[MaFLa] THE REGISTERS OF PHILOSOPHY I.

Tamás Paár paar.tamas at gmail.com
Sat May 2 22:56:46 CEST 2015


Tisztelt Listatagok,
Hadd hívjam fel figyelmüket ismét az egy hét múlva esedékes The Registers
of Philosophy című konferenciára, amelynek ezúttal már az absztraktjait is
küldöm. Részletek alább, valamint csatolva.
Tisztelettel,
Paár Tamás

AIMS OF THE CONFERENCE
Our aim is to foster the research of writing/speaking styles in philosophy
as well as to explore the relationship of philosophy, literature and
rhetoric. By doing this we hope to broaden the actually available styles
for philosophers by drawing their attention to various alternatives to
regular styles practiced in journals.
We plan two further occasions in Autumn 2015 and Spring 2016 to elaborate
the theme.

DESCRIPTION
Jon Stewart has recently argued in his book The Unity of Content and Form
in Philosophical Writing (2013) that the style of contemporary philosophy –
particularly in its Anglo-American version – is extremely impoverished.
This homogeneity, according to Stewart, has its roots in the scientific
model of philosophy and philosophical writing, in the philosophy of
language that was popular in the beginning of the last century and in the
fact that during the professionalization of philosophy a particular mode of
writing proved to be the most useful one. Noting the deep similarities of
current philosophical pieces would of course not cause any surprise – but
Stewart went on to argue that this kind of uniformity in philosophical
writing causes much harm to philosophy itself. The standardization not only
makes some thoughts to be only ineffectively expressible in philosophy, but
shifts the attention of courses both at undergraduate and graduate level to
the regular type of philosophical texts. Irregular genres or styles are
left out from the curriculum at many places, their own characteristics and
the messages encoded in philosophical styles do not gain attention. ‘By
insisting on a single form of writing – Stewart emphasized –, professional
philosophy implicitly imposes a certain notion about how to read
philosophy.’ The ability to read some classics is fading away. And works
falling outside of the scope of the writing which people are now accustomed
to are deemed to be unphilosophical, lacking rigor and therefore
uninteresting.
Nevertheless one might argue that even nowadays various philosophical
genres and styles are flourishing, and not only in continental philosophy.
Philosophical novels and poems are being published, philosophy is present
in theatres and cinemas, not to mention the different web pages that are
dedicated to philosophical topics. Even analytic writings do not always use
the same style. Furthermore, as Keith Allen noted in his review of The
Unity of Content and Form in Philosophical Writing, ‘Stewart’s selection of
case studies to illustrate the diversity of forms that philosophical
writing can take raises interesting questions about when it is appropriate
to describe a work as a work of philosophy.’
Now how uniform really is today’s philosophy? Is the homogeneity of styles
dangerous for philosophy itself? What are the themes that only fit well
with some genres or styles? What is the exact connection between content
and form? Should philosophers pay attention to genres practiced outside of
academia? The aim of our series of conferences is to investigate these
questions and more. We would like to look at the problems of content and
form in philosophy both from historical and contemporary perspectives, from
the viewpoint of analytic and continental philosophy as well as from the
standpoint of styles that fall outside the scope of academic philosophy.
Stewart claimed that questions of form, genre and style should be
entertained not only at the literature departments but by professional
philosophers too. As he argued: ‘To read philosophical texts as literature
is to miss the specifically philosophical meaning that they contain.’ We
would like to give a joint occasion for both of these disciplines to
discuss the problems introduced above. Like Stewart, we would like to bring
philosophers to the perils of conformity, to explore the various forms and
the diverse ways of not only writing, reading and interpreting philosophy
but teaching, discussing, presenting, popularizing or doing it.

VENUE: Pázmány Péter Catholic University
1088, Budapest, Mikszáth Kálmán tér 1., room 218
DATE: Saturday, May 9.

SCHEDULE

9:45 – Opening remarks
10:00 – Keynote address
J.D. MININGER: The Style Unto Death: Meditations on Untimely Late Style in
Philosophy
10:50 – Commentary by GÉZA KÁLLAY
11:10 – Discussion

11:30 – 13:00 – Lunch break

13:00 – TIBOR BÁRÁNY: The Unity of Form and Content in Philosophy and the
Principle of Expressibility
13:20 – DAVID WEBERMAN: A False Dilemma: Philosophy is Either Argument or
Mere Poetry
13:40 – ZSOLT BAGI: Styles in Philosophy. On the