PLM (Philosophy of Language and Mind)
PLM is a European network of centers, institutes and departments with a strong commitment to the philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. PLM organises conferences, master classes and internal workshops. PLM was formed 2010 and has the following members:
- Arché, St Andrews
- Department of Philosophy, CEU, Budapest
- CLLAM, Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University
- CSMN, Oslo
- ILCLI, University of the Basque County, San Sebastian
- ILLC, Amsterdam
- Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris
- Institute of Philosophy II, Ruhr University Bochum
- Institute of Philosophy, University of London
- LOGOS, University of Barcelona
- NIP, University of Aberdeen
Second PLM Conference
Every two years PLM organises a conference in the philosophy of language and philosophy mind area. The first PLM conference took place in Stockholm, September 2011, organised by CLLAM. The second PLM conference will take place in Budapest, 13-15 September 2013, organised by the Department of Philosophy, CEU. A special issue of Synthese with papers from the first conference, by Craig French, Peter Fritz, Marie Guillot, Nat Hansen, Elisabeth Pacherie and Francois Recanati is forthcoming. A similar special issue of Synthese with papers from the second conference will be considered, to which a selected number of speakers will be asked to contribute. The conference fee is 50 EUR.
Conference Schedule and Abstracts:
How Can We Think about the Things We Perceive?
An idea had by several philosophers is that standing in a perceptual relation to an object facilitates standing in a special sort of cognitive relation to the same object. For instance, if I see an apple in front of me, it becomes possible for me to think something I would correctly express as ‘That apple is green’. But how can perception facilitate a certain kind of thought, such as a demonstrative thought about ‘that apple’? Part of my aim is to stress that we need an answer to this question in so far as we endorse the idea that perception plays an enabling role for demonstrative thought. My second and related aim is to show that two proposals for answering the question, made by John Campbell and Imogen Dickie, are, at best, incomplete. To account for how perception makes demonstrative thought possible, Campbell and Dickie focus on details of the nature of perceptual experience, as given by the relational view of experience and certain research results in vision science. But their explanations require certain non-obvious assumptions about the relationship between perception and thought.
Reasons for Action and Practical Reasoning
In this paper I explore some issues concerning reasons for action and their normative force, and how those issues are reflected in the nature and structure of practical reasoning. I hope to show that the two topics are mutually illuminating, so that understanding one, what reasons for action are and their normative force, helps to understand the other, the nature of practical reasoning and vice-versa.
Magdalena Balcerak Jackson
Imagining, Supposing and Conceiving
To explain how we achieve our cognitive goals when we make decisions about future actions, when we perform thought experiments, and when we engage in games of pretense, philosophers frequently invoke our ability to imagine, conceive and/or suppose various things. But what is the relationship between imaginings, conceivings and supposings? And exactly what epistemic roles do they play in the cognitive projects in which they are involved? In this paper I provide answers to these questions by first bringing out a contrast between what we do when we imagine and when we suppose, and then by showing how to fit conceivings into the emerging systematic picture of how we use different forms of hypothetical thinking to acquire knowledge.
Self-Awareness and Pathological Self-Doubt
An Affordance-Based Approach to Gradable Adjectives
Our aim is to provide an account of the meaning of gradable adjectives like tasty, heavy, expensive, which accommodates the variegated inference patterns and dialogue effects they lead to, and which allows for normatively constrained intersubjective use and understanding. For this, we take a step aside from truthconditional semantics, without thereby leaping into expressivism. The proper treatment of gradable adjectives, we contend, requires moving towards an embodied, enactive look at meaning in natural language. Our basic claim is that evaluations about e.g., taste, weight or price, express the states of agents who not only have propositional knowledge about the world but also an affective orientation towards it. This affective orientation plays sometimes a more, sometimes a less conventional role in the meaning of gradable adjectives.
To make this idea of affective orientation more precise, and to integrate it with the propositional aspect of mental states, we deploy the notion of affordances. Although the concept of affordance has been employed mainly in relation to motor action it can also be seen more generally as aspects of an agent's environment that offer possibilities of action to an agent when the agent has the necessarily skills or abilities. Gradable adjectives express our affective orientation in the world by signaling certain patterns of readiness to respond to action possibilities offered by our environment. Evaluative judgements like This cake is tasty/expensive or I find this cake tasty/expensive express our responsiveness to relevant affordances, besides any information about the actual world they may carry. Understanding requires that one grasps the relevant possibilities for action signalled by such judgements. Our affective orientation selectively generates a responsiveness to relevant affordances that gets us adequately ready for further cognition and action. Gradable adjectives and evaluative judgements allow us to communicate this orientation.
