Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2006-07

June 1, 2007 12:00am

Session 4 1 June 2007

Adriana Silva Graça (Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa e Centro de Filosofia da Universidade de Lisboa)

Why I couldn’t possibly have had dinner with Michael Corleone (Some philosophical reflections on empty names)


Any good solution for the so called empty names’ problem, on my view, has to satisfy requirements that we should not abandon, since abandoning them would lead to other problems. So, while dealing with that problem, I want to keep the theory of direct reference for proper names, not to endorse any form of descriptivism concerning their semantics and to preserve the healthy idea that there is no third realm of entities whatsoever besides those that exist. Additionally, I also think that we should take seriously what we commonly are inclined to rate as true or false, or as meaningful or meaningless, regarding the sentences containing these terms. All in all, I hope at least to give some persuasive arguments to the effect of showing what any good solution must accommodate, and to propose a schema or a program for the purpose of providing a satisfactory response to the problem at hands.


Session 3 9 May 2007

Teresa Marques (Centro de Filosofia da Universidade de Lisboa)

Embedding Emotions


This paper discusses the behaviour of expressives, speech acts performed in expressing emotions, in connection with logically complex sentences. A position on the content of emotions contends that emotional content is nonconceptual. Nonconceptual content is, arguably, non-inferential. That emotional content is nonconceptual translates into two claims. First, expressives do not convey logically complex contents, say, conditional content. Secondly, emotional content is not embeddable in logically complex sentences, say as a consequent of a conditional. A related but distinct problem is whether expressives themselves can be embedded in logically complex sentences like conditionals. This paper argues that, against strong views on the nonconceptual content of emotions (as that advocated by Gunther 2003 and 2004, for instance) expressives can have conceptual content, in particular, conditional or disjunctive content. That is, as far as available evidence indicates, expressives, and the emotions thereby expressed, can have the same content as other speech acts and other psychological attitudes. This paper then discusses a possibly illuminating hypothesis concerning the embeddability of expressives themselves. This related question is connected to a more general problem concerning Frege’s point and the embeddability of speech-acts in general. The hypothesis is whether there are conditional expressives, in the same way as there are conditional promises or orders, and how that possibility relates to the status of the emotion, if any, thereby expressed.


Session 2 28 February 2007

Josep Corbi (Universidade de Valência)

First-Person Authority, Self-Knowledge, and Authenticity


1. If someone had asked Ulrich whether he intended to attend the Great Session at Diotima’s and he had answered ‘Yes’, not even such a thought-provoking writer as Robert Musil would have indulged into challenging Ulrich’s epistemic authority in this respect. Neither might Musil have tried to detail the evidence in virtue of which Ulrich might have acquired such a robust piece of self-knowledge. A demand for detailed evidence could only be proposed as a sort of joke, but hardly to reveal a deeper truth about Ulrich’s life. On the contrary, Musil is quite inclined to explore the actual motivations behind Ulrich’s declared intentions and to point out that most such motivations are, to some degree, unknown to Ulrich. In fact, Musil’s great novel, A man without qualities, abounds in such explorations in a rather desperate attempt to articulate a way in which a person of a certain upbringing may become a man with a character and not just a character without a man. The standard debate about self-knowledge tends to focus on the sort of first-person authority that is revealed by the fact that Ulrich’s self-ascription of the intention to attend the Great Session cannot be reasonably be challenged, except by lack of sincerity. In such case, none could reasonably ask Ulrich to provide evidence to support his claim and the impertinence of providing evidence emphasizes, instead of decreasing, Ulrich’s epistemic authority. On the contrary, when it comes to motivations, Ulrich’s authority is less clear. The narrator has no problem in challenging Ulrich’s views in this respect. Part of the lure of the novel lies, as I have suggested, in Musil’s ability to investigate Ulrich’s character beyond the latter own views and to intermingle the narrator’s, the reader’s and Ulrich’s perspective to shed some light on the latter’s character and his capacity to lead a meaningful life. In fact, the narrator, or some other character in the novel, may assume that knows better than Ulrich himself what the latter’s ultimate hopes, fears, and expectations are. And, varying from case to case, it may be more or less reasonable to challenge Ulrich’s self-ascription of some mental states and, correspondingly, ask him to provide evidence in support of his claims. The kind of unconscious motives stipulated by psychoanalysts constitute, in my view, an extreme case in the array of ways in which an agent may keep some his motivations out of sight. In any case, the psychoanalyst’s interests in exploring an agent’s unconscious motives, derives from the conviction that an agent’s capacity to recover from his neurosis is connected to a certain manner of becoming aware of such motives. Similarly, Musil exploration of Ulrich’s hopes and motivations is associated with the conviction that, only in virtue of a certain kind access to them, may Ulrich’s overcome his incapacity to identify himself with his actions and the projects that, despite his detachment, he keeps carrying on so efficiently and intently. In other words, both Musil’s and the psychoanalyst’s investigation seem to be guided by an idea of what counts as a valuable or meaningful life and how it could be achieved. And, more precisely, they assume that, at least for some people, such a valuable life has to do with some kind of self-exploration and the agent’s capacity to let his life being inspired by what he may thereby discover. In general, we may say that their notion of a valuable life is inextricably tied to the agent’s faithfulness to what one really is or, in other words, to their ability to an authentic life. In this paper, I will concentrate on the ways in which different kinds of self-exploration may (or may not) contribute to authenticity.

