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The Mark of the Mental (MOM) - PRIN 2017

Beginning date : 2019

End Date : 2022

Short description

The PRIN Project "The Mark of Mental" (MOM), 2017P9E9N is financed by the Italian Ministry of University and Research for an amount of € 167.000. It is active from 29.12.2019 to 28.12.2022.
Four Universities are participating in the MOM project: University of Turin, IUSS University School for Advanced Studies Pavia, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University Milan, University of Bergamo.
Principal Investigator of the project is Prof. Alberto Voltolini. Local coordinators are Michele Di Francesco (IUSS Pavia), Elisabetta Sacchi (San Raffaele), Alfredo Paternoster (Bergamo).



The project The Mark of the Mental (MOM) aims to explore the venerable question of the mark of the mental, i.e., the question of what makes it the case that mental events, states, and properties are mental. In philosophy of mind, this question is not only fundamental, but also timely. For depending on how one addresses it, one may also answer the question of whether other biological species and mechanical devices are endowed with mentality, hence subjects of empathy and respect on the part of humans. Thus, the question will be approached not only theoretically, but also with respect to its likely applications.
MOM’s aim is threefold: a) to question whether there is a chance for intentionality, i.e., the property of being about something or having content, to be the mark of the mental; b) to see if there is a chance for phenomenal consciousness, i.e., the property of something’s having a certain what- it-is-like or phenomenal character, to be such a mark; c) to discuss two aspects of the mark of the mental issue prominent in cognitive science that are related to the cognitive unconscious and extended mind. MOM’s four units will explore such issues both separately and interconnectedly, by exploiting the overall competence of the units’ members on them.

More details on IUSS role in the project

In the phenomenological tradition starting from Brentano (1995) and Husserl (1970), two different salient properties of the mental have been theoretically taken to be that mark; intentionality, the property of being about something or of having a content that determines for its bearer certain satisfaction conditions, and consciousness, at least phenomenal consciousness, i.e., the fact that a state entertains a certain what-it-is-like: its phenomenal character. In contemporary analytic philosophy of mind, both theories have been revived. People have moved either in an intentionalist direction holding that all mental states, even those that are paradigmatically phenomenal, are ultimately intentional, since their phenomenal character at least supervenes on their intentionality. Or they have moved in the opposite, conscientialist, direction, holding that phenomenal consciousness takes pride of price, either reducing intentionality itself to a conscious property – phenomenal intentionality – or taking all mental states as qualified by phenomenology, either qualitative – affecting sensations, emotions and moods – or cognitive – affecting beliefs, expectations and desires. Each move has its own pros and cons; so far, no shared consensus has been reached.
MOM aims not only to investigate further the two aforementioned theories, but also to explore whether they exhaust the live options. MOM’s aim is indeed threefold:
a) to question whether there is another chance for intentionality to be the mark of the mental;
b) to question whether there is another chance for phenomenal consciousness to be that mark;
c) to discuss two aspects of the mark of the mental issue prominent in cognitive science, related to the cognitive unconscious and extended mind.
The IUSS unit will investigate both aim b), in connection with the general idea that consciousness is the mark of the mental, and aim c), in particular as to the question of how the issue of the mark of the mental has bearings on the ‘extended mind’ debate.



Involved persons

Michele Di Francesco, Full Professor, Unit Coordinator
Michele Di Francesco is full professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science, at the School for Advanced Studies IUSS Pavia. Past Rector of IUSS, Membre associé of the Institut Jean-Nicod (CNRS, EHESS, ENS), in Paris, he is the President of the Italian Society of Neuroethics and Philosophy of Neuroscience, and a Past President of the European Society for Analytic Philosophy and of the Italian Society for Analytic Philosophy. His main field of research is the philosophy of mind and of cognitive science.

Alfredo Tomasetta, Associate Professor
Alfredo Tomasetta ( specializes in philosophy of mind and analytic metaphysics (especially the metaphysics of human persons). In addition to these primary areas of research, he is also interested in philosophical logic, philosophy of language, epistemology and classical Indian philosophy.

Giulia Piredda, Researcher
Giulia Piredda is a researcher in philosophy at IUSS. Her primary research interests are in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of cognitive science and philosophy of language, with particular attention to the situated, embodied and extended views of mind and affectivity. In 2018 she obtained the National Scientific Academic Qualification as Associate Professor in Philosophy of Language (11/C4).

Marco Fasoli, Post Doc
Marco Fasoli is a philosopher of technology and cognitive science. His research is currently focused on cognitive artifacts and on the impact that new digital technologies have on our personal well-being. In 2019 he published for Il Mulino the monograph "Il benessere digitale" and received the Vittorio Girotto Award from the Italian Association of Cognitive Sciences (AISC) for the article "Against technological instrumentalism. For an analytical theory of the prescriptivity of artifacts".

Mirza Mehmedovic, Post Doc
Mirza Mehmedović is a research fellow at IUSS since January 2020. His research is focused on mind-brain identity theory, with particular reference to the naturalization of phenomenal consciousness according to the paradigm of biological naturalism. He also conducts research on: Extended mind, nature of beliefs (as dispositional and/or categorical properties), phenomenal consciousness and intentionality as marks of the mental.

Arianna Beghetto, Ph.D. Candidate
Ph.D. candidate in Cognitive Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind. Main interests: Philosophy of Mind and Perception, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Language, Epistemology, Philosophy of Cognitive and Clinical Psychology, Phenomenology, Philosophy of Art, Theatre and Expressiveness. My research project focuses on the role of the subjectivity in the epistemological and metaphysical relation between mind and world.

Marco Facchin, Ph.D. Candidate
Ph.D. Candidate in Cognitive Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind at IUSS. My fields of specialization are the Philosophy of Mind and the Philosophy of Cognitive Science. I’m currently working on the relationship between Predictive Processing and 4E Cognition. In particular, I'm focusing on the role (if any) of cognitive representations in Predictive Processing; and the relationship between Predictive Processing and extended cognition. I'm also interested in the role of the spinal cord in cognition and the thesis of extended consciousness.

Giacomo Zanotti, Ph.D. Candidate
Ph.D. candidate in Cognitive Neuroscience and Philosophy of Mind at IUSS. My research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy of mind, metaphysics and philosophy of science. I am currently working on physicalism about the mind — the thesis that mental states are nothing over and above physical states. In particular, I am focusing on the assessment of the arguments that have been put forward in favour of such a view as well as on the issues raised by the formulation of the physicalist claim.