Merely Verbal Disputes in Philosophy: Addressing Their Defectiveness with (More) Metalinguistic Awareness?

Delia Belleri (LanCog, Centre of Philosophy, University of Lisbon)


31 May 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: In recent years, increasingly more authors have argued that certain philosophical debates are, or can be reasonably interpreted as being, merely verbal disputes. If this phenomenon is real, one might suspect that philosophers are not very good at identifying the meaning(s) of the words on which their disputes are based. To borrow a concept from psycholinguistics, philosophers may lack an appropriate kind of “metalinguistic awareness”. Would increasing the philosophers’ metalinguistic awareness prevent, or help one to diagnose more quickly, such defective linguistic exchanges? This paper advances some hypotheses on how metalinguistic awareness in philosophical disputes may be lost, how one might train oneself to raise it, and how it may be enhanced in practice. The conclusion will, however, be a pessimism of sorts: it is deeply unclear whether more metalinguistic awareness could be of any help in preventing or diagnosing merely verbal disputes in philosophy.

Can Conversational AIs Testify?

Domingos Faria (Universidade do Porto)


24 May 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: We learn new things, we acquire knowledge, based on the “say-so” of conversational AIs (such as ChatGPT). How should we understand these attributions of knowledge? Can it be understood as testimonial knowledge? The orthodox view, as defended by Coady (1992), Lackey (2008), Tollefsen (2009), Goldberg (2012), and Pagin (2016), is that conversational AIs cannot be considered testimonial sources, but at most instrumental sources of knowledge (in a similar way to the knowledge we obtain when we consult a thermometer). The main argument for this orthodox view can be summarized as follows: An entity S can testify that p only if S believes that p, S has the intention to deliver testimony that p, S is a responsible epistemic agent for transmitting that p, S is object of trust, and S is able to assert that p. But conversational AIs cannot believe that p, nor intend to testify that p, nor are they responsible epistemic agents who transmit that p, nor are they objects of trust, nor are they able to assert that p. Therefore, conversational AIs cannot testify that p. In this paper, I intend to show that this argument is not sound, since there are plausible reasons to reject both premises. Furthermore, by developing the framework conceived by Tyler Burge (1998), it is possible to argue that some instruments can testify, as is the case with conversational AIs.

Consciousness and the Significance of Middle-Sized Things

Timothy O’Connor (Indiana University)


23 May 2024, 14:30 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: Many physicalists suppose that middle-sized things of many kinds are real in an ontologically significant way that, e.g., mere aggregates are not. They have that status by being ‘weakly emergent’: emergent because they exhibit forms of behavior not characteristic of entities of which they are composed, while only weakly so because their existence and powers asymmetrically wholly depend on those composing entities. Ontological reductionists and nihilists charge that weak emergents (if such there be) are not ontologically significant because they do not make a fundamental difference to the way the world is or unfolds. I will argue that this charge is plausibly true in a world lacking strongly emergent conscious minds, but not otherwise. Weakly emergent entities enjoy a more robust ontological status by virtue of being objects of conscious practical and theoretical thought and action. Furthermore, the range of objects attaining such significance in a minded world depends on the kinds of minds in it: merely animal, human, and/or divine.

Aboutness and Scientific Modelling

Quentin Ruyant (Complutense University of Madrid)


17 May 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: According to the semantic conception of scientific theories, theories should be identified with families of models, each typically conceived of as a “possible world if the theory is true”. A “mapping” hypothesis relates these models to real-world phenomena. Although it purports to be closer to scientific practice than its predecessor the syntactic view, the semantic view is still idealistic: firstly, the mapping hypothesis is typically thought to be independent from contexts and model users, which is at odds with most analyses of scientific representation, and secondly, actual theoretical models are typically intensional and represent bounded situations instead of representing complete extensional worlds. All this has already been noted by various authors, but no well worked-out alternative to the semantic conception has been proposed so far. In order to move forward, I examine how the hyper-intensional notion of “aboutness”, used in philosophy of language and philosophical logic to capture intentionality and relevance, could be transposed to scientific modeling, so as to flesh out a pragmatic conception of scientific theories that would qualify for being a viable alternative to the semantic conception.

Suspending Judgement about Rationality

Thomas Raleigh (University of Luxembourgh)


10 May 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: Can it ever be rational to suspend judgement about the rationality of one of your own doxastic attitudes? There has been much recent discussion of the following kinds of straightforwardly akratic combinations of attitudes: believing p & believing I am not justified in believing that p, or, believing p & believing that I ought not believe that p. Some theorists have argued that such combinations are always necessarily irrational. Others have argued that they need not always be irrational. In this talk I focus on a different kind of combination of attitudes: believing that p and suspending judgement whether I am justified in believing that p, or, believing that p and suspending judgement whether I am permitted to believe that p. Huemer (2010), Smithies (2019) and Tal (2022) have all argued that these latter combinations must also always be irrational. I show what is wrong with these arguments and show how there can be cases where such combinations are indeed rational.