2. We may thus say that there are some cases where first-person authority with regard to one’s own psychological states is readily acknowledged. But there others in which self-knowledge is to be regarded as an achievement  and not a trivial one, insofar as certain kinds of self-knowledge may be turn out to be crucial to the agent’s capacity to lead an authentic life. In this paper, I intend to examine some connections between these three issues, namely: first-person authority, first-person knowledge, and the conditions under which an agent may lead an authentic life. I will firstly consider some central aspects of the current debate about the source of first-person authority. I will sketch a position which, even if it could be recognized as expressivist, may allow me to preserve some of the intuitions that lie behind both a detectivist and a constitutivist view. Secondly, I will argue that there are some crucial cases where self-knowledge comes as an achievement and, nevertheless, it is still first-personal in a rather relevant sense. To this purpose, I will examine the kind of abilities that are involved in such cases. More specifically, the capacity to pay attention to some or other aspect of a situation will play a crucial role and, in the light of it, I will vindicate the importance in self-knowledge (and self-formation) of a kind of practical necessity which is alien to natural necessity and close to the kind of necessity involved in the acceptance of a mathematical conclusion. All this will help us to sophisticate the expressivist view defended in the first part and allow us to understand how some expressions of our inner states may be assessed as true or false and, relatedly, why some kinds of self-knowledge can be regarded as an epistemic achievement. At this stage, Richard Moran’s notion of avowal and Bernard Williams’ concept of acknowledgement will be invoked. And, thirdly, I will sketch how I think this kind of achievement may allow us to understand what counts as an authentic life and the role that some epistemic attitudes may play inspired by such an ideal. This will again allow is to refine our initial expressivist view and Bernard Williams’ notion of making sense will contribute to this last step.


Session 1 12 January 2007

António Lopes (CFUL)

Revolução dos Cravos: Problemas da Autenticidade na Interpretação Musical


O facto mais marcante no mundo da música clássica nas últimas quatro décadas tem sido a emergência e institucionalização da “interpretação historicamente informada” (IHI), caracterizada pelo uso de instrumentos e práticas contemporâneos da criação das obras executadas. IHI pode ser encarada como estilo interpretativo particular, como movimento estético-ideológico poderoso (para uns reaccionário e escapista, para outros, apogeu tardio do modernismo), ou como simplesmente analítico ao conceito de execução de obras musicais. A sua hegemonia tem significado a perda, por parte dos intérpretes “tradicionais”, do direito a um segmento significativo do repertório. Executar uma obra para cravo em piano é equiparado por IHI a uma transcrição do original. De especial interesse para a estética aplicada são os dilemas que se colocam aos músicos confrontados com decisões interpretativas que envolvem concepções acerca de intenções expressas, implícitas e contextuais para obras criadas em contextos histórico-musicais distintos do presente. Articulando a discussão em termos de possibilidade, desiderabilidade e motivações do regresso às práticas e instrumentos originais, serão passados em revista os argumentos centrais a propósito de problemas como o carácter intencional das obras de arte, a autoridade do autor e o multiplismo interpretativo, a possibilidade de uma dimensão ética da execução, vantagens e limites técnicos e expressivos dos diferentes meios de execução, e a natureza da experiência musical. Defenderei que, apesar de bons argumentos militarem a seu favor, IHI deve ser encarada como uma estratégia interpretativa competindo democraticamente com outras pelos melhores resultados estéticos. Concluirei ainda que a única possibilidade de IHI reclamar uma posição a priori preferencial reside no apelo a um conceito trans-histórico de obra musical que inclua os parâmetros da instrumentação e prática originais, e que esse apelo falha, em virtude de a distinção entre qualidades essenciais e acidentais de obras ser irremediavelmente contextual quanto à própria estrutura sonora pura, e logo, a fortiori, quanto a esses parâmetros.


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