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lunedì, giugno 13, 2011

selection-1Spring School – Making the Social World

June 7-9, San Raffaele University, Milan

Our Spring School has been an exciting opportunity to know each other’s research and to discuss a lot of inspiring ideas. Thanks to everybody, and a special thank to John Searle, who discussed every issue with us most of the time, in spite of his other engagements. Exchanges can continue on the Lab, we will be happy to publish questions, revised texts, slides – now that we know each other it will be easier to trace the contributed papers which are already available on the Lab and pursue the discussion. You can also download the first issue of our on line journal, “Phenomenology and Mind”.

Deadline for the submission of the last version of your papers is : September 30. We shall publish the relevant instructions later on. Please send any question or text to:

Carlo CONNI <>

Full texts, slides and other contributions will be also posted in the dedicated channel 2011 Spring School.


Roberta De Monticelli’s  opening address

It is my pleasure, after the opening address by the Dean of our Faculty, whom I thank for being with us on this occasion, to welcome everybody to this Spring School devoted to the work of John Searle, and quite particularly to his last work, Making the social world – that’s the title of our conference too, with its three sections on Collective Intentionality and Social Cognition (to-day). Social Ontology (to-morrow), Normativity and Language (the day after tomorrow).

(Professor Searle is expected to join us within this first session, he is presently on his way to Milan coming from Bologna, where he was lecturing yesterday; as you probably know, he will give a further lecture in Milan, namely at the “Corriere della sera foundation”, on Thursday evening, toward the end of our conference – so that those who wish listen to him again can do that without missing too much):

In the few minutes I have before passing the word on to our invited speakers of this session, Hans Bernard Schmitt (University of Basel) and Cristina Meini (University of Piemonte Orientale), whom I warmly thank to be with us, I would like to say something about the context and the meaning of this conference. This will give more substance to the deep thanks I wish to express to every single persons among the many who helped to organize it.

This Spring School, as many know, is the second international meeting of a series that our Research Centre in Phenomenology and Sciences of the Person, joined by the CRESA, is planning to organize every year, exploiting this up to now successful  format, allowing Ph.D students and young researchers from several countries to present their papers and to discuss them  with some of the best philosophers in the world. Let me take the opportunity to thank both the scientific and the organizing committee of this Conference for the hard but exciting work which was necessary to select the about 24 contributed papers from about twice as much that we received, almost all of them being of very good quality.

Last year’s conference, as the present one – was centred around a single book, judged to have been an outstanding, direct or indirect, contribution to enhance the kind of  renaissance of  analytic  phenomenology which seems to be under way all over the world. When I say “phenomenology” I mean a philosophical method devised to address most  classical topics both in philosophy of mind, including recent progress in the cognitive neurosciences; and in philosophy of the rational agent, or the person. In the first group we may class such issues as the body-mind problem, the nature of consciousness, phenomenal consciousness, intentionality, free will;  and in the second one such topics as the theory of practical reason, normativity and values, social cognition and collective intentionality, social ontology.

Actually, last year Winter School covered, grosso modo, the first one of these two main classical domains of philosophical research. The book chosen for discussion was Shaun Gallagher and Dan Zahavi’s The phenomenological Mind. Our Research Centre is now very proud to produce the first issue of its new on line Journal, Phenomenology and Mind, containing, among other things, the invited papers (among them Shaun Gallagher, Vittorio Gallese and Lynne Baker) and a selection of the junior papers presented at the conference. Let me take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the whole staff of the Research Centre and the Phenomenology Lab, quite particularly to its living soul Stefano Cardini, as well as to the San Raffaele Publishing House, who made this achievement possible. We are planning to publish this conference proceedings too, on the next issue. We are also very proud to represent San Raffaele University at the Digital Thought Conference organized by the Corriere della sera Foundation next Thusday.

It seemed very natural to carry on the idea, this year, with the second one of the two mentioned domains of research where phenomenology meets analytical philosophy. The rational agent – as a linguistic, institutional, political animal – is the key figure unifying the topics of this Spring School, and, of course, the book chose for discussion is Searle’s last book, which already had such a large success all over the world. That was the context; now let me go deeper into the meaning of this choice.

The Phenomenological Mind, the book from which we borrowed the title and the general subject of the first one of the international meetings promoted by our Research Centre, has powerfully contributed to making phenomenology respectable again among philosophers who don’t share in the least that ignorant contempt for science, logics and conceptual analysis, which had been so disastrous for the intellectual reputation of too many alleged heirs of the phenomenological tradition on this Continent. It gave us a common language, without forcing us to give up our methods of experience’s description and essential discovery. It made phenomenology a good travel mate for analytic philosophers – or, this is the future we try to make possible. Our Phenomenology Lab will provide everybody consulting it with evidence for this attempt, and, I think, for its success. This was a big achievement, for most analytical philosophers of my generation would have agreed with Thomas Metzinger when he proclaimed phenomenology to be “a discredited research program… intellectually bankrupt for at least 50 years”. (One relevant exception was Michael Dummett in Oxford: he was well acquainted with Lotze and other predecessors of Frege, but did not ignore, as most of his colleagues, Husserl’s Logical Investigations).

