Lewis: Representation in Mind and Language

March 30, 2020 - April 1, 2020
School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds

University of Leeds
United Kingdom

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

View the Call For Papers

Main speakers:

New York University
University of Leeds
Stockholm University
Australian National University
University of Notre Dame
University of Leeds


University of Leeds
Australian National University
University of Leeds

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Over the course of about three decades and more than a dozen separate works, David Lewis developed a unique—and uniquely sophisticated—theory of mental and linguistic representation.

Starting from a relatively simple base of purely physical facts about an agent, Lewis tells us how to derive that agent’s beliefs and desires. With our knowledge of the beliefs and desires of a community we can then derive what conventions they follow. This affords us access to the meanings of sentences in their language, and in turn the meanings of the words from which those sentences are composed. The result, if it works, is a more or less complete picture of how meaning and intentionality fit into the natural world.

The focus of this workshop will be on any aspect of Lewis’ theory of representation. Topics include, but are not limited to,

  • Original problems with or objections to Lewis’ theory.
  • Attempts to improve upon or address significant gaps in Lewis’ proposal (e.g., whether and how an agent’s ‘life history of evidence’ can be given a physicalist interpretation, or how to explain meaning without use).
  • The role (or roles) that naturalness plays in Lewis’ theory, and/or the role that naturalness should play in that theory.
  • Applications of Lewis’ theory to related philosophical issues (e.g., the meaning and ethics of derogatory terms; the relationship between consciousness and intentionality).

The current line up of speakers includes:

  • Cian Dorr                    New York University
  • Edward Elliott              University of Leeds
  • Anandi Hattiangadi      Stockholm University
  • Jessica Keiser             University of Leeds
  • Daniel Nolan               University of Notre Dame
  • Robbie Williams          University of Leeds

We also have room for three contributed papers. We therefore invite submissions of abstracts (up to 500 words) on any topic relating to the workshop’s theme.

Please submit your (blinded) documents to LewisRepresentation@gmail.com, no later than November 30th. Abstracts should be appropriate for a presentation of about 40 to 50 minutes. Accepted submissions will have accommodation and UK-travel expenses covered.

Notification of acceptance will be sent by January 10th.

The conference will receive funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreements no. 818633 and 117100).

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March 9, 2020, 11:00pm EET

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Jakob Donskov
University of Leeds

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Huub Vromen
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