Research Group in Analytic Philosophy

Graduate Reading Group (GRG) 2010/2011

Graduate students run a graduate reading group where they present and discuss their research.


In academic year 2016/2017, convenors of the GRG is Anton Alexandrov.




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  • "It is raining" in the Weatherman Scenario: In Defense of the Pragmatic Approach

    Dan Zeman (U. Barcelona)


    The talk focuses on the interpretation of the sentence "It is raining" in special scenarios (such as Recanati's (2002) "weatherman scenario") in which it has been claimed to have an indefinite reading. The interpretation of the sentence as having an indefinite reading constitutes Recanati's basis for arguing that there is no need to postulate a location variable in the syntax of the sentence, and that the location of rain in non-weatherman scenarios is contributed to the truth-conditions of the sentence via a free pragmatic process. After summarily presenting Recanati's view on the matter, I investigate five alternative views (two holding that location is part of the syntax of the sentence "It is raining", three denying that location is part of the syntax of the sentence, but offering different explanations of how it enters in the truth-conditions of the sentence). I show that these views give implausible or problematic interpretations of the target sentence in the scenario envisaged. Although I will not address the main argument against the pragmatic approach (the Binding Argument), I conclude that, as far as the interpretation of "It is raining" in the weatherman scenario is concerned, the pragmatic approach is tenable.

    06 October 2010

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Ontological versus Idelogical Hierarchies



    It has been argued that Russell's Paradox shows absolutely general quantification to be impossible. The generality absolutist accuses this argument of being self-defeating but regardless of it, he still needs to provide an account for the paradox. We consider two such accounts. The first implies an expansion of the set-theoretical universe while the second involves the adoption of an hierarchy of ever higher-level languages. We argue that although the latter appears to be philosophically more satisfactory, it turns out to be incompatible with absolute generality.

    Note:  Extra session - optional

    08 October 2010

    17:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Methodological Remarks on Building Semantic Theories

    Adrian Briciu (U. Barcelona)


    I will talk about how we build semantic theories. More exactly I will talk about what are the objects of semantic theories, what the scope of a semantic theory is and finally what are the data that semantic theories must account for and what is the evidence that they should be sensitive to. As far as I can see there are two sets of assumptions encompassing linguistic and semantic work and they give rise to different ways of doing semantics. On the one hand a cognitivist trend claims that semantic theories are accounts of the internally represented rules of grammar, of representational states and computational processes that underpin language use and semantic competence. On the other hand there is a formalist trend that claims that semantic theories are about the formal and structural properties of languages; accounts of the grammatical properties of a language independently of how that language is cognitively realized. Obviously the two different types of accounts will be sensitive to different types of evidence. For formalists semantic theories must offer predictions that match the native speakers' intuitions about the truth conditions, synonymy, grammaticality, etc.  Moreover, explanations concerning linguistic intuitions should be done in terms internal to the grammar of the language. For example, it suffices to explain the intuition regarding the ungrammaticality of "John are people" in terms of lack of number agreement between NP and VP. Cognitivist accounts, on the other hand can be sensitive to a larger base of evidence: data concerning processing time, errors, language acquisition, computational complexity, interaction with other cognitive systems. I plan show that given these different set of assumptions give rise to accounts that although formally the same are different. I will exemplify with accounts of meaning, compositionality and utterance interpretation. Finally I will discuss some arguments against doing semantics in the cognitivist vein: a) cognitivist explanations of linguistic properties are superfluous b) they cannot explain linguistic errors, c) cognitivist accounts cannot explain "thick semantic" concepts like truth conditions and reference, d) cognitivist theories are conceptually distinct from semantic and linguistic theories.   

    03 November 2010

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Fictional Realism and Negative Existentials - Tatjana von Solodkoff (University of Sheffield)


    Fictional realists hold that fictional characters, such as Sherlock Holmes and Hermione Granger, are part of reality. They are abstract objects that have properties such as being better developed that x, while they only have according to the relevant fiction properties such as being a detective or being a woman. The main difficulty they face when it comes to interpreting talk about fictional characters is that of how to interpret negative existentials such as `Holmes doesn't exist' and Anthony Everett recently published a paper arguing that all extant suggestions made by realists fail. Nipping the talk about kinds (K) from Thomasson, I propose that the realist embraces the following:
                      ‘A does not exist' is true in context c iff A isn't a Kc.
    In the paper, I develop this proposal and show how it can handle Everett's trickiest cases. I will also defend it against an objection made by Walton, more precisely, I'm going to argue that his criticism doesn't apply to my proposal.

    10 November 2010

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Gender Categories and Social Kinds

    Vera Tripodi (U. Barcelona)


    Is a metaphysically sound objectivist account of sexed identity possible? Do gender categories exist because we recognize real distinctions in the world or because we agree to use gender terms while according to them categorical force?

