Thursday, June 19, 2014

Anna Drozdzowicz – 2014/06/20

Date: 20th of June
Time: 11:30 am
Place: Conference room, Pavillon Jardin - 29, rue d'Ulm - 75 005 Paris
Speaker: Anna Drozdzowicz (Univ. of Oslo)
Title: The nature of linguistic intuitions about utterance content
Abstract: The talk provides a theoretical framework for one type of linguistic intuitions – intuitions (and judgements) about whether certain linguistic expression could be used or is used to mean such-and-such, which I call here judgments about utterance content. Such judgements are specially relevant to many debates in philosophy of language and linguistics, as they constitute a potentially important source of evidence for speaker meaning. The strategy is not an innocent one (Bach, 2002) and the reliability of such reflective judgements cannot be taken as a brute fact (Higginbotham, 2000). I provide an account of basic features and the scope of judgements about utterance content. I argue that they do not provide evidence about literal meaning and that they cover both strongly and weakly communicated content (contra Azzouni, 2013). For the rest part of my talk I discuss the question of what might be a plausible mechanism responsible for delivery of judgements about utterance content. I finish with raising several issues concerning their utility for different research programmes at the semantics/ pragmatics interface.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eric Mandelbaum - 2014/06/13

Date: 13th of June
Time: 11:30 am
Place: Conference room, Pavillon Jardin - 29, rue d'Ulm - 75 005 Paris
Speaker: Eric Mandelbaum (Harvard Univ.)
Title: Fragmentation of Thought and the Web of Belief.”
Abstract: At least since Quine, it has been thought that beliefs are stored in a web-like structure. The web of belief model has three main commitments: that all the beliefs one has are synchronically causally related; that the beliefs in the center of the web correspond to the necessary truths, while contingent truths are housed at the periphery; and that strength of belief is a function of how centrally stored the belief is. However, this view is generally supported on epistemological, not psychological, grounds. The cognitive science of belief appears to falsify all three Quinean commitments. In this talk, I’ll discuss how a psychofunctional theory of belief reformulates our models of belief storage and updating.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Emmanuel de Vienne - 2014/06/06 – 11:30 am

Date: 6th of June
Time: 11:30 am
Place: Conference room, Pavillon Jardin - 29, rue d'Ulm - 75 005 Paris
Speaker: Emmanuel de Vienne (Nanterre Univ.)
Title: How could one be a perspectivist? Language socialization and spirit categorization among the Trumai Indians (Mato Grosso, Brazil).”
Abstract: Philippe Descola’s animism, and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s perspectivism are two dominant analytical concepts in the ethnology of Lowland South America. I will argue that these so-called “ontological” approaches tend to underestimate other interesting phenomena such as the contextual and interpersonal variations of ontological discourses, the categorization and detection procedures of supernatural beings, the emotional dimension of spirit encounters, and the ways this knowledge is transmitted to children. Through the ethnography of the denetsak, the main figures of Trumai cosmology, this presentation will try to fill this gap and shed new light on the epistemological status of animism and perspectivism. In so doing, my intent is also to discuss important aspects of religious cognition, pragmatics and emotional cognition.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Radu Umbres - 2014/05/09 – 11:30 am

Date: Friday 9th May
Time: 11:30 am
Place: Conference room, Pavillon Jardin - 29, rue d'Ulm
Speaker: Radu Umbres (IJN)
Title: “Cultural imitation, cognitive opacity, and secrecy. The continuing enigma of the cargo cult”
Abstract: Cargo cults were one of the most spectacular phenomenon in human history, yet their most puzzling aspect remains largely unexplained. In hundreds of (probably unrelated) events across thousands of kilometres and spanning several decades, Melanesian communities engaged in apparently irrational behaviour in response to contact with Western civilisations. From makeshift airstrips cut through the forest, equipped with guiding fires, observation towers and "radio" shacks using coconut headphones, to "five o'clock teas", military parades and handshakes, natives performed amazing replications of Western behaviour and artefacts. While most anthropologists focused on these practices as anti-colonial, revolutionary or forms of cultural accommodation, the task of explaining an absurd form of cultural imitation was somewhat brushed aside. I will argue that theories developed by CEU psychologists Gergely and Csibra following Dan Sperber can shed some light upon the issue. By analysing what was imitated and especially what was not, cargo cult imitation appears as neither indiscriminate, nor unreasonable. Rather, given the huge technological disparity between the cultures in contact, the polarised attitudes of Whites versus Melanesians, and the local folk epistemology of linking knowledge, power and secrecy,  it is a case of hyper-creative cultural learning gone wrong due to cognitive opacity and lack of cooperation. Moreover, cargo cults as cultural imitation may raise a fascinating hypothesis about the adoption of missionary Christianity in Melanesia and elsewhere.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Katharina Helming - 2014/04/18 – 11:30 am

Date: Friday 18th April
Time: 11:30 am
Place: Conference room, Pavillon Jardin - 29, rue d'Ulm
Speaker: Katharina Helming (IJN)
Title: “Making sense of early false-belief understanding”
Abstract: The topic of this talk is the puzzle about early belief-ascription: Young children demonstrate spontaneous false-belief understanding, but they fail elicited-response false-belief tasks. Based on recent converging evidence, a pragmatic framework to solve this puzzle will be introduced. Young children do understand the contents of others’ false belief, but they are overwhelmed when they must simultaneously make sense of two distinct actions: the instrumental action of a mistaken agent and the experimenter’s communicative action. I will discuss predictions of this account and present preliminary data supporting it.