Vicarious Representation

March 12, 2012
École Normale Supérieure

Salle de réunion, Pavillon jardin
29 rue d'Ulm
Paris 75005


Jérôme Dokic
Institut Jean Nicod
Alvin Goldman
Rutgers University
Pierre Jacob
Institut Jean Nicod
François Récanati
Institut Jean Nicod
Frédérique de Vignemont
Institut Jean Nicod

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Detailed Program:

9.30 - 10.45: Pierre Jacob (IJN), "Vicarious Pain: Imagination, Mirroring or Perception?"

Among possible vicarious experiences, I will concentrate on the experience of vicarious pain, whereby one shares another's standard pain. I will argue for an-imagination-based account of vicarious pain. Then I will critically examine two prominent rival accounts: the mirroring based account and the perception-based account.

10.45 - 11.00: Coffee break

11.00 - 12.15: François Récanati (IJN), "Vicarious Mental Files"

Mental files are primarily singular terms in the language of thought : they serve to think about objects in the world. But they have a derived, metarepresentational function : they serve to represent how other subjects think about objects in the world. To account for the metarepresentational use of files I will introduce the notion of an „indexed file‟, i.e. a file that stands, in the subject‟s mind, for another subject‟s file about an object. Indexed files, I will argue, are a simulative device: by deploying a mental file just like the file in the mind of the indexed person, one puts oneself in the other person‟s shoes (or frame of mind), by looking at things her way. In the talk I will present the essentials of the theory and, time permitting, I will provide an analysis of attitude ascriptions and other phenomena in terms of indexed files.

12.15 - 14.00: Lunch break

14.00 - 15.15: Frédérique de Vignemont (IJN), "Feeling Another's Tactile Sensations" Through empathy, one can share another person's affective states, including pain. But what about sensory states, and in particular, tactile experiences with no affective dimension? Can they be shared? It has been recently found that some individuals report feeling touch on their own body when they see other people being touched. I shall review here several possible interpretations of this phenomenon, which is, on my view, misleadingly labelled as visuotactile synaesthesia. In particular, I will explore the following hypothesis: what can be shared between self and other is not tactile experience itself, but the representation of the body that is used as reference frame for tactile experience.

15.15 - 15.30: Coffee break

15.30 - 16.45: Jérôme Dokic (IJN), "Subjective and Quasi De Se Imagination"

The topic of this talk is what Vendler called “subjective imagination”, which consists in imagining actions and emotions “from the inside”, as opposed to imagining them “from outside”, and what Recanati calls “quasi de se imagination”, namely the type of mental state one is in when one imagines, for instance, being Rudolf Lingens. I will put forward an analysis of subjective and quasi de se imagination within the framework of Currie and Ravenscroft‟s recreative account of imagination. In particular, I shall argue that subjective imagination involves the recreation of introspective or metacognitive experiences (about our own actions and emotions). Since the relevant experiences fall short of explicit selfascriptions, one can recreate them without recreating any explicit self-ascription. This is what makes certain forms of subjective and quasi de se imagination possible.

16.45 - 17.00: Coffee Break

17.00 - 18.15: Alvin Goldman (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey), "Mindreading by Simulation: The Roles of Imagination and Mirroring"

The general contours of the simulation approach to mindreading were laid down in the last twenty-five years. I will first present a sketch of the simulation view, starting with the original model -- addressed to the mindreading of propositional attitudes -- and proceeding to a later variant that addresses emotions, bodily sensations, and intentional motion. Then I will explore more recent and novel findings that are especially pertinent to simulation theory. Finally, I will argue that simulation theory is fully consistent with up-to-date views on the neural bases of theory of mind and evolutionary perspectives on mindreading.

Contact: [email protected]


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