The Epistemic Importance of Linguistic Context-Sensitivity
Lewis (1996) claimed to show how one could maintain infallibilism without running into scepticism. He claimed that one could do so by adopting a specifically epistemic contextualism. In the current paper I will argue for two claims. Firstly, Lewis' attempt fails because he gives up infallibilism when he adopts his epistemic contextualism. Secondly, one can have infallibilism without scepticism if one has context-sensitivity (of the kind described by Barba (2007)), in the first instance, not in the verb “to know”, but in the sentence used to express that which is known.
De Se Contents and Immunity to Error through Misidentification
In this paper I question Recanati’s arguments for a subjectless view of the content of de se thought, on the basis that we can thus better explain the phenomenon of immunity to error through misidentification (IEM). Various writers including Campbell, Peacocke and Wright have developed an account of IEM, the Simple Account. On SA, non-IEM thoughts are thoughts the structure of whose epistemic justification depends on an identity claim. IEM thoughts are those that are not based on an identity claim. This is compatible with their having a traditional propositional content.
SA provides a good initial reply to Recanati, but it is not fully satisfactory: (i) Being negative, it offers little explanation of IEM: Recanati might argue that his account, which is also compatible with SA, better explains why no identity-premise is involved in such cases. (ii) What little explanation SA offers of IEM is probably wrong, because de re immunity is a species of the more general wh-immunity (Pryor 1999); but there is no epistemic dependence on an identity-premise in wh-misidentification. (iii) SA relies on epistemic dependence relations in need of explanation, and cases of de facto IEM suggest that such an explanation should go hand-in-hand with that of IEM.
I will provide an account of IEM based on an account of de se thoughts that ascribes to them a traditional proposition as content. Here is the core suggestion. Deployment of referential concepts presupposes reference-fixing information. A thought of the form A is P is IEM when the ascribed property P is already ascribed to the referent of the concept A as part of its background reference-fixing information. When being P is individuative, the identity A is the P is not a premise in the justificational structure of the judgment, but is rather (either merely circumstantially, or de iure) taken for granted in deploying concept A.
The I of the Beholder: Perceiving Oneself as Oneself
Objective Reference and Evans’ Hybrid View of Singular Thought
In “Varieties of Reference” Evans defends Russell’s Principle. This principle claims that in order to entertain a singular thought one must possess the ability to distinguish the referent from all other entities. This picture of singular thought accords well with the descriptivist approach to thinking, yet Evans is surely no descriptivist. He famously argued that a series of our singular thoughts crucially depend upon the thinker standing in a causal informational relation to the referent. This view is in accordance with the causal theories of reference. However, defenders of that view commonly reject the strict cognitive demand that Russell’s Principle place on thinkers (Burge and Campbell will be the main interlocutors). Thus, Evans theory occupies a curious hybrid position. It includes elements from both causal and descriptivist theories of reference.
This talk will defend Evans endorsement of Russell’s Principle against those causal theorists who deem it an unwanted remnant from an outdated descriptivism. My talk takes outset in a discussion of the capacities which enable demonstrative thought. Causal theorist typically account for our capacity for demonstrative thought in terms of our possession of rather transient capacities for visually discriminating the referent. These are in stark opposition to the daunting requirement from Russell’s Principle that we must be able to discriminate our referent form all other entities, not just from within a limited visual array. I will present the insufficiency of such causal accounts by considering their ability to live up to Evans’ Generality Constraint. The Generality Constraint claims that in order to possess a concept one must be able to employ it in a whole series of judgements. I argue that Evans had quite particular semantic reasons for introducing the Generality Constraint and that given this it can form the key premise in a defence of Russell’s Principle.
On one view, for a proposition to be singular is for it to have an object as a constituent. On another view, a singular proposition is one that is ontologically dependent on an object. A variety of other accounts appear in the literature, but rarely accompanied by a careful comparison with rivals or even by an explanation of why the account captures the background ideas that motivate drawing a distinction between singular and general propositions in the first place. Indeed, it is often unclear exactly what the background ideas are which would help us gauge the success of an account of singularity. This is unfortunate in part because the notion of singularity has an important role to play in various sub-fields of philosophy. It is tied up with questions about actualism and haecceitism (Adams 1981: 7), presentism (Crisp 2003), quantification into attitude clauses (Kaplan 1975), acquaintance (Russell), and of course direct reference and de re thought. Tyler Burge (2007) has argued that de re thought is necessary for language learning, that having any justified empirical beliefs, and hence empirical knowledge, requires having singular thoughts, and even that singular thoughts are a prerequisite for the possibility of any thought at all.
