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Urbino Summer School

Old Members Trust Travel Grant Report – Michal Masny

I would like to express my gratitude for the financial support from the Old Members’ Trust Travel Grant that allowed me to participate in the Urbino Summer School in Epistemology in the summer of 2017.

The Urbino Summer School was a 4-day event that featured lectures, seminars, and informal discussions. These were led by some of the most prominent philosophers working in the field: Jennifer Nagel from University of Toronto, Stephen Stich from Rutgers University, and Oxford’s own Tim Williamson (a former Univ fellow). It was attended by some 60 graduate students and early career researchers from all over the world. Among those were 4 Oxford graduate students, all from my course.

The summer school was very rewarding academically. In the mornings, the three professors each gave lectures on the topics they were working currently. In the afternoons, the audience split into three groups and attended much smaller and much more interactive 3-hour seminars led by the speakers. I attended Stephen Stich’s seminars that focused on the developments in experimental philosophy, a branch that he was one of the founders of in the early 2000s. My primary motivation was to fill a large gap in my philosophical education in this area. The basic idea behind experimental philosophy is this. Philosophers often rely on their intuitions when assessing particular cases or general arguments. But why should we expect their intuitions to be convergent with, or indeed more reliable than, intuitions of, say, non-philosophers from a much different socio-economic background. Experimental philosophy is a systematic study of what philosophical intuitions people have and what does it tell us about the practice of relying on intuition in philosophical inquiry.

Also the social aspect of the summer school was very rewarding. During coffee and lunch breaks, and in the evenings I had a chance to meet graduate students and early career researchers from diverse universities working on diverse epistemological topics. We exchanged our ideas, discussed the philosophical profession generally, and talked just about anything for hours at a time. On one evening we participated in a formal dinner in a local restaurant and I had a chance to sit at a table next to Tim Williamson and his wife Ana. Tim has been my supervisor throughout Trinity Term ’17, but we have never really talked about anything other than philosophy. During the dinner, by contrast, we didn’t talk about philosophy at all, and it was very nice occasion to get to know him and his wife more personally.

Urbino itself was a perfect setting for the summer school. It is a beautiful town with rich history and breathtaking architecture. It is small enough to get everywhere on foot and large enough to get lost in on the first day. We enjoyed great, sunny weather for three our four days and spent the long, warm evenings discussing philosophy over a glass of wine in cafes on the town’s main piazza.

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