Nirmalangshu Mukherji


Some Papers

  1. "Knowledge and Philosophical Explanation”, Indian Philosophical Quarterly, April 1979

  2. “Against Indeterminacy”, in D. P. Chattopadhyay (Ed.) Humans, Meanings and Existence, McMillan, New Delhi, 1983.

  3. “Field on Truth and Mathematics”, Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research (JICPR), Spring 1984.

  4. “Descriptions and Group Reference”, Proceedings of American Philosophical Association (abstracts), March 1986.

  5. “Descriptions and Group Reference”, Expanded Version, JICPR, August 1989.

  6. “Churchland and the Talking Brain”, JICPR, August 1990.

  7. “Identification”. In P. K. Sen & R. R. Verma (Eds.) Philosophy of P.F. Strawson, Allied Publishers, New Delhi, 1995 (includes replies by Strawson).

  8. “Loads on reference”. In A. Chakravary (Ed.) Epistemology, Meaning and Metaphysics after Matilal, Studies in Humanities and Social Science, Special Number, Winter 1996. (Reviewed by Mark Siderits in Philosophy East and West, 48.3, 503-513, 1998).

  9. “Is there a single notion of interpretation?”. In A. Deciu (Ed.) Interpretation and its Objects: Studies in the Philosophy of Michael Krausz, Rodopi Publishers, Amsterdam, 2003. (Download)

  10. “Is CHL Linguistically Specific?”. Philosophical Psychology, 16.2. June 2003. (Download)

  11. “Is there a theory of concepts?”. In T. Bagchi & R. K. Agnihotri (Eds.) Proceedings of the International Seminar on Construction of Knowledge, Vidya Bhawan Society, Udaipur, 2005.

  12. “The syntax-semantics divide”. In R. K. Agnihotri & T. Bagchi (Ed.) Language and Cognition, forthcoming.

  13. “Semantics and linguistic explanation”. In R. K. Agnihotri (Ed.) Construction of Knowledge, forthcoming.(Download)

  14. “Doctrinal dualism”. In P. Ghosh (Ed.) Materialism and Immaterialism, forthcoming. (Download)

  15. “Truth, Computation, Intelligibility”. In A. Dev (Ed.) Science and Aesthetics, forthcoming. (Download)


Cartesian Mind: Reflections on Language and Music
Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, 2000.

The joint study of language and music is fascinating. Both domains are unique to humans and are crucially linked to the expression of thought and emotion. Nonetheless, there are significant differences in their structure, content and performance. How do we account for these opposing facts? An attempt has been made here to set these facts in a proper theoretical perspective. Drawing on material from contemporary linguistic theory, and related areas of cognitive science and philosophy of mind, the author focuses on a possibly unifying concept—the concept of discrete infinity—and grounds this concept in a ‘Cartesian’ theory of mind. He argues that some recent advances in linguistics, especially the concept of a computational system, could be viewed as a crucial step towards a unifying theory of language, music and related domains of discrete infinity. The differences between the domains could then be relegated systematically to factors that lie outside (yet interact with) the core computational system. It follows that, to that extent, the hypothesis of the modularity of language (or of music) is basically false.

Sample Reviews at:,M1

The Architecture of Language
by Noam Chomsky. Edited by N. Mukherji, B.N. Patnaik and R.K. Agnihotri. Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2000.

This book consists of an edited transcript of a lecture, delivered at the University of Delhi in January 1996, where Chomsky reflects on the overall history of the generative enterprise to relate it to some strikingly novel advances in grammatical theory, called the ‘Minimalist Program’. Integrating philosophical and conceptual issues with empirical research, he sketches some of the key issues that have characterised generative grammar in recent years to chart out the agenda for future research in language theory. The transcript tries to retain the lively, engaging style for which Chomsky is renowned as a public speaker. The discussion that followed the lecture was a lively event on the scope of linguistics, language acquisition, and the theory of the language and mind. In his extensive responses to a set of wide-ranging questions, Chomsky goes much beyond the issues raised in the lecture itself. The volume includes extensive clarificatory notes and references. While linguists interested in the internal history of generative linguistics will find this an immensely insightful work, it will be useful also for students and general readers who wish to gain an introductory knowledge of the discipline and its overall significance.