    Sally Haslanger has famously argued that gender is socially constructed by suggesting a "thin" metaphysical realism of gender categories. To the contrary, I defend a version of nominalism about gender that is compatible with the trope theory by questioning that (i) there is feature of identity or unity itself that all women share and that (ii) all women have some natural or social features in common.

    17 November 2010

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Naivety as an Argument for Relativism

    David Rey (U. Barcelona)


    Semantic relativism is the idea that -at least some- propositional contents do not have absolute semantic values, because their semantic evaluation is relative to a contextual parameter -i.e., relative to certain indexes or circumstances against which we evaluate them. This form of relativism challenges the traditional view according to which every contribution of context to the determination of a truth value is given by a propositional constituent. Inspired by the Z-landers thought experiment, introduced by John Perry in his classic paper "Thought without Representation", I will propose an argument in support of semantic relativism. For some contextual parameters, there are speakers which are not aware of the fact that the truth of the sentences they utter depends upon those parameters. The epistemic situation of these naïve speakers contrasts with the situation of those sophisticated speakers that are aware of the context-sensitivity of a class of sentences. I will illustrate the distinction between naïve and sophisticated speakers for sentences that state relations of simultaneity between events, sentences about seasons and sentences concerning time zones. Using this distinction, I will argue, firstly, that relativism is the proper framework for interpreting naïve speakers and, secondly, that we must apply the same framework to sophisticated speakers, since otherwise we cannot explain how sophisticated speakers are able to interpret naïve speakers.

    24 November 2010

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Can Epistemic Circumstances Be Safe?



    In this paper it is argued that if the concept of knowledge really is a twofold concept, its bipartite structure is not elucidated in an intelligible way by requiring one's definition of knowledge to have, on the one hand, a condition which aims at luck exclusion and, on the other, a condition which aims to incorporate into the concept of knowledge the contribution made by our cognitive abilities. I propose an alternative way of conceiving knowledge as having a bipartite structure, one that takes into account both the contribution made by the agent's cognitive abilities and by her epistemic circumstances. As a result, it is provided a sense in which epistemic circumstances can be conceived as 'safe'.

    01 December 2010

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • The Subjective Character of Experience and De Se Contents

    Miguel Ángel Sebastián (U. Barcelona)


    In this talk, I will explore the relation between the subjective character of the experience and de se contents.
    I will first argue that if a mental state has the right kind of de se content then it is a phenomenally conscious mental state.
    I will then provide a functionalist account of how a mental state can come to have the right kind of de se content.

    09 December 2010

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • The Contents of Perception

    Marc Artiga (U. Barcelona)


    One of the most controvserial issues in the literature on perception is the following: what is the content of perceptual experiences? My aim in this paper is to survey the main views on this issue, and argue that they are all unsatisfactory. The discussion is going to reveal some of the desiderata a satisfactory theory of perception must fulfill. In the last part of the paper, I am going to provide an account that I think can satisfy all desiderata.

    15 December 2010

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Not a HOT Dream

    Miguel Ángel Sebastián (U. Barcelona)


    Higher-Order Thought (HOT) theories of consciousness maintain that the kind of awareness necessary for phenomenal consciousness depends on the cognitive accessibility that underlies reporting.
    The cognitive accessibility that underlies the ability to report visual experiences depends on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, but this area is highly deactivated during the conscious experiences we have during sleep: dreams. HOT has a problem, as I will argue.
    I will briefly present HOT theories in the first section. Section 2 offers empirical evidence to the effect that the cognitive accessibility that underlies reports depends on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC): dlPFC is the neural correlate of HOTs. Section 3 shows the evidence we have of the deactivation of this brain area during dreams and in section 4 I present my argument. Finally, I consider and rejoin two possible replies my opponent can offer: the possibility of an alternative neural correlate of HOTs during dreams and the denial that we have phenomenally conscious experiences during dreams.

    02 February 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • What Is Semantic Under-Determinacy?

    Delia Belleri (University of Bologna)


    In what sense are sentences like "The leaves are green" or "Jill is ready" semantically under-determined? The standard answer is that the semantic interpretation of these sentences under-determines the truth-conditions of their utterances. On a radical reading of this claim, semantic interpretation is under-determined to the extent that the expression's meaning is; on a less radical claim, semantic interpretation is under-determined to the extent that the expression's content-in-context is. By analysing their main common argument, I show that authors such as Searle, Travis and Bezuidenhout endorse the first, radical reading. I then point at a dilemma the radical view has to face: on the one hand, it cannot prevent degenerate cases of Humpty-Dumpty scenarios; on the other hand, any attempt to get control of the Humpty-Dumpty results in a denial of the distinctive radical claim. In view of this dilemma, I conclude that semantic under-determinacy should not be thought of as concerning meaning itself. I then consider two accounts of what semantic under-determinacy could be, of which only the second seems viable to me. The first account has it that semantic under-determinacy is just a case of under-determinacy of content-in-context (as e.g. indexicality); the second account (the one I shall favour) has it that semantic under-determinacy has nothing to do with content, but it has to do with our utterances' circumstances of evaluation.

