Institut Jean Nicod

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Doc'in nicod

Séminaire doctoral et postdoctoral de l'Institut Jean-Nicod.
Doctoral and post-doctoral seminar of the IJN.

Doc'in Nicod is a biweekly seminar providing an opportunity for young researchers, doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows from the IJN to receive feedback on work in progress from fellow graduate students and researchers of the Institute. Each session will feature one researcher of the IJN as a commentator.

The seminar is open to the public.

Talks will be held at the Institut Jean Nicod, ENS, 29 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris. Conference room of the Pavillon Jardin.

Contact: Anna Giustina or Luca Gasparri



June 27th, 4:00 - 5:30pm

Speaker: Daria Vitasovic (University of Milan, IJN) Commentator: Philippe Lusson (NYU Paris, IJN)
Title: Structure of Intentionality: Experiencing Psychological Modes

Abstract: We catalogue the structure of intentionality with the help of a fundamental distinction between psychological modes, on the one hand, and contents, on the other. While intentional contents pertain to what is represented, modes are meant to capture how the content is represented, or, more precisely, the nature of the subject’s directedness toward a particular content. Since both of these variables need to be fixed in order to fix the nature of conscious mental states, an intuitive question would be how do we experience psychological modes? Is phenomenology distinctive at the level of modes, and not just that of contents? If we accept that modes contribute to phenomenology of a mental state, then when I judge that the Eiffel Tower is in Paris or see a lemon blurrily, is my degree of confidence in the judgment or the blurriness of my visual experience matter of mode or content? In this talk I put forward a new metaphysical model of individuating phenomenology of modes.  I also contrast my model with most intuitive counter-models.


Past sessions

Friday, October 28th, 2016, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Diego Feinmann (Sheffield, IJN)
Commentator: Isidora Stojanovic (CNRS, IJN)
Title: Lexical Modulation? The Role of Literal Content in Hyperbole Interpretation.

Abstract: In the contextualist tradition, lexical modulation is hypothesized to be the mechanism whereby the extension (or denotation) of a term is either narrowed, broaden or both in response to pragmatic pressures (Carston 2002; Recanati 2004). A distinctive feature of this proposal is the claim that lexical modulation directly contributes to the truth-conditional content of the utterance. Thus, according to this view, modulated meanings should be thought of as constituents of the proposition expressed and not as the output of an implicature. In this talk, I shall argue that thinking about pragmatic enrichment in these terms leaves the theorist with no resources to provide a psychologically plausible model of how hearers successfully understand hyperbolic utterances (and other instances of figurative language). Specifically, I will show that certain inferences that hearers routinely derive when interpreting hyperbolic statements cannot be derived from the enriched propositional forms which the speaker is taken to intend to communicate.

Friday, November 4th, 2016, 5:00 - 6:30 pm
Speaker: Julia Zakkou (Hamburg, IJN)
Commentator: Salvador Mascarenhas (ENS, IJN)
Title: Anderson Conditionals

Abstract: Virtually everybody these days believes that counterfactuals do not presuppose the falsity of the antecedent; if the speaker of a counterfactual conveys the antecedent's falsity at all, she conversationally implicates it. Most people take this to be rather obvious for non-past subjunctive conditionals; but many people also think this is the case for past subjunctive conditionals. Anderson Conditionals like "If Jones had taken arsenic, he would have shown the same symptoms he actually shows" figure crucially in the formation of this belief. For with these past subjunctive conditionals, it seems, the speaker does not convey that the antecedent is false. In this paper, I shall question the argument from Anderson Conditionals. I shall argue that even with them the speaker conveys that the antecedent is false.

