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 : Géraldine Carranante or Armando Lavalle


Past sessions


Session 1

Friday, October 20, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Matthieu Koroma (Sid Kouider’s Team, Laboratoire des Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique UMR 8554)
Commentator : Jérôme Dokic
Title : An emotion regulation account of the paradox of fiction


In this talk, I examine an account on how emotions in fiction can be considered as a case of emotional regulation and how this account makes possible reconciling the different philosophical positions on the paradox of fiction. For this purpose, I will argue first that the philosophical solutions proposed for solving this paradox are all valid at different stages of the process of emotional regulation. Moreover, I show that the solutions are incomplete when they are considered independently. Nevertheless, they adequately solve the paradox of fiction if they are taken as interacting processes within the framework of emotional regulation and they make sense of the possibility of fictional experience. I will conclude with some remarks on how philosophy can be useful for psychology in revealing the underlying structure of the psychological processes, but also on how psychology can be useful for philosophy in showing how the dynamics of cognition are fit to answer contradictions tackled by philosophical problems.


Session 2
November 10, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Samuel Lee (NYU Philosophy PhD student)
Commentator : Pierre Jacob
Title : Mental Causation and Overdetermination


The exclusion problem is usually presented as an argument that mental entities fail to cause anything physical. This conclusion is not easy to swallow, and many have sought ways to resist it. I will try to show that no satisfactory way of disarming the argument has yet been articulated. Mostly I want to talk about a view similar to the view termed ‘compatibilism’ in the literature on this topic. When I say ‘compatibilist’, I mean someone who fends off the exclusion argument by defending one of the following two claims. One, that the overdetermination that comes with mental causation isn’t relevantly similar to, for example, firing-squad cases. Or, two, that mental causation is relevantly similar to those sorts of cases but is nonetheless just about as widespread as we naively take it to be.
I am a compatibilist, but I accuse my allies in this of adopting indefensible versions of our shared view. To make good on this accusation, I first explain why it is usually a problem for theories to posit widespread overdetermination, and then argue that existing compatibilists do not evade this problem. What’s needed to successfully evade the problems is a theory of causation which accords mental causation a non-redundant explanatory role, even when these mental entities are overdeterminers of the effects under discussion. I give some independent motivation for one such theory before showing how its treatment of certain higher-level causes as fundamental causes allows it fill the role just outlined.


Session 3
November 24, 2017. 4:00 - 5:30 pm

Speaker : Anna Giustina (IJN, ENS, PSL)
Commentator : François Recanati
Title : Primitive Introspection


In this talk I point at an introspective phenomenon, which I call primitive introspection, and propose an account of its nature. At a first approximation, primitive introspection is non-classificatory introspection of phenomenal states. Although something in the vicinity has been discussed in the recent literature, especially in relation to acquaintance, phenomenal concepts, and phenomenal knowledge (see e.g. Gertler 2001, Chalmers 2003, and Horgan and Kriegel 2007), I believe that the nature and epistemology of this phenomenon deserve further attention. Here I focus on the nature of primitive introspection and explore the metaphysical structure of the process it involves. First, I explain what primitive introspection is, by way of examples and by contrasting it with another kind of introspection of phenomenal states, which I call reflective introspection. Second, I dig into the metaphysical structure of primitive introspection. I analyze the process it involves by identifying three main elements in it : the act, the target, and the state of primitive introspection. After outlining the main features of each element, I introduce what strike me as the two most plausible accounts of primitive introspection. The first is modeled on what is often called the inner sense view ; the second is modeled on the acquaintance view. I develop my own version of the acquaintance account and I argue that the latter is preferable both to other versions of the acquaintance account and to the inner sense account.

Session 4
December 8, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm

Speaker : Andrés Soria (IJN, ENS, PSL)
Commentator : Salvador Mascarenhas
Title : It’s Getting Better All the Time : An Expressivist Semantics for Comparative Evaluative Judgments


In this talk, I will combine elements from the literature on gradability and meta-ethics to offer a semantics for evaluative adjectives, and more specifically for comparative uses of those adjectives. Broadly understood, expressivist proposals about evaluative language understand value judgments in binary terms, that is, the speaker expresses either a favorable or unfavorable attitude towards the object under evaluation. Thus, expressivism offers a promising way of capturing the context-sensitivity of evaluative expressions as well as their conceptual connection to action and motivation. However, it is not obvious how to extend expressivism to cover comparative uses of evaluative adjectives. My purpose here is to amend this.


