Objects in Mind

June 25, 2012 - June 26, 2012
University of Aarhus


View the Call For Papers


  • MindLab, Aarhus University
  • The Neuro-turn in European Social Sciences and Humanities Project


Chris Frith
University of Aarhus
Ruth Millikan
University of Connecticut
John R. Searle
University of California, Berkeley

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Speakers and Commentators 
Ian Apperly (Birmingham), Cristina Becchio (Turin), Brian Epstein (Tufts), Mattia Gallotti (CNRS, Jean Nicod Institute), Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde (Aix-Marseille & Jean Nicod Institute), Clement Levallois (Erasmus Rotterdam), Edouard Machery (Pittsburgh),John McGraw (Aarhus University), John Michael (Aarhus), Andreas Roepstorff (Aarhus), Joshua Skewes (Aarhus), Kristian Tylen (Aarhus).   

Social objects are objects in virtue of having the status functions we intend them to have. Some social objects, such as screwdrivers, have physical affordances that facilitate the recognition of their purpose and offer potentials for action. Others, like money, appear to depend entirely upon understanding of the intentions and attitudes that ground their social status. But if the reference of social concepts like ‘money’ is fixed by collective acceptance, does it depend on distinct mechanisms from those which contribute to understanding the reference of concepts of other kinds of object? What psychological and neural mechanisms, if any, are involved in the constitution, persistence and recognition of social facts? The first Aarhus-Paris conference will address this question by exploring the burgeoning theoretical and empirical literature on social objects across the sciences of mind and brain.

Research Questions to be Addressed
It has been argued that humans are predisposed and motivated to engage in joint actions with conspecifics, and that this may be due in part to a unique mechanism for sharing mental states. Is such a mechanism responsible for fixing the reference of concepts of social objects? Do we depend upon a distinct, collective mode of intentionality in order to use these concepts? What role might mindreading and other (embodied and/or interactive) components of social cognition play in sustaining the reference of these concepts? Does the conventional constitution of social objects entail that learning about them during development involves psychological processes and brain areas postulated in current research on the development of social cognition? What role is played by explicit instruction or pedagogical cues in learning the norms and conventions that enable social objects to exist? Does this make any difference for the question of whether the conventions and norms that sustain social objects are implicit and/or explicit? Do individuals with social cognition deficits, such as autism spectrum disorder, or an impaired understanding of the distinction between moral rules and conventions, have difficulties in recognizing and/or reasoning about social objects? 


Attendence is free of charge, but space is limited. Please register by sending an email to: [email protected]

Scientific Organization

Mattia Gallotti (CNRS, Jean Nicod Institute) & John Michael (Aarhus University)

This conference is jointly funded by MindLab, Aarhus University (http://www.mindlab.au.dk/), and by the research project 'The Neuro-turn in European Social Sciences and Humanities: Impact of neuroscience on economics, marketing and philosophy' (NESSHI) (http://www.nesshi.eu/).

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June 25, 2012, 9:00am CET

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