Friday, November 18th, 2016, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Andrés Soria Ruiz (IJN)
Commentator: François Recanati (IJN)
Title: Diagnosing Evaluativity

Abstract: Contenders in the recent debate in the philosophy of language between contextualism, relativism and expressivism have aimed at providing more or less uniform characterizations of the meaning of various kinds of expressions, most eminently modals of various flavors and predicates of personal taste. Evaluative language - understood as the class of expressions that can be used in context to convey an ascription of positive or negative value - has to some extent been discussed in that debate, but rarely so as a unified category. Nonetheless, evaluative language is receiving increasing attention, as witnessed by the growing literature on thick terms and slurs. The purpose of my talk is to explore the nature of evaluative language. The starting point will be to establish an intuitive contrast between clearly evaluative and non-evaluative speech acts. Henceforth, we will consider cases that are harder to classify, and we'll try to diagnose what linguistic features characterize evaluativity. To do so, we'll take into account various linguistic tests aimed at diagnosing closely related phenomena, such as subjectivity, gradability or multidimensionality

Friday, November 25th, 2016, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Michelle Mary Dyke (NYU, IJN)
Commentator: Gloria Origgi (CNRS, IJN)
Title: From Moral Disagreement to Moral Antirealism?

Abstract: One well-known line of argument against moral realism proceeds by emphasizing the widespread appearance of moral disagreement between people of different cultures in different times and places. Versions appear in Mackie (1977), Harman (1996) and Velleman (2015). I argue that although this argument as it is usually presented is not compelling, a novel variation on this type of argument can succeed in lending support to a particular kind of attitude-dependent view of morality in comparison both to moral realism and to the antirealist alternatives of error theory or non-cognitivism. The new argument from disagreement proceeds by analogy, comparing our intuitions about the reasonable epistemic response to moral disagreement to our intuitions regarding disagreement over scientific or aesthetic claims. I argue that a distinctive feature of our intuitions is vindicated as wholly reasonable given the assumption that a certain kind of attitude-dependent view of morality is correct.


January 13th, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Michael Murez (IJN)
Commentator: Jérôme Dokic (EHESS, IJN)
Title: Core physics and the boundary between perception and cognition.
(joint work with Brent Strickland)

“Core physics” refers to early emerging forms of “knowledge” in pre-verbal infants pertaining to the physical world (Spelke & Kinzler 2007). For example, infants’ performance on a variety of tasks suggest that they “know” that physical objects obey the ‘continuity constraint’, according to which an object traces exactly one connected path over space and time, and the ‘coherence constraint’, according to which an object must maintain a single bounded contour over time (Spelke 1990). Some psychologists offer an inflationary, intellectualist explanation of such results, in terms of the operations of a “complex conceptual system” (Vosniadou 2001). Spelke (1988: 197-198) thus famously claimed that infants’ ability to apprehend physical objects is “inextricably tied to the ability to reason” and thus marks “where perceiving ends and thinking begins”. This explanation contrasts with deflationary attempts to re-explain core physical abilities in terms of (arguably less interesting) low-level perception of things like surface area, luminance contrast, or motion (e.g. Johnson 2010). Drawing on empirical results that suggest that certain aspects of core physics also operate automatically and unconsciously in adult perception, as well on theoretical considerations on how to draw the boundary between perception and cognition, we argue for an alternative account, according to which much of infants’ performance is best explained in terms of sophisticated perceptual mechanisms – such as the operations of “object files” (Kahneman, Treisman, Gibbs 1992). These representations are best classified, we argue, as belonging to “high-level” perception, thus implying that our perceptual abilities are richer and more complex than is sometimes recognized.

