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Zoom | Workshop Wittgenstein, Religion, and Cognitive Science

From: 2020-12-15 To:2020-12-15

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  • Thematic Line

    Modern & Contemporary Philosophy
  • Research Group

    Mind, Language & Action
  • 15 December 2020

    Wittgenstein, Religion, and Cognitive Science

    3rd ERB Project Workshop


    Attendance is free of charge.
    Please contact Robert Vinten at robertvinten@gmail.com for details of the Zoom workshop if you would like to attend.



    10h15-10h30 | Welcome

    10h30-12h00 | Roger Trigg (University of Warwick and Ian Ramsey Centre, University of Oxford): 'Wittgenstein, Concepts and Human Nature' - with a response by Florian Franken Figueiredo (Universidade Nova, Lisbon).

    13h00-14h15 | Olympia Panagiotidou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki): ‘Cognitive Theories and Wittgenstein: Looking for Convergence, not for Divergence.’

    15h00-16h15 | Hans Van Eyghen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam): ‘Can Brains Perceive?’

    17h00-18h15 | Gorazd Andrejč (University of Groningen & Science and Research Centre Koper): ‘The Great Hierarchy of Being: Thoughts on the Posthumanist Critique.’

    19h30-20h45 | Rita McNamara (Victoria University of Wellington): ‘Brains as the Source of Being: Mind/Brain Focus and the Western Model of Mind in Dominant Cognitive Science Discourse.’


    This workshop is organized by Robert Vinten (IFILNOVA), Nuno Venturinha (IFILNOVA), and Sofia Miguens (IF/UP) within the framework of the FCT-funded project “Epistemology of Religious Belief: Wittgenstein, Grammar and the Contemporary World” (PTDC/FER-FIL/32203/2017), hosted by the Reasoning and Argumentation Laboratory (ArgLab) of IFILNOVA, in collaboration with RG Mind, Language and Action Group (MLAG) - Institute of Philosophy of the University of Porto - FIL/00502.



    Roger Trigg – ‘Wittgenstein, Concepts and Human Nature’

    The later Wittgenstein has been accused of veering into relativism. A stress on concepts, as expressed in language, can leave even science looking like one social practice amongst alternatives. The cognitive science of religion emphasizes the importance of a pre-social  human nature, as the basis of all human cultures. Yet it has been seen as encouraging, and even assuming, a physicalist, and reductionist, approach to our conceptual architecture.  Are the two visions in complete conflict, or can some of their respective insights be combined?

    Olympia Panagiotidou – ‘Cognitive Theories and Wittgenstein: Looking for Convergence, not for Divergence.’

    Although cognitive neuroscience mainly studies the biological underpinnings and neuronal processes of human cognition, cognitive scientists have quite recently recognized that the external world, including both the natural environment and the cultural and social settings, may affect and modify human cognitive abilities. In this paper, I intend to highlight that the most recent cognitive theories, mainly developed in the field of the study of religion, remove the dualism between brain and body and promote a multifaceted conception of human cognition, which embraces the body, the brain and the world. In this framework, I present a paradigm of how I employed neurocognitive research findings and theories, seeking answers to my historical questions about the Asclepius cult – a cult that met significant diffusion and popularity in the Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman world. My intention is to indirectly indicate points of convergence between cognitive approaches and Wittgentstein’s philosophical considerations, and potentially to outline new directions for further discussions between cognitive theoreticians and Wittgensteinian philosophers.

    Hans Van Eyghen – ‘Can Brains Perceive?’

    Talk of ‘brains deciding’, ‘brains inferring’ or ‘brains perceiving’ is common in contemporary cognitive science and neuroscience. A number of authors (most notably Peter Hacker and Maxwell Bennett) argue that such talk commits a category mistake; deciding, making inferences or perceiving are abilities properly ascribed to humans and not to human subsystems or subparts. In my talk, I will argue that ascribing such properties to human brains or cognitive systems within the brain is proper. I will argue that ‘inferring’ or ‘perceiving’ are best conceptualized as functional terms. Since most functions we know of are multiply realizable, this opens the door for atypical inferences and perceptions that can be ascribed to various organisms and their subsystems.


    Gorazd Andrejč – ‘The Great Hierarchy of Being: Thoughts on the Posthumanist Critique.’

    One of the targets of the posthumanist attacks against humanism, either religious or secular, is the humanist affirmation of the ‘chain of being’ – a hierarchical representation of humanity’s place in the world. Humans are conceived to be either on the top of the chain or in the middle of it; in the latter case humans are between God/gods and angels above (alternatively: cyborgs, super-humans or supercomputers above) and the ‘lower’ animals, plants and abiota below. Posthumanists claim that any hierarchical chain of being fundamentally misrepresents humanity’s relation to the world and hence misleads us into damaging, unethical action. In this paper, I will first present the hierarchical chain of being through the lens of embodied-cognitive theory of spatial-relations metaphors. Second, I will ask what this critique means for chosen religious pictures of human-world relationship. I will suggest that, even if contemporary Christian theology does not tend to affirm a strong metaphysical hierarchy of beings, as a guiding metaphor the chain of being still typically carries significant cognitive and moral meanings. Finally, I will briefly explore how a philosophical theology can respond to this critique in fresh and constructive ways.

    Rita McNamara – ‘Brains as the Source of Being: Mind/Brain Focus and the Western Model of Mind in Dominant Cognitive Science Discourse.’

    Inferences about others’ knowledge, goals, and motivations are vital to human strategies in navigating our social worlds. Yet, because we live in socially constructed worlds, our abilities to perceive, conceive, and react to agents – both seen and unseen – are also socially constructed. Most existing research on beliefs about supernatural agents assumes a Western model of mind that posits a) one can infer others’ thoughts, and b) mental state inference is the best explanation for actions. Other cultures view minds differently, however. This talk reviews the logic of the Western model of mind in Cognitive Science. It then provides a brief overview of evidence from diverse cultural groups with perspectives on minds different to the Western model of mind that currently dominates psy- chological and cognitive science research. It then examines ways that cultural models of minds are reflected in the local religious belief systems of various groups, as well as how models of minds may be seen to travel across cultural areas along with intercultural contact events like missionization. These patterns provide insight into the processes by which cultures and cognition may co-evolve.




    Past Workshops:



    Robert Vinten (IFILNOVA), Nuno Venturinha (IFILNOVA) and Sofia Miguens (IF/UP)
    Project “Epistemology of Religious Belief: Wittgenstein, Grammar and the Contemporary World” (PTDC/FER-FIL/32203/2017)
    Reasoning and Argumentation Laboratory (ArgLab) of IFILNOVA
    RG Mind, Language and Action Group (MLAG)
    Instituto de Filosofia da Universidade do Porto – FIL/00502
    Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT)

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