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.

Dirk Quadflieg

Leipzig University

Social Totality and Immanent Critique

28 May 2023, 17h00 (Lisbon Summer Time — GMT+1)

Sala Mattos Romão (Room C201.J – Department of Philosophy)

School of Arts and Humanities – University of Lisbon

 

Abstract

For various reasons, the concept of social totality appears to be outdated today. On the one hand, many social theories have convincingly demonstrated that modern Western societies have differentiated themselves into numerous more or less autonomous subsystems that cannot be subsumed under a single law of reproduction such as that of the economy. On the other hand, the concept of totality nowadays is so strongly associated with totalitarianism that it seems to be normatively overdetermined as a sociological description. Speaking of a social totality is therefore often equated with the assertion that the society under consideration is governed in a totalitarian manner. Despite these plausible objections, I would like to argue that a critical social theory should not only insist on a certain concept of social totality, but must inevitably do so. The main reason for this lies in the widely shared assumption that, especially under postcolonial conditions, we cannot analyze the societies we are living in other than immanently, because any universal norm that could serve as a transcending standard can rightly be questioned as historically and geographically particular. Starting from more general reflections on what immanent critique means, the paper goes back to Hegel to show how the concept of immanence is connected with that of reality as totality. Against this background, I would like to argue that Marx’s Grundrisse could provide us with a version of social totality that does not amount to economic reductionism, but rather allows to understand social totality as a historically highly ambivalent achievement of bourgeois society making both possible: a revolution of society as a whole and a total delusion, as Adorno claimed.

 

 

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.

Alexander Neumann

University of Paris 8

Pegasus at the Beach. The Association of Empirical Research and Critical Concepts

21 May 2024, 17h00 (Lisbon Summer Time — GMT+1)

Sala Mattos Romão (Room C201.J – Department of Philosophy)

School of Arts and Humanities – University of Lisbon

 

Abstract

I intend to discuss the situation of the Frankfurt Critical Theory today, one century after the foundation of the famous Institute, in 1923. In particular, I would like to examine the dialectical relationship between experiences and concepts (such as empirical research and conceptual findings) which defines the very meaning of Critical Theory. Various concepts have emerged from this process, such as : unreglemetierte Erfahrung, Kulturindustrie, Gegenöffentlichkeit (unregulated experiences, Culture Industry, the oppositional public sphere). This kind of approach – connecting experiences and concepts under the leitmotiv Arbeit am Begriff – might be resumed througout the title: “Pegasus at the beach. The association of empirical research and critical concepts”.

 

 

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.

Roberto Navarrete Alonso

Complutense University of Madrid

Hacia la crítica mesiánica de la teología política. Desencantamiento del mundo y soberanía en Walter Benjamin

7 May 2024, 17h00 (Lisbon Summer Time — GMT+1)

Sala Mattos Romão (Room C201.J – Department of Philosophy)

School of Arts and Humanities – University of Lisbon

 

Abstract

Al menos desde los albores de la República de Weimar y hasta el trágico final de sus días, Benjamin manifestó una especial sensibilidad por las relaciones entre “lo profano” y “lo mesiánico”. El peculiar modo en que comprendió este vínculo le llevó a formular una crítica mesiánica de la teología política que, por motivos obvios, se suele comprender en contraposición al concepto schmittiano de soberanía. La aproximación al pensamiento teológico-político de Benjamin que proponemos, sin embargo, partirá de la crítica del joven Marx al fundamento religioso del Estado hegeliano a fin de contextualizar la crítica benjaminiana de la violencia, interpretada (junto a Kapitalismus als Religion) como una respuesta a la tesis de Weber sobre el desencantamiento del mundo. Una lectura atenta del párrafo final de Zur Kritik der Gewalt, junto con algunas claves del Theologisch-politisches Fragment, permitirá establecer una vinculación entre ambos escritos y las tesis Über den Begriff der Geschichte que, a su vez, enriquece la habitual consideración de la relación Benjamin-Schmitt como una armonía de opuestos. Finalmente, se mostrará que en el ensayo sobre la violencia se encuentra una incipiente comprensión de la relación entre cultura y barbarie que Horkheimer y Adorno interpretaron como dialéctica de la Ilustración.

 

 

 

Mesa Redonda

50 anos do 25 de Abril (II)

“Liberdade a sério: O que resta de Abril”

Com intervenções de Mariana Teixeira, Dirk-Michael Hennrich e Ricardo Mendoza-Canales

 

30 April 2024, 17h00 (Lisbon Summer Time — GMT+1)

Sala Mattos Romão (Room C201.J – Department of Philosophy)

School of Arts and Humanities – University of Lisbon

 

Resumo

Há 50 anos, neste país, o povo exigia liberdade e iniciou uma revolução. Aqueles que fizeram a revolução também indicaram o que deve ser feito para uma vida nova e livre: descolonização, democratização e desenvolvimento. Estas foram ideias poderosas que se concretizaram: Portugal está agora descolonizado, democratizado e desenvolvido. É um país livre e mais justo do que era há 50 anos. Pode-se dizer que as ideias impulsionaram a ação e mudaram a realidade. Mas qual foi o papel da filosofia em relação à luta pela liberdade? Será que de alguma forma inspirou e moldou o curso da ação, realizando-se assim, ou veio depois do evento para melhor conceptualizá-lo? Nesta segunda mesa redonda, continuaremos a explorar estes e outros aspetos inter-relacionados da revolução, da liberdade, da emancipação e da filosofia.

 

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.