Representation and Fragmentation

Parallel Seminars

Adam Elga

PHI 535 - Philosophy of Mind (Princeton)

Fridays 10:00-1:00

Agustin Rayo

24.501 - Problems in Metaphysics (MIT)

Mondays 2:00-5:00

Course Description

We will study mental representation, with special attention to the representation of incoherent, inconsistent, or fragmented states of mind.

We will apply our understanding of fragmented mental states to topics such as: (1) the debate between sentence-based and possible-worlds-based theories of mental representation, (2) the representation of mathematical and logical ignorance (3) the epistemology of believers who realize they are imperfect reasoners, (4) expressivism about rationality in the context of normative uncertainty, (5) models of the search for reflective equilibrium, (6) ascribing quasi-mental-states to groups of agents who act in concert.

How the Seminar will Work

Most classes will be taught in parallel, in seminars at Princeton and MIT. But on the weekend of Oct 29-30, the Princeton gang will go to MIT for two joint sessions.  And on the weekend of Nov 12-13, the MIT gang will visit Princeton.  The full schedule is at:

Some funding will be available to defray travel costs for participating Princeton and MIT graduate students. Those who are taking the seminar for credit should plan on attending both sets of joint meetings, as well as all meetings held at their home institution.  The seminar is open only to philosophy graduate students.

Class Schedule:

Posted at


Will be posted.  If you would like to preview some of the readings, please email the instructor at your home institution.  Note: about a week ahead of time, we will be “trimming” the required readings by noting particular subsections of assigned articles.  So it is best to recheck this document right before you do the readings.

Session topics and readings

The readings for each meeting of the class are listed below, ordered by date.  For example, the readings assigned for the first session are listed under “Content ascription”.  Readings are required unless listed as “optional”.  Note that in certain cases only certain subparts of articles are assigned, as indicated immediately after the article reference.

Content ascription.
Hartry Field.  ‘Mental representation’.  Introduction and section 1.

Stephen Stich. ‘On the ascription of content’. Sections III-IV

Eric Schwitzgebel. ‘A Phenomenal, Dispositional Account of Belief’ Introduction, section 1, and section 4.

Optional: Donald Davidson.  ‘On the very idea of a conceptual scheme’

Radical Interpretation

David Lewis. ‘Radical interpretation’.

David Lewis. ‘Reduction of Mind. Section II: Content.

Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence, ‘Lewis’s Strawman’.  Section V.

Jerry Fodor and Ernest Lepore. Holism: A Shopper’s Guide. Chapter 4, page 125 (second paragraph) to page 132. (The ‘primacy of belief thesis’ is introduced on page 114.)

Optional: Jerry Fodor and Ernest Lepore. Holism: A Shopper’s Guide. Chapter 3.

The Frame Problem.
Daniel Dennett. ‘Cognitive wheels: the frame problem of AI’ pp. 41-2, 48-9, 53-6.

Christopher Cherniak. ‘Rationality and the Structure of Human Memory’  sections 1, 7, 8.

Scott Hendricks. ‘The frame problem and theories of belief’ sections 1-2.

Sentential vs possible-worlds representations

David Braddon-Mitchell and Frank Jackson. Philosophy of Mind and Cognition (Chapter 11: Content)

Robert Stalnaker. Inquiry (chapter 1) first 11 lines of page 24.  (You might find it helpful to have a look at Stalnaker’s characterizations of need [p. 11, last para], tendency to bring about [p. 12, first para], indication [pp. 12-13], and belief and desire [p. 15, second full para].)

Hartry Field.  ‘Critical notice: Robert Stalnaker, Inquiry’ sections 2, 5.

Robert Stalnaker. ‘Replies to Schiffer and Field’ pp. 121-2.


David Christensen. ‘Epistemic modesty defended’ intro and sections 2, 6.  (Note: this is a draft manuscript. Please do not cite or redistribute without permission of the author)

David Christensen ‘Does Murphy’s Law Apply in Epistemology? Self-Doubt and Rational Ideals’ sections 2-3.

optional: Hartry Field. ‘A Priority as an Evaluative Notion’ pp 130-131.

optional: Hartry Field. ‘Epistemology Without Metaphysics.’ section 12.

optional: Adam Elga. ‘How to disagree about how to disagree’

Tacit Belief.

William Lycan.  Judgment and Justification (chapter 4: ‘Tacit belief’).

optional: Eric Schwitzgebel. ‘Acting Contrary to Our Professed Beliefs’ sections I, II, and IV.

Logical omniscience (part 1).

Robert Stalnaker. ‘Logical Omniscience I’

Logical omniscience (part 2).

Robert Stalnaker. ‘Logical Omniscience II’

Randy Gallistel and Adam King. ‘Procedures’ (Chapter 6 of Memory and the Computational Brain)

Fragmented Belief

Elga & Rayo.  ‘Belief fragmentation’ draft.


Agustin Rayo. The Construction of Logical Space Chapter 4. (You might find it helpful to skim the Introduction and/or Chapter 1  to get a sense of what’s going on in the rest of the text.)

Inconsistent belief

David Lewis.  ‘Logic for equivocators’ (Section I and the portion of section II that follows the three asterisks.)

Bryson Brown & Graham Priest. ‘Chunk and Permeate, a Paraconsistent Inference Strategy. Part I: The Infinitesimal Calculus’ (Sections 1 and 2, and -- if you’re feeling adventurous -- the first few paragraphs of section 3.)

Optional: Haim Gaifman ‘Reasoning with Limited Resources and Assigning Probabilities to Arithmetical Statements’.

Group agency

Christian List. ‘Group knowledge and group rationality’ (Sections 1-4.)

Philip Pettit. ‘Groups with minds of their own’ (Focus on: ‘The Doctrinal Paradox’ and ‘Resolving the Dilemma by Collectivizing Reason’.)

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