Institut Jean Nicod

Accueil > Séminaires/Colloques > Archives > Séminaires > 2018-2019 > Doc’in Nicod > Présentation


Session 8

Friday, June 21, 2019 (Room L357/359), 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Shimon Mercer-Wood (PhD student, IJN / ENS)
Commentator : David Nicolas
Title : Are mental files constitutive of singular thought ?



We defend the liberal view that mental files always generate singular thoughts. We begin with the definition of singular thought as thoughts directly about objects. This grounds the view that mental files are constitutive of singular thought, since mental files are understood to be a cognitive mechanism for representing objects. We adopt the substance-attribute definition of the object-property distinction which defines objects are bearers of properties. We observe that this implies that properties also exist as objects, instantiating higher-order properties. We draw the conclusion that thoughts about properties also count as thoughts about objects thus qualifying as singular thoughts. This implies that general thoughts are a subset of singular thoughts. This, together with the liberal view we defend, implies that all thoughts are achieved by tokening of mental files. We defend this conclusion against the criticism that it stretches the concept of mental file to the point of being too wide to be meaningful, by maintaining that there is still an informative distinction to be made between thoughts that represent properties as entries in a file and thoughts that represent properties with files of their own. We suggest that the fact that the latter case is far less common accounts for the strong intuition that only the former are “genuine” cases of mental files. We conclude that the liberal view is tenable, but requires a revised conception of singular thought, which only partially satisfies the desiderata traditionally associated with singular thought.


Session 7

Friday, June 7, 2019, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Louis Rouillé (IJN PhD Student)
Commentator : Fréderic Nef
Title : Freethinking about existence


Consider : (1) Pegasus does not exist.

The naïve analysis (NA) says that (1) is a negated predicative sentence.

Now consider : (2) Everything exists.

According to classical theory of quantification (CTQ), (2) is something like a tautology.

Suppose (NA) is true, then one can deduce that there is something (namely Pegasus) which does not exist. This contradicts (2). In other words, one cannot accept both (NA) and (CTQ).

Logical orthodoxy happily rejects (NA) : many logicians have argued that existence is not a predicate. The problem with logical orthodoxy is to provide a plausible paraphrase of (1). There are several ingenious ideas, depending on what theory of proper names one adopts. Meinongianism, on the other hand, rejects (CTQ), happily accepting that "there are things which do not exist". The problem with meinongianism is twofold : they have technical problems when it comes to their theory of quantification, and metaphysical problems when it comes to justifying their ontological dualism. There are several ingenious responses to these problems.

Unfortunately, ingenuity in linguistic analysis often amounts to hiding the problem (instead of dealing with it). Fortunately, there is another way out : keeping both (NA) and (CTQ) while blocking the above inference. This is the way of free logic.

To do so, free logicians introduce a predicate for singular existence (E !) according to which (NA) is true and (2) is a tautology, but they do not clash. E ! is logical predicate like identity (=) obeying logical axioms. But what is the meaning of this freed existence ?


Session 6
Friday, March 29, 2019, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Raphael Milliere (PhD student, University of Oxford)
Commentator : Bénédicte Veillet
Title : The myth of constitutive self-consciousness


In this paper, I examine the claim that self-consciousness or self-awareness is constitutive of consciousness in general. I start by distinguishing two broad reading of the claim found in the literature : (a) Necessarily, whenever one is in a conscious mental state, one is aware of that conscious mental state ; and (b) Necessarily, whenever one is in a conscious mental state, one is aware of oneself. Before assessing each of these claims, I motivate a number of foundational claims about consciousness that plausibly follow from Nagel’s influential definition. I subsequently argue that existing statements of (a) and (b) can be interpreted in different ways, and that the resulting claims can be divided into two groups. In the first group are claims that merely point to aspects of phenomenology already acknowledged by the foundational claims outlined in this paper. While such claims are very plausible, they are not really about the subject’s awareness of her experience or awareness of herself in any interesting sense. In the second group are claims that point to distinctive aspects of phenomenology going beyond the foundational claims outlined in this chapter ; I argue that such claims are not sufficiently motivated. I conclude that claiming that self-awareness or self-consciousness – whether construed as awareness of one’s experience or awareness of oneself – is constitutive of consciousness in general is at best misleading, and at worst unwarranted.


