Workshops & Conferences-Department of Philosophy - Carnegie Mellon University

Upcoming Workshops

Save the Date – NASSLLI 2018

June 25-29, 2018

We are excited to announce that in June 2018, the Department of Philosophy, with support from across the campus, will host the upcoming North American Summer School in Logic, Language and Information. NASSLLI is a biennial event inaugurated in 2001, which brings together faculty and graduate students from around the world, for a week of interdisciplinary courses on cutting edge topics at the intersection of philosophy, linguistics, computer science and cognitive science. The Summer School aims to promote discussion and interaction between students and faculty in these fields. High level introductory courses allow students in one field to find their way into related work in another field, while other courses focus on areas of active research. With its focus on formalization and on cross-disciplinary interactions, NASSLLI is a natural fit for us here at CMU. We are delighted to be hosting. The summer school will take place June 25-29, 2018, with prepatory events June 23-24.

Past Workshops and Conferences

Workshop on Exploitation and Coercion

Nov 4-5, 2016 - Center for Ethics & Policy

The Center for Ethics & Policy at Carnegie Mellon University invites paper abstracts for an inaugural Workshop on Ethics and Policy to be hosted November 4-5, 2016 at the CMU campus in Pittsburgh, PA. We are pleased to welcome Richard Arneson as our keynote speaker. In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Alan Wertheimer's seminal work Exploitation, the theme for our inaugural workshop is "Exploitation and Coercion".

Download CFP

Attitudes and Questions Workshop

June 10 and 11, 2016 - Center for Formal Epistemology

Question embedding in natural language allows a subject to be related to a question by either a (traditionally) propositional attitude like knowledge and forgetting, or an (apparently) inherently question-oriented predicate like asking or wondering. Attitudes held of questions are an important locus of research into the semantics of both interrogative clauses and clause-embedding verbs, closely connected with the notion of the answerhood conditions of a question, and with the operations of composition involved in combining these types of predicates with semantically heterogeneous arguments. The attitudes that relate us to questions are also of considerable epistemic interest, touching on the nature of the knowledge relation and on the way that questions structure our inquiries. This workshop aims to bring together a diverse group of experts on the semantics and epistemic issues raised by these phenomena, to promote exchange of theoretical perspectives and approaches, and to help to move forward current work on questions and attitudes.

Workshop Schedule

Workshop Speakers:

Yimei Xiang

Harvard University

Sensitivity to false answers in indirect questions

Interpretations of indirect questions exhibit sensitivity to false answers (FAs). For instance, for John knows who came being true, John must have no false belief as to who came. This paper focuses on the following two facts, which challenge the current dominant view that FA-sensitivity is derived by exhaustifications (Klinedinst & Rothschild 2011): first, FA-sensitivity is involved in interpreting indirect mention-some questions (e.g., John knows where we can buy an Italian newspaper.) (George 2011, 2013); second, FA-sensitivity is concerned with all types of false answers, not just those that can be complete.

Carlotta Pavese

Duke University

Reducibility, George's challenge, and Intermediate Readings: In search for an Alternative Explanation

In my talk I consider a phenomenon that has been used in arguments against the reducibility of knowledge-wh to knowledge-that (George 2013). I defend a new account of the phenomenon that is compatible with reducibility and I argue that it is explanatorily more satisfying than alternative reducibility-unfriendly analyses.

Danny Fox

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Mention Some, Reconstruction, and Free Choice

The goal of this talk is to present an account of the distribution of “mention some” readings of questions (MS) and to discuss some of the challenges that this account faces. The account will be based on the observation that MS arises only when an existential quantifier intervenes between a wh-phrase and its trace (c.f. George 2011). This observation will be used to argue that reconstruction is necessary for MS and that the notion of exhaustification that reveals itself in the presence of existential quantifiers (resulting in, so called, Free Choice effects) is a crucial component, as well.

Alexandre Cremers

École Normale Supérieure,
Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique (LSCP)

Plurality effects and exhaustive readings of embedded questions

Questions share many properties with plural nouns. Most famously, Berman (1991) showed that embedded questions can be modified by adverbs of quantity such as 'mostly' or 'in part' (quantificational variability effect). They also give rise to cumulative readings (Lahiri, 2002), and homogeneity effects (observed but not implemented). It has also been shown recently that questions embedded under verbs like 'know' are ambiguous between different exhaustive readings (weak, strong, intermediate). This ambiguity is usually seen as an orthogonal issue, and most recent literature on the various levels of exhaustivity completely ignores plurality effects. I will show how an updated version of Lahiri's (2002) proposal can be combined with ideas from Klinedinst & Rothschild (2011) to yield a theory of strong and intermediate readings on par with recent theories of plurality effects of definite plurals (e.g., homogeneity, cumulative readings) and at the same time compatible with recent experimental results.

