Mind, Language and Action Group
Principal Investigator: Sofia Miguens Travis
History of Research Projects
Since 2005 the RG has had both externally funded and
internal projects on topics such as the natures of rationality, human
action and agency, consciousness and subjectivity, judgement, perception and hallucinations, mind-body relations and the self, e.g. FCT Projects Rationality, Belief, Desire – From cognitive science to philosophy andThe Bounds of Judgement – from Frege to cognitive agents and human thinkers, and internal projects Consciousness and Subjectivity and Sartre and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind, in collaboration with G. Preyer (Goethe Universität Frankfurt).
Some resulting publications are Consciousness and Subjectivity (Ontos Verlag, now De Gruyter, 2011), Pre-Reflective Consciousness - Sartre and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind (Routledge 2015) and The Logical Alien (HUP 2020).
A cognitive science strand of MLAG’s work on mind and action was led between 2013 and 2021 by Anna Ciaunica (now at CFUL), namely through BIAL project Estranged from Oneself, Estranged from the Others: Investigating the Effect of Depersonalisation on Self-Other Mirroring, which she pursued from Porto and also as Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Senses, School of Advanced Study, London (see special issue The Relational Self – Basic Forms of Self-Awareness’ – TOPOI, an International Journal of Philosophy, 39, 2020).
MLAG members Carlos Mauro and Mattia Riccardi also led former BIAL Projects, namely Judgements of Moral Wrongdoings and the Emotions and Hallucinations – To See or Not To See, respectively (see e.g. Mattia Riccardi ed. (with Frank Larøi), Journal of Consciousness Studies, Special Issue on Hallucination, 23/7-8 (2016)).
Also as part of work on action, agency and rationality, a structuring area of MLAG since the beginnings, Carlos Mauro, Susana Cadilha and Sofia Miguens pursued a FLAD funded project on practical rationality which originated a book of interviews with Alfred Mele, Michael Bratman, Hugh McCann, Joshua Knoble, Daniel Hausman and George Ainslie (Conversations on Practical Rationality, CSP 2011), as well as the volume Acção e Ética – Conversas sobre racionalidade prática (Lisboa, Colibri, 2011) with interviews with Portuguese philosophers Antonio Zilhão, Ricardo Santos, João Alberto Pinto, Vasco Correia, Susana Cadilha and Sofia MIguens.
Lately, extension of our Wittgensteinian orientation to epistemology led to collaboration in FCT Project Epistemology of Religious Belief – Wittgenstein, Grammar and the Contemporary World (PI Nuno Venturinha FCSH-UNL, co-PI Sofia Miguens, UP, start: 2018).
Working on the History of Contemporary Philosophy
MLAG has from the start focused on the history of analytic philosophy, especially as it beared on approaches to mind, language and action. Our participation in the CNRS network La philosophie du language ordinaire was crucial here.
More recently this work is done within the Contemporary Philosophy thematic line at the Institute of Philosophy (RGs APK, MLAG, Roots and PPS, coordinated by S. Miguens). For an overview of contemporary philosophy in its diverse orientations see Miguens 2019, Uma leitura da filosofia contemporânea - Figuras e Movimentos (Lisboa, Edições 70, 2019 and the 2020 Book Symposium, organized by João Silva and Raul Vasques).
Incursions into the history of 20th-21st century analytic philosophy has led us to explore the work of authors such as J.L Austin, Elizabeth Anscombe, Daniel Dennett, John McDowell, Hilary Putnam or Stanley Cavell as they connect to our research topics. (see e.g. special issue of Catalan journal Enrahonar - An International Journal of Theoretical and Practical Philosophy on Elizabeth Anscombe (ed. by Sofia Miguens and Dolores García Arnaldos 2020, https://dialnet.unirioja.es/ejemplar/541186),Travis and Miguens’ articles in The Monist special issue on Hilary Putnam (2020,https://academic.oup.com/monist/issue/103/4), or Contextos Kantianos special issue on analytical Kantianism (ed. by Sofia Miguens and Paulo Tunhas, RG APK, https://www.con-textoskantianos.net/index.php/revista/issue/view/10)
Also Mattia Riccardi’s work on Nietzsche and the naturalist tradition in the 19th century philosophy is another reference for the group, for both issues such as consciousness and free will and history of contemporary philosophy (see Riccardi forthcoming Oxford University Press Nietzsche’s Philosophical Psychology (2021), as well as e.g. his articles in European Journal of Philosophy or The Monist).
Working in Portuguese
One important practical purpose of MLAG is to host and to foster work in analytic philosophy in Portuguese. With that in mind we
(1) coordinate translations of analytic philosophy into Portuguese, making work available which supports teaching at FLUP by MLAG members Miguens, Pinot, Riccardi, Guerreiro or Teles in areas such as epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of action and aesthetics. Naturally we also aim to give support in work in analytic philosophy in Portuguese wherever Portuguese is spoken.
Two examples are Filosofia da Mente - Uma Antologia, edited by Sofia Miguens, João Alberto Pinto and Diana Couto or Filosofia da linguaguem – Uma introdução (Sofia Miguens, 2nd edition 2012, https://ler.letras.up.pt/site/default.aspx?qry=id022id1155&sum=sim) More recently, work on aesthetics Vitor Guerreiro org, J. Levinson.
(2) publish monographs in Portuguese on analytic philosophers and topics in analytic philosophy Sofia Miguens 2002, Daniel Dennett e os debates da filosofia da mente, João Alberto Pinto 2007, Materialismo, Superveniênica e Experiência (partially on David Chalmers and Jaegwon Kim), Sofia Miguens and Susana Cadilha 2014, John McDowell – uma análise a partir da filosofia moral, or Diana Couto 2019 Donald Davidson – subjectivo-objectivo.
The contextualist approach
The current central aim of our research is to develop a contextualist approach to the metaphysics of representation and agency, opposing widespread reductionist naturalisms. We aim to extend Travis’ notion of occasion-sensitivity, which originated in philosophy of language, to questions in philosophy of perception, of logic, of epistemology, of philosophy of action and of ethics.
Contextualism is usually taken to concern mostly the implications of pragmatic phenomena in language for a view of semantics and truth. We intend to conceive of it as going beyond
technical treatments of pragmatic phenomena in language; our main interest is in fact in how the objectivity of thought coexists with occasion-sensitivity.
With this orientation in mind we are currently exploring the contrast between two conceptions of capacities: a capacity defined by how it works (enables), and a capacity defined by its object (what it is a capacity to do), and on a logical-psychological distinction as drawn by Frege, we aim at exploring the contrast between human rational agents and other sorts of organisms, or cognitive systems.
A former result of this orientation is E. Marchesan and David Zapero (eds) 2018, Context, Objectivity and Truth - Essays on Radical Contextualism (Routledge), partly resulting from MLAG internal project "Austin's Revolution and Its Impact on Philosophy of Language", led by Eduardo Machesan in Porto. The book has contribution by Michael Williams, Charles Travis, François Récanati, Jocelyn Benoist, Krista Lawlor, Avner Baz, David Zapero, Sofia Miguens and an Introduction by David Zapero.
Context, Objectivity and Truth - Essays on Radical Contextualism:
The four 2022 and 2023 Contextualism Network Meetings organized by David Zapero, Charles Travis and Sofia Miguens started from this work. The topics of the Meeting were Action (march 2022), rationality (july 2022), knowledge (march 2023) and idealism (july 2023).