Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

The Social Mind as Subject

Michele Foley, Claire Bélanger.

A key debate in the humanities unfolds between modernity positing knowledge through the ‘object’ and postmodernity that emphasizes the ‘subject’. By exploring the social mind through language, this research seeks to bring to light a new philosophical ‘horizon of expectations’ through an interdisciplinary study based on current research in linguistics and anthropology. It reaches across epistemologies to search out an understanding of mind and experience that establishes a new ground for agency apprehended through language and meaning. In doing so, it touches on rationality and identity, on the scepticism of Montaigne and the egolessness of Buddhism. This endeavour is all encompassing in its investigation of consciousness, representation and agency. Indeed, what if adding the modalities of meaning to the universality of language could point to a better understanding the social mind.

We draw on this very universality of language by focussing on its expression through time and space. The requirement to express grammatical subjects varies across languages as does the interpretation of the grammatical subject of certain predicates as a volitional or non-volitional agent of the action. Although such variation is the source of much linguistic investigation, we will examine the use of language as a mirror of the consciousness that shapes our engagement with the material and natural world.


Michele Foley  (Canada)
Lecturer in Linguistics
Department of Linguistics Faculty of Arts
University of Ottawa

Ph.D. 1997. Sessional lecturer at the University of Ottawa in Linguistics and Education

Claire Bélanger  (Canada)

University of Ottawa

  • Linguistics
  • Language
  • Consciousness
  • Agency

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)