The Workpackages

The PERSP research project is divided into 5 workpackages (WPs), described below. The 5 WPs are grouped under two main headings, ‘B’ for Broad Issues’ and ‘S’ for ‘Specific Issues’.

WP B1: Issues in metaphysics

As the recent literature on contextualism and relativism has illustrated, many domains of thought and language – including future contingents, predicates of personal taste, evaluative predicates in general, epistemic modals, and knowledge attributions – seem to give rise to the possibility of a characteristic contrast in judgments that do not need to involve fault on part of any of the judgers: this is the phenomenon of apparent faultless disagreement, manifested in an apparent variation of truth-value of certain sentences expressing the contrasting judgements at various contexts. How can attempts to endorse such appearances be reconciled with our conception of reality being ultimately constituted independently of our representations of it? Can realism with respect to the most fundamental level of constituents of reality be made compatible with the lack of full objectivity that seems to be exhibited in the domains in question? PERSP strives to make major contributions to the field of research constituted by these questions. B1 will be concerned with issues in metaphysics, comprising state-of-the-art research on the conceptual foundations of realism, the central notions of truth, fact and truth-making they require, and the classical logic standardly employed to properly state them. Research on these topics will improve and enhance our understanding of the conception of an objective, mind-independent reality and elucidate what alternatives to realism there are and what they must involve.

For further info, please visit the PERSP Metaphysics Wiki

WP-COORDINATION: Dan López de Sa, G5   WP-PARTNERS: G1, G2, G6, G8,G9.

WP B2: Issues in semantics

One area in which perspectival representation has been studied with some systematicity and rigour is in the philosophy of language and specifically in natural language semantics. Particular research tasks for B2 include the systematic study of different types of context-sensitivity and their effects on the truth-value of atomic and complex statements and thoughts such as result from logical, modal and attitudinal embeddings. Outcomes of theoretical semantics will be tested by applying them to specific cases such as attitude-reports and statements about colour and theoretical representations in science. To factor out those perspectival differences that have no bearing on truth, it will also be crucial to distinguish truth-conditional from non-truth-conditional aspects of meaning. It is our working hypothesis that disputes on these matters cannot be rationally resolved without clarification of the theoretical role of semantic contents. It is time, therefore, to review the current and historical motivations for the notion of semantic content, in order to assess what its theoretical role is and what explanatory purposes it serves. Positive answers to these questions are likely to help resolve the issue. If there is no useful role for semantic contents in natural language semantics, then presumably most of the issues will disappear altogether. One important aim of WP B2 is therefore to clarify the theoretical role of the notion of semantic content. Specifically, we aim to:
1. Provide an analysis and re-assessment of the theoretical role(s) and purpose(s) of the notion of semantic content in natural language semantics, both in its history and in more recent theorising.
2. Articulate criteria for identifying semantic contents in line with the role(s) and purpose(s), if any, described in 1.
3. Bring to bear the results of 1. and 2. on the debate between relativists and contextualists.


WP S1: Space and time

The location-relativity of ordinary indexical expressions such as “The cat is in the next room” seems to be unproblematic, so much more philosophical energy has gone into understanding time-relative, or tensed, expressions such as “It is raining now” or “There will be a sea-battle tomorrow.” Indeed, in our everyday conception of the world, time is quite different from space:  whereas all things existing to the south of here have the same ontological status as things existing to the north, it is far more controversial whether all things (events) existing to the future of now have the same status as things existing now, or in the past. Recent analytic philosophy has witnessed a renewed interest in the ontology and semantics of tense and time-relativity, to which we hope to add decisive contributions. While a good portion of our work will address the semantic and metaphysical questions directly, we wish to keep clearly in mind the experiential/evidential roots of our notions of time and tense, as well as the need for metaphysics and semantics to be answerable to the results of current science, especially Einstein’s relativity theories). Those theories also bear crucially on a quite separate form of spatiotemporal relativity that is not directly related to indexicality or tense: the perspective-relativity of motion, and its offshoots. We will examine the perspective-relativity of motion and its connections with relational theories of space-time structure.


WP S2: Subjectivity and experience

Observational detachment, privacy, and infallibility shape the received model of self-knowledge which is customarily called Cartesian. Contemporary approaches may be fruitfully characterized by the ways they depart from this traditional model. There is, however, extended agreement on the need to mollify some of its strictures. Everyone (including those who associate self-knowledge with an inner sensory organ) is reluctant nowadays to accept the privacy of mental states, and it is also quite uncontroversial that infallibility should be watered down into merely privileged access. The idea of mere privilege opens the door, though, to self-knowledge as a more or less significant achievement and, thereby, an account is needed as to how this might be so while self-knowledge is still strictly first-personal. It has recently been argued that, in order to meet this explanatory demand, the detached, observational, approach to self-knowledge should be abandoned. And, to this purpose, an idea of practical commitment has come to the fore, although one where an agent's psychological condition may still offer a resistance, constitute a relevantly autonomous reality, partly determining what projects or commitments she may successfully pursue. We might thus acquire a deeper sense in which an agent’s relation to her experience and subjectivity may be perspectival, namely: not so much because she looks at it from a certain point of view, but rather because she commits herself to certain projects in the light of which (and of her specific difficulties to carry them out) she perceives the world and her place within it. These commitments inevitably involve interaction with others, and this practical approach invites a serious revision of our views about how other minds might be known: not only because infallibility has been replaced with mere privileged access and, consequently, an account is required that allows that someone else may (at least, eventually) know an agent's mental states better than herself; but, more interestingly, because getting to know someone else may require practical engagement and not just pure observation. Relatedly, questions arise about the role that imagination may play in acquiring that practical engagement, and what parts of the self must be involved in such an imaginative exercise.

WP-COORDINATION: Josep Corbí, G9   WP-PARTNERS: G1, G6, G8, G10

WP S3: Norms, values and taste

Discussing the case of “temporalism” (early relativistic proposals by Prior, Kaplan and others for the treatment of tense), Evans (1985) distinguished, and criticized on different bases, two forms of truth-relativism. One of them looks very much like the moderate form that Max Kölbel and others have advanced for cases such as that of deontological and axiological moral expressions; this Evans takes to be perfectly coherent, but he questions the semantic motivation for it. The other looks very much like the more radical view advanced by John MacFarlane; this Evans criticizes as incoherent, because, he argues, it deprives assertors of a well-defined aim. MacFarlane has certainly assumed that his proposal is at least in the scope of Evans’ argument, and has suggested different ways for dealing with it. WP S3 aims at examining these issues in detail, with the ultimate goal of determining the extent to which the proposals in the literature, or others that could be devised by critically examining them, allow for a proper representation of perspectival or subjective facts and attitudes, such as those unveiled by the contemporary debates about truth-relativism.

WP-COORDINATION: José Juan Moreso, G1   WP-PARTNERS: G4, G9, G10, G11, G12