My project is to clarify the motivation for the singular / general distinction and advocate a simple analysis of that distinction. The idea will be to give explanatory priority to singular thoughts (as in mental state types, not their contents), explaining their singularity in terms of what a thinker conceptualizes, rather than explaining singular thoughts as thoughts whose contents are singular propositions. I will argue that there is no promising independent account of what it is for a proposition to be singular. Extant accounts either fail to respect the basic motivations for the notion of singularity, leave the explanation of singularity metaphorical or insufficiently clear, or rely on commitments to the metaphysics of propositions in an undesirable way.
Perceptual Experience: Intentionality without Representation
Perceptual experiences are widely acknowledged to be prime examples of intentional mental states, or states that have contents. In this paper I take on the challenge of explaining this feature of perceptual experience within a physicalist framework.
I begin by arguing against the popular assumption that intentionality can be equated with representation. I offer an alternative preliminary characterization of intentionality: intentional states are those which have a subject-matter. Although my allegiance lies with internalism I offer criticisms of both internalist and externalist accounts. I argue that internalists must be non-relationalists about intentionality. More importantly (given my aim of providing a physicalist account of the intentionality of our perceptual experiences) I argue that physicalists must be non-relationalists about intentionality. I conclude part one with the following definition of intentionality: intentionality is seeming relationality.
Building upon the arguments in part one, I present my own internalist account of perceptual experience. I offer this account as the only genuinely internalist account, and the only genuinely physicalist account. It has an interesting, albeit counter-intuitive consequence: we cannot legitimately assess perceptual experiences for accuracy. Drawing upon the account of intentionality developed in part one, I explain why we find the idea that perceptual experiences are assessable for accuracy so irresistible. I claim that our perceptual experiences have their intentionality – their seeming relationality – in virtue of being phenomenologically representational. However, we can see from an analysis of the metaphysics of perceptual experience that they are not genuinely representational. In other words, perceptual experiences are intentional states which are neither representational nor assessable for accuracy.
(Link to online paper)
Understanding the Concept “I” as a Phenomenal Concept
I defend the view that the concept “I” functions as a phenomenal concept. (By the concept “I” I mean here the ordinary, non-theoretical individual notion that each subject uses to store information specifically about themselves.)
Phenomenal concepts – e.g. the concepts “red” or “painful” – are those we use to reflect on and classify our experiences as such, regardless of the objects they are experiences of. What is special about phenomenal concepts is their genesis: they cannot be acquired before one has some phenomenal experience (e.g. as of a certain shade of red, or a certain ache). The felt quality of that experience is used as a label to be put on further encounters with experiences of the same kind.
I propose that, in the case of the I-concept, the felt quality used as a “label” for all that falls under the concept is what some have called “the feeling of mineness” or “me-ishness”: that quality of all of my experiences that identifies them as mine. I additionally claim that phenomenal concepts in general should be analysed as a particular class of indexical representations, which I call autonyms, where the relation between the representation and what it represents is one of exemplification. Building on these two hypotheses, I offer a phenomenal-autonymous model of the I-concept.
I show how this model of the concept “I” sheds light on some aspects of the epistemology of (conceptual) first-personal thoughts, including the authoritativeness attached to first-personal reports of such thoughts, and some forms of immunity to error through misidentification. The theory may also help solve some metaphysical and moral issues related to personal identity, like the “Why it matters” problem. Finally, a resulting empirical prediction of the theory is that lacking an experiential sense of self should translate in absent or abnormal mastery of the I-concept.
Attention, Appearance, and Relational Views of Experience
In his ‘Attention and Mental Paint’ (2010) Ned Block argues that certain effects of attention on the phenomenal character of our perceptual experience can’t be captured accurately by a relational account of experience. Block attempts to demonstrate such effects on the basis of recent empirical research by Marisa Carrasco and her colleagues. My immediate aim in this talk is to cast doubt on Block’s use of Carrasco’s finding in his argument. I’ll highlight two implicit assumptions that play a role in Block’s reasoning, and suggest that they are, at the very least, problematic.
The two assumptions in question are quite often implicit philosophers’ reasoning about the phenomenal character of perceptual experience; thus the question of their legitimacy is relevant to a variety of other discussions of the phenomenology of perceptual experience.