A new generation of analytically minded phenomenologists is, in a way, a new beginning, but not a novelty altogether in the history of phenomenology. About 150 years have gone by since Husserl’s birth: but no divide between analytical and continental philosophy comparable to the one who took place later on occurred during the first decades of last century. Franz Brentano, Gottlob Frege, Edmund Husserl, William James, Bertrand Russell – to quote only some major figures – were all directly or indirectly aware of each other’s works.

So, both the early tradition of phenomenology and the very last one converged in suggesting the work of John Searle, and quite particularly his last summary of natural and social philosophy, as the next focus of our international meetings. Through his masters, J.L. Austin and P. Strawson, Searle’s philosophy of language  has a deep root in Frege’s legacy, on one hand, but on the other hand Searle, especially the late one, is one of the rare contemporary masters of a life-world ontology, or the metaphysics of everyday world, as Lynne Baker would have it. Hence, an ideal partner to discuss some main features of an anti-reductive philosophy of the apparent world – which is what phenomenology is all about.

More than in the much more popular theory of intentionality, a phenomenologist will find  familiar and exciting fields of discussion with Searle in two permanent issues of his thought, as just mentioned, namely:

1. His theory of language, lately summarized in the powerful idea of a deontology rooted in language, both in its pragmatics and in its semantics, and culminating in the idea of language as the proto-institution, and the theory of constitutivity by declarations. This idea finds an impressive parallelism in Husserl’s theory of practical reason, as developed from the Prolegomena to the series of lectures of 1908-14 and 1920-24 on Ethics and Practical Reason.

2.  His thesis about consciousness and experience as the way in which phenomena and the apparent world are given, hence ontologically non reducible to its neurobiological support; and his consequent question about the reliability of experience (is it illusory, or not?) This is also the central question of phenomenology. The answer NO distinguishes it from phenomenalism, or scepticism about the life world, as it distinguishes Searle’s ontology in the first person from epi-phenomenalism or materiasm. Both topics could have justified a whole Spring School for each of them. It will come maybe.

There is of course a third domain where a phenomenologist is very happy to meet John Searle, and this is, of course, that of social ontology. As it is well known, the very foundations of this relatively recent philosophical domain have been independently laid down in the first decade of the XXth century by Adolph Reinach and many former members of the Munich and Goettingen early phenomenological circles (from Herbert Spiegelberg to Dietrich von Hildebrand, from Roman Ingarden to Alfred Schutz – and many others). Having survived Nazi persecution through emigration, they spread our way of thinking and methods of research all over the world. We should not forget, of course, the relevant developments in formal and material ontology rooted in Husserl’s III Logical Investigation (on Parts and Wholes), quite particularly Peter Simons’ mereology and Barry Smith’s biomedical ontology; as, more generally, Kevin Mulligan’s pioneering works about the so called Austrian-analytic philosophy. Among the Italian traditions, it seems worthy of notice that our most important philosopher of law and politics (Norberto Bobbio, 1909-2004) wrote his first important book on social and legal philosophy within the phenomenological movement: his pages on Husserl, and those on Scheler, Reinach and Kaufmann still retain their unequalled lucidity. Social ontology, on the other hand, which as we said was first – and far before John Searle – outlined as an independent material ontology by Adolf Reinach, as well as by the polish philosopher Czes?aw Znamierowski (introduced in Italy by two members of our Center, Wojciech Żełaniec and Giuseppe Lorini) has found in Pavia and Milan a flourishing prosecution within the school of Amedeo G. Conte (Gianpaolo Azzoni, Paolo Di Lucia, Lorenzo Passerini Glazel, Stefano Colloca). Let me thank Paolo Di Lucia, who will speak on Thursday, to represent this legacy here. Amedeo Conte, unfortunately, won’t be with us, because of a surgical operation he had to undergo.

I won’t say a further word on this subject, for we have three days to explore it thoroughly – I only wish to recall the flourishing Italian contributions to this branch of ontology, to have a look on which I invite you for a visit to the Labont, run by Maurizio Ferraris (who will be speaking tomorrow) and school. Social ontology is also the domain of research of one of the main organizers and scientifical advisers of this Sprin School, Dr. Francesca De Vecchi, whom I wish to express our deep gratitude for her extraordinary efficacy and her enthusiastic commitment.

Last but not least, I wish to thank the young community which keeps our Phenomenology Lab alive, and the students, especially the  graduate ones, who were involved in the study of Searle’s work within this year seminars, and those who helped in the material organization of our meeting. I wish everybody an exciting participation to this conference. Good work!

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