The Logic of Conceivability

Jonathan Phillips

 LoC online seminar session on Wednesday, September 9: Jonathan Phillips (Dartmouth) on How we know what not to think

Time: 17:00- 19.00 (Amsterdam time)

Location: virtually (zoom)

Title: How we know what not to think
Abstract: We often represent and reason about unrealized possible actions – the vast infinity of things that were not (or have not yet been) chosen. This capacity is central to the most impressive of our abilities: causal reasoning, planning, linguistic communication, moral judgment, etc. Nevertheless, not a great deal is known about how we select possible actions that are worth considering from the infinity of unrealized actions that are better left ignored. I'll review research across the cognitive sciences, and argue that the possible actions considered by default are those that are both likely to occur and generally valuable. I'll then point to a unified theory of why, proposing that (i) across diverse cognitive tasks, the possible actions we consider are biased towards those of general practical utility, and (ii) a plausible primary function for this mechanism resides in decision making. I'll end by presenting new empirical evidence for such a mechanism in decision making and briefly discuss the implications of this picture of modal domain construction for the semantics of natural language modals.


  • Federico Faroldi

    LoC online seminar session on Wednesday, November 18: Federico Faroldi (Ghent University) on The Structure of Reasons: Subtraction and Partiality

  • Hans Rott

    LoC online seminar session on Wednesday, October 21: Hans Rott (University of Regensburg)

     on Difference-making conditionals and the Relevant Ramsey Test

  • Daniel Hoek

    LoC online seminar session on Wednesday, October 7: Daniel Hoek (Virginia Tech) on Questions in Action

  • Jonathan Phillips

     LoC online seminar session on Wednesday, September 9: Jonathan Phillips (Dartmouth) on How we know what not to think

  • Jonathan Phillips


    [CANCELLED] Jonathan Phillips (Dartmouth) on Now we know what not to think


    LoC-DIP seminar session: Wednesday, March 11, 16:00- 17.30, at F1.15 @ ILLC

  • Heinrich Wansing and Christopher Badura

    Heinrich Wansing (Bochum) on Substructural negations as normal modal operators and 

    and Christopher Badura (Bochum) on Conditional Belief and Imaginative Episodes


    LoC seminar: Wednesday, February 12, 10:00-15:00, at OTM 141, Faculteitskamer. 

  • Talk by Fabrizio Cariani

    Fabrizio Cariani (Northwestern) on Indirect Evidence and the Easy Foreknowledge Puzzle. LoC seminar: Tuesday, December 17, 2019, 16:00-18:00, at the ILLC.

  • Talk by Barbara Vetter (Berlin)

    Barbara Vetter on agency-based approach to modal knowledge. Joint LoC/LIRa session: Thu, November 14, 2019, 16.30-18.00 at the ILLC. 

  • Talk by Dominic Gregory (Sheffield)

    Dominic Gregory on counterfactuals and beliefs about possibility. LoC seminar: Wed, October 16, 2019, 10:00-12:00 in Oude Turfmarkt 141. 

  • Talk by Igor Douven (CNRS, Paris)

    Igor Douven on abductive conditionals and Inferentialism: LoC seminar: Wed, April 24, 2019, 16.30-18.00 at the ILLC.

  • Talk by Margot Strohminger (Oxford)

    Margot Strohminger on belief in conditionals: LoC seminar: Wed, March 20, 2019, 10 am-12am in  Oude Turfmarkt 141-143.

  • Talk by Bjørn Jespersen (Utrecht)

    Bjørn Jespersen on Fregean semantics: LoC seminar: Wed, Oct 31, 2018, 2 pm-4pm at the ILLC
  • Talk by Catarina Dutilh Novaes

    Catarina Dutilh Novaes on deduction and cognition: LoC seminar: Wed, Oct 3, 2018, 2pm-4pm at the ILLC

  • Franz to St Andrews!

    LoC's PI Franz moves to St Andrews, but the LoC work continues as before.