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Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet

General reflections and report on my 6 months scholarship in Chengdu, China

Michael Ranta

Part 1:

- General reflections and report on my 6 months scholarship in Chengdu, China,  
  incl.

- The Making of Us: Maoist Pictorial Propaganda
- Rock Carvings in Northern China (Inner Mongolia, Ningxia)

Part 2:

- On Linguistic and Cognitive Relativism:
Reflections Based on the Film “Arrival” (2016)


One of Immanuel Kant’s (1724 – 1804) central philosophical concerns was
the relationship between mind and world. He famously inverted the idea
that in knowing the world the mind attempts to mirror a “ mind - independent ”
world, claiming instead that the world we experience necessarily conforms
to certain categories of the mind. While such categories were essentially
universal for Kant, later philosophers replaced the idea of the world’ s conforming
to the categories of the mind with the idea of the world’ s conforming
to linguistic or conceptual categories. This change allowed for the idea
of a very strong conceptual/linguistic relativism whereby either the content
of experience or the world itself is relativized to conceptual frameworks or schemes –
the central idea of which is that different conceptual schemes result in different worlds.

The purpose of this part of the seminar is to discuss some aspects of relativism and schematic/cognitive incommensurability as suggested by the film “Arrival”. Most notably, we shall consider Donald Davidson’s (1917 – 2003) claims that conceptual relativism is incoherent because the very idea of a conceptual scheme is incoherent.


Suggested readings:

Donald Davidson (especially):
On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme (PDF).”
Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association  47 (1974): 5 – 20.

David Dunér:
Extraterrestrial Life and the Human Mind (PDF)

Göran Sonesson:
Preparations for Discussing Constructivism with a Martian
(The Second Coming) (PDF)


If possible, also see the film “Arrival” in advance…


(Or read about it here:

and here:

Courtesy of the programme director)