Sample Reviews at: 

The Primacy of Grammar
The MIT Press, Cambridge, In Press

Biolinguistics has been able to maintain some distance from topics that are traditionally thought to be central to the study of language: meaning, concepts, truth-conditions, and communication. This is not to suggest that what currently falls under the non-grammatical aspects of language will never be a part of grammatical theory. But, as with matured sciences, the chances are that each such incorporation will be hard-fought, since it will have to be formulated, not due to pressures from ‘outside,’ but from within the evolving framework of biolinguistics. This restriction to grammar, so delinked from ‘language,’ opens the possibility that the computational system of human language may be involved in each cognitive system that requires similar computational resources. A mixture of analytical argumentation, varieties of empirical (including introspective) evidence, and some speculation suggests a picture in which a computational system consisting of very specific principles and operations is likely to be centrally involved in each articulatory symbol system that manifests unboundedness. In this restricted sense, the object of biolinguistics exemplifies the Cartesian picture of a united mind. In other words, the suggestion is that the following things converge: (a) the scientific character of biolinguistics, (b) its isolation from the rest of science and, thus, from the rest of human inquiry, (c) its basic explanatory form, namely, the computational-representational framework, and (d) the domains of its application.

Some Talks

1.      “Definiteness and Descriptions”, Canadian Philosophical Association Annual Meeting, Montreal, May 1985.

2.      “What is Group Reference”, Ontario Philosophical Association Founding Conference, University of Toronto, November 1985.

3.      “Descriptions and Group Reference”, American Philosophical Association Pacific Division, Los Angeles, March 1986.

4.      “Referential-Attributive Revisited”, Canadian Philosophical Association Annual Meeting, Winnipeg, May 1986.

5.      “Explanations in Cognitive Science”, Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Science Annual Meeting, Waterloo, October 1986.

6.      “Computational View of Language”, Two Lectures at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, March 1989.

7.      “Varieties of Rule-Following”, Conference on Wittgenstein, Jadavpur University, January 1990.

8.      “Language and Cognition”, Six Lectures at North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, July-August 1991.

9.      “Current State of Philosophy of Language”, Conference on Review of Philosophy, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, March 1992.

10.  “Loading in Context”, Seven Visiting Faculty Lectures in the Theory of Reference, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, September-October 1992.

11.  “Grammar and the Politics of Cognition”, Conference on Future of Philosophy, University of Waterloo, May 1993.

12.  “Linguistics and Musical Cognition”, One Visiting Lecture, Indian Insitute of Advanced Study, Shimla, August 1996.

13.  “Artifacts of Meaning”, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, February 1997.

14.  “Mind of Physics”, Conference on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Indian Insitute of Advanced Study, Shimla, August 1997.

15.  “Aspects of Music Criticism”, Conference on Tradition and Criticism, Indian Insitute of Advanced Study, Shimla, November 1997.

16.  “Displacement and Logical Form”, Conference on Bertrand Russell, Rabindra-Bharati University, Calcutta, March 1998.

17.  “The Syntax-Semantics Divide”, Conference on Norms, Reliability and Science, Indian Insitute Of Advanced Study, Shimla, May 1998.

18.  “On Syntax and Semantics”, Two lectures at Jadavpur University, February 1999.

19.  “CHL and Linguistic Specificity”, Special Lecture to All India Linguistics Congress, Annual Meeting, IIT Kanpur, December, 1999.(Download)

20.  “Perfect Systems”, Conference on Mind, Language and Evolution of Consciousness, ICPR, Lucknow, July 2000.

21.  “Constraining the Cartesian Programme”, Mind and Language Series Lecture 1, Crea, Paris, October 2000.