Knowledge of Action as Self‑Knowledge
Contemporary discussions of self-knowledge struggle to make room for intentional actions. However it is that one comes to know what one is doing when acting intentionally, it is widely assumed not to be solely through knowing one’s own mind. Knowledge of acting is knowledge of something taking place outside one’s mind, and hence must outstrip mere self-knowledge. Among the minority who do view knowledge of acting as a kind of self-knowledge, the chief alternative draws on Anscombe’s controversial conception of ‘practical knowledge’. On this view, knowledge of acting need not go beyond one’s mind because in acting, one has a kind of productive, rather than receptive, knowledge: one is bringing about, rather than observing or deriving, the known fact that one is V-ing.
The present paper aims to clear new ground between these two familiar alternatives. It offers a way of understanding knowledge of acting as non-practical and yet thoroughly first personal, on a par with knowledge of mental attitudes such as believing and intending. In fact, it is suggested that acting intentionally may itself be understood as an (external, factive, and dynamic) mental attitude. Viewed this way, it is shown that intentional actions can be assimilated wholesale into the domain of self-knowledge, exhibiting the core features of paradigmatic self-knowledge.
Retraction and disagreement data have been used against contextualism and in favor of relativism about certain types of claims. Among these figure epistemic modals, knowledge attributions, or value and personal taste claims. On the relativist proposal, sentences like “the ice cream might be in the fridge” or “Pocoyo is funny” only get assigned a truth-value relative to contexts of utterance, indices of evaluation, and contexts of assessment. On assessment relativism, the relevant perspective for the truth of an epistemic might claim, or of a claim of personal taste, is the epistemic evidence, or the standard of taste, of the assessor at the context of assessment. On contextualism (indexical or not) the relevant perspective is the epistemic evidence, or the standard of taste, that is determined at the context of utterance. It is the claim that contextualism cannot handle retraction and disagreement data that requires the admission of contexts of assessment. Assessment-relativism takes retractions to have a special normative role: a retraction is allegedly mandatory in the crucial cases where the contextualist does not obligate any retraction. This papers questions that retractions have such a normative role, and offers an alternative explanation that is compatible with contextualism. The aim is to show that assessment relativism is not a viable semantic alternative. I will first summarize the main objections in the literature against the obligatoriness of retractions in the crucial cases. I will then offer a suggestion for how a contextualist (indexical or not) can explain permissible retractions, without requiring contexts of assessment.
A Theory of Belief for Doxasticism about Delusion
The aim of this paper is to present and develop a new strategy to defend doxasticism about delusion from the main argument against it.
Doxasticism about delusion is the view that delusions are beliefs. Although this view is widely accepted in psychiatry, there is a powerful philosophical argument against it. The argument is called “the argument from causal role”. This argument has two premises. First, playing a belief-like causal role is necessary for something to be a belief. Second, many delusions fail to play belief-like causal roles. From these premises, it follows that many delusions are not beliefs, which contradicts doxasticism (Currie 2000, Egan 2009, Schwitzgebel 2011).
Some doxasticists resist this argument by rejecting the first premise. Bortolotti (2009), for instance, rejects the first premise on the ground that the causal roles of delusions differ from the causal roles of beliefs only in degree, not in kind.
In this paper paper, I will develop an alternative strategy to defend doxasticism from the argument from causal role. I will deny the second premise of the argument, and propose an alternative theory of belief according to which playing a belief- like causal role is not necessary for something to be a belief. The theory is a version of teleological functionalism and it is called “teleo-attitude functionalism”. According to teleo-attitude functionalism, what is necessary and sufficient for something to be a belief is to have the teleological function of playing a belief-like causal role, not to actually play it. And it is possible that something has the function of playing a belief-like causal role without actually playing it (=malfunctioning belief) for the same reason that it is possible that something has the function of pumping blood without actually doing it (=malfunctioning heart).
Against Indexical Mental Files
Determinations of Meaning
Phenomenal Consciousness and So-Called Qualia: Remarks about Common Confusions in the Current Debate
Constructing the World and Locating Oneself
In Our Knowledge of the Internal World, Robert Stalnaker describes two opposed perspectives on the relation between the mental and the external. According to one, the internal world is taken as given and the external world as problematic, and according to the other, the external world is taken as given and the internal world as problematic. Indeed, analytic philosophy has moved from the former to the latter, in the shift from foundational projects like Russell's and Carnaps's to the problems of self-locating beliefs, discussed by Perry, Kaplan, Lewis, and Stalnaker, among others. Such beliefs appear not to have ordinary objective contents. I will argue that the problems of these two perspective are not really opposite. Rather, they both depend on one and the same basic underdetermination: the relation between the internal and the external is underdetermined by the internal and the external jointly.