January 27th, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Serena Ciranna (IJN)
Commentator: Roberto Casati (CNRS, IJN)
Title: Myself, According to Google. Algorithmic Identities and Epistemic Injustice

Abstract: A hermeneutic lacuna still separates internet users from their algorithmic identity. According to Lippold (2011), an algorithmic identity is “an identity formation that works through mathematical algorithms to infer categories of identity on otherwise anonymous beings.” A large amount of users’ data is collected and processed by web platforms, web applications and social networks in order to identify users’ preferences and predict their behaviors. As shown by many inquiries, even if internet users are increasingly aware that their data are collected, how these data are stored and processed in order to form a profile still remains opaque to many of the them. This lack of awareness has many socio-political consequences, which have generated a huge number of studies and debates on privacy. Nevertheless, the epistemic aspect of this issue remains largely uninvestigated. In this presentation I aim to elucidate the hypothesis that algorithmic identities can provoke epistemic injustice of both kinds introduced by Fricker (2007): testimonial and hermeneutical injustice. New technologies may be a source of epistemic harm by depriving people of their credibility about themselves (Origgi, Ciranna, forthcoming 2017). A competition can arise between first-person access to one’s memory and the ostensible objectivity and neutrality of algorithmic knowledge. In this sense, the capacity of a person to testify about himself could be discredited in favor of a more “objective” and quantified representation of his/her identity. In this presentation we will discuss some cases from different fields, such as digital health and insurance, as well as give some examples of epistemic injustice in a digital context.

February 21st, 2017, 4.00 - 5.30 pm
Speaker: Slawa Loev (IJN)
Commentator: Uriah Kriegel (IJN)
Title : (Un)varieties of Intuition -- in Philosophy

Abstract: Contemporary philosophical work on intuitions is intertwined with metaphilosophical and epistemological issues. This is to be expected against the background of what many see as a central tenet of philosophical methodology (C): Intuitions are used by contemporary analytic philosophers to epistemically justify philosophical beliefs. Work on intuition revolves around C by either arguing for or against adopting it (normatively). A few have argued for the claim that C is simply descriptively false. No one has argued that we shouldn't care about C when contemplating on intuition in the first place. In my talk I will argue for the latter. Intuitions are interesting phenomena of mind and should be met on their own terms without strong convictions about C that will tend to result in theoretical tunnel vision. Accordingly, intuition-proponents tend to reverse engineer their accounts of intuitions from C, i.e. the epistemological job they need intuitions to serve, while intuition-skeptics tend to talk about intuitions in a largely unspecific manner so as to maximize their chances of hitting their target C. Thereby intuitions are either approached too narrowly or too broadly but always on the narrow basis of C. After that arguing against such a perspective I will review philosophical accounts of intuitions to take stock of what C-centred theorising about intuitions can provide for the project of developing a theory of intuitions that does not answer the usual (implicit) philosophical question "What are intuitions against the background of C?" but the more basic and unprejudiced question of "What are intuitions?".

February 24th, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Adrien Glauser (University of Fribourg)
Commentator: François Recanati (IJN)
Title: Denoting vs. Responding : On a possible confusion of two roles information plays in singular thoughts about ‘nonexistent’ individuals

Abstract: Singular thoughts that have for object individuals that do not exist (Vulcan, Holmes, the Golden Mountain...) entail either pseudo-relations or relations to ‘nonexistent’ individuals --- this is the famous “problem of intentional inexistence”. Recently several authors have developed views that take seriously the idea of nonexistent individuals. In my talk I argue that their motivation might stem from a confusion between two semantic aspects of singular thoughts. I then suggest that distinguishing the two aspects in terms of (a rather weak notion of) intentional information helps steering a middle course between nonexistent individuals and pseudo-relations.

March 3rd, 2017, 5:00 - 6:30 pm *please note time change*
Speaker: Daniel Hoek (NYU)
Commentator: Paul Egré (IJN)
Title: Logical Omniscience and the Epistemology of Phone Numbers

Abstract: There are two major schools of thought about the nature of belief. According to the first school, our beliefs are different aspects of a single, coherent picture we have of the world. This overall picture can be represented as a set of possible worlds. This account of belief has many theoretical virtues and meshes nicely with decision theory. But it is widely regarded as unrealistic, because it faces the so-called problem of logical omniscience. We can call this the map theory of belief, after Ramsey’s slogan for it: “belief is the map by which we steer”. Opposed to the map school is the belief box school, according to which our beliefs are separate entities that are to be represented as sentences or other syntactically structured objects such as Russellian propositions. While the belief box model is much more popular amongst philosophers, only the map model plays a role of any significance in economics and cognitive science.

