KEYNOTE: Expression and Meaning: Acts, Products, and ‘Normative Language’

Dorit Bar-On (University of Connecticut)

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Expression is a notion that’s used ubiquitously, yet it has received surprisingly little direct theoretical attention.  I have been interested in understanding the use and usefulness of expression in connection with three seemingly unrelated puzzles – about first-person authority, about motivational internalism, and about the origins of meaning.  I begin with a brief review of the puzzles and well-known, expressivist attempts to solve them, which have been dismissed (Section 1).  In each case, opponents have appealed to an apparent incongruence between what is ‘merely expressive’ and what is linguistically meaningful.  In Sections 2 and 3, I sketch the view of expression and expressive behavior I favor, which (I have argued elsewhere) allows us to articulate viable, neo-expressivist solutions to the puzzles.  One of my main aims in this paper will be to bring out the myriad ways in which the expressive and the linguistic interact, both in the origins of meaningful language and in its current, everyday use.  In the final section, I offer some tentative reflections on consequences of the view I outline for the alleged distinctiveness of so-called normative language.   Continue reading KEYNOTE: Expression and Meaning: Acts, Products, and ‘Normative Language’

Epistemic Closure in Folk Epistemology

James R. Beebe and Jake Monaghan (University at Buffalo)

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1. Introduction

Epistemic closure principles have figured prominently in contemporary epistemology, particularly in discussions of radical skepticism. The most commonly discussed skeptical challenges in recent decades employ skeptical hypotheses that depict situations that are subjectively indistinguishable from what we take our normal circumstances to be but in which we fail to have knowledge. Where ‘p’ is some proposition we ordinarily take ourselves to know and ‘SK’ is a skeptical hypothesis, these challenges are typically represented as arguments of the following form:

(1.1) If I know that p, then I know that not-SK.

(1.2) I do not know that not-SK.

(1.3) Therefore, Continue reading Epistemic Closure in Folk Epistemology

Goal Ascription for the A-rational

Sam Clarke (University of Oxford)

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Abstract: This paper advances three claims concerning the cognitive processes that underpin human goal ascriptions. First, I propose that many of our leading theories of goal ascription hold, or seem committed to holding, that the goals of others’ actions can only be identified through a process of approximately rational, abductive reasoning (§1). Second, I argue that there is reason to question this commitment. Some goals appear to be identified by fast, inaccessible and informationally encapsulated cognitive processes. This suggests that they are identified by input systems—akin to those involved in speech and sensory perception—rather than the central systems that rational abduction paradigmatically involves (§2). Third, I suggest that there are independent reasons to take this latter proposal seriously and no obvious reasons to reject it (§3). This presents a challenge to the existing views of goal ascription discussed in §1 and raises a number of important questions for future research.

Keywords: goal ascription, modularity, abduction, teleological stance, theory of mind

Continue reading Goal Ascription for the A-rational

Joint Mental States and Quasi-Agential Groups

Luke Roelofs (Australian National University)

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Intentional explanation is a strikingly useful form of explanation, and human life would be unrecognisable if we did not routinely apply it to the understanding of individual behaviour. So it is not surprising that we routinely also use the idiom of intentional explanation – of beliefs, desires, and actions aimed at satisfying those desires according to those beliefs – to talk about human collectives. After all, if we could explain collective behaviour by reference to collective beliefs and desires, that would be a major explanatory boon. On the other hand, if we applied this explanatory scheme to phenomena which do not fit it, we would simply be entangling ourselves in unproductive metaphors. The philosophical project of analysing collective intentionality is important because it helps us to see when intentional explanations of collective phenomena are well-founded, and when they are not.

There are two well-discussed sorts of case where intentional explanations of collective phenomena are appropriate; this paper aims to make space for a third in between them. Continue reading Joint Mental States and Quasi-Agential Groups