• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Mental Files

E-mail Print PDF




9-10-11 November 2010

Paris, École Normale Supérieure

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

PARTICIPANTS: Graeme Forbes, Imogen Dickie, Chris Peacocke, Jim Pryor, Robin Jeshion, Krista Lawlor, John Perry, François Récanati, Laura Schroeter.


Nov. 9
F. Recanati : Mental Files and Identity

4-4.30 Break

K. Lawlor: Understanding De Jure Coreference

Nov. 10

J. Perry : Notions, Buffers, and Roles

11-11.30 Break
C. Peacocke : Mental Files, Subjects of Consciousness and the First Person

1-2.30 Lunch

J. Pryor : Hyper-evaluativity

4-4.30 Break

I. Dickie : Foundations for an Account of Identifying Knowledge

Nov. 11

G. Forbes : Mental Files and Attitude Ascriptions

12-2PM Lunch

L. Schroeter : A connectedness model of meaning: bootstrapping our way to de jure co-reference
3.30-4 Break

R. Jeshion : Mental Files and Discourse Referent Tracking



Imogen Dickie (University of Toronto)
Foundations for an Account of Identifying Knowledge
§1 presents two Gettier cases for knowledge-which: examples that cry out for explanation in terms of the claim that identifying knowledge (like propositional knowledge) is essentially a matter of non-luckiness. §2 derives a precise ‘non-luckiness’ constraint on accounts of knowledge-which from basic principles connecting the notions of belief, truth, and justification. §3 shows how this constraint applies in a mental files framework. I argue that the non-luckiness constraint generates a new and very intuitive account of what it takes for a file to be ‘about’ a particular thing.

Graeme Forbes (University of Colorado, Boulder)
Mental Files and Attitude Ascriptions
I argue that Kripke's epistemic objections to sense theories of names are much more pressing than his modal objections, and investigate to what extent an appeal to mental files can rescue broadly Fregean accounts of attitude ascriptions from the epistemic objections.

Robin Jeshion (University of South California)
Mental Files and Discourse Referent Tracking
Within philosophy of language and mind, some maintain that the presence of a mental file that is about a particular individual I constitutes having a singular thought about I. What are the mechanisms for generating such mental files? In this paper, I shall explore a few answers to this question, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, paying special attention to the view according to which discourse referent file generation (for the purposes of discourse referent tracking within a psychological interpretation of DRT) is sufficient for mental file generation.

Krista Lawlor (Stanford University)
Understanding De Jure Coreference

Words don’t just refer to things, sometimes they are used to refer to the very same things that other words do—they de jure corefer. De jure coreference is important in thought, too; when two or more thoughts de jure corefer, the thinker is in a position to make warranted inferences about the referent. Two questions arise: How do we characterize de jure coreference? And what explains how de jure coreference is possible for creatures like us? Ángel Pinillos contends that de jure coreference is not transitive, and so cannot be explained in terms of sameness of file or sense associated with the terms in question. Pinillos also contends that de jure coreference arises with primitive linguistic relations— “p-links.” Contrary to Pinillos, I argue that de jure coreference is asymmetric, not intransitive. And I argue that p-linking is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough, if we want an explanation of de jure coreference in cognition.

Christopher Peacocke (Columbia University and ENS)
Mental Files, Subjects of Consciousness and the First Person

Mental files have commonly been invoked to explain epistemic phenomena and their description in natural language. I argue that in the special case of subjects of consciousness, we need to invoke them to address adequately a metaphysical question, the question of what it is to be a subject of consciousness. The mental files involved in this metaphysics have features that distinguish them both from perceptual object files and from files at the conceptual level. Once recognized, these files can be used to explain some distinctive features of first person representation, at both the conceptual and the nonconceptual level. I develop the approach in a way that contrasts at several points with that of John Perry to this family of issues.

John Perry (Stanford University and UC Riverside)
Notions, Buffers, and Roles

I will develop a set of concepts to describe how we think about things and talk about things, and then claim that this system has various virtues: (a) it allows us to understand the connection between thought about things and talk about things; (b) it allows us to treat Fregean problems about identity, that arise in thought as well as in language; (c) it allows us to develop a Gricean approach to reference by giving us a system for articulating the intentions involved in referring. Particularly with respect to (c), I will be reporting on joint work with Kepa Korta.

Jim Pryor (New York University)
Predicates are "hyper-evaluative" when they depend on more than just the semantic values (be they intensional or more fine-grained) of their individual arguments, but also on the way those arguments are "coordinated" or "wired." I examine motivations and semantic implementations for such predicates, drawing from linguistics and computer science.

François Recanati (Institut Jean-Nicod)
Mental Files and Identity
Mental files serve as individual or singular concepts. Like singular terms in the language, they refer, or are supposed to refer. What they refer to is not determined by properties which the subject takes the referent to have (i.e. by the information stored in the file), but through relations to various entities in the environment in which the file fulfills its function. Files are based on acquaintance relations, and the function of the file is to store whatever information is made available through the relations in question.
I offer a typology of files. The most important distinction is between proto-files and conceptual files. In contrast to proto-files, conceptual files can host not only information derived through the specific relation on which the file is based, but also information about the same object gained in some other way. In this framework identity comes into the picture twice. (i) Identity is presupposed when two pieces of information occur in the same file. Such ‘presumptions of identity’ ground the linguistic phenomenon of de jure coreference, which takes place when two singular terms, or two occurrences of a singular term, are associated with the same file. (ii) Judgments of identity work by linking two distinct files, thereby enabling information to flow freely between them. This corresponds to de facto coreference. (Linking is not merging ; identity judgments have the effect of merging files only when the files belong to a very specific category, that of ‘encyclopedia entries’ — a type of conceptual file based on a higher-order relation rather than on a specific acquaintance relation.)
In the last part of the talk I will discuss, and attempt to rebut, two objections to the mental-file account. According to the first objection, the account is circular ; according to the second objection, de jure coreference cannot be accounted for it in terms of identity of the associated mental files because de jure coreference is not a transitive relation.

Laura Schroeter (University of Melbourne)
A connectedness model of meaning: bootstrapping our way to de jure co-reference

 If we are to make sense of rational inquiry into the nature of familiar objects, kinds, and properties, we need a notion of meaning that satisfies two key constraints. (i) Accessibility: semantic competence affords direct access to de jure sameness of subject matter in thought and talk. (ii) Flexibility: semantic competence is compatible with error and disagreement about virtually any assumption about the subject matter. Traditional accounts of meaning cannot fully satisfy these constraints, since they hold that two token representations express the same meaning only if each token is associated by the subject with a specific reference-fixing criterion. A connectedness account explains semantic competence directly in terms of epistemic relations among token representations. On this approach, we bootstrap our way to sameness of meaning: taking representations to be de jure co-referential helps make it the case that they are in fact co-referential. This approach must be carefully elaborated if it is to vindicate stable, shared meanings that can underwrite rational inquiry, disagreement, and debate. I sketch a connectedness model on which mental files play a key role in individuating prima facie units for semantic interpretation. The meta-semantic theory then helps refine these prima facie units to ensure stability of meaning over time and between subjects. This model of meaning allows for open-ended variation in competent subjects’ substantive understanding, without jeopardizing direct access to sameness of subject matter.