In this talk, I develop a proposal from Yalcin (2016) to show there is a third way. According to Yalcin’s theory, the objects of belief aren’t pieces of information or sentences. Rather, they are answers to specific questions. This allows us to form a conception of belief according to which our beliefs are connected insofar as their subject matters are related. On this theory, there are constitutive links holding all or most of our beliefs together into a single web, but the beliefs in the web need not add up to  a single, coherent overall picture of the world. I will try to show that this third way marries the applicability of the map theory with some of the central advantages of the belief box theory.

March 10th, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Armando Lavalle (IJN)
Commentator: Benjamin Spector (IJN)
Title: The scope of a multipropositionalist strategy

Abstract: It seems uncontroversial that we can evaluate not only the truth-value of a statement relative to a context of use, but also its modal profile, i.e., its necessity, contingency, or impossibility. In this talk, I will be interested in how we determine the content and modal profile of a statement according to three different semantic theories: a referential semantic theory, a two-dimensional semantic theory, and Perry’s reference-reflexive theory. The theories famously disagree on what they think is the content of some of the statements we employ. However, they also disagree on the notion of modality we deploy in determining the modal profile of statements. I will focus on two varieties of modality: metaphysical modality and the epistemic modality. I will clarify the metaphysical and epistemic modal commitments that these different theories endorse (or might endorse) in analyzing the modality of statements, and I will argue that Perry’s reference-reflexive theory offers a better explanation of the modal properties of necessary a posteriori identity sentences between names. I will also suggest that Perry’s theory is compatible with a non-reductionist view of modality, i.e., with the idea that there is no viable reduction of one kind of modality (the epistemic) to another kind of modality (the metaphysical), even though his framework could be thought of as supporting the reductionist perspective.

March 17th, 2017, 4.00 - 5.30 pm
Speaker: Tristan Thommen (IJN)
Commentator: Philippe Schlenker (CNRS, IJN)
Title: Are expressives presuppositional?

Abstract: Many terms in natural language seem to carry expressive content, on top of standard descriptive content. For instance, racial slurs refer to certain groups or individuals, and at the same time express negative attitudes towards those groups or individuals. It is tempting to reduce such expressive content to presuppositional content, because both categories display similar linguistic behavior, and presuppositions are now fairly well studied and understood. In this talk, I will argue against such a reduction of expressivity to presuppositional content, focusing on Schlenker's attitudinal and indexical version of the view (Schlenker 2007). The main claim is that the projective content associated with slurs that are embedded under filters projects more broadly than the projective content of presuppositions under filters. This claim is made in two steps. First, I show that providing such evidence requires controlling for confounds, namely ignorance implicatures and intensionality. Second, I provide pairs of examples showing that, once these confounds are controlled for, the expressive projective content of slurs projects more robustly than the projective content of presuppositions. That might have some engaging consequences for our views on the nature of meaning.

March 24th, 2017, 4.00 - 5.30 pm
Speaker: Andrew Lee (NYU)
Commentator: Pierre Jacob (IJN)
Title: The Deep Structure of Experience

Abstract: When we think about the physical world, we take the physical world to have a “deep structure”—that is, we take the wide variety of macrophysical properties we can perceptually discern to be grounded in a small collection of microphysical properties we cannot perceptually discern. In contrast, when we think about experience, we typically assume that experience cannot have a deep structure—that is, we do not distinguish between a “macrophenomenal realm” and a “microphenomenal realm,” and we do not take the wide variety of macrophenomenal properties that we can introspectively discern to be grounded in a small collection of microphenomenal properties we cannot introspectively discern. My talk will characterize a view where experience does have a deep structure, discuss the main challenges for the view, consider our prospects for investigating the microphenomenal realm if the view is correct, and argue that ascribing a deep structure to experience gives us a coherent and elegant picture of experience.

