Talk: Justin Systma, 14th November

Title:  The Bodily Conception of Pain

Time: 11.00 – 13.00

Date: Monday 14th November

Location: Humss 301

ABSTRACT:  The standard view in philosophy treats pains as mental states with a particular type of phenomenal character. This view has a number of corollaries, including that it locates pains in the mind, rules out the possibility of pain hallucinations, and denies that there can be unfelt pains. The main argument put forward in support of the standard view is that it supposedly corresponds with the ordinary or commonsense conception of pain. Despite this, empirical evidence is mounting that non-philosophers do not tend to conceptualize pains in this way; rather, they tend to treat pains as being bodily states. In this talk I will survey the current evidence, including cross-cultural research suggesting that the bodily conception of pains is not specific to English speakers.

SPEAKER:  Justin Systma is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.  He is a leading experimental philosopher with particular focuses on pain, consciousness, and language.  To read more about him and his publications visit his website.

All welcome!



Speaker, Tuesday 4th October

A reminder that our first CCR speaker this year will be:
Prof. Jaideep Pandit, Fellow St. John’s College Oxford and Consultant Anaesthetist, Oxford University Hospitals
Title: New States of Consciousness Revealed by Failure of General Anaesthesia
Date: Tuesday 4th October
Time: 2-3.30pm
Location: Humss 127
Everyone welcome!

Pain Talks Autumn 2016

Continuing our series of pain events, we will have three visiting speakers next term (titles/rooms to follow):

4th October, 2-3.30pm

Prof. Jaideep Pandit

St. John’s Oxford and Consultant Anaesthetist at the Oxford University Hospitals



25th October, 2-3.30pm

Dr. Jennifer Corns

Philosophy, University of Glasgow


6th December, 2-3.30pm

Professor Michael Brady

Philosophy, University of

Talk: Tuesday 14th June

Dr Miguel Sebastián (UNAM Philosophy) and Dr James Stazicker (Reading Philosophy) will present some joint work in progress at CCR on Tuesday 14th June (2.00-3.30pm in HumSS 73). Miguel is visiting Reading as part of his British Academy Newton Mobility Fund project working with James on perceptual discrimination:

Perceptual Discrimination

The talk will draw on predictions of Signal Detection Theory to criticise some philosophical theories of consciousness, as well as making some more positive proposals about what consciousness really is.

Pain seminar 25th May: Change of time

There will be a pain seminar next week but please note that (contra to the previous timetable) it will happen in the afternoon, not the morning. So details are:

Topic:                    Pain in different disciplines

Speakers:            Alison Black (Typography), Hannah Newton (History)

Date:                     Wednesday 25th May

Time:                    2-3.30pm

Location:             CiNN seminar room

All welcome and apologies for changing the time of the seminar, hope this doesn’t inconvenience anyone too much.

Summer Events

We will be running the CCR Summer Seminar Series again this year – on the topic of ‘Understanding Pain’. The schedule is still under construction, and thus may be subject to change, but currently it’s as follows:

27th April The psychology of pain Tim Salomons & Daniel Jordan (Psych)
4th May Philosophical views of pain Jumbly Grindrod (Phil)
11th May The language of pain Nat Hansen and Emma Borg (Philosophy)
1st June Pain in the hospital setting   Deepak Ravindran (Royal Berkshire Hospital) & Richard Harrison
8th June Summary event / social (?) 

There will also be an additional summer CCR talk on Tuesday 14th June, details to follow.


Talk: Emma Borg, 8th March

Emma Borg (Reading)

Title: What is the basis of social cognition? On behaviour-reading, mirroring and mindreading.

When: 2pm, Tuesday 8th March

Where: URS 2s14 (Urban and Regional Studies Building)


A common deflationary tendency has emerged recently in both philosophical accounts and comparative animal studies concerned with social cognition. The suggestion in both arenas is that the default mechanism for social cognition is a form of ‘smart behaviour-reading’ which does not require consideration of the mental states of a target. Instead humans and other animals are held to explain or predict the behaviour of conspecifics exclusively or largely through sensitivity to the observable, behavioural (non-mental) features of a situation. This paper examines the plausibility of this deflationary move and argues that, at least in the human case, it is a mistake to take the default method of social cognition to be smart behaviour-reading. Instead we should adopt a genuinely pluralist view on which both behaviour-reading and genuine mindreading have a critical role to play. I conclude by considering how the proposed view relates to discussions about two-system models and the ontology of social cognition.


CeLM Talk: Tuesday 1st Dec

The following CeLM talk will be of interest to CCR members:
Stephen Politzer-Ahles
University of Oxford
How does the brain understand what people mean (when they don’t say it)?
Language comprehension involves understanding messages that are implied but not explicitly said. For example, “Sue ate some of the donuts” is often understood to mean that Sue did not eat all of the donuts, even though this is not part of the literal semantic meaning expressed by the utterance. The “not all” interpretation is traditionally thought to result from Gricean reasoning: if Sue had eaten all of the donuts, the speaker would have said she ate all of them; so since the speaker didn’t say that, Sue must not have eaten all of them. How do language users realize unsaid aspects of meaning, and how does the brain carry out this process? In this talk I will present brain and behavioral evidence that 1) the brain processes unsaid, inference-based meaning differently than literal semantic meaning; and 2) the brain can realize unsaid, inference-based meanings rapidly and effortlessly.
When: 2-4pm, Tuesday 1st December
Where: AGRIC 1L14

Second ‘Pervasive Context’ conference, 25th-26th June 2016

The second AHRC research network conference on ‘Pervasive Context’, organised jointly by the Philosophy Departments of the University of Reading and Peking University, together with the Reading Centre for Cognition Research, will be held at the University of Reading, UK, on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th June 2016. The full list of speakers is as follows:

  • Jumbly Grindrod, Philosophy, University of Reading
  • Qilin Li, Philosophy, Peking University.
  • Eliot Michaelson, Philosophy, King’s College London.
  • Nausicaä Pouscoulous, Linguistics, University College London.
  • Luca Sbordone, Linguistics, Cambridge University.
  • Robert Stainton, Philosophy, University of Western Ontario.
  • Josef Stern, Philosophy, University of Chicago.
  • Dan Zeman, University of the Basque Country.

Registration  details will be published on the Pervasive Context webpage early in 2016; all welcome!