University of Liège Philosophy Department

Center for Phenomenological Research

9th Creph Annual Seminar 2015: Phenomenology and Grammar: Laws of Phenomena and Laws of Meaning

University of Liège, 4-8 May 2015

URPh organises its 9th annual research seminar in phenomenology. Its topic is "Phenomenology and Grammar: Laws of Phenomena and Laws of Meaning".

Following Bernard Bolzano's work on formal analyticity, the raise of phenomenology is characterised by the attention paid to the structuration of sense through purely formal principles which make meaning possible. Husserl above all, in his fourth Logical Investigation, insists on the idea of a pure grammar which fixes the formal conditions of meaningfulness (as opposed to non-sense) and which precedes the logical question of consistency (in opposition to countersense). This grammatical level is ruled by a number of meaning categories (nominal matter, adjectival matter...) and by the laws guiding their combinations. Those categories and combinations laws are made obvious thanks to "salva significatione" tests of substitutability. This idea of a purely grammatical structure of sense has also been explored by other students of Brentano, including Anton Marty whose 1884-1896 papers contribute to the debate on the possibility of "subjectless propositions".

Yet questions are raised by this formal approach to grammar which prevailed during the emergence of phenomenology. The main purpose of the seminar is to investigate the kind of formalism that is at stake at the origin of phenomenology in order to clarify its historical significance and to test its longevity. First of all, it intends to question the relevance of this hypothesis of a purely grammatical legality and the relations it would entertain with:

  1. The specifically linguistic legality connected to the expression of these meanings in such or such language or even in language in general. Do the categories of meaning and the laws of their combinations precede each language?
  2. the ontological legality of the objects thought through those meanings. Do objects impose their structure to the meanings through which they are thought or, at the contrary, do meanings impose their structure to the objects which are thought through them?
  3. The phenomenal legality which specifically rules sense experience (passive synthesis).
  4. Additionally: Are grammatical laws purely syntactic, or also semantic?
  5. In addition to these questions, the following points would also deserve to be examined:

  6. The history of the concepts of form, syntax and grammar (in Bolzano, Brentano, Husserl, Marty, Bühler...);
  7. The critical posterity of Husserl's pure grammar in the phenomenological tradition (Heidegger, Derrida...);
  8. The consequence of the attempt to think the structure of significations and their linguistic and anthropological foundations through a combination of phenomenological and structuralist analysis (in Merleau-Ponty, Sartre...);
  9. The posterity of Husserl's pure grammar in logic and linguistic in the XXth century (in particular in "categorial grammars": Lesniewski, Adjukiewicz, Bar-Hillel, Montague, Chomsky...);
  10. The relation between this notion of formal grammar and Wittgenstein's notion of "philosophical grammar" or Russell's grammatical analysis;
  11. The potential extending of the idea of grammar (as legality of meanings) to non verbal expression, for instance to pictures.

The research seminar in phenomenology is an activity of the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS) Doctoral School. Organized over a whole week, it aims at stimulating collaborative research, open to original contributions from Belgian and foreign researchers and academics.

Invited speakers

The seminar is free of charge and open to the public without registration.

Practical details

The seminar will take place from May 4 to 8, 2015, at the University of Liège (Belgium).

Registration is not required for attendance. At the participant's request, the Philosophy Department will issue a certificate which can be used for doctoral certification (ECTS).

Proposals (title and abstract, maximum 700 words) are invited from senior researchers as well as graduate students, and must be sent to B. Leclercq (b.Leclercq[at] and C. Gauvry (c.gauvry[at] by January 15, 2015. Please use only the electronic submission form (doc [24 Kb] / txt [1 Kb]). Acceptance or refusal will be notified by January 15.

The abstracts will be evaluated by the URPh board through a blind-review process. Acceptance or refusal will be notified by January 30.

The talks will be in English and French. Passive understanding of French is recommended.

The Doctoral School does not cover the accommodation and travel costs of the CFP speakers. Information on accommodation is available.

Organizing committee

Bruno Leclercq, Charlotte Gauvry.


c.gauvry[at] - b.leclercq[at]