Session 5
December 15, 2017, 4:00 - 5:30 pm

Speaker : Martin Fortier (IJN, EHESS, PSL)
Commentator : Dan Sperber
Title : The Amazonian challenge to the purported universality of psychological essentialism : biological and ethnic non-essentialism among the Shipibo-Konibo and the Huni Kuin (Peruvian Amazon)


The study of concepts has been deeply transformed by the discovery that many concepts are defined in essentialist rather than probabilistic and prototypical terms (e.g., Medin & Ortony, 1989 ; Gelman, 2003). Several studies have suggested that psychological essentialism (PE) is not only a pervasive cognitive phenomenon but is also a universal one (Astuti et al., 2004 ; Moya et al., 2015 ; Sousa et al., 2002). I will first distinguish between four components of PE : topological, inferential, structural and temporal essentialism. I will subsequently argue that previous cross-cultural studies of PE have focused on the study of structural and temporal essentialism, leaving aside the two other components. I will also point out methodological and theoretical limitations. Next, I will present new experimental data I collected in two indigenous groups of the Peruvian Amazon : the Shipibo-Konibo (SK) and the Huni Kuin (HK). Ethnography suggests that these cultures are quite non-essentialist. In a first series of studies (administered in a paper-and- pencil fashion and in Spanish) with young SK and HK adults, I found evidence for essentialism for most of the components and for non-essentialism only for few of them. In a second series of studies (administered through personal interviews and in HK language) with old HK participants (40 years old and above), I found evidence for strong non-essentialism for all components. Two interpretations of these data will be put forward : the differences between the two groups may reveal deeply entrenched cognitive differences or they may be an artefact of the data collection method


Session 6

January 26, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Slawa Loev (IJN)
Commentator : Jérôme Dokic
Title : Intuition experiences as cognitive feelings


In this talk, I outline a feeling-based theory of intuitions. Its central claim is that intuitions are specific cognitive feelings : feelings of rightness or wrongness.
I will proceed as follows : I first identify my target state (so-called "intuition experiences") among the many things we call "intuitions". Since this target state is usually phenomenologically characterized I will subsequently outline and clarify respective phenomenological features. Then I will briefly present extant accounts of intuitions and explain why they are unsatisfactory. One kind of account identifies intuitions as a kind of state (beliefs, judgments, dispositions to believe/judge) that usually doesn’t have the bulk of features ascribed to the target state. The other kind of account posits that intuitions belong to a mysterious (sui generis) kind of state (inclinations to believe/judge, seemings, presentations) which exhibits precisely the ascribed features but whose postulation appears otherwise explanatorily uninformative and ad-hoc. I will then advance cognitive feelings as the class among which we find our target state. Cognitive feelings such as feelings of familiarity or feelings of knowing are affective phenomena that share features with emotional and bodily feelings but are distinguished in that their function is to inform us about our ongoing cognitive processing rather than about the world or our body. Importantly, among these phenomena, we find the feeling of rightness and the feeling of wrongness which have the function to signal that a certain representation satisfies (not) a normative requirement such as correctness or truth. I argue that intuition experiences just are such feelings of rightness or wrongness that detect the rightness/wrongness of an explicitly intentional representational cognitive state (e.g. propositional imaginings) with which they co-occur. This account fits the feature profile of intuitions and unmysteriously explains why intuitions have these features : because they are specific cognitive feelings (co-occurring with other states).


Session 7

February 9, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm

Speaker : Philippe Lusson (NYU Paris / IJN)
Commentator : Uriah Kriegel
Title : "What can we learn from the role of normative and evaluative attitudes in decision-making ?”


I want to explore consequences for moral psychology and metaethics of a unified framework I am developing to understand the role of para-motivational attitudes, mental states which we have reasons to believe are not (part of) motives but nevertheless have a role to play in decision-making (intentions and policies, for example). Para-motives help cognitively limited and motivationally unstable agents act in ways that are more coherent and more satisfactory (by the lights of their own motives). They respond to the agent’s motives — we form intentions on the basis of our motivation —, and they, in turn, contribute to future decision-making — intentions (hopefully) somehow prevent us from doing things incompatible with their fulfillment. I think the best account appeals to the para-motives’ effects on the agent’s attention. I try here to extend the same approach to normative and evaluative attitudes. I argue that, properly understood, the role of these attitudes is para-motivational, and that this sheds some new light on their nature. First, their para-motivational rather than directly motivational role undercuts an important argument in favor of a non-cognitivist view of normative and evaluative attitudes. Second, some of the details of their psychological role points, on the contrary, to a cognitive conception of these attitudes. In particular, whereas intentions and policies are memoryless para-motives, there are some reasons to suspect that normative and evaluative attitudes do not just respond to the agent’s present motives, but also to her past ones.


