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Self-Locating Belief (2)

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R. Magritte. La reproduction interdite (portrait d'Edward James) 1937. Museum boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Workshop on Self-Locating Beliefs (2)

March 25-26, 2010

Ecole Normale Supérieure, 45, rue d'Ulm 75005 MAP
Salle Dussane

The aim of this two-leg 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, epistemology and ethics.
The first leg of the conference was held on September 8-9, 2009 at the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT (Cambridge Mass.)

Organizing committee : François Récanati (IJN), Marie Guillot (IJN), Alex Byrne (MIT), Robert Stalnaker (MIT)

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Alex Byrne (MIT)
Brian Hedden (MIT)
Richard Holton (MIT)
Rae Langton (MIT)
Dilip Ninan (Arché, Saint Andrews)
Peter Pagin (IJN / IEA / Stockholm University)
Paolo Santorio (MIT)
Kenny Walden (MIT)

Of related interest
A talk of related interested has been scheduled at Institut Jean Nicod on March 24, 2010, for a joint session of the Institute's colloquium and of the Philosophy of Language and Mind seminar:

Andreas Kemmerling
(Heildeberg University)
"Is there glamorous self-knowledge?" [Details]


Thursday March 25
Salle Dussane, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 45 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris

Session 1
The Lewisian legacy, I

9:15 am Opening remarks

9:30 Richard Holton (MIT)
"Primitive Self-Ascription" [abstract]
Respondent: Barry Smith (IJN and IP London)
Chair: Marie Guillot (IJN)

11 Coffee break

11:30 Kenny Walden (MIT)
"Lewis, Kant, and the Self" [abstract]
Respondent: Santiago Echeverri (IJN)
Chair: Robert Stalnaker (MIT)

1 pm Lunch break

Session 2
The Lewisian legacy, II

2:30 pm Paolo Santorio (MIT)
"Thermometers and Self-Location" [abstract]
Respondents: Michael Murez (IJN) and Felipe Nogueira de Carvalho (IJN)
Chair: Gregory Bochner (IJN/Brussels)

4 pm Coffee break

4:30 pm Dilip Ninan (Arché, St Andrews)
"Self-Location and Other-Location" [abstract]
Respondent: Dave Ripley (IJN)
Chair: Alex Byrne (MIT)

Friday March 26
Salle Dussane, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 45 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris

Session 3

9:30 Alex Byrne (MIT)
"Knowing What I See" [abstract]
Respondent: François Recanati (IJN)
Chair: Elisabeth Pacherie (IJN) 

11 Coffee break

11:30 Brian Hedden (MIT)
"Rational Failures of Self-Knowledge" [abstract]
Respondent: Jérôme Dokic (IJN)
Chair: David Hunter (Ryerson University)

1 pm Lunch break

Session 4
Projections of the self: alter egos and avatars

2:30 pm Rae Langton (MIT)
"Ethics and Imagining De Se"  [abstract]
Respondent: Markus Kneer (IJN)
Chair: Kathrin Glüer-Pagin (IJN / Stockholm) 

4 pm Coffee break

4:30 pm Peter Pagin (IJN and Stockholm)
"Virtual Interaction and Self-Locating Belief" [abstract]
Respondent: Robert Stalnaker (MIT)
Chair: Isidora Stojanovic (IJN)

6 pm Conference ends


Richard Holton (MIT)
"Primitive Self-Ascription"

There are two parts to Lewis’s account of the de se. First there is the idea that the objects of de se thought (and, by extension of de dicto thought too) are properties, not propositions. This is the idea that is center-stage in Lewis’s discussion. Second there is the idea that the relation that thinkers bear to these properties is that of self-ascription. It is crucial to Lewis’s account that this is understood as a fundamental, unanalyzable, notion: self-ascription of a property is not ascription of a property to the self, on a par with ascription to someone else. I argue that this brings many problems. First-person plural ascriptions become baroque; a plausible generality constraint is lost; and, once the de dicto is analyzed as Lewis suggests, de dicto ascriptions become objectionably egocentric. I argue that we would do better to understand de se ascriptions as ascriptions of a property to the self in a way that places them on all fours with ascriptions to other things; but I suggest that the apparent unity of these ascriptions may be illusory. There are distinct elements to de se thought that can be dissociated.

