Mind, Language and Action [MLAG] is a research group of the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Porto – Portugal (PI – S. Miguens) which carries out research within the tradition of analytical philosophy in the fields of metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of mind and language. It deals with questions such as the nature of consciousness, perception, agency and personhood. Its thematically driven research straddles beyond the strict confines of analytical philosophy to other traditions in contemporary philosophy.
In 2018-2022 MLAG develops a contextualist approach to the metaphysics of representation and agency.
In 2013-2017 two externally funded projects were especially relevant for developing a realist-disjunctivist perspective on perception and judgement: The Bounds of Judgement—Frege, cognitive agents and human thinkers (PTDC/FIl-FIL/109882) and Hallucinations—a multidisciplinary perspective (BIAL foundation) The first was also instrumental for work on the history of contemporary philosophy (e.g. Kant, Frege and Wittgenstein on judgement), the second for an application of our orientations to cognitive science. Project Rationalität, Selbsterkenntnis und menschliches Handeln (DAAD) pursued work on action and rationality. Project Estranged from Oneself (start 2017) continues our cognitive science-oriented work.
In 2018-2022 we aim to develop, through a purely philosophical branch (B1) and a branch oriented towards cognitive science (B2), a unified contextualist approach to the metaphysics of representation and agency. Contextualism in the philosophy of language usually concerns mostly the implications of pragmatic phenomena in language for a view of semantics and truth. In B1 we intend to go beyond technical treatments of pragmatic phenomena in language and focus on how the objectivity of thought withstands occasion-sensitivity phenomena. B2 tries to make explicit the connections between B1 and embodied cognition / enactivism
In Project The Bounds of Judgement—Frege, cognitive agents and human thinkers (80.000 euro) we developed an integrated approach to the nature of logical, perceptual, moral and introspective judgement, along Fregean-Wittgensteinian lines
The (still forthcoming) volume The Logical Alien At 20 (Harvard UP, Miguens ed.) explores the implications for metaphysics in general of our conception of logical truths as being ‘empty of demands on the world’. We have investigated the historic antecedents of such a position in the philosophy of logic (in Frege, Wittgenstein and also Kant). We tried to answer the question whether our form of thought is just one among many, or the form of thought per se. The possibility of a logical alien, a thinker whose thought is guided by a different logic yet still counts as a thinker, discussed by Frege and Wittgenstein, remains a reference for current investigations (namely for defending that contextualism regarding thought and language is not a form of relativism). The project led to work both in English and in Portuguese (namely in our collection with Colibri, Lisboa, on authors previously not worked on in Portugal (e.g. J. McDowell)), as well as to a large number of Master and Doctoral thesis.
Mattia Riccardi was PI of Project To See or Not to See ? Hallucinations from an interdisciplinary perspective, which prolonged work on perception within Project Bounds of Judgement, was funded by BIAL, and counted on neuroscientists and psychologists in its team. There we tested our disjuntivist approach to perceptual judgement in the arena of philosophy of perception and around the practical issue of the nature of hallucination. This project marks our connection with empirical research on mind and cognition.
Charles Travis work on perception was collected in his “Perception – Essays from Frege” (OUP 2013) and has been the group’s main reference for work on thought, language and perception. Besides a defense of disjunctivism regarding perception (tracing its origins to Frege) the work intersects with the history of contemporary philosophy in several ways we have explored. Central insights of Frege’s are the starting point, regarding notably intrinsic differences between objects of thought and objects of perception, and the essential publicity of thought. Key questions are: how perception can make the world bear (for the perceiver) on what to think or do / what sorts of capacities are drawn on in representing something as (being) something / what it might be for there to be perceptual experiences indistinguishable from ones of perceiving. The latter question (about appearances) bears on metaphysics and led to application to other fields (e.g. ethics and aesthetics). Discussion of Travis 2013 also led to the assessment of Oxford realism as well as to the engagement with authors such as J. L. Austin, Anscombe, J. M. Hinton, T. Clarke, C. Peacocke, T. Burge and J. Fodor.