Spring Session 2017

Matteo Bianchetti (Notre Dame)

May 15 MON — 10.30-12.30

Sala "Enzo Paci" — Direzione del Dipartimento (Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano)

Veronese's Constructional Geometry

Reacting to the late XIX century skepticism about the geometric value or meaning of higher-dimensional ``geometry'', Veronese extended the synthetic method to the investigation of higher-dimensional spaces. To justify his approach he reflected on what it takes for a method to be \e{appropriate} to geometry and on the epistemic value of constructional and intuitive reasoning in geometry. I show that his justification is grounded on a preference for what can be called the etiological model of knowledge and the presentist model of knowledge. I also show that, unlike many supporters of the presentist ideal of knowledge, Veronese attributed great importance to abstractionist ideals of rigor. In particular, he endorsed Pasch's abstractionist ideal of rigor and proposed a way to integrate it to his constructional and intuitive approach to geometry.

Marco Nathan (Denver)

May 8 MON — 10.30-12.30

Sala "Enzo Paci" — Direzione del Dipartimento (Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano)

The Mind-Body Problem, Version 3.0

When Descartes rst formulated the mind-body problem, in its modern form, he posed it as a question of ontology : what kind of substance are minds made of? Thus framed, the `mind body problem version 1.0' was never solved. It was eventually dismissed when people realized that the controversial issue had little to do with metaphysics. Yes, minds are physical systems, but that doesn't tell us much about their nature. In the 20th  century, the `mind-body problem version 2.0' was reformulated in terms of reduction : can mental states be reduced to brain states? Again, this question was eventually set aside when philosophers realized that the debate on reduction was doing little to advance the main issue at stake|if anything, the status of reductionism itself is murkier than the nature of minds. The goal of this talk is to provide a framework for rephrasing a mind-body problem in a new guise which reects current scientic debates. How should we understand Descartes' question in the 21st  century? The `mind-body problem 3.0' is the question of the place of cognitive psychology|the scientic study of the mind|in the age of neuroscience. The main issue, I maintain, is the autonomy  of higher-level theories, though, contrary to mainstream discussions, this autonomy is independent of the longstanding battle over (anti)reductionism.

Uriah Kriegel (Jean Nicod, Paris)

April 21 FRI — 11.30-14.30

Sala "Enzo Paci" — Direzione del Dipartimento (Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano)

The Phenomenal Intentionality of Mood

Moods are sometimes thought to constitute the sole exception to the thesis that all mental phenomena are intentional: their phenomenal character is said to be diffuse and undirected, in a way that rules out a characterization in intentional terms. This paper considers three attempts to provide an intentional account of moods after all – two already present in the extant literature, and a novel third one. It is not part of the three accounts’ task to ‘ready’ moods for physicalist reduction in terms of tracking relations; the notion of intentionality they appeal to is inherently phenomenal. Rather, the accounts merely seek to offer an informative characterization of mood phenomenology. The first account, which I call ‘global intentionalism,’ claims that the diffuse character of moods is due to the fact that they represent the world as a whole, or everything indiscriminately, without representing anything in particular. The second account, which I call ‘objectless intentionalism,’ claims instead that moods owe their diffuse character to the fact that they represent ‘unbound properties,’ that is, properties that are not any thing’s properties. The third account, which I call ‘impure intentionalism,’ does not attempt to characterize the diffuse character of moods in terms of what moods might represent, but rather in terms of how they represent, that is, in terms of a distinctive manner or mode in which they represent what (if anything) they represent. I argue that the first two accounts face severe difficulties which the third elegantly overcomes.

Anika Fiebich (Milan)

March 27 MON — 10.30-12.30

Sala "Enzo Paci" — Direzione del Dipartimento (Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano)

Pluralist Theory of Social Cognition

In my talk, I will present a Pluralist Theory (PT) to the explanation of social understanding that integrates literature from social psychology with the theory of mind debate (Fiebich and Coltheart 2015; Fiebich 2015). There are two main schools in the contemporary debate that need to be mentioned here: (i) Theory Theory (TT), and (ii) Simulation Theory (ST). According to TT, we understand other minds by means of folk psychological theories. ST, in contrast, claims that we put ourselves imaginatively ‘into the shoes’ of another person and simulate the thoughts and feelings we would experience in his or her situation. Despite accounting for different social cognitive processes, TT and ST share the assumption that there is a default procedure that individuals typically apply whenever attempts are being made to understand other minds (e.g., theory according to TT, or simulation according to ST). PT, in contrast, argues that social understanding in everyday life is achieved in various ways. Social psychological studies from other domains such as economic games suggest that people may use various cognitive procedures to solve a mental task but typically make use of that procedure which is cognitively least effortful in a given context (see Kahneman 2011 for a discussion). I propose that the same holds true in the domain of social cognition (call this ‘fluency assumption’); rather than there being a default procedure of social understanding, people make use – as a rule of thumb – of those socio-cognitive processes and procedures that are cognitively least effortful to them in a given context. That is, ‘fluency’, which is defined as the “the subjective experience of ease or difficulty associated with completing a mental task” (Oppenheim 2008, p. 237), plays a central role in social cognition. I will exemplify the role of fluency in social cognition by referring to 4- to 5-year-olds use of different strategies in explicit versions of the true and false belief task (Fiebich 2014).Moreover, aside from theory and simulation that require understanding other people’s behaviour in terms of mental states, pluralistic accounts point to research from social psychology, which suggests that everyday social understanding may also rely on associations of behaviours with familiar agents, stereotypes, being sensitive to environmental contexts, norms, habits, and social conventions. Drawing on developmental research, I discuss the development of a variety of socio-cognitive processes and procedures throughout ontogeny, arguing that those that emerge at the beginning of ontogeny are the cognitively least effortful ones and continue to play a dominant role in everyday social understanding in adulthood (Fiebich, Gallagher, and Hutto, 2016). I conclude with discussing psychopathological research, illustrating that PT also trumps over traditional theories to account for the multifacetedness that autism spectrum disorder bears (Fiebich 2016).  

Elisabetta Sacchi (San Raffaele, Milan)

March 6 MON — 10.30-12.30

Sala "Enzo Paci" — Direzione del Dipartimento (Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano)

Intentionality and Aspectuality. What Does Phenomenal Character Ground? 

The issue of the connection between intentionality and phenomenal consciousness is pivotal in the current debate in the philosophy of mind. According to a position that is gaining more and more credence among scholars, intentionality is explanatorily dependent on consciousness. This is labelled the “phenomenal intentionality thesis” (PIT). According to PIT, intentionality has its source/is grounded in the phenomenal character of conscious mental states. In my talk I shall discuss PIT in its two possible readings. According to one reading what phenomenal character grounds is a kind of intentionality, according to the other reading what it grounds is a kind of content. I shall make two main claims: one negative and one positive. The negative claim is that phenomenal character is not the source either of a kind of intentionality or of a kind of content. The positive claim is that even though phenomenal character is not the source of a kind of intentionality, it is the source of a kind of aspectuality. According to the picture I shall bring forward,  aspectuality is not a unitary phenomenon, but comes in many different varieties.  One of these varieties is precisely conscious aspectuality, the kind of aspectuality that is grounded in the phenomenal character of a state.