Benjamin Spector

Institut Jean Nicod & Ecole Normale Supérieure

Predicting the presuppositions triggered by responsive predicates

Most responsive predicates (predicates which can take both a declarative and an interrogative as an argument, e.g. 'know') are presupposition triggers when they embed declaratives (e.g, x knows that p presupposes p). This raises the question how the presuppositions triggered by responsive verbs when they take a declarative complement are inherited when such verbs take an interrogative complement (assuming that the interrogative-taking use is derived from the declarative-taking use). In Spector & Egré (2015), we made a proposal which seems empirically quite well motivated, but which is stipulative, in that it is not derived from an independently motivated theory of presupposition projection. In this talk, I will show, focusing mostly on polar questions, that it is at the very least very hard to come up with a theory which satisfies simultaneously the two following desiderata:
a) providing a general and uniform semantics for embedded questions under responsive predicates in which the meaning of P+interrogative is deducible from that of P+declarative.
b) deriving the presuppositions of the 'P+interrogative' construction on the basis of current explanatory approaches to presupposition projection.
I will discuss the implications of this observation for theories of embedded questions.

Konstantin Genin

Carnegie Mellon University

Simplicity and Scientific Questions


Ockham’s razor instructs the scientist to favor the simplest theory compatible with current information. There is a broad consensus that simplicity is a principal consideration guiding inductive inference in science. But that familiar observation raises several subtle questions. When is one theory simpler than another? And why should one prefer simpler theories if there is no guarantee that simpler theories are — in some objective sense — more likely to be true? We present a model of empirical inquiry in which simplicity relates answers to an empirical question, and is grounded in the underlying information topology, the topological space generated by the set of possible information states inquiry might encounter. We show that preferring simple theories is a necessary condition for optimally direct convergence to the truth, where directness consists in avoiding unnecessary cycles of opinion on the way to the truth. Our approach relates to linguistics in two ways. First, it illustrates how questions under discussion can shape simplicity and, hence, the course of theoretical science. Second, it explains how, and in what sense, empirical simplicity can serve as a theoretical guide in empirical linguistics.

B. R. George

Carnegie Mellon University

The False Belief Effect for know wh and its Conceptual Neighbors

Spector (2005, 2006) and George (2011, 2013) suggest that the truth know wh ascriptions may depend on which false beliefs the subject of know holds, independent of their propositional knowledge. In this talk, I try to introduce the problem, and to provide a (mostly informal) overview of its apparent connections with exhaustification, presupposition, and the semantics of question-embedding predicates other than know. I try to identify some relevant issues and perspectives, and to highlight a few potential challenges and promising generalizations.

Jonathan Phillips

Harvard University

"Differentiating Contents" CFE/Linguistics Workshop

Saturday, December 5, 2015 - Carnegie Mellon, Baker Hall, Dean’s Conference Room, 154R

A variety of phenomena have motivated researchers to distinguish between different types of linguistic content. One classical distinction is that made by Austin (1962) and Searle (1969) between the propositional content of utterances and their speech act force. Another classical distinction is that between assertoric and presupposed content (Frege 1893, Strawson 1950, Stalnaker 1974, inter alia). In recent years, a new distinction between at-issue and not at-issue content (Potts 2005, Simons et al. 2010) has been introduced, to some extent offered as a replacement for the asserted/presupposed distinction. One empirical domain where the at-issue/not at-issue distinction has been utilized by some researchers is in the study of evidentials, a category of linguistic forms which provide information about the speaker’s evidential relation to the (remaining) content of her utterance.

This one day workshop will bring together researchers with intersecting work on the nature of these distinctions, on the empirical evidence for them, and on how to model them.

Workshop Schedule

Fifteenth conference on Theoretical Aspects of Rationality and Knowledge (TARK 2015)
Co-sponsored by the Center for Formal Epistemology

June 4-6, 2015 - Carnegie Mellon

Pitt/CMU Graduate Student Conference

March 20-21, 2015 - Carnegie Mellon
Locations: Mellon Institute, Room 348 (March 20) and Margaret Morrison, Room A14 (March 21)

Workshop on Simplicity and Causal Discovery
Co-sponsored by the Center for Formal Epistemology

June 6-8, 2014 - Carnegie Mellon

Modal Logic Workshop: Consistency and Structure
Co-sponsored by the Center for Formal Epistemology

Saturday, April 12, 2014 - Carnegie Mellon

Trimester: Semantics of Proofs and Certified Mathematics Trimester at the Institut Henri Poincare

April 7 - July 11, 2014 - Paris, France
Click here to access the form for reimbursement for participant travel, lodging and food

Workshop: Philosophy of Physics

September 7, 2013
With Hans Halvorson (Princeton University) and James Weatherall (UC Irvine)

Conference: Type Theory, Homotopy Theory, and Univalent Foundations

September 23-27, 2013 - Barcelona, Spain
Click here to access the form for reimbursement for participant travel and hotel expenses

Workshop: Case Studies of Causal Discovery with Model Search

October 25-27, 2013 - Carnegie Mellon