Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy 2011-12
Session 6 28 May 2012
Truth in Metaphysics E4
Paolo Crivelly (University of Geneva)
Aristotle applies the words ‘true’ and ‘false’ and their cognates mainly to items of three kinds: objects (both composite objects, which include states of affairs, and simple objects, which include essences), mental items (which include thoughts, perceptions, and imaginations), and linguistic items (sentences). Metaphysics E4 constitutes Aristotle’s most thorough exposition of his views on true and false thoughts. E4 is an extremely compressed chapter on which much has been written. This study pursues two goals: to show that (contrary to appearances and to what many commentators believe) E4 is coherent with 10 and to present the main traits of Aristotle’s views on true and false thoughts.
Session 5 2 March 2012
Currie’s Problem of Tragedy
Fiora Salis (LanCog, UL, and LOGOS, UB)
Over the past decade philosophers and cognitive scientists have been increasingly interested in issues related to the distinction between genuine desire and a hypothetical imaginative counterpart of desire. Gregory Currie recently argued in favor of the introduction of desire-like imaginings by investigating the nature of the mental states involved in our response to tragic fictions. My aim in this paper is to articulate Currie’s argument, disarm it and furthermore peruse its consequences. The hypothesis is that our response to tragic fictions involves genuine desires, although certain necessary refinements will be offered.
Session 4 19 December 2012
Frege on Singular Thoughts
Marco Ruffino (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)
In this paper I investigate how, according to Frege, a thought can be singular (in the sense of being about a particular object, not in the sense of being something like a Russellian proposition, which Frege famously rejects). This is closely related to the question of the nature of singular senses, i.e., senses of what we might call Fregean proper names (which include not only ordinary proper names, but also definite descriptions and indexicals). I shall try to show that Frege does not have a unique explanation of singular senses. On the contrary, we can find elements of two conflicting views in his writings: the first considers singular senses as resulting from a peculiar kind of speech act. The second sees singular senses as resulting from the combination of the sense of quantifiers with conceptual senses. None of these views is entirely compatible with the rest of Frege’s semantics. I conclude that Frege has no coherent alternative to Russellian singular thoughts.
Session 3 9 December 2012
Three faces of the Conjunctive Fallacy
Josep L. Prades (University of Girona)
More than fifty years ago, Elisabeth Anscombe characterised intentional action in a way that has become a sort of commonplace in contemporary philosophy (Anscombe 1957, section 5). According to her, intentional actions are those to which certain why-questions apply. These questions look for an explanation in terms of the reasons for which the agent acts. And it has also become common usage to describe the relevant explanations as ‘rationalisations’.I will focus my discussion on certain paradigmatic examples of rationalisations: those seemingly uncontroversial cases in which the relevant why-question not only applies, but it has also a true answer in terms of some further reason for which the agent acts –some reason that is not implicit in the question itself. For instance, let’s imagine that I go to the station with the purpose of picking up my friend who comes by train. If someone asked me ‘why are you going to the station?’, many things could be mentioned in the corresponding rationalisation: the fact that my friend is arriving by train, my suddenly remembering that she is coming by train, my desire to meet her at the station… In spite of this, there seems to be no consensus about which kinds of entities are picked out as reasons by those common explanations. On some accounts, the mention of certain facts is relevant insofar as it determines the content of certain beliefs and desires that are the true reasons for which I act. Different accounts defend that it is the other way round: the mention of my ‘attitudes’ is relevant because it determines which non-psychological facts or states of affairs are my (believed) reasons. In any case, a curious unanimity about the form of the relation of acting-for-reasons can be detected behind this disagreement. It is taken for granted that you can only act for reasons if, at least under your own considerations, (i) you have reasons to act and (ii) the fact that you have those reasons is independent from the fact that you act for them. This assumption is not challenged, quite the opposite, by the strategy of locating those reasons inside the ‘motivational set’ of the agent, or by assuming that they are reasons of a very particular kind –‘motivational’ or ‘explanatory’ as opposed to ‘normative’ or ‘justificatory’.This is the assumption I will criticise in this paper. In an everydayrationalisation of our actions, we mention certain entities because, by choosing to mention them, we convey information about the purpose with which someone acts. To talk about the reasons for which we act, in the sense in which mere rationalisations of action sort out those reasons, is just a way of specifying intentional content. Similar considerations apply, mutatis mutandis, to the rationalising explanations of our desires or intentions. Imagine that I wish I could be in the station now for the reason that then I would see Maria there. From this, it certainly follows that the object of my desire is to be in the station under some specific determination – as a way of seeing her. It also follows that I would not have this specific desire if I did not think that Maria might be in the station. Nevertheless, it is not necessary that I believe that I have reasons to see her there, or that I have reasons to form my desire. Acting (desiring,intending) for reasons is not a conjunctive fact: it does not presuppose that the agent is in the independent relation of having reasons –it does not even presuppose that the agent believes she is in this independent relation. I will then argue against a certain rationalistic picture that dominates contemporary philosophy of action. It is a picture that is a routine ingredient in both Humean and non-Humean accounts of motivation. It systematically includes the assumption that, by rationalising actions, intentions or desires, we show that the subject is minimally rational, minimally responding to the commands of some of the reasons she has, or she thinks she has. A little bit, but not too much. For, under the same assumption, the full obedience to those commands would require from us very extravagant intentional contents. This is unfair to the most basic aspects of our human nature, and to any sensible principle of content-determination. To show how pervasive this rationalist picture is, I will critically examine three arguments, perhaps the most influential in contemporary discussions on motivation and intentional action, with the purpose of showing that they equivocate on certain crucial expressions. Once the equivocation is discovered, we cannot accept at the same time the truth of all their premises and their validity. In the process of examining those arguments, I will also offer my own account of the deep structure of rationalisations. In a typical rationalisation, we provide information about the content of our desires, intentions or the purpose with which we act. The explanatory virtues of this information do not require that the rationalised agent should believe she has reasons to desire, intend or act in the way she does.
Session 2 14 October 2011
Fernando Ferreira (Universidade de Lisboa)
On the notion of object. A logical genealogy.
We argue that logic is not a uniform terrain where all truths lie on a par. We analyze the apparatus of first-order classical logic with identity into two main ingredients: a deeper and wider component and, on top of it, a narrower component which consists of principles that articulate our modern notion of object.
Session 1 9 September 9 2011
Sonia Roca Royes (University of Stirling)
The Epistemology of Essence
There are several strategies to defend rationalism in modality.Among them, a salient option is the family of views—which I shall call ‘concept-based epistemologies of modality’—according to which modal knowledge is a priori because fundamentally analytic or conceptual. A first, pessimistic diagnosis about them is that, although they might have sufficient potential to elucidate de dicto modal knowledge, they are not adequate as an elucidation of de re modal knowledge; the ultimate reasons for this being that they fail to elucidate the knowability conditions of essential truths. This brings me, specifically, to the epistemology of essence. In this paper, however, I shall qualify the diagnosis above. First, it will appear (§2) that some concept-based epistemologies of modality can elucidate certain kind of (de re) essentialist principles. Second (§3), there might be domains such that knowledge of de dicto essential truths in that domain and knowledge of de re essential truths in that domain are not isolatable. As a result, if there are indeed such domains, and to the extent that concept-based accounts are fine as far as de dicto modal knowledge is concerned, these accounts will be able to elucidate de re modal knowledge for those domains. After scrutiny, however, these qualifications do not substantially improve the prospects of concept-based epistemologies if modality.
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