Reference: RG-502 Mind, Language and Action Group
Principal Investigator: Sofia Miguens Travis
Origins and aim
MLAG (the Mind, Language and Action Group) was founded by Prof. Sofia Miguens in 2005, buiding on the work on analytic philosophy done within Gabinete de Filosofia Moderna e Contemporânea (GFMC), founded in 1996 by Prof. Maria José Cantista. The main goal of MLAG is to carry on research on the nature of mind, the nature of language and the nature of action. The group works mostly in contemporary philosophy and in the analytic tradition. Sofia Miguens and Charles Travis are currently responsible for MLAG's research agenda.
HIstory of projects
Since its beginning MLAG has pursued a number of externally funded projects, such as FCT projects Rationality, Belief, Desire II – from cognitive science to philosophy (POCTI/FIL/55555/2004) (2005-2008) and The Bounds of Judgement – Frege, cognitive agents and human thinkers (PTDCI/FIL-FIL/109882/2009) (2011-2014), FLAD funded project Conversations on Practical Rationality and Human Action (2007-2011) and BIAL Project To See or Not to See – Hallucinations from a multisciplinary perspective (2013-2014). It has also pursued projects internal to the Institute of Philosophy, such as Consciouness and Subjectivity (2008-2011), Pre-Reflective Consciouness – Sartre and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind (2013-2015), and others.
In 2015-2020 the group will pursue the agenda outlined below for its 3 areas (Mind and Language; Action, Agency and Rationality and History of Contemporary philosophy):
Mind and Language
1. Mind: Former work on mind (e.g. on rationality, decision, emotion and judgement) will be brought to bear on two new topics (1) Encounters with Oneself, (2) Hallucinations. The central objective in (1) is to explore the shape of our access to the inner, seeking to assess the ways authority and estrangement combine in our ‘relation’ with ourselves (R. Moran, M. Boyle, S. Rödl, N. Eilan, Q. Cassam). We will also investigate the way conceptions of the first-person, self-access and self-reference (Frege, Anscombe, Perry) relate. As for (2), multidisciplinary work on hallucination will be taken as a test-case for current debates in the philosophy of perception, namely those around disjunctivism (McDowell, Travis, Fisch, Siegel).
2. Language: The main objective is to explore origins and consequences of (current brands of) contextualism (Travis, Récanati). Even if contextualism in the philosophy of language usually concerns mostly the implications of pragmatic phenomena in language for a view of semantics, we intend to go beyond technical treatments of pragmatic phenomena in language and focus on how the objectivity of thought withstands occasion-sensitivity phenomena. We will investigate the origins of contextualism in ordinary language philosophy (Wittgenstein, Austin). We will try to make the consequences of contextualism explicit for specific problems, e.g. the approach to ‘abstract objects’ (propositions, concepts, numbers, theories, theoretical entities, fictional entities) [for this MLAG is participating in the Santiago de Compostela Project The explanatory function of abstract objects: their nature and cognoscibility EFAO (2014-2016), FFI2013-41415-P. IRs: José Luis Falguera e Concha Martínez].
3. Action, Agency and Rationality We will concentrate on the status and uses of the notion of representation in theories of mind and action, trying to spell out how anti-representationalist approaches to cognitive science (enactivism, embodied cognition, situated approaches, etc) relate to anti-representationism regarding mind and language (Travis).
4. History of Contemporary Philosophy In the framework of consciousness studies, we will investigate the relations between Sartre and contemporary philosophy of mind, again exploring the relations between analytic and non-analytic traditions (volume forthcoming, London, Routledge). We will work on a history of the approaches to the nature of logical truths from Kant to Frege, Wittgenstein and Putnam (see volume The Logical Alien At 20, forthcoming with Harvard UP).
Meta-coordination and networks
In 2015-2017, the meta-coordination of the different domains of MLAG took place in the context of CNRS network PloCo (Philosophie du langage common / Ordinary language philosophy and ordinary conceptions in the social sciences), in which MLAG participates. Travis’ work on philosophy of language, logic and perception (cf. the 3 volumes of Selected Papers – Occasion-Sensitivity (2008, Oxford, OUP), Objectivity and the Parochial (2010, Oxford, OUP) and Perception – Essays from Frege (2013, Oxford, OUP, as well as his interpretations of Frege and Wittgenstein was one main reference there. L. Wittgenstein’s and J. L. Austin’s works were guiding references for exploring anti-representationalism and contextualism in the theories of mind, language and action. One activity in Porto directly connected with the CNRS network was the Group of Austinian studies (Eduardo Marchesan org). In 2019 this work gave rise to the Routledge volume Context, Truth and Objectivity - Essays on Radical Contextualism (Marchesan and Zapero, eds.,) in which several participants of the group (Travis, Récanati, Williams, Baz, Miguens, Marchesan, Zapero) published chapters.
In 2018-2022 we aim to develop, through a purely philosophical branch (B1) and a branch oriented towards cognitive science (B2), a unified contextualist approach to the metaphysics of representation and agency. Contextualism in the philosophy of language usually concerns mostly the implications of pragmatic phenomena in language for a view of semantics and truth. In B1 we intend to go beyond technical treatments of pragmatic phenomena in language and focus on how the objectivity of thought withstands occasion-sensitivity phenomena. B2 tries to make explicit the connections between B1 and embodied cognition / enactivism