Social Externalism and the Problem of Communication
Social externalism is the view that mental content is individuated by a subject’s social environment. Subjects can entertain thoughts which involve the same concepts as others in their linguistic community even when they incorrectly understand these concepts. One might think that sharing content would make communication easy. In this paper, I argue that this is not the case. We can exploit the relationship between content and understanding to create a dilemma for social externalism. My argument proceeds in three steps. In the first step, I argue that it is necessary for communicative success that the hearer’s understanding of the content she grasps is similar to the speaker’s understanding of the content she expressed. In the second step, I argue that (alongside satisfaction of certain further conditions which are incidental to my argument) it is sufficient for communicative success that the hearer’s understanding of the content she grasps is similar to the speaker’s understanding of the content she expressed. In the final step, I present the dilemma. If the social externalist accepts both the first two steps, she will be on the first horn of the dilemma. On this horn, she must accept that the relationship between the content expressed by the speaker and the content grasped by the hearer is irrelevant to communicative success. However, if the social externalist tries to resist either of the first steps, she will find herself on the second horn of the dilemma. On this horn, she must endorse an account of communication which gives highly implausible diagnoses as to the success and failure of communicative exchanges.
Connectionist Explanations: Approximating Semantic Systematicity
Dangerous Liaisons: Cognitive Impenetrability and Nonconceptualism
In this talk, I examine the relationship between cognitive impenetrability and perceptual nonconceptualism. I argue against the view that the (alleged) cognitive impenetrability of early vision is a necessary and sufficient condition for states of early vision and their content to be nonconceptual. I show that that view, here dubbed ‘the mutually entailing thesis’, admits two different standard interpretations depending on how we understand the property of being nonconceptual—corresponding to the distinction between the state and the content views of perceptual nonconceptualism. I first argue for the falsity of the state-nonconceptualist reading of the mutually entailing thesis, on the grounds that it mistakenly takes being nonconceptual to be a causal instead of a constitutive relationship. The content-nonconceptualist understanding of the thesis, I then argue, is disproved by plausible views regarding the content of experience. The mutually entailing thesis could only be true, I contend, on a non-standard, causal interpretation of the notion of nonconceptual content. Yet, on that reading, the thesis would either be trivially true or would entirely fail to engage with the contemporary literature on perceptual nonconceptualism. I conclude by briefly discussing some potential implications of the mutually entailing thesis’ falsity for the psychological research in this area.
Environmental Guides for Action and Representational Knowledge
Recent research (enactivism, ecological psychology, autonomous robotics) argue in favor of a non-representational account of the relation between perception and action during skillful online coping. Re-presentation of the environment is considered unnecessary, time costing and as leading to the Frame Problem. Skillful coping means the ability of efficiently and adaptively responding and being guided by salient environmental details. In this paper I shall analyze to what degree the idea of environmental guiding can support a non-representational account of action.
I start my discussion by analyzing the definition of affordances outlined by Anthony Chemero (2009), a typical example of how a non-representationalist account unloads the cognitive system of representations for action using environmental guides. Chemero conceives affordances as non-linear relations between abilities and environmental features. Action with affordances is guided by a primitive form of perception, feature placing (Strawson), which means being sensitive to aspects of whole situations, beyond subject-object dichotomy (ex. – the falling ball specifies the feature “it-is-time-to-flex-the-elbow”); such actions are non-representationally in nature because they do not need property-ascription reasoning (there is an individual x such that x is P).
I will first argue that there are affordances constituted through property-ascription and, consequently, the ability to act on such affordances is representational. Second, I’ll use Cussins’ (1992) theory of trails and stabilization to argue that the ability to act on property-based affordances does not oppose embodied knowledge; it derives from it through a process in which the domain of embodied experience is segregated in stable structures (object, property, relation). Action on property-based affordances is representational because it deploys concepts; and concepts have truth conditions (Frege). Therefore, only the unstabilized affordances afford non-representational actions.
Philosophers’ Myth about John Searle’s Theory of Proper Names
In my talk, I will revisit Searle's seminal (1958) paper "Proper Names". My aim is to show that once we appreciate how Searle fills in the details of his account of proper names—which I will dub the presuppositional view—and how we might supplement it further, we are in for a twofold discovery. First, Searle’s account is crucially unlike the so-called cluster-of-descriptions view, which many philosophers take Searle to have held. Second, the presuppositional view he did hold is interesting, plausible, and worthy of serious reconsideration. The idea that Searle’s account is a largely Fregean interlude between the Fregean description theory of proper names and Kripke’s proposals presented in “Naming and Necessity” is in major ways a myth, a mythical chapter in how the story of 20th-century philosophy of language is often told.