milano, Moss on ‘Updating as Communication’

De se beliefs, or beliefs about who, where an when one is in the world, give rise to a well-known puzzle for Bayesian epistemology. On the one hand, de se beliefs are pervasive and seem to play an essential role in motivating action. On the other hand, unlike de dicto beliefs about the world, de se beliefs present serious issues for standard accounts of updating via Conditionalisation, which (together with Probabilism, or the view that partial beliefs should conform to the probability calculus) is normally considered a core tenet of Bayesianism. Faced with this conundrum, two possible responses are available to Bayesians: either drop Conditionalisation, and replace it with some other diachronic principle to guide rational belief change; or keep Conditionalisation, but either drop de se beliefs or show how they can be updated in a way that is consistent with Conditionalisation.

In a recent paper, Sarah Moss has proposed a new way to account for the up- dating of de se beliefs, which is based on an analogy between updating and communication. Moss does not attempt to reduce de se to de dicto beliefs, and her account is particularly attractive, from a Bayesian standpoint, because the updating rule that she proposes constitutes a natural extension of Conditionalisation to de se belief change.

I start by giving a reconstruction of Moss’s account, illustrating how it can be applied to solve some problem cases that involve updating de se beliefs. I then articulate three possible concerns for Moss’s account that I think would be worthy of discussion. The first concern is about Moss’s account of interpersonal communication, and whether it can serve as more than an analogy for the case of intra-personal updating. To introduce the second concern, I discuss a case where an agent loses track of time, which on Moss’s account represents an instance of awareness expansion. I explain what this means, and discuss some issues that arise from the way these cases are handled within Moss’s account of updating. To conclude, I raise a more general question for Moss’s account: what view of diachronic rationality does it presuppose? I propose a normative interpretation of her view, and discuss some possible issues arising from it.

Further information

For further information contact Julien Dutant.

Related event

Note that Sarah Moss will give a talk on “Moral Encroachment” at the Aristotelian Society at the Senate House on Monday March 5th, 5:30-7.