Session 5

Friday, March 8, 2019, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Matthieu Koroma (Sid Kouider’s Team, Laboratoire des Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique UMR 8554)
Commentator : Pascal Ludwig
Title : Self-evidencing conscious experience and vicious circularity


The meta-problem of consciousness aims to explain the particularity of our intuitions about consciousness and how they trigger conceptual issues such as the hard problem of consciousness. I propose in this talk that these intuitions stem from a basic function of the brain : self-evidencing explanation. To make sense of its sensory inputs, the brain is believed to build test models of the state of the world based on sensory information (Hohwy, 2016). This self-evidencing process has been proposed to describe the type of inference performed by consciousness (Friston, 2018). I will show how this situation is viciously circular and prevents us from proving the existence of consious experience or explaining it without presupposing its existence. I will show how it accounts for the particularity of our intuitions avour consciousness and then I propose a solution to the meta-problem of consciousness using a formally defined process at the core of conscious inference.


Session 4

Friday, January 18th, 2019, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Guido Robin Löhr, (IJN/RUB)
Commentator : Marta Abrusen
Title : A Simulation-based account of copredication


Copredication allows us to refer to two distinct but related entities in a single sentence using a single expression. I first propose a number of desiderata for a successful theory of copredication and show why none of the current theories of copredication meet them. I then outline a theory of copredication in terms of a simulation-based account of linguistic understanding that does meet the desiderata. Finally, I briefly state why copredication cannot be used as a test for polysemy.


Session 3

Friday, December 14, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Maryam Ebrahimi Dinani (IJN PhD Student)
Commentator : Uriah Kriegel
Title : The Truth Norm for Assertion : Definitional or Individuative ?


This paper is about the norm of truth for assertion, which I henceforth call “The Truth Rule”, and is formulated as follows : “One ought to assert only what is true”. I argue that The Truth Rule as thus formulated is a norm for assertion in a specific sense. I defend the view that assertion is, by its nature, governed by the rule according to which one ought to assert only what is true. The paper proceeds in two parts : a historically expository part in which I situate the problem and a conceptual one in which I defend the thesis. I start the first part with Dummett, who argued for the importance of the norm of truth for assertion through an analogy with games. I then explain how this analogy is formulated in the literature in terms of what is known as “constitutive rules”, and I discuss two distinct, but conflated, ways of characterizing constitutive rules from the works of Williamson and Searle. In the second part, I introduce a distinction between two types of constitutive rules, which I call “definitional” vs. “individuative” constitutive rules. I argue then for the truth rule as being of the individuative type, and I give a possible explanation of the distinction within the institutional framework. I finish by looking at one possible account of the nature of the individuative type of constitutive rules.

Keywords : Assertion, Truth, Constitutive Rules.


Session 2

Friday, November 23, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Merel Semeijn (University of Groningen Ph.D. student)
Commentator : Paul Egré
Title : Bald-faced lies and parafictional statements


A famous counterexample to definitions of lying that involve an intention to deceive is what Sorensen (2007) has dubbed the ‘bald-faced lie’. For instance, in The Godfather II, Pentangeli testifies in court “I never knew no Godfather”, to ensure that mafioso Corleone is not convicted. However, it is common knowledge in the courtroom that Pentangeli did know the Godfather. Hence, even though we judge that Pentangeli lied, his speech act cannot involve an intention to deceive anyone.

In response, Stokke (2013) has proposed a Stalnakerian analysis according to which Pentangeli does not intend that anyone believes that he knew no Godfather but instead intends that this becomes commonly accepted. I argue that this is not a convincing characterization of the bald-faced lie and propose an alternative Stalnakerian framework according to which bald-faced lies are more akin to fictional statements than to stereotypical lies : The ‘workspace account’. All statements – fictional statements, assertions and (bald-faced) lies – are modelled as proposals to first update a temporal common ground : the ‘workspace’. At the end of the discourse, ‘assertive’ or ‘fictive closure’ is performed ; The content of the workspace is added to the common ground as belief (for non-fictional statements) or as ‘parafictional belief’ of the form “In story Sp” (for fictional statements). Crucially, Pentangeli’s bald-faced lie is aimed at making it a common parafictional belief that according to the account that Pentangeli gave in court, he knew no Godfather. Hence, bald-faced lies have a stronger resemblance to fictional statements than to lies.


Session 1

Friday, November 9, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
Speaker : Hye Young Kim (IJN Postdoctoral Researcher)
Commentator : Frédéric Nef
Title : A Topological Analysis of Knotted-Time-Consciousness


Does time’s arrow flow straightforward ? What if not ? What if it’s in the shape of a knot ? By applying Louis Kauffman’s knot-logic (knot set theory), the structure of our consciousness of time will be analyzed from a different perspective. In doing so, an attempt will be made to prove how consistent subjective consciousness would be possible and that our subjective consciousness is necessarily intersubjective.