Recent Work on Non-Propositional Intentionality

July 3, 2018
School of Philosophy, Australian National University

Cente for China in the World, Rm 133, Seminar Room B
9 Fellows Rd
Canberra 2601

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


  • Center for Consciousness
  • School of Philosophy


Rutgers University - New Brunswick (PhD)
University of St. Andrews
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Leeds


University of St. Andrews
University of Leeds

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Talks at this conference

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Propositional attitudes, such as belief and desire, have long been taken to play a foundational role in the theories of meaning and mind. But recently, semantic, perceptual, and cognitive considerations have emerged that illustrate the limitations of theories that countenance only propositional attitudes, and the need for attitudes toward various other kinds of contents, including both sub-propositional contents and questions. In this conference we will explore ways in which incorporating various non-propositional attitudes into our theories of meaning and mind can serve to enrich our understanding of the nature of mental and linguistic intentionality. 

Sam Cumming: Axial Symmetry as Focal Point in Spatial Interpretation of Film

Abstract: The relation between the axis of the camera and the central axis of on-screen action is important for maintaining a coherent sense of space across a cut. Our talk provides evidence for an overlooked relationship: the Symmetry rule. Similar to 180 degree rule, this production regularity creates expectations in the audience, which in turn support enriched spatial interpretations of edited sequences. Filmmakers often obey symmetry in shot/reverse-shot pairs (if the speaker's eyeline is 30 degrees right of the lens, the listener's look back along that eyeline will be 30 degrees left of the lens), and exit/entrance pairs with movement past the lens: the angle exiting towards the lens matches the angle entering away from the lens. In the paper, we demonstrate that the expectation of Symmetry leads to precise spatial interpretations. We further argue that the rule is a natural focus for our visual expectations, since axial symmetry is a species-wide geometrical primitive (Amalric et al. 2017).

Jessica Keiser: Language Without Information Exchange

Abstract: This paper attempts to revive a once-lively program in the philosophy of language—that of reducing linguistic phenomena to facts about mental states and actions. I argue that recent skepticism toward this project is generated by features of traditional implementations of the project, rather than the project itself. A picture of language as essentially a mechanism for cooperative information exchange attracted theorists to metasemantic accounts grounding language use in illocutionary action (roughly, using an utterance to elicit a propositional attitude). When this picture is rejected, a metasemantics grounding language in locutionary action (using an utterance to direct attention) emerges as a more viable proposal, dissolving an intractable issue for traditional theories: the metasemantics of subsentential expressions.

Justin D'Ambrosio: Depictive Verbs and the Nature of Perception

Abstract: This paper argues that perceptual verbs, such as 'see', 'hear', 'smell' and 'taste', and depictive verbs, such as 'draw', 'paint', 'sketch', and 'sculpt', share inferential features that distinguish them from both ordinary intensional and ordinary extensional verbs. These inferential
commonalities warrant extending the semantics developed for depictive verbs to perceptual verbs. The semantics I present shows that even though perceptual verbs may be fully extensional, they share important logical features with the locutions that representationalists use to state their theories of perception. It also sheds light on the puzzle of Macbeth's dagger by helping to explain why so many philosophers of perception have incorrectly taken perceptual verbs to exhibit the features of intensionality.

Gabe Greenberg: The Structure of Visual Content

In this talk I’ll argue for a structured view of visual content, understood as the type of content common to visual perception, mental imagery, visual memory, pictures, and computer imagery. The position that such content is structured is analogous to structured views of propositions within the philosophy of language. In this case, I argue that visual contents take the form of what I call perspectival feature maps, a type of 2-dimensional feature map organized by angular relations to a central viewpoint.  (There’s a long history of views in this ballpark, though many focus on the structure of visual representation, rather than that of visual content; e.g. Treisman 1980, 1988; Marr 1982; Haugeland 1991; Tye 1991; Lande 2018.) I motivate the structured account by showing how unstructured theories of visual content, like those which identify perceptual content with sets of centered-worlds (Chalmers 1996; Brogaard 2011) or sets of scenarios (Peacocke 1992) are too course-grained, faltering over cases of impossible images.   At the same time, theories which identify visual contents with concrete scenarios are too fine-grained, unable to capture spatial indeterminacy.  Structured visual content, I argue, gets things just right.  I go on to develop an account of the structure of perspectival feature maps, with attention to the role of objects and properties within the 2-dimensional array, and to the mechanism by which viewpoints govern the array’s spatial interpretation.  These structures, in turn, are subject to a precise set of accuracy conditions, comparable to those of structured propositions.  The resulting proposal helps to illuminate what is distinctive about visual representation.

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June 29, 2018, 5:00am +10:00

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Szymon Bogacz
Catrin Campbell-Moore
Bristol University
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