March 31st 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Richard Lawrence (UC Berkeley)
Commentator: Salavador Mascarenhas (ENS, IJN)
Title: Who are the persons, and how many are the numbers?

Abstract: How should we describe what nouns mean?  We usually describe nouns as denoting classes of objects, but that view quickly leads to some philosophical puzzles.  To see how we might avoid those puzzles, I focus on a class of nouns that I call *categorial* nouns, which includes nouns like 'person', 'place', 'reason', and 'number'.  I argue that our usual way of thinking about noun meaning cannot explain the special relationship between categorial nouns and question words, but an examination of this relationship suggests a better approach.
Instead of describing nouns as denoting classes of objects, we should describe their meanings in terms of questions: a noun expresses the range of a variable in a (certain kind of) question.  This approach helps clarify what is at stake in philosophical debates about the reality of numbers, reasons, and other abstracta.

April 25th, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Enrico Grosso (University of Turin, IJN)
Commentator : Enrico Terrone (FMSH)
Title: "Fiction and Mental Files"

Abstract: In this talk I will apply the theory of mental files (Recanati 2012) to the analysis of real and fictitious names when they are used into fiction. Contrary to the idea that fictional context suspends reference to real individuals, I maintain, following Friend (2011, 2014), that real names don't change their referent. Moreover, I argue that, from a cognitive point of view, we treat both real and fictitious names in the same way: we open indexed files in which we store information drawn from the story. Indexed files have a meta-representational function: they serve to represent how other subjects think about objects in the world. They consist of a file and an index, where the index refers to the other subject whose own file the indexed file stands for or simulates. Since we are engaged into a game of make believe in which we assume that someone tells us a story as if all events were true, mental files are not indexed to any real subject, not even to the author, but to the fictional narrator. I finally argue that in this way we can account for the distinction between sequel and reboot. In sequels, we assume to maintain the same narrator, thus we store new information in a preexisting indexed file. In reboot, the story is told by a different narrator and we open a new indexed file.

May 5th, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker: Philippe Lusson (IJN)
Commentator: Elisabeth Pacherie (IJN)
Title: "How to let beliefs motivate Humeans"

Abstract: A desire-belief psychology has usually been seen as central to the Humean theory of motivation -- the view encapsulated in the slogan that “reason is a slave to the passions”. I argue that Humeans should rather embrace the idea that some beliefs make the kind of contribution to motivation that the desire-belief theory rules out. First, we have no reason to expect desires alone to make this kind of contribution. Second, there is a pragmatic case in favor of evaluative beliefs which motivate. Much like it is useful to have intentions or habits, it is useful to have some motivating beliefs. However, we should recast the Humean view as a plausible theory about the sources of all motives, including evaluative beliefs. There are good reasons to think that evidence-settled beliefs should not motivate agents -- that no amount of evidence should settle the evaluative beliefs that motivate agents.

May 16th, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm:
Speaker: Joanna Patriarca (UniTS, IJN)
Title: "We-intentionality and cooperation”
Commentator: Pierre Jacob (IJN)

May 30th, 4:00 - 5:30pm
Speaker: Tricia Magalotti (IJN)
Commentator: Jérôme Dokic (IJN, EHESS)
Title: "How to Be a Consequentialist in the Epistemology of Emotion".

Abstract: The aim of this talk is to bring together two different strands of research in the epistemology of emotion. The first is what I call the deontic project, as it addresses the epistemic “rightness” of emotions, specifically their epistemic rationality. Within the deontic project, there is a prima facie problem that arises when we compare the rationality conditions of emotions to those of belief. The second strand of investigation is what I call the evaluative project, which is focused on questions about the epistemic value, or “goodness,” that emotions contribute to the world. I argue that certain views about the epistemic goodness of emotions may have interesting implications for questions about their epistemic rightness. In particular, if we adopt a consequentialist view of epistemic rationality in conjunction with certain views about the epistemic value of emotion, then we have the resources to respond in a novel way to the aforementioned problem that arises for the deontic project.