    09 February 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Context Dependence and Compositionality

    Adrian Briciu (U. Barcelona)


    Several authors (so called contextualists) have claimed that pervasive context sensitivity makes compositional semantics impossible. First, I will give a very general presentation of the ideas behind the principle of compositionality and I very briefly sketch how a compositional semantics looks like. I will look at two relating issues: falsification of compositionality and trivialization. I will show how compositionality can be falsified. I will analyze two types of arguments put forward against compositionality and claim that only one of them can aim at compositionality.  Finally, I will show how compositionality can be trivialized. The take-away lesson from the trivialization examples is that without some additional constraints on the assignment of content to simple expressions, the assignment of content to complex expressions and on the choice of syntax compositionality becomes a trivial matter. I will talk about these constraints and finally look where several proposals to give a compositional semantics for context dependent expressions stand with respect to these constraints. I will argue that some of them run the risk of trivializing compositionality.

    16 February 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Past Existence and Presentism

    Giuliano Torrengo (U. Barcelona


    Presentists and eternalists seem to diverge widely on the implications of claims about past existence. I argue that the difference needs to be cashed out in terms of a tenseless notion of simple existence: the eternalist maintains that past present and future entities exist simpliciter, whereas the presentist maintains that only present entities exist simpliciter. Then, I discuss the problem of the ground of past truths for presentism, by focusing on the so-called cheater solution: the idea that the presentist is not required to provide past truths with a ground. I argue that cheating does not have the theoretical advantages that it is purported to have. In particular, cheater presentism does not have the resources to withstand the sceptic's tenet that the distinction between presentism and eternalism is spurious, and such a version of presentism (but not presentism in general) turns out to be indistinguishable from eternalism.

    02 March 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • Disagreement: Faultlessness or Tolerance?

    Filippo Ferrari (University of Aberdeen)


    In this paper what I intend to do is, firstly to explore intuitions concerning the disagreement in certain conversational settings; secondly to show that the notion of Faultless Disagreement, as usually characterized, is not a viable way to capture what speakers’ intuitions are with regard to disagreements in some domains of the discourse, such as, paradigmatically, basic aesthetics; and finally to propose what I believe to be a better way of characterize these intuitions, i.e. what I call an attitude of *tolerance* that speakers’ have toward certain disagreements. I will then elucidate what I intend the notion of tolerance to be, by distinguishing it from related, but weaker, notions. I will conclude by arguing that with this idea of tolerance on hands, it turns out that the relative-truth strategy doesn’t play any significant role in explaining speakers’ intuitions about the disagreement in different areas of the discourse.

    09 March 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament, UB

  • In Defense of the Norm Pluralist Account of Assertion

    Ivan Milić (U. Barcelona)


    According to the simple knowledge account of assertion, one must assert that p only if one knows that p (Williamson, 1996). Less demanding contextualist versions of the simple knowledge account let the norm of knowledge shift relative to epistemic standards (DeRose, 2009) whereas the norm-relativist account introduces the shift of the assertability conditions (Greenough, 2011). In this paper, I defend a position on which neither the norm of assertion nor assertability shifts. Arguing against the simple account of assertion in general, I propose the norm pluralism, on which norms should be assigned with respect to the type of proposition. To this extent, I offer two arguments which demonstrate that we should adopt the knowledge norm with respect to the class of predictions and the truth norm with regard to the class of first-person reports. I try to dismiss with two counterarguments: the argument from conversational patterns and the argument from evidence. In conclusion, I try to motivate the norm pluralism by reintroducing the analogy between language use and games.

    23 March 2011

    12:00, Seminario del departament

  • Conscious Thought and Inner Speech

    Marta Jorba (U. of the Basque Country)


    In this paper I address a particular discussion in the cognitive phenomenology debate. I present the thesis of a proprietary phenomenology of conscious thought [PPT], the claim that conscious thought has a specific phenomenal character, and a particular reductionist strategy to resist it, inner speech reductionism [ISR], the claim that the alleged phenomenology of conscious thought can be accounted for with the phenomenology of inner speech. To evaluate [ISR], I explore two (non-exhaustive) ways in which inner speech can be related to conscious thought: (i) as a vehicle of thought and (ii) as constitutive of it. I examine whether these views provide evidence for [ISR] or not: I conclude that option (i) is neutral with respect to the discussion and option (ii), regardless of what it seems, does not provide evidence for [ISR]. The reason is that under a plausible reading of (ii), the constitutive claim presupposes a propositional character of inner which, but empirical and phenomenological data do not support this claim: a salient feature of inner speech is its fragmentary character. The examination of the phenomenology of inner speech also provides other reasons against the main motivation for [ISR], namely, a reduction to sensory elements: I contend that, even if the mechanics of inner speech involve a separation between a production and a comprehension system, this does not entail a difference at the level of phenomenology and, thus, the grounds for [ISR] are undermined.