Session 8

March 9, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Amir Anvari (IJN)
Commentator : Emar Maier
Title : Margins of Language


A wide range of phenomena have been marked off of the scope of linguistic theorizing only at its own peril. Building on some very recent work and partly reporting on ongoing research, the purpose of this talk is, on the one hand, to tabulate the interpretive behaviour of how such “marginal” phenomena as the productive iconic gestures, the conventional emblematic gestures, the paradigmatically referential pointing gestures, the expressive facial gesticulations, and the "sensorily vivid" ideophones interact with the logical structure of spoken utterances they accompany and, on the other hand, to argue that not only an adequate characterisation of these phenomena requires the full might of semantic/pragmatic machinery but that the result of this enterprise will, in all probability, yield novel insights into the underlying principles of semantic interpretation and pragmatic reasoning.


Session 9

March 16, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
in the seminar room of the DEC

Speaker : Nils Franzén (Uppsala University)
Commentator : Isidora Stojanovic
Title : Sensibilism and Imaginative Resistance


If a fiction invites us to imagine scenarios where evaluative facts are different from what they are like in the actual world, we are reluctant to go along. For instance, we do not accept a fiction where it is good to murder innocent children for fun. The question of why this is the case is the puzzle of imaginative resistance. In this talk, I take imaginative resistance to offer an important clue to the nature of evaluative terms and concepts. I offer a sensibilist semantics for evaluative terms and show how this, in combination with a common view on the nature of imagination and fictional discourse, explains imaginative resistance.


Session 10

March 23, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : José Manuel Viejo ; Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM)
Commentator : François Recanati
Title : Not so hidden : A new starting place for the semantics of belief ascriptions.


Many recent semantic theories have involved explicit acceptance of the following three theses :

(1) Direct Reference : The customary truth-conditional value of proper names and indexicals is just the referent.

(2) Semantic Innocence : Embedding an expression in a that-clause does not change its truth-conditional value.

Such theories, as just characterized, face a well-known puzzle : they seem to conflict with a third, and apparently obvious true, thesis :

(3) Obliquity : Substitution of coreferential proper names and indexicals in that-clauses does not always preserve the truth value of utterances of sentences containing them.

The challenge is to develop a theory of the semantics of belief ascriptions that allows us to see how Direct Reference, Semantic Innocence and Obliquity are not genuinely inconsistent. One of the most promising attempts to do this is what Schiffer has called the hidden indexical theory. It was introduced for the first time by Schiffer, and has been advocated in various forms by Crimmins, Perry, and Recanati, among others. The question I want to examine is whether this theory is really the best resolution of the inconsistency.

I shall do three things in this talk. First, I shall describe the hidden indexical theory and its motivation. Second, I shall raise three problems for this theory. And, third, I shall propose an alternative account of the semantics of belief ascriptions, consider how it would appear to avoid these problems, and motivate it as the best strategy available for achieving compatibility.


Session 11

April 13, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Tricia Magalotti (IJN)
Commentator : Ned Markosian
Title : Epistemic Consequentialism and Non-arbitary Standards.


Both reliabilism and evidentialism about epistemic justification rely—the former explicitly and the latter less so—on some quantitative epistemic standard. In the case of reliabilism, the standard is the degree to which the process is reliable. In the case of evidentialism, the standard is the degree to which a belief fits the evidence on which it is based. Furthermore, once we see the way in which each view relies on its respective quantitative notion, it becomes evident that both sides should be able to offer some non-arbitrary account of the degree to which that standard must be met in order for the belief to count as justified. I argue that, whether one is a reliabilist or an evidentialist, adopting epistemic consequentialism can help to solve the problem of non-arbitrary standards.


Session 12

June 8, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Guido Robin Löhr
Commentator : Paul Egré
Title : Semantic minimalism, contextualism and linguistic processing

Abstract :

Semantic minimalists like Emma Borg and moderate contextualists like Robyn Carston or François Recanati agree that intuitive truth conditions of sentences are generated based on the generation of minimal truth conditions. Minimal truth conditions are generated by assembling atomic concepts. I argue that this view of how intuitive truth conditions are generated is false and based on a theory of concepts that is too simplistic. We can get more directly to intuitive truth conditions by retrieving highly context dependent categorization devices that are comprised of prototypes and exemplars. Since language is highly ambiguous and often highly abstract the retrieval of concepts is not as simple as modulation theories and minimalists assume. Instead it is usually difficult and controversial matter, often decided by post-hoc reasoning, which concept one is trying to express. Finally, I propose a new version of moderate contextualism that adequately addresses these issues.