June 6th, 4.30 - 6.00 pm *please note time change*
Speaker: David Landais (IJN)
Commentator: Roberto Casati (IJN)
Title: "Synesthesia: experience mode and content. What is perceptual mannerism?"

Abstract: Synesthesia is a phenomenon in which either (i) stimulation of a sense modality A triggers a sensation in A as well as an additional sensation in A (i.e. unimodal synesthesia, like grapheme/color synesthesia) or (ii) stimulation of a sense B triggers a sensation in B and in another sense C (i.e. bimodal synesthesia, like colored-hearing).

I want to argue that synesthesia is a sui generis quasi-perceptual phenomenon. To that effect, I introduce a semantic-perceptual account of synesthesia that I call perceptual mannerism.

In this talk I will present:

(i) Some background about synesthesia, especially phenomenological and empirical data.

(ii) Empirical and conceptual distinctions about synesthesia: I present six types of synesthesia and draw several sub-distinctions. I show that these six types ultimately reduce to only four basic types.

(iii) Philosophical issues: I discuss some theoretical and methodological issues concerning the philosophical study of synesthesia, and present some of the main recent theories of synesthesia

(iv) Perceptual mannerism: I introduce my own theory, which aims at explaining synesthetic experience, especially bi-modal synesthesia. In short, mannerism tries to explain the impact of the synesthetic experience on the experience’s mode and perceptual content.

June 13th, 4:00 - 5:30pm
Speaker: Géraldine Carranante (IJN)
Commentator: Frédérique de Vignemont (IJN)
Title: "Defending structured perceptual content".

It has been argued that thoughts have contents structured by independent constituents while perceptual states do not. It has also been argued that this difference gives reasons to draw a sharp divide between perception and cognition. In this talk, I will challenge this view.
I will first present an argument against perceptual states having structured content based on Fodor's notion of systematicity. I will then develop objections against this argument and introduce the notion of partial recombinability. I will show that partial recombinability can be considered a good criterion for content-structuredness and that putative constituents of perceptual states are partially recombinable. It follows that perceptual states have structured content. Therefore, the criterion of content-structuredness cannot be exploited to draw any sharp divide between perception and cognition. I will conclude by answering some objections.

June 20th, 4:00 - 5:30pm
Speaker: Guillaume Dezecache (LNC, IJN)
Commentator: Nicolas Baumard (IJN)
Title: "A typology of individual reactions to danger during the Bataclan attack, Paris, 13-11-2015".

Abstract: Individual reactions to danger are conceived as individualistic and anti-social: when exposed to danger, humans would revert to self-preservative motives, trying to flee as fast as possible, at the expense of others’ life. However, interviews with survivors from a diversity of disasters have consistently shown that humans do not display self-preservative behaviour when exposed to danger but show a high degree of pro-sociality, even when their life is directly at risk. It is yet unclear how the type of danger people are exposed to can modulate their individual and collective response. Another important issue is the methodology used in those studies, which does not allow comparing between different moments of the event. It is possible that immediate reactions to threat are self-preservative, with prosocial responses overcoming individualistic ones later on. Finally, previous work does not distinguish between genuine altruistic acts (where the action is immediately costly to the agent) and apparent altruistic behaviour (which directly benefits the agent). We conducted interviews with 32 survivors from the attacks at the Bataclan (13-11-2015 in Paris) asking them to describe with precision their own actions and others’ at different moments of the attacks. In this talk, I will examine testimonies from survivors of the attacks to offer a new typology of individual reactions to danger and their impact on collective behaviour, at different moments of the attacks.