Why and How We Give and Ask for Reasons:
Philosophical and Scientific Perspectives

international conference, 19.-22.10.2021, Hradec Králové


Philosophers have long recognized that our ability to converse with one another over the reasons we have is part-and-parcel of our capacity to exercise rational thought and agency. In its paradigmatic manifestation, one’s exercise of discursive cognition is to be understood in terms of one’s knowing obedience to the norms that govern what one ought to think and do, and which knowing is expressed in the ability to communicate about these norms. This view is aptly conveyed in Wilfrid Sellars’ dictum that “in characterizing an episode or a state as that of knowing, we are not giving an empirical description of that episode or state; we are placing it in the logical space of reasons, of justifying and being able to justify what one says”. This theme has been developed in some detail in the philosophy of inferentialism, taking the “game of giving and asking for reasons” as our core discursive activity (e.g., in the work of Robert Brandom).

Meanwhile, the topic of why and how humans produce and consume reasons, or why and how we come to grasp their normative force, has become the subject of intense scientific theorizing. Indeed, over the last two decades explicitly Sellarsian positions on human rationality are increasingly showing up in the literature on developmental and social psychology, primatology, neuroscience, and evolutionary anthropology. As a consequence, questions are raised over the relationship between linguistically-mediated discursive cognition, and the non-, pre-, or proto-linguistic forms of cognition antedating discursive cognition in our ontogeny and phylogeny.

This conference is premised on the idea that the time is ripe to bring these different research programs into mutual dialogue, engaging their respective approaches in a fruitful game of giving and asking for reasons.

Invited Speakers


We invite contributions that address the following topics (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • What is the position of the game of giving and asking for reasons within the labyrinth of our linguistic (and more general social) practices? What is the role of that game with respect to theories of meaning?

  • How does responsiveness to reasons manifest in specific linguistic competencies (e.g. propositional attitude constructions, modal operators, or the use of imperatives)?

  • How does an emphasis on normativity and social reasoning shape our views on cultural evolution?

  • What are plausible lines of ontogeny and phylogeny for our capacities to produce and consume reasons? And what is their relation to communication and language?

  • What is the relationship between sensitivity to reasons and social organization and change? Which social relations and settings shape the development (ontogenetically and phylogenetically) of our sensitivity to reasons?

  • What does it take to be sensitive or responsive to reasons? Are there forms of implicit (pre-reflective) sensitivity to reasons?

  • Is sensitivity to reasons a human-unique capacity? Are there precursors in the animal realm?

  • What role does self-control and executive functioning play in responsiveness to reasons?

REQUIREMENTS: Please send us a 1-2 page abstract for a paper suitable for a 30-minute presentation (with an additional 15 minutes discussion) to easychair

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: June 13, 2021; notifications will go out at the end of July. Please direct questions to Preston Stovall

CONFERENCE FEE: EUR 60 (grad students: 30) – but there will be no conference fee if the conference is ultimately held online


Michal Hubálek, Petr Matějíček, Preston Stovall, Zuzana Sixtová


Stefanie Dach, Matej Drobňák, Ulf Hlobil, Ladislav Koreň, Jaroslav Peregrin, Mark Risjord, Preston Stovall, Iva Svačinová