Joint Curiosity and Meta-Conceptualization

Ilhan Inan (Koç University)


3 May 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: I shall argue that joint curiosity is an advanced form of joint attention which has played a crucial role in the emergence of the sciences and philosophy and other feats that have shaped the modern human cultures. When two (or more) agents mutually attend to an entity of which they have little or even no knowledge, which in turn gives rise to joint awareness of ignorance coupled with joint epistemic interest, there emerges joint curiosity. Inspired by Hume’s idea that curiosity is an attention fixer and Kripke’s notion of fixing reference by description, I shall utilize my own work on curiosity to demonstrate that in the typical cases of joint curiosity, attention gets fixed upon an unknown entity which is the referent of an inostensible linguistic expression. Expanding on an idea from my recent book on truth I shall introduce the notion of meta-conceptualization, our linguistic ability to make concepts and propositions the subject-matter of higher-order judgments. After briefly discussing how this notion relates to metacognition and metarepresentation, I shall argue that our aptitude for meta-conceptualization is a precondition for us to ask questions out of curiosity and share it with others. I shall end by briefly arguing that joint curiosity being the primary motivator for joint human inquiry adds further support to Miscevic’s contention that curiosity is the basic epistemic virtue.

Theological Fatalism, Closure, and the Contingent a priori

Fabio Lampert (University of Vienna)


26 April 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: I will present new reasons for being suspicious of what I think is the best argument for theological fatalism. I will argue that by considering divine knowledge of contingent a priori truths, divine foreknowledge is not required for an argument from divine omniscience against free will. Moreover, I show that this argument can be generalized in such a way that ordinary human knowledge of contingent a priori truths also leads to an argument against free will. But if there is something wrong with this argument, there would seem to be something wrong, too, with the main argument for theological fatalism. Though there is a range of possible responses, I suggest that what is amiss in all cases is a closure principle, according to which having no choice about a truth is closed under entailment (or strict implication).

The MSCA Staff Exchanges Action PLEXUS announces the PLEXUS Summer School to be held in the University of Navarra (Pamplona – Spain) from the 10th to 14th of June 2024. The School aims to gather young researchers from around the world working on Logic and related areas, with particular interest on Substructural Logics and their applications.




-Damián Szmuc (CONICET): «From substructural logics to parastructural logics» [Abstract]

-Elaine Pimentel (University College London) & Carlos Olarte (Université Sorbonne Paris Nord): «A tour on substructural logics and multi-modality» [Abstract]

– Claudia Nalon (Universidade de Brasília): TBA


Bursaries for PhD students & young scholars:


We offer bursaries for travel expenses and accommodation up to 800 EUR. If you are interested in applying, send a letter of interest (800 words) to (before the 10th of May) explaining your motivation to take part in the Summer School. Selected candidates will have the chance to explain their research in the Evening Pitch Talks.

The Theory of Relevance, Formal Fallacies of Relevance, and Relevant Logic

Nicholas Ferenz (Czech Academy of Science)


19 April 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: Relevant logics are logics with a conditional connective that represents, in the object language, various sorts of entailment relations. These entailment or implications each necessitate restrictions on grounds of relevance. In Entailment vol. 1, Anderson and Belnap note certain (formal) fallacies of relevance that should not be theorems of any (propositional) relevant logic. The area of first-order relevant logics is comparatively underdeveloped both philosophically and mathematically. In this talk I develop an account of formal fallacies of relevance, drawing on the Sperber and Wilson’s Theory of Relevance in linguistics. In short, formulas that are formal fallacies of relevance require too much cognitive effort to establish relevance over every context with every instance of the formula. This account of formal fallacies of relevance have the advantages of (i) implying a core semantic property of relevance in propositional logics (namely the Variable Sharing Property), and (ii) divorcing the definition of relevance from that of (the) truth (values). I then turn to first-order logics, where I apply the framework to a selection of formulas and outline future goals.

The Hardness of the Practical Might

Sergio Tenenbaum (University of Toronto)


12 April 2024, 16:00 (Lisbon Time – WET)

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão [C201.J] (Departamento de Filosofia)


Abstract: Incommensurability is often introduced with the small improvement argument. Options A and B are shown to be incommensurable when it is neither the case that A is preferred to (or better than) B nor that B is preferred to (or better than) A, but a slightly improved version of A (A+) is still not preferred to B. Since A+ is preferred to A, but not to B, we must also conclude that it is also true that A and B are not indifferent (or equally good). Such incommensurable options seem incompatible with orthodox decision theory (and various forms of value theory) but options that obey the pattern described by this argument seem ubiquitous: my choice between lemon tarts and eclairs at my favourite pastry shop might exhibit this pattern, but so could my choice between jobs or careers. In trying to accommodate incommensurable options within various frameworks, philosophers have argued that we must preserve certain central features of the phenomenon. Among them is the supposed “hardness” of at least some incommensurable options: even if perhaps one would need to be a rather anxious gourmet to describe the choice between lemon tarts and eclairs as hard, the choice among careers could potentially be agonizing. However, it is not clear in which way choices among incommensurable options are “hard,” nor how and whether such hardness poses problems for the various accounts of incommensurable choices. To complicate matters, the deontic verdicts for choices between incommensurable options seem to be relatively straightforward: one appealing view is that in such circumstances I am rationally permitted to choose any option that is not worse than (or dispreferred to) another option. This paper aims to provide a sharper formulation of the hardness problem, to argue that various theories of incommensurability might fail to account for the hardness of some incommensurable choices, and to propose that the theory of instrumental rationality I develop in Rational Powers in Action, aided by a Kantian insight, promises to provide an adequate explanation of the hardness of choice among incommensurable options.