Institut Jean Nicod

Accueil du site > Séminaires & Colloques > Séminaires > Archives > 2015-2016 > Réalité & Représentation > Presentation


Reality & Representation


Institut Jean-Nicod, Pavillon Jardin, 29, rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris - Salle de réunion, RDC

Contact: Uriah Kriegel


Mercredi 15 juin 2016 de 16h à 18h
Nick Stang (University of Toronto),

"The Reference of Metaphysical Concepts"
Abstract: According to one popular contemporary view, metaphysics is close kin to the sciences. It aims to describe the world, albeit at a greater level of generality than any of the special sciences (e.g. physics). This 'scientific' view of metaphysics is often conjoined with realism about science. I call this conjunction of views the 'scientific realist' view of metaphysics. If realism about science is true, then the concepts in a scientific theory must refer to properties or structures in the world in order for that theory to succeed in describing the world. Likewise, if scientific realism about metaphysics is true,  then the concepts in a metaphysical theory must refer to properties or structures in the world in order for that theory to succeed in describing the world. Assuming some metaphysical theories (can) successfully describe the world, what explains the fact that the concepts in that theory refer to properties or structures in the world? I survey several popular contemporary theories of reference (e.g. causal theories and 'joint carving') and argue that none of them succeeds. Alternative (e.g. deflationist) conceptions of metaphysics can easily explain metaphysical concept reference. I argue that this constitutes a prima facie reason to reject the 'scientific realist' view of metaphysics.



Past sessions

Vendredi 2 octobre 2015 de 11h30 à 13h
David Nicolas (CNRS, Institut Nicod),
"Matter and Mixtures"

Vendredi 9 octobre 2015 de 11h30 à 13h
Anna-Sofia Maurin (University of Gothenburg),
"Metaphysical Explanation"

‘Grounding’ is often introduced as – among other things – an explanatory relation. That it (or they, if there is more than one kind of grounding-relation) is explanatory is in fact commonly thought to be what distinguishes it from other, closely related, fundamental relations. And this, on at least one interpretation, means that, that it is explanatory is seen as a reason for thinking it exists. In my talk I want to explore more carefully what this means. In what sense, precisely, is grounding supposed to be explanatory? Following Daly (2005), let’s assume that we have two options. Either we travel down the way of emulation and try to find a view on explanation already in existence in terms of which the explanatoriness of grounding can be understood. Or we go down the way of innovation. This is the road much less travelled. Going down it means admitting that an entirely new kind of explanation – a kind of explanation that is interestingly and substantially different from all other kinds of explanation (for which we have theories) but still similar enough to warrant falling under the same ‘umbrella-term’ – must be accepted (and understood). In my talk I suggest – very tentatively – that, unfortunately, going down the way of emulation we are unlikely to succeed (at least given a restricted – but, I think, interesting – way of understanding the claim that grounding relations are explanatory). Therefore, either we go down the road of innovation, or we stop saying (and thinking) that grounding is an explanatory relation. As I suspect that their being explanatory is the ‘raison d’être’ for grounding-relations, and as a (kind-of) fan of grounding I therefore root for innovation. I end my talk with some speculative reasons for thinking that innovation may be justified.

Mercredi 18 novembre de 16h à 18h
Franz Knappik (Humboldt),
"Classification, Explanation and Essence: Ideas from Hegel"

According to a view known as natural kind essentialism (NKE), there is, for every natural kind, a property or a set of properties such that with metaphysical necessity, something is an instance of the kind iff it possesses this property or set of properties. Since Putnam’s and Kripke’s seminal work, NKE has received much attention both in philosophy of science and metaphysics. In this talk, I will first rehearse some problems for extant arguments in favour of NKE, in particular, for Putnam/Kripke style semantic arguments, and for Brian Ellis’ more recent attempt to argue for NKE on the basis of scientific practice. I will then explore an alternative way of arguing for NKE that is inspired by Hegel. Hegel’s writings may seem an unlikely source of inspiration to draw upon in this context. But Hegel’s opus magnum, the “Science of Logic”, contains one of the most detailed and exhaustive discussions of the basic categories in the metaphysics of science of his time, and the overarching aim of this discussion can be seen precisely as developing and arguing for a version of NKE. Central to Hegel’s argument, as I will reconstruct it, are two main ideas: (a) in order to account for the possibility of genuine explanations for observed phenomena, we have to assume that there is a basic isomorphism between the fundamental structures of thought and the fundamental structures of reality; and (b) the best way to spell out such an isomorphism is in terms of NKE. I will conclude by discussing a series of challenges to the Hegelian argument.