    13 April 2011

    12:00, Seminai del Departament

  • Experimental Tests for the Context-Sensitivity of Belief Attributions

    Laura Pérez (U. Barcelona)


    I will present a short proposal of experimental vignettes that is part of the project of studying and empirically testing whether correct belief attributions are context sensitive, i.e., whether the truth of ‘A believes that S’ is sensitive to contextual parameters. That belief reports are context sensitive means that the truth value of a single attribution can vary between contexts even though the mental state of the agent to whom we attribute the belief remains the same. Before I offer the vignettes, I will give a brief introduction that aims to give the reader some background on the theory and requirements I consider relevant for assessing experimentally the possible contextuality of belief reports.

    27 April 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament

  • Control in Action - Marta VIdal (U. Autònoma Barcelona)


    I will evaluate on of the recent proposals for conceptualizing control in the philosophy of action, one that Andy Clark (2001, 2007) offers about actions that involve objects. Against what he takes to be the traditional model of control, Clark holds that conscious control can only be exercised over the high-level aspects of action (reasoning, memory, planning, among others) but not over the execution of the movements, which are carried in a zombie way. Clark links up, on the one hand, the distinction between systems that support consciousness and systems that don’t, with the distinction, on the other hand, between high-level aspects of action and movements. I will present three phenomena that cannot be explained without the intervention of the conscious-supporting system in the execution of movements. However, at the end, I will present some doubts to consider that this intervention is able to conscioulsy control the movements.

    25 May 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament

  • Particles, representations and holism in structural realism - Pablo Ruiz de Olano (University of Notre Dame)


    In the following lines, I examine the plausibility of the claim that, according to our best theories in high energy physics, elementary particles are to be identified with irreducible representations of the relevant symmetry groups. Since, at least on the face of it, French's and Ladyman's so-called ontic structural realism seems to be one of the most plausible candidates to accommodate such claim, I first try to make sense of it along the former lines. After reviewing some of the problems that follow from identifying elementary particles with irreducible representations, I conclude that such claim is not tenable within OSR unless the notion of structure is expanded beyond the group-theoretical notions that are usually proposed. Finally, in the last section of the paper, I elaborate on this idea and propose that, following the example provided by contemporary debates on the philosophy of space-time theories, ontic structural realism should amount to a sophisticated form of substantivalism or else drop its ontic commitments entirely.

    01 June 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament

  • Self-involving Representationalism

    Miguel Ángel Sebastián (U. Barcelona)


    A naturalistic account of phenomenal consciousness is presented: Self-
    Involving Representationalism.
    The first step for the project of naturalizing phenomenal conscious-
    ness is to make the project itself feasible. The purpose of the first part of
    this work is to provide a suitable answer to some arguments presented
    against this enterprise.
    In the second part I will develop the pillars of the theory. According
    to Self-Involving Representationalism, phenomenally conscious mental
    states are states that represent a specific kind of de se content. This
    content can be naturalized in first-order terms by appealing to a certain
    sense of self: the sense of a bounded, living organism adapting to
    the environment to maintain life and the processes underlying the
    monitoring of the activity within these bounds.

    08 June 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament

  • The Univocity of Phenomenal Information

    Giovanni Merlo (U. Hamburg)


    It is tempting to think that we stand in a very special epistemic relation to our own mental states, or at least to a certain component of them that we would usually call 'phenomenal experience'. Intuitively, for any conscious mental state m, the phenomenal experience associated with m is whatever aspect of m is wholly before your mind at the time you are in m. Call this the Obscure Intuition. Part of the task I set myself in this paper is to shed some light on the Obscure Intuition and on its role in motivating an anti-physicalist approach to phenomenal consciousness. I will start by considering some attempts to capture the content of the Obscure Intuition. My complaint will be that these attempts are either unconvincing or else fail to play into the hands of anti-physicalists in the way the Obscure Intuition is supposed to do. Anti-physicalists will be better off if they cash out the Obscure Intuition in terms of a thesis about phenomenal information: the thesis that phenomenal information is fundamentally univocal. After raising some problems for this thesis, I will sketch the contours of an anti-physicalist metaphysics designed to avoid these problems

    22 June 2011

    12:00, Seminari del Departament


Anton Alexandrov (toni.alexandrov@gmx.at)