MIT philosophy presents:

self-locating belief - a conference co-organized with Institut Jean Nicod, Paris

September 8-9, 2009, 32-D461

The philosophy section of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT and Institut Jean Nicod in Paris will be co-hosting a two-leg conference on self-locating attitudes. The first leg of the conference will take place at MIT on September 8th and 9th 2009. The second leg will take place in Paris in the spring of 2010.

The aim of the conference is to bring together researchers working on the de se on the two sides of the Atlantic; speakers will include both faculty and graduate students. The conference is wide-ranging in scope: talks will touch on issues in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, metaphysics and epistemology.

All are welcome.


Tuesday, September 8th

9:45 Breakfast

10:15 Alex Byrne (MIT) Introductory remarks

10:30 Frédérique de Vignemont (IJN/NYU) Bodily self-ascriptions and immunity to error

12:00 Lunch

1:30 Isidora Stojanovic (IJN) The problem of de se assertion
(Abstract)David Lewis (1981) famously proposed an account of de se beliefs in terms of self-ascription of properties. The gist of his proposal was that the content of, for example, Alma's belief that she is hungry, which she might express by saying "I am hungry", is simply the property of being hungry, and it is a property that Alma ascribes to herself. Lewis never held, though, that the content of assertion should be analyzed along the same lines, and the received view today is that if Alma says "I am hungry", the asserted content, or what is said, is the proposition that Alma is hungry (at a given time). In this paper, I argue, against the received view, that Lewis's proposal for de se attitudes plausibly holds for assertion as well. The content of Alma's utterance of "I am hungry" is, I suggest, the property of being hungry, and it is a property that Alma asserts of herself. One of the main motivations for this proposal is the fact that when two speakers say "I am hungry", it is correct to report them as having said the same thing. It has often been held that the possibility of such reports comes from the fact that the two speakers are, after all, uttering the same words, and are in this sense "saying the same thing". I will show that this approach fails, and that it is neither necessary nor sufficient to use the same words, or words endowed with the same meaning, in order to be correctly reported as same-saying. I will also show that reports of same-saying in the case of de se assertion differ significantly from such reports in cases in which the two speakers are merely implicating the same thing.

3:00 Break

3:15 Gregory Bochner (IJN) The metasyntactic interpretation of two-dimensionalism
(Abstract)Robert Stalnaker contrasts two interpretations, semantic and metasemantic, of the two-dimensionalist framework. On the semantic interpretation, the primary intension or diagonal proposition associated with an utterance is a semantic value that the utterance has in virtue of the actual linguistic meaning of the corresponding sentence, and that primary intension is both what a competent speaker grasps and what determines different secondary intensions or horizontal propositions relative to different possible worlds considered as actual. The metasemantic interpretation reverses the order of explanation: an utterance has the primary intension it has because it yields the secondary intensions it yields relative to different possible worlds considered as actual. In these possible worlds, the semantic facts can be different: the metasemantic interpretation is metasemantic in the sense that the secondary intensions are determined relative to possible worlds considered as actual given the meanings the expressions have there. Stalnaker holds a causal picture of the reference and intentionality of names, according to which names have no meaning over and above their unique referent, and therefore maintains that the semantic interpretation is not an option. He thus endorses the metasemantic interpretation, while insisting that this interpretation does not, contrary to what he originally thought, yield any account of a priori truth and knowledge. My double aim in this paper is to show (i) that the metasemantic interpretation, as sketched by Stalnaker, is not compatible with one natural understanding of the causal picture of reference, on which names are rigid because they have their original bearers essentially, and (ii) that a third kind of interpretation of the framework is available, the metasyntactic interpretation, which grants that names have their bearers essentially, and yields some account of a priori knowledge.

4:45 Break

5:00 Robert Stalnaker (MIT) One more attempt to put Sleeping Beauty to rest

6:30 Drinks

8:00 Dinner

Wednesday, September 9th

9:45 Breakfast

10:15 Caspar Hare (MIT) Perspectival realism

11:45 Break

12:00 Michael Murez (IJN) Self-locating belief and agency
(Abstract)Belief, on the received view, is a relation between a person and a proposition. I take up the challenge of accounting for self locating belief without modifying in the least this received view. I propose to do so by defending the claim that what cases of self locating belief show is not that the received view of belief is wrong, but that the received list of attitudes necessary to explain subjects' behavioral dispositions needs to be augmented. On my view, to attribute to a subject the self locating belief that p is to do two things - firstly, to say that the subject has a certain ordinary belief, the belief that p, and secondly, to express a property of a certain body of information in the subject's possession. This second body of information represents an attitude which preceding theories of self location have ignored, which I call "control". Control, I argue, is a sui generis attitude not reducible to ordinary belief. The belief set of a subject represents all the possible ways the actual world might be, for all she believes. Her control set contains all the propositions she takes to be practically available, given the self locating information in her possession. A proposition is practically available to a subject if there is something she can do that will ensure that the actual world is a member of that proposition. Because subjects think of some of the things they can bring about as ways of bringing about other things, the control set is partially ordered. The maximal elements of the set form the subject's basic control set, which represents what she takes it to be within her unmediated power to bring about in the world. I introduce a procedure which allows us to read off of a subject's basic control set the self identifying information in the subject's possession. A view about self location in general, as fundamentally connected with agency, and an empirically plausible conception of selfhood, as involving the global perception of the range and limits of what one has power to control in the world, emerge.

1:30 Lunch

2:45 Markus Kneer (IJN) Mental voyage

4:15 Break

4:30 François Recanati (IJN/Arché) De re and de se

6:00 Conference ends

7:00 Conference party

For more information, contact Alex Byrne, Paolo Santorio or Marie Guillot

MIT philosophy
updated: 4 sept 09