Cattedra Rotelli

Cattedra Rotelli

Lectures 2020 Philip Pettit

From the 15th to the 20th of June 2020, Philip Pettit will give the Rotelli Lectures at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University. The theme for this year’s Lectures will be “How Language Powers the Mind”.

Philip Pettit is L.S.Rockefeller University Professor of Human Values at Princeton University and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University. He has been a lecturer at University College, Dublin, a research fellow at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and professor at the University of Bradford. From 1983 to 2002, he moved to the Australian National University’s Research School of Social Sciences, where he lectured Political Theory. Philip Pettit is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

He has worked in a range of areas, including ethical and political theory; the theory of collective and corporate agency; and the philosophy of mind. He has published a number of books in those areas, including over the last decade The Common Mind (OUP 1996), Republicanism (OUP 1997), A Theory of Freedom (OUP 2001), Rules, Reasons and Norms (OUP 2002), Penser en Societe (PUF, Paris 2004), Examen a Zapatero (Temas de Hoy, Madrid 2008), Made with Words: Hobbes on Mind, Society and Politics (PUP 2008); Group Agency (with C.List, OUP 2011); On the People's Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy (CUP 2012); Just Freedom: A Moral Compass for a Complex World (W.W.Norton 2014) e The Robust Demands of the Good: Ethics with Attachment, Virtue and Respect (OUP 2015) and The Birth of Ethics (OUP 2018).

He gave the Tanner Lectures in Human Values in Berkeley in 2015, later published as The Birth of Ethics: A Reconstruction of the Nature and Role of Morality (2018) with Oxford University Press, and the John Locke Lectures in Philosophy in Oxford 2019. 

Common Minds: Themes from the Philosophy of Philip Pettit appeared from OUP in 2007, edited by Geoffrey Brennan et al. 

How Language Powers the Mind - Lectures Calendar

The theme of the lectures is the constitutive dependence of characteristic mental capacities on the ability to communicate in words or similar signs, and the social life it makes possible. The claim defended is that language is more or less bound to generate certain distinctive mental capacities, which are not themselves presupposed to having language. The method followed is to explore, counterfactually, how the advent of even a simple, information-sharing language would elicit the capacities in subjects otherwise like us.

Minds with words, so the argument goes, will more or less inevitably 1. decide about how to judge and what to think; 2. control their thinking by rule-based reasoning; 3. enjoy a special perceptual consciousness; 4. make commitments and form community; 5. assume responsibility for what they do; and 6. constitute persons and selves. Is language necessary for the capacities it is said to catalyze? Perhaps not, at least in the case of the first three, more purely psychological abilities. But even if they might exist without language—nothing is said about that topic here—the important point is that language itself does not presuppose them.

Please note that, due to the ongoing coronavirus emergency, the Seminars and the Lectures will be delivered via Microsoft Teams.

Rotelli Lectures’ updated program:

  • 15 June 2020, 9.00 am – 11.30 am
    Lecture 1. Minds with words decide how to judge and what to think
    Discussant: Alfredo Tomasetta (Scuola Universitaria Superiore IUSS – Pavia)   
  • 16 June 2020, 9.00 am – 11.30 am
    Lecture 2. Minds with words control their thought by rule-based reasoning     
    Discussant: Raffaele Ariano (UniSR)
  • 17 June 2020, 9.00 am – 11.30 am
    Lecture 3. Minds with words enjoy a special perceptual consciousness        
    Discussant: Elisabetta Sacchi (UniSR)
  • 18 June 2020, 9.00 am – 11.30 am
    Lecture 4. Minds with words form commitments and community
    Discussant: Francesca De Vecchi (UniSR)
  • 19 June 2020, 9.00 am – 11.30 am
    Lecture 5. Minds with words assume responsibility for what they do     
    Discussant: Bianca Cepollaro (UniSR)
  • 20 June 2020, 9.00 am – 11.30 am
    Lecture 6. Minds with words constitute persons and selves
    Discussant: Francesca Forlè (UniSR)

The event is open to everyone. For all those who are not San Raffaele University’s students or academic staff, registration is required. In order to register, please send an email to Prior to the event, instructions for accessing the Lectures will be sent via email to all those who have registered.

Abstract How Language Powers the Mind-2020 (1) Cattedra Rotelli 2020

Preparatory seminars

  • 27 April 2020, 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm: Alessandro Ferrara e Greta Favara discuss Philip Pettit’s political philosophy 
  • 14 May, 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm: Alessandro Salice e Francesca Forlè discuss Philip Pettit’s theory of collective intentionality 
  • 18 May, 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm: Ian Carter discusses Philip Pettit’s conception of freedom 

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