Upcoming Presentations 

“Systems of Dress: A Gricean Proposal for Communication by Bodily Adornment”, Fashion: Now & Then Conference, LIM College, New York, October 19-21, 2017.

One of the purposes our bodies serve is as a surface on which we place adornments that convey certain meanings to those around us, such as, ‘I am a police officer’, ‘I am the queen’, and ‘I protest the war in Vietnam’. In this talk I will argue that communication through adornment of the body is best understood as a branch of philosophy of language, and, in particular, within a Gricean theory of meaning. This argument begins with discussion of a previous study of meaning in bodily adornment undertaken by Roland Barthes working in the Saussurean, semiotic tradition. I argue that Barthes’ attempt fails for the same reason many theories of linguistic meaning failed: they treat meaning as the result of a system of codes – an assumption that leads to theories that can never fully explain communication. I take Barthes’ attempt as an indication that dress should be treated instead as a fundamentally Gricean, intentional process, with meaning first delineated into Grice’s categories of natural, and non-natural meaning, as well as a new category I will introduce: ‘imitation of natural meaning’. I present specific cases to show how these categories apply to meaning in dress. In the course of this argument I will defend the Gricean picture that ties meaning to intentions from a number of objections.


“Fashion & Philosophy”, Philosophy-in-Manhattan, New York, October 22, 2017.

Historically philosophers have paid little attention to fashion. At the same time, how we groom and adorn ourselves is clearly an important part of modern life.  Fashion also has much in common with subjects philosophers have developed elaborate theories about, such as art and language. In this presentation we will begin by examining how we might define fashion and will consider whether or not it is the sort of thing philosophers ought to be concerned with. Then, we will turn to look at philosophical work by Roland Barthes on the connections between fashion and language. Finally, we will examine parallels between fashion and language by considering the general importance of intentions in the creation and attribution of meaning.


Past Presentations 

“Seeking Speaker Meaning in the Archaeological Record”, Science Studies SeminarCUNY Graduate Center, New York, March 3, 2017.

“Incompleteness & Interpretation”, Great Incompletes: Italy’s Unfinished Endeavors, Columbia University, February 4, 2017.

“Reference Through Instruments”, Science Studies Seminar, CUNY Graduate Center, New York, September 30, 2016.

“Consciousness & Making Manifest”, 7th Intercultural Pragmatics and Communication Conference, University of Split, Croatia, June 10-12, 2016. *Received Best PhD Student Paper Award*

“Systems of Dress: A Gricean Proposal for Communication by Bodily Adornment”, Cognitive Science Seminar, CUNY Graduate Center, NY, February 26, 2016.

“Cooperation with Multiple Audiences”, School of Philosophy Thursday Seminar Series, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, December 10, 2015.

“Systems of Dress: A Gricean Proposal for Communication by Bodily Adornment”, Philosophy Research Seminar, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, November 27, 2015.

“Meaning Through Things”, Symbols and Communicative Behaviour in Pleistocene Hominins Workshop, University of Sydney, Australia, November 21-22, 2015.

“Systems of Dress: A Gricean Proposal for Communication by Bodily Adornment”, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry Seminar, University of Sydney, Australia, November 19, 2015.

“Metaphysics of Meaning”, Logic & Metaphysics Workshop, CUNY Graduate Center, NY, October 26, 2015.

“Cooperation with Multiple Audiences”, Philosophy of Language and Linguistics, Interuniversity Center, Dubrovnik, Croatia, September 7-11, 2015.

“Reference Through Instruments”, Bucharest Colloquium in Analytic Philosophy: Meaning and Reference, University of Bucharest, Romania, June 19-21, 2015.

“Women in Analytic Philosophy”, SWIP-Analytic Invited Panel, presented with Kate Pendoley, Hypatia and the APA Committee on the Status of Women Conference: Exploring Collaborative Contestations and Diversifying Philosophy, Villanova University, PA, May 28–30, 2015.

“Reference Through Instruments”, Envisioning Science Conference, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, February 27, 2015

“Why We Implicate: Revising Pinker’s Game-Theoretic Proposal”, CUNY Pragmatics Workshop: Relevance, Games, and Communication, CUNY Graduate Center, NY, October 14-15, 2014

“Reference Through Instruments”, The British Society of Aesthetics Annual Conference, St Anne’s College, Oxford, UK, September 19-21, 2014

“Maxim of Politeness, Please”, 6th Intercultural Pragmatics and Communication Conference, University of Malta, May 30 – June 1, 2014

“Tree Trimming”, Saul Kripke Center Brown Bag Lunch Lecture, CUNY Graduate Center, NY, December 9, 2013

Comments on “Incompatibilist About What”, Experimental Philosophy: Possibilities and Limits, CUNY Graduate Center, NY, April 5, 2013

“The Inner ‘I’”, Minding the Body Conference, CUNY Graduate Center, NY, March 1, 2013

Presenting “Cooperation with Multiple Audiences”, at the Interuniversity Center, Dubrovnik, Croatia, September 2015. Photo by Dunja Jutronić.


Marilynn Johnson
Department of Philosophy
Graduate Center, CUNY
365 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Philosophy Department Website

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