Oslo Mind Group Seminar: Francesca Secco, What are we doing when we are reading words?

Talk by Francesca Secco, What are we doing when we are reading words?

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When we read a list of words, are we doing it or is it something that just happens to us? On the one hand, according to what I call intention for actions theories, reading is something we can do intentionally and, hence, can be considered an action done by an agent. That is the case, for instance, when you are reading a novel, a newspaper’s article, or studying a chapter. On the other hand, reading seems to passively happen to us. It is sufficient that a word appears in front of us to make us read it. There is, in fact, extensive scientific evidence that reading takes place no matter of the agent’s intention. For instance, numerous studies on the Stroop task are the proof that reading is unavoidable. I will capture this tension between activity and passivity in reading by presenting the reading puzzle. In this puzzle, I will consider cases of simple reading, meaning those instances of reading in which the agent is dealing with single words and she isn’t required to involve further hermeneutic efforts. The way I take to solve the reading puzzle is challenging intention for action theories.  I will argue that if intention is necessary for a process to be active, then intention for action theories fail to account for such an important human activity as reading. This outcome leaves only two options: either we need to accept that simple reading is passive, or we can take this as an invite to investigate other ways in which a process can be active independently of the agent’s intention.

How to attend

This is a read-ahead seminar. The meetings have an hybrid format. We meet in person in GM 652 and digitally on Zoom (Zoom login required).

The meeting link, along with a copy of the paper to be discussed, will be made available in advance via the mailing list.


Mirela Fus and Francesca Secco
Published Feb. 1, 2022 1:30 PM - Last modified Sep. 11, 2022 9:44 AM