Session 13

June 15, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Matthieu Koroma (LSCP)
Commentator : Uriah Kriegel
Title : A constructivist approach to Consciousness

Abstract :

Constructivism is an epistemological position which defends the idea that knowledge about reality is the result of the construction and verification of mental models about the world. I aim to show how this approach reframes controversies on the nature of consciousness and its scientific study. To do so, I introduce a dynamic inferential model of knowledge acquisition in line with constructivist principles. Applying this framework to consciousness, I show how the commitments (ie. reductionism, dualism and enactivism) underlying influential scientific approaches to consciousness are the result of a focus on different stages of the knowledge acquisition process. Rather than conflicting methodologies, I argue for their synergic functions in the construction of the notion of consciousness.
Based on these results, I underline some promising avenues for the development of the scientific understanding of consciousness. I propose moreover a draft for a psychological construction of perceptual consciousness. To do so, I rely on a definition of consciousness endorsed by predictive coding, presenting particular affinities with the constructivist view. I then use this framework to propose a solution to a perceptual formulation of the paradox of mental causation. This solution reject each proposition of the paradox at different stages of the predictive process of perceptual inference. This work does not intend to solve the nature of consciousness per se, which is the product of philosophical and scientific endeavor, but rather offer an epistemological framework which puts in perspective and resolve the philosophical paradoxes and scientific controversies that shape our understanding of consciousness.


Session 14

June 22, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Deborah Marber (St Andrews)
Commentator : Jérôme Pelletier
Title : Belief and Imagination in Pretence


Pretence is a flagship example of imagining leading to action. According to cognitivist views, however, belief (alongside desire) is always needed to motivate action.

’Single code’ theorists such as Stephen Stich and Shaun Nichols, as well as some of their sympathising critics (eg : Peter Langland-Hassan) argue that key features of pretence (such as mirroring, quarantining, and elaboration around scripts, all to be described in this talk) warrant the thesis that imagining is significantly belief-like. These common features, it is suggested, are what allows the imaginings involved in pretence to play a significant role in motivation. Stich and Nichols claim that they share ‘a single code’ ; whereas Langland Hassan goes so far as to propose that the imaginings involved in pretence are simply a particular kind of beliefs.

In this talk, I criticise these accounts and aim to disentangle where beliefs and imaginings are respectively at stake in a particular pretence case. I then argue that imagining can play a key role in motivating action in these cases. I analyse features of the particular kind of imagining apt to play such a role. I then briefly sketch my thesis ‘Belief as Imagining’ which proposes to analyse beliefs as a particular kind of imaginings - i.e. : imaginings strictly constrained by various processes including metacognitive feelings associated with the factivity of belief. I put it forward as allowing us to understand the motivational role played by the kind of imaginings involved in pretence, and also suggest that it helps to explain how and why beliefs can be manipulated in significant ways.


Session 15

June 28, 2018, 2:00 - 4:00 pm

*Please take note day and time change*

Speaker : Alberto Barbieri (IUSS, Pavia, Italy)
Commentator : Uriah Kriegel
Title : Is state consciousness first ? Creature and State Consciousness in light of the for-me-ness of experience.


An important distinction in philosophy of mind is the one between creature and state consciousness. These two ‘consciousness properties’ are supposed to identify two distinct explananda. They are, however, undoubtedly interconnected, and any theory of consciousness must state which of these properties is its primary explanandum. The vast majority of philosophers of mind, indeed, claims that creature consciousness depends, or is derivative, on state consciousness. I call this view the Priority of State Consciousness thesis (PSC).

The aim of this talk is to put pressure on the truth of PSC. I use the discussions about the for-me-ness (or subjective character) of experience to argue against this thesis. More precisely, I argue that those philosophers who advocate for the existence of for-me-ness cannot endorse PSC.

I begin by clarifying the way I am going to use the distinction at issue, and by offering an overview of the position which considers for-me-ness as the proper explanandum of theories of consciousness, namely Subjectivism. Then I show that the best candidate to combine Subjectivism with PSC is the view called “state self-awareness view.” Such a view claims that for-me-ness is constituted by an awareness those mental states have of themselves. For reason of time and for his explicit endorsement of PSC, I focus mainly on the variant provided by Kriegel, that is self-representationalism. Finally, I argue that this view is untenable for phenomenological reasons, and that one should reject PSC to preserve Subjectivism.