Mardi 26 janvier 2016 de 10h30 à 12h30
Enrico Terrone (FMSH),
“What type of 'type' is a fictional character?"

Abstract: Consider Batman in Bob Kane’s comics, Batman in Frank Miller’s comics, Batman in the television series, starring Adam West, Batman in Tim Burton’s movies, starring Michael Keaton, Batman in Christopher Nolan’s movies, starring Christian Bale. Such a multiplicity of “Batmans” raises two contrasting intuitions. On the one hand, they seem to be all the same character, namely BATMAN. On the other hand, they seem to be different characters, since they belong to different stories that occur in different, though slightly similar, fictional worlds. An effective way of reconciling these intuitions consists in claiming that all these “Batmans” are distinct tokens of the same BATMAN type. Yet the claim that fictional characters are types instantiated by tokens raises two main issues. First, types are eternal Platonic structures, whereas fictional characters are historical outcomes of authors’ creativity. Second, tokens are particular individuals having their place in the actual world understood as a unitary spatiotemporal system, whereas the putative instances of fictional characters have no place in the actual world so understood. I will argue that we can address both these issue by making room for a subtler notion of type. First, types are not forced to be eternal Platonic structures; indeed, we can conceive of them as pragmatically negotiated normative structures (cf. Strawson 1959, Harrison 1967, Davies 2012). Second, tokens are not forced to be actual particular individuals to whom we can publicly refer; we can also conceive of them as fictional particular individuals to whom we can publicly purport to refer (cf. Jeshion 2010, Taylor 2010, Recanati 2012).

Mardi 2 février 2016 de 10h30 à 12h30
Uriah Kriegel (IJN),
"Metaphysics, Conceptual Analysis, and Experimental Philosophy"

What is the rationale for the methodological innovations of experimental philosophy? This paper starts from the contention that common answers to this question are implausible. It then develops a framework within which experimental philosophy fulfills a specific function in an otherwise traditionalist picture of philosophical inquiry. The framework rests on two principal ideas. The first is Frank Jackson’s claim that conceptual analysis is unavoidable in ‘serious metaphysics’. The second is that the psychological structure of concepts is extremely intricate, much more so than early practitioners of conceptual analysis had realized. This intricacy has implications for the activity of analyzing concepts: while the central, coarser, more prominent contours of a concept may be identified from the armchair, the finer details of the concept’s structure require experimental methods to detect.

Mardi 22 mars 2016 de 10h30 à 12h30
Indrek Reiland (IJN),

"Predication and the Frege-Geach Problem"

Peter Hanks and Scott Soames have both appealed to predication in developing their theories of cognitive representation. However, they differ over whether predication is forceful or neutral and whether the most basic cognitive representational act is judging or entertaining. Both have powerful reasons for their views. Hanks’s reason for thinking that predication is forceful is that it has to be if it is to explain representation. However, his own way of implementing the idea gives rise to the Frege-Geach problem. Soames’s reason for thinking that predication is neutral is that it has to be if it can avoid giving rise to the Frege-Geach problem rather than having to solve it. However, this leaves it mysterious how it could explain representation. My aim in this paper is to present a third view, one which respects the powerful reasons while avoiding the problems. On this view predication is forceful, but the idea is implemented in a way that avoids the Frege-Geach problem.

Mecredi 18 mai 2016 de 16h à 18h
Damiano Costa (Fribourg),
"Existence at a Time"

In this talk I will present a new endurantist theory of persistence. The theory is built around one basic tenet, which concerns existence at a time – the relation between an object and the times at which that object is present. According to this tenet, which I call transcendentism, for an object to exist at a time is for it to participate in events that are located at that time. I argue that transcendentism is a semantically grounded and metaphysically fruitful. It is semantically grounded, insofar as a semantic analysis of our temporal talk favors it over rivals. It is metaphysically fruitful, insofar as the theory of persistence that can be built around it – the transcendentist theory of persistence, to give it a name – requires neither temporal parts nor the problematic commitments to which all extant forms of endurantism are committed, such as the possibility of extended simples or multilocation.