Kenny Walden (MIT)
"Lewis, Kant, and the Self"

Lewis's conclusion that possible world semantics are inadequate to capturing the content of de se belief is usually thought to turn on a handful of recalcitrant examples. I suggest that in fact the view has roots in the depths of Lewis's theory of content. To bring this out I argue that the relationship between Lewis's interpretationism about content and his conclusions about self-locating content can illuminated by looking to history--to the relationship between Kant's theory of content (in the Transcendental Deduction) and his views on the limitations of cognition about the self (in the Paralogisms). This in turn offers a way to appreciate just how radical Lewis's conclusion is.


Paolo Santorio (MIT)
"Thermometers and Self-Location"

According to Lewis's influential approach to the de se, self-locating thoughts can be characterized on the basis of their content: they distinguish between centered worlds, i.e. world-time-individual triples, rather than possible worlds. I evaluate Lewis's claim against the background of a naturalistic picture of intentionality like that proposed by Dretske and Stalnaker. This picture, I argue, requires that beliefs have standard possible worlds content. The self-locating component should rather be seen as providing a link between content and dispositions to act. The foregoing helps explain why centered worlds content leads to anomalies when it is used in accounts of communication and doxastic update, and suggests how to formulate theories of de se communication and update that escape these problems.

Dilip Ninan (Arché, Saint-Andrews)
"Self-Location and Other-Location"

De se attitudes and de re attitudes give rise to similar kinds of problems for the possible worlds account of attitudes. But despite the similarity between the de se and de re problems, Lewis and his followers adopt one strategy for dealing with the de se (the centring strategy), and another for dealing with the de re (the descriptivist strategy). After discussing a familiar reason for being dissatisfied with descriptivism about the de re, I present a new objection to descriptivism, one that involves counterfactual attitudes like imagining, wishing, and dreaming. I then show how the centring strategy can be extended to yield a novel account of de re attitudes that avoids these problems. The key idea behind the new account is to represent doxastic alternatives using sequenced worlds (a pair of a possible world and a sequence of individuals) rather than centred worlds (a pair of a possible world and a single individual).

Alex Byrne (MIT)

"Knowing What I See"

As Wittgenstein remarked in the Tractatus, "nothing in the visual field allows you to infer that it is seen by an eye". Vision allows us to know about the visual fleld, objects arranged before the eyes. Yet (typically) none of these objects indicates that it is seen, a point insightfully emphasized by Dretske. By vision, I know that there is a sleeping cat here. Since the sleeping cat gives no clue that I see it, it seems I do not know that I see a sleeping cat by vision. So how do I know I see a sleeping cat? The paper sketches an answer to this question.



Brian Hedden (MIT)
"Rational Failures of Self-Knowledge"

Failing to know one's own beliefs seems like an odd phenomenon. Because of this, it can be tempting to think that such failures are impossible, or irrational, or at least the sort of thing that rational agents can escape from through reflection. I argue that these temptations should be resisted; there is good reason to think that failures of self-knowledge are rationally permissible and that rational agents cannot always gain self-knowledge through reflection. Failures of self-knowledge are something we'll just have to live with, and this has interesting implications for epistemology and decision theory.

Rae Langton (MIT)
"Ethics and Imagining De Se"

We imaginatively identify with others in pretence, role play, empathy, and encounters with fiction. Imaginative identification can be puzzling (Williams, Ninan, Recanati). Philosophers of language have looked at different forms of self-identification, aiming to dissolve the puzzles. Philosophers of mind have looked at the psychology of self-identification, aiming to show how how, in imaginative identification, we simulate 'off-line' the states and processes of others. My interest will be in some possible ethical implications of self-identification, in its various guises. There may be advantages, via empathy. And there may be dangers, via pseudo-empathy; and via 'leakage' from the real self to the imagined, or from the imagined self to the real (Currie, Hurley).

Peter Pagin (IJN / IEA / Stockholm University)
"Virtual Interaction and Self-Locating Belief"

Interactive games in virtual reality, where players are represented by avatars and have a first person perspective, are interesting from the point of view of communication theory, semantics, epistemology, and ontology. The relation between player and avatar offers a technological model of the mind-body relation. We can distinguish between an internal, "virtual" language, actually used by the players, with non-standard semantics, and an external language with ordinary semantics. Among other things, this allows us to model expressions of self-locating beliefs.



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