22.  “Reflections on Linguistic Theory”, Mind and Language Series Lecture 2, Crea, Paris, October 2000.

23.  “Music and Cognition”, Lecture to Art and Cognition Group, CREA, Paris, October 2000.

24.  “Components of Significance”, Three Visiting Faculty Lectures, Jadavpur University, March 2002.

25.  “Narrow Mind”, Joint Session of Institut Jean Nicod and Apic, Paris, June 2003.

26.  “Computationalism and Biological Isolation”, Keynote address, Conference on Computation and Brain, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, February 2004.

27.  “Syntax of Thought”, Conference on Methodology of Science, Viswa Bharati University, January 2006.

28.  “On Language and Music”, Two lectures at Winter School of Phonology, CIIL, Mysore, January 2006.

29.  “Russell’s Equivalence”, Conference on 100 Years of ‘On Denoting’, Rabindra Bharati University, March 2007

30.  “Truth, Computation, Intelligibility”, Conference on Science and Aesthetics, PHISPC, Gauhati, March 2007

31.  “Music in the mind”, Conference on Cognition & Learning, Vidya Bhavan Society, Udaipur, October 2007

32.  “Science, Truth, Intelligibility”, Conference on Science and Human Nature, University of Kerala, Trivandrum, November 2007

33.  “Internal Significance”, Keynote address, Conference on Philosophical Approaches to Language, Lucknow University, December 2007



1.      “Sustainable suffering”. Seminar, November 1995.

2.       “Some reasons for the state”. Indian Social Science Review, Volume 1, Number 2, February 2000.

3.       “Traditions and concept of knowledge”. In B. Patnaik, A. Raina & M. Chadha (Eds.) Science and Tradition, IIAS, Shimla, May 2000.

4.       “Shifting domains”. In A. Raina and M. Chadha (Eds.) Basic Objects, IIAS, Shimla, 2001.(Download)

5.       “Academic philosophy in India”. Economic and Political Weekly, Volume 37, No.10, March 2002.(Download)

6.       “Art and everything else”. Symposium in Web journal Interdisciplines: Art and Cognition, December 2002.

7.      “Sceptical politics”. In R. Ghosh (Ed.) Truth and Value: Essays in Honour of Pabitra Kumar Roy, North Bengal University, New Bharatiya Book Corporation, New Delhi, 2003.

8.       “Textuality and common life”. In S. Chaudhury (Ed.) Literature and Philosophy, Jadavpur University, 2005.(Download)

9.       “Beliefs and believers”. Journal of Philosophy, Calcutta University, December 2006.(Download)

10.      “Textuality and mass culture”. In I. Habib (Ed.) Religion and Material Life, Tulika, 2007.(Download)

Some Talks

1.      Traditions and Concept of Knowledge, Conference on Science and Tradition, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, December 1997.

2.      Anxieties, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, August 1998.

3.      Addressing the Mind, Conference on Addressing the Soul, Bangalore University, December 1998.

4.      Ascription of Consciousness, Conference on Phenomenal Mind, Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Lucknow, February 1999.

5.      Epistemology Socialized, Two lectures at Calcutta University, March 1999.

6.      Textuality and Common Life, Conference on Literature and Philosophy, Jadavpur University, March 2000

7.      Beliefs and Believers, Epistemology Conference, Calcutta University, March 2000

8.      Literature and Cognitive Agency, Seminar on Literature and Anthroplogy, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages, Delhi University,March 2001.

9.      Textuality and Mass Culture, Paper Presented in Conference on Religion and Material Life, Indian History Congress, Mysore, December 2003.

10.   Narrow Creativity, Conference on Creativity and Cognitive Science, University of Hyderabad, February 2004.

11.  Truth and Intelligibility, Conference on Methodology of Science, Viswa Bharati University, December 2004.

12.  Construction of Identity, Seminar on Identity: Perspectives and Issues, Kamala Nehru College, New Delhi, December 2005.

Last updated  June 2009