Phenomenology and Grammar: Laws of Phenomena and Laws of Meaning

May 4, 2015 - May 8, 2015
University of Liège


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Following Bernard Bolzano's work on formal analyticity, the raise of phenomenology is characterised by the attention paid to the structuration of sense through purely formal principles which make meaning possible. The main purpose of the seminar is to investigate the kind of formalism that is at stake at the origin of phenomenology in order to clarify its historical significance and to test its longevity. 

First of all, it intends to question the relevance of this hypothesis of a purely grammatical legality and the relations it would entertain with:

    1. The specifically linguistic legality connected to the expression of these meanings in such or such language or even in language in general. Do the categories of meaning and the laws of their combinations precede each language?
    2. the ontological legality of the objects thought through those meanings. Do objects impose their structure to the meanings through which they are thought or, at the contrary, do meanings impose their structure to the objects which are thought through them?
    3. The phenomenal legality which specifically rules sense experience (passive synthesis).
    4. Additionally: Are grammatical laws purely syntactic, or also semantic?

In addition to these questions, the following points would also deserve to be examined:

  1. The history of the concepts of form, syntax and grammar (in Bolzano, Brentano, Husserl, Marty, Bühler...);
  2. The critical posterity of Husserl's pure grammar in the phenomenological tradition (Heidegger, Derrida...);
  3. The consequence of the attempt to think the structure of significations and their linguistic and anthropological foundations through a combination of phenomenological and structuralist analysis (in Merleau-Ponty, Sartre...);
  4. The posterity of Husserl's pure grammar in logic and linguistic in the XXth century (in particular in "categorial grammars": Lesniewski, Adjukiewicz, Bar-Hillel, Montague, Chomsky...);
  5. The relation between this notion of formal grammar and Wittgenstein's notion of "philosophical grammar" or Russell's grammatical analysis;
  6. The potential extending of the idea of grammar (as legality of meanings) to non verbal expression, for instance to pictures.
Keynote Speakers Jocelyn Benoist, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne  Laurent Cesalli, Université de Genève  Janette Friedrich, Université de Genève Élise Marrou, Archives Husserl de Paris Dominique Pradelle, Université Paris Sorbonne (Paris IV), Archives Husserl de Paris
Organizing Committee Charlotte Gauvry ([email protected]) and Bruno Leclerq ([email protected])
Practical Details

The seminar will take place from May 4 to 8, 2015, at the University of Liège (Belgium).

Registration is not required for attendance. At the participant's request, the Philosophy Department will issue a certificate which can be used for doctoral certification (ECTS).

The talks will be in English and French. Passive understanding of French is recommended.

C. Gauvry ([email protected] and B. Leclerq ([email protected]

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