Talk: Prof. Bart Geurts, 30th January

First Saying, then Believing: The Pragmatic Roots of Folk Psychology 

Bart Geurts (University of Nijmegen)


Thursday, 30th January 2020

Carrington 101


Historical linguistics has revealed several pathways of language change that may guide our understanding of the evolution of mental-state attribution. In particular, it has been established that verbs of saying are often exapted for attributing a variety of mental states, including beliefs and intentions. For example, there are quite a few languages in which the literal translation of, ‘Boris said, “I will win the elections”,’ may be used not only as a speech report, but also to convey that Boris thinks that he will win the elections or intends to win the elections. The objective of this paper is to analyse the pragmatic shifts underlying this pathway, and thus present the first articulate account of the evolution of belief/intention attribution.

All welcome.

Who’s in Control? Re-examining agency in a world of bias.

We are delighted to announce that CCR Director Prof. Emma Borg has been awarded a three year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for work exploring human agency and the extent to which our actions can be considered rational or irrational. The project starts in October 2020 and research events relating to it will appear here in due course.

Leverhulme Major Fellowships 2019

Millikan, Meaning and Minimalism

CCR Director Emma Borg’s paper ‘Millikan, Meaning and Minimalism‘ has just been recognised as one of the Top 20 most downloaded papers from the journal *Theoria* in 2017-18. The paper, which explores connections between Ruth Millikan’s seminal naturalistic approach to meaning and Borg’s own ‘semantic minimalist’ account, was written on the occasion of the award of the Rolf Schock Prize to Millikan.

Reading Emotions Conference 2019: About Time

We are delighted to announce the eighth year of the ‘Reading Emotions’ meeting on 6th and 7th June, 2019. This year, our theme is

‘About time: Temporal perspectives on affective processes’, featuring talks by Randy McIntosh, Carien van Reekum, Katie Gray, Sonia Bishop, and Luiz Pessoa.


Affective processes are inherently dynamic, from both first and second person perspectives. How we perceive and respond to the expression of emotion in others, and how we experience emotion ourselves are time-dependent, dynamic processes. Yet, a substantial majority of emotion research ignores the temporal aspects of affective processes. This meeting will focus on empirical approaches to study the temporal aspects of affective processes, using multiple techniques to measure behaviour and brain activity.


Registration and Abstract submission is now open. The meeting has limited capacity, so please register ASAP.


Concepts, Pointers and Occasion-specific Thoughts

CCR members may be interested in this conference in London in June:


Date: 3-4th June 2019
Venue: Room G7, Ground Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Registration: £20 (£10 graduate students), to include refreshments and lunch. If you would like to attend, please register by 30th May at the following link:
This has been amended from the previous email communication, as the payment process was not working

Emma Borg (University of Reading)
Chris Eliasmith (University of Waterloo)
C. R. Gallistel (Rutgers University)
Ekaterini Klepousniotou (University of Leeds)
Jake Quilty-Dunn (University of Oxford/WUSTL)
Nicholas Shea (University of London)

This conference is about concepts, word meanings, and the rich bodies of information that guide human thought.

Long-term memory includes sentence-like representations (e.g. 1000MM EQUALS ONE METRE), direct links between concepts (e.g. CAT -> MAMMAL), and sets of sensory, motor, motivational and affective representations (e.g. a visual image of a rolled-up piece of lawn turf). We can call this large collection the ‘conception’ connected with a concept. Not all conceptions are deployed on each occasion when we reason or think with a particular concept, but each is important on certain occasions. How do concepts relate to conceptions?

We want to explore the idea that conceptions are organized around a ‘label’ that can be used in thought. Thinkers can think with the label without using the conception it is connected with (Fodor 1998). Perhaps labels can be concatenated into structured representations, such that JANE PETS FIDO is different from FIDO PETS JANE in virtue of label-like representations arranged differently. We could then perform logical inferences that are sensitive only to these logical forms. How do these conceptual labels link up with conceptions? An idea explored here is that they function computationally as “pointers.” Pointers are representations that redirect access elsewhere in memory. Perhaps conceptual labels are pointers to conceptions.

How should we think about pointers? Gallistel & King (2009) set out the classical computational idea of a pointer. It is an address that names a memory location where relevant data is stored. Computations can be performed on the pointer without calling the stored data. Chris Eliasmith (2013) has argued for the existence of ‘semantic pointers’, which operate in a different way. A semantic pointer is a compressed representation which can be decompressed into detailed sensorimotor information. Here, too, operations can be performed on a pointer without calling the more specific representations to mind.

Concepts are often thought to function as (representations of) word meanings. Word meanings seem to be polysemous—that is, they flexibly generate senses from a single core meaning, as ‘chicken’ can refer to an animal or the meat from that animal. Some evidence suggests that polysemy is distinct from homonymy, in which a word like ‘bear’ has multiple unrelated meanings (Klepousniotou et al., 2012; MacGregor et al. 2015). In that case, perhaps a single conceptual label/pointer can generate different denotations and truth conditions on different occasions.

This family of issues raises some key questions that will be discussed at this conference.
Question 1: Is the relation between labels and conceptions usefully understood in terms of a pointer architecture?
Question 2: Can structure-sensitive inferences (and other operations) be performed over labels/pointers independently of conceptions?
Question 3: How do we use conceptual pointers to construct occasion-specific thoughts?
Question 4: What are word meanings, such that they can generate these occasion-specific thoughts (Carston 2012)? And do they fix denotations and truth conditions (Borg 2004) or not (Pietroski 2018)?
Question 5: Do polysemous words map to a single concept (Vicente 2018), multiple concepts (Murphy 2002), or are word meanings nonconceptual (Pietroski 2018)?

Tentative Schedule:
Monday 3rd June:10:30 Registration; 11:00 Start 17:00 Finish
Tuesday 4th June: 09:00 Start; 16:30 Finish
(Schedule to be confirmed after registration)

The event is supported by the European Research Council through the ‘Metacognition of Concepts’ project.


CCR Summer Seminar 2019 details

Please see the timetable for the CCR summer series below.  Talks start this Tuesday— everyone welcome!
Developing and Applying New Quantitative Methods in Experimental Philosophy of Language

CINN Conference Room, Psychology Building
Tuesdays, 1pm-2:45

The philosophy of language has recently undergone an “experimental turn”, in which the most interesting contemporary philosophical work on language is informed by linguistic experiments. But how can experiments tell us anything about something as intangible as the meaning of a word? The experimental turn is based on the assumption that linguistic meaning is a psychological phenomenon that should be investigated using the tools of the cognitive sciences. This project brings some of the most innovative experimental philosophers, linguists, and psychologists to Reading in a series of masterclasses which will instruct audiences of graduate students and faculty in a variety of cutting-edge experimental methods that have been developed to investigate linguistic meaning.

If you’re interested in attending any of the masterclasses, please contact Patrick Connolly (

April 30: Introduction to experimental philosophy of language
Nat Hansen, Reading, Philosophy, CCR

May 7: MASTERCLASS taught by Stephanie Solt (Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin): Experimental research on adjectival subjectivity

May 14: MASTERCLASS taught by Paul Egré (Institut Jean-Nicod, CNRS Paris): Contradictory Descriptions with Gradable Adjectives

May 21: MASTERCLASS taught by Ian Cunnings (Reading, Psychology): Understanding sentences in real-time: Evidence from eye-tracking during language comprehension

May 28: MASTERCLASS taught by Andrea Beltrama (University of Paris 7 – Diderot): How does our language makes us sound? Investigating social meaning through listeners’ perception.

June 4: No class

June 11: MASTERCLASS taught by Helena Aparicio (MIT Computational Linguistics Lab): Investigating context effects in the interpretation of Haddock Descriptions through experiments and computational modeling
NOTE: This session will meet from 3:00pm-4:45pm

Further details for Dan Dennett events, 8-10 May

Albert Wolters Events, 2019
Wednesday 8-May
Growing Autonomy in Human and Artificial Agents
Symposium featuring new work by Dennett in collaboration with Keith Frankish, bringing together experts from Psychology, Philosophy, Cognitive Science, and Artificial Intelligence. Other speakers include robotics innovator Josh Bongard (Vermont), philosophers of mind Emma Borg (Reading) and Cecilia Heyes (Oxford), philosopher of mental health Lisa Bortolotti (Birmingham), and Google Deepmind AI expert Murray Shanahan (Imperial College).
Thursday 9-May
New Scientist Facebook LIVE Interview (2 pm)
Daniel Dennett will be interviewed live by the New Scientist and will answer questions from the audience.
Public Lecture: Consciousness, Autonomy and Responsibility (8 pm)
In this lecture, Dennett will explore what it means to be ‘autonomous’, and how language and society shape our sense of being free, morally accountable beings. The lecture will be livestreamed online by the University of Reading.
Friday 10-May
Lunch with early career researchers
Daniel Dennett will have lunch and informal discussions with PhD students, postdoctoral and other early career researchers in the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences and across the University, facilitated by the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN) and CINN Imaging, the University’s neuroimaging facility.

Albert Wolters Lecture 2019: Professor Daniel Dennett

We are delighted to announce that Prof. Daniel Dennett will be visiting the University of Reading in May to deliver the prestigious Albert Wolters Lecture (9th May).

Before the lecture he will also give the keynote talk at a symposium on ‘Growing Autonomy in Human and Artificial Agents’ (8th May). Finally, in the run-up to his visit, we will be running two discussion sessions on Dennett’s work (20th and 27th March).

Further details of all events can be found here.

To book a place at the Albert Wolters lecture, please register here. For queries about the symposium, please contact Emma Borg (