The Philosophy of Notation: Operational Iconicity and Observational Advantages in Diagrams

May 23, 2019 - May 24, 2019
Department of Philosophy and Communication, University of Bologna

Sala Rossa
Via Azzo Gardino 23
Bologna 40122

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

View the Call For Papers


  • UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Keynote speakers:

Tallinn Technical University
Doshisha University
University of Brighton
University of Aarhus


University of Bologna
University of Brighton

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The Philosophy of Notation: Operational Iconicity and Observational Advantages in Diagrams   

Location: Department of Philosophy and Communication, University of Bologna, Italy.  

Dates: 23-24 May 2019.

What can we say is truly distinctive of diagrammatic notations for logical reasoning, relative to equivalently expressive non-diagrammatic forms? Several responses have been given in the literature – logical diagrams are visual (Shin 2002), they have multiple, equivalent “readings” (Shin 2002, Macbeth 2005, Schlimm 2018), they are directly interpreted (Lemon 1996, Stenning 2000) – that have attempted to overcome the old difficulty of defining a logical diagram  in terms of isomorphism; but none seems to have gained universal acceptance.

An idea has emerged in recent years that merits a deeper analysis. The idea is that diagrams in general and mathematical and logical diagrams in particular are languages whose formulas are capable of expressing more information (of whatever kind) than was necessary to construct the formula.This feature was called “autarchy” by Leibniz (he was thinking of the binary notation for arithmetic), and variants of it have been called “iconicity” (Peirce), “operational iconicity” (Stjernfelt), “free ride” (Shimojima) and “observational advantage” (Stapleton, Jamnik & Shimojima). The idea is simple and intuitive, but adequate analysis of it has not yet been made. 

The aim of this workshop is to subject this idea to analysis by seeking contributions that explore the notions of operational iconicity and observational advantages from different perspectives: the formal semantics of diagrammatic languages, the philosophy of language and logic, studies on mathematical and logical cognition, the philosophy of mathematical practice, and the psychology of reasoning. We envision a multidisciplinary collaborative workshop that will enable us to identify common questions and goals, and to share findings across these areas of research.  The workshop will follow on from the success of the first “Philosophy of Notation” international conference in Tallinn, 2015. 

Invited Speakers

Amirouche Moktefi

Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen

Atsushi Shimojima

Gem Stapleton

Frederik Stjernfelt. 

We invite authors to submit a 500 word abstract to [email protected] and [email protected] by the closing date of 15th February 2019. Abstracts will be reviewed by the Program Committee and feedback provided. Notification of acceptance will be given by the beginning of March 2019. (see the Call for Papers)

Registration is free -- email the organisers to let us know you are coming.


Jim Burton, University of Brighton

Francesco Bellucci, University of Bologna

Program Committee:

Daniele Chiffi, Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy

Amirouche Moktefi, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia

Claudio Paolucci, University of Bologna, Italy

Ahti-Veikko Pietarinen, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia

Atsushi Shimojima, Doshisha University, Japan

Gem Stapleton, University of Brighton, UK

Frederik Stjernfelt, Aalborg University, Denmark

This event is supported by UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under the project The Applied Semiotics of Visual Modelling (EP/R043949/1).

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