Institut Jean Nicod

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Soutenance d’HDR - Salvador Mascarenhas - "Between Language and Reasoning"


Format : Présentation de 30 minutes suivie d’une discussion avec le comité

Date : Vendredi 3 décembre, 16h30 (il est possible d’assister uniquement à la présentation initiale de 30 minutes du candidat).

Lieu : 45 rue d’Ulm ; salle W (prendre l’escalier B jusqu’au 3ème étage (c’est l’étage numéro 3), puis suivre les panneaux "Salle W" en montant le petit escalier marqué B1 jusqu’au 4ème étage)

Promoteur (garant) : Emmanuel Chemla (CNRS)


Comité :

 Claire Beyssade (Univesité de Paris 8)
 Luca Bonatti (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)
 Emmanuel Chemla (CNRS)
 Gennaro Chierchia (Harvard University)
 Ulrike Hahn (Birkbeck, University of London)
 Benjamin Spector (CNRS)
 Katya Tentori (University of Trento)


Résumé :

Language and reasoning are arguably the hallmarks of human higher-cognitive abilities. Given that virtually the totality of psychological experimentation on human reasoning uses linguistic stimuli, human reasoning effectively cannot be studied without proposing or presupposing a theory of linguistic meaning (semantics) and communicative processes (pragmatics). Some highly influential theories of reasoning from cognitive psychology build by default on semantics indistinguishable from those proposed in the 1970s by philosophers of language and early linguistic semanticists (e.g. the probabilistic New Paradigm). Others, as it were, roll their own semantics or proof theories (e.g. mental models, mental logic). All influential families of theories have developed and continue to this day to be explored in a context of almost purely anecdotal interaction with state-of-the-art theories of formal semantics and pragmatics from linguistics.

I argue that it is possible, necessary, and highly beneficial to unify the rigorous mathematical theories of meaning from linguistic semantics and pragmatics with theories from cognitive psychology of how meaning figures into human reasoning and decision making. In this 30-minute presentation, I give concrete examples from my work on question-answer dynamics, best analyzed with formal semantic and pragmatic tools, crucially operative in deductive reasoning with disjunctions (English "or") and in reasoning by representativeness (e.g. Tversky & Kahneman’s 1983 conjunction fallacy). The resulting view combines elements of Bayesian rational inference with a non-classical logical theory of mental representations. The presentation concludes with ongoing work on question-answer dynamics without language.