Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2007-08

January 25, 2008 12:00am

Session 7 25 January 2008

Sofia Miguéns (Universidade do Porto)

D. Dennett: eliminating consciousness or doing something else?


Amongst contemporary philosophers of mind D. Dennett is the very paradigm of a negative answer to the question whether there really is such a thing as phenomenal consciousness. Yet, this negative answer in no way amounts to an absence of a theory of consciousness from his theory of mind. Dennett’s theory of mind is in fact a comprehensive account of what it is like to be a human agent aware of the world, and this involves a set of views on content, consciousness, actions and persons. Although this is often overlooked when Dennett is simply dismissed as a consciousness eliminativist, all these views are all relevant for what it is like to be a conscious agent.


Session 6 18 January 2008

João Branquinho (Universidade de Lisboa, LanCog Group)

Estrutura e Valor dos Argumentos Regressivos em Metafísica


São examinados com algum detalhe dois géneros de argumentos regressivos familiares em Metafísica, tradicional ou contemporânea: (a) a alegada regressão monádica ao infinito gerada pela explicação da semelhança e da predicação propostas pelo realismo metafísico; (b) a alegada regressão diádica ao infinito gerada pela explicação da semelhança e da predicação propostas pelo nominalismo de classes. São feitas generalizações razoáveis destas teorias metafísicas para quaisquer outras teorias metafísicas explicativas dos mesmos fenómenos. Conclui-se que o valor de todos estes argumentos regressivos é virtualmente nulo. No caso monádico, nem sequer há regressões, muito menos regressões viciosas, pois nem sequer são de facto geradas séries infinitas de explicações. No caso diádico, é à primeira vista possível construir séries infinitas de explicações, mas estas podem ser razoavelmente travadas seja qual for a teoria metafísica que se queira adoptar.


Session 5 7 December 2007

Mario Gomez Torrente (Universidade Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and LOGOS, University of Barcelona)

The Sorites, Linguistic Preconceptions, and the Dual Picture of Vagueness


According to the dual picture of vagueness, in some occasions of use, called regular, the utterances of sentences containing a sorites susceptible predicate have truth conditions and express propositions. This happens when in the occasion of use the universe of discourse is such that certain non-analytic sentences which are firmly accepted in the occasion of use (the relevant linguistic preconceptions) determine the existence of an extension/anti-extension pair dividing that universe into two mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive subclasses. On the other hand, in occasions of use where the preconceptions about the predicate do not determine the existence of such an extension/anti-extension pair, including occasions of use giving rise to an instance of the sorites paradox, the predicate lacks an extension/anti-extension pair and the utterances of sentences containing it do not have truth conditions and do not express propositions. I argue that in these irregular occasions of use the thesis that the sorites susceptible predicate lacks an extension is the most natural, given certain analogies with other cases of predicates for which it is plausible to hold that they lack an extension when the mechanism of linguistic preconceptions fails.


Session 4 16 November 2007

Stephen Davies (University of Auckland, New Zealand)

Humans’ aesthetic appreciation of non-human animals


We have always lived in intimate contact with non-human animals and understand many aspects of their lives. We eat them, put them to work, farm then, use them for sport, and have them as pets. As well, we admire them and many humans identify non-human animals as gods and tribal ancestors. The earliest European cave paintings are mainly of animals. It is no more surprising that we have aesthetic attitudes to non-human animals, then, than that we have them to fellow humans and to landscapes and environments. Our aesthetic interest in animals probably has several sources, dating back to our origins as hunter-gatherers: we extend to them aesthetic preferences we have for certain human characteristics; the rare or unusual can have aesthetic appeal; their roles in our ancestors’ lives affects whether they are seen as attractive or repulsive; we admire their adaptedness; our senses and perceptual triggers resonate with their mutual displays; we view them literally as God’s artworks or imaginatively as pseudo-artworks; or we abstract their appearances from their natural context in order to engage aesthetically with these as formal or sensory arrays.


Session 3 2 November 2007

Sven Rosenkranz (FU Berlin and LOGOS, University of Barcelona)

Frege, Relativism and Faultless Disagreement


Recently, Max Kölbel and others have argued that relativism about propositional truth can make sense of faultless disagreement, where A and B faultlessly disagree just in case (i) A asserts P and B asserts ~P, and yet (ii) neither A’s assertion nor B’s assertion is incorrect. Here, (i) is meant to imply that A and B disagree, while (ii) is meant to imply that their disagreement is faultless. Such cases of faultless disagreement seem to abound in areas of discourse that relate to matters of taste. Thus, if I assert that crickets are tasty and you assert that they aren’t, we seem to disagree, and yet it seems that neither assertion needs to be incorrect. The trouble with taking these appearances at face value is that the propositions we assert cannot both be true. Accordingly, the conclusion would appear to be inevitable that one of us has presented as true what is in fact false and so has performed an incorrect assertion. In order to defuse this objection, Kölbel and others suggest conceiving of propositional truth as being relative to perspectives, where a perspective is a function from propositions to truth-values. The idea then is that P may be true relative to A’s perspective while ~P is true relative to B’s perspective, even though P & ~P isn’t true relative to any perspective. So, it seems that we can make sense of faultless disagreement after all. Drawing on Fregean insights into the nature of assertion and its relation to truth, I argue that this appearance is deceptive.


Session 2 25 September 2007

Marco Ruffino (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)

O contingente a priori e conhecimento de re


Um dos pontos mais polêmicos levantados por Kripke em Naming and Necessity é o da possibilidade de verdades contingentes que, no entanto, podem ser conhecidas a priori. Seu famoso exemplo é o da barra de platina que fixa a medida de um metro: seu comprimento pode ser conhecido a priori, sem que tenhamos aqui uma verdade necessária. Kaplan elabora casos análogos em sua teoria dos demonstrativos derivados do funcionamento semântico do operador ‘dthat’. Muitos autores, inclusive simpatizantes da teoria da referência direta, não estão convencidos pelos exemplos de ambos. O ceticismo com relação ao contingente a priori está sintetizados em um influente ensaio de Donnellan (1977), onde este formulou uma crítica dos exemplos de Kaplan e Kripke, bem como da possibilidade mesma do contingente a priori. De acordo com este, apenas poderíamos falar de conhecimento nestes casos se se tratasse de conhecimento de re, o que praticamente elimina a possibilidade de que seja a priori. Soames (2005) reforça o ponto principal de Donnellan, e levanta alguns problemas adicionais para os exemplos em questão. Em minha apresentação, analisarei os argumentos de Donnellan e de Soames. Pretendo mostrar que nenhum deles coloca problemas fundamentais para a noção de contingente a priori tal como entendida por Kripke e Kaplan. Tal como o vejo, o contingente a priori é um produto natural de nosso aparato referencial.


Session 1 September 21 2007

Manuel Garcia-Carpintero (Universidade de Barcelona)

Fictionalism about Fictional Entities


Carnap espoused a Principle of Tolerance: “It is not our business to set up prohibitions, but to arrive at conventions […]. In logic there are no morals. Everyone is at liberty to build up his own logic, i.e. his own language, as he wishes. All that is required of him is that, if he wishes to discuss it, he must state his methods clearly, and give syntactical rules instead of philosophical arguments” (Logical Syntax §17). The last sentence of “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” expresses the advice in a different way: “Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms”. Quine’s (1951) influential criticism of the deflationary attitude that the principle proposes accounts in part for the contemporary unpopularity of the Carnapian principle, whose main content we could present in the following way. Let us focus on existential utterances of the form of ‘There are X’, imagined as answers to questions as ‘Are there X?’ Depending on the generality of the expression substituting for ‘X’, we can distinguish (using Quine’s terms) category questions (‘there are numbers’) and subclass questions (‘there are prime numbers about a hundred’). Now, category questions can be taken, according to Carnap, in two different ways. They can firstly be taken (in the “external” manner) as intended to make stipulations, agreement-proposals for the adoption of given representational resources; with respect to them, only practical considerations (which Carnap’s Principle suggests us to conduct with an open-minded, tolerant spirit) are in order. In particular, the attitude we should take with respect to a serious assertion (i.e., to study in earnest whether it satisfies relevant requirements to put us in a position to acquire knowledge from it) is in this case, Carnap claims, entirely misguided. The subclass questions are indeed, on the other hand, serious assertions, although they can only arise when the stipulations in some category questions have been adopted; and, in that case, the relevant category questions can also be taken (in the “internal” manner) as making serious assertions, although in that case they would be either trivially true or trivially false, which is why, out of context, utterances such as ‘there are numbers’ would be taken as expressing external questions. In the two quotations, Carnap restricts his Principle to logical or semantic issues, more in general to issues depending on matters of linguistic forms; and I have taken this into consideration in interpreting it. This is of course, as Quine (1951) sees, in harmony with his analytic/synthetic distinction, and in particular with his view that convention lies at the heart of analyticity. Correspondingly, Quine’s (1953) general contention that there is no such distinction, together with his more specific criticisms of the Carnapian conventionalist version, lie at the heart of his objection. Most contemporary philosophers have been convinced by Quine’s arguments that there is no such distinction, or at least that any one such that could be stated with sufficient clarity would be philosophically immaterial; and this is one of the sources of resistance to anything like the Carnapian Principle. For it supports the sentiment that there cannot be any epistemologically or ontologically relevant distinction between two forms of reference and quantification: the one in internal questions, which is serious in that the satisfaction or otherwise of its commitments depends on how the world is, independently of our thought and language; and the one in external questions, the satisfaction of whose commitments is sufficiently up to us for us to be thereby free to postulate. Although I agree with what I take to be the philosophically more substantive aspects of Quine’s criticism of Carnap’s views on analyticity (for instance, I agree that there is no interesting sense in which we stipulate the logical principles), I think that its influence in contemporary views is overdrawn. In this paper I want to defend a restricted version of Carnap’s Principle, unfortunately not in the direct and general way that I should wish, but only by trying to show its fruitfulness by applying it to a particular kind of examples, reference to and quantification over fictional entities. I will argue that a deflationary reading of statements explicitly referring to fictional characters is more adequate than critical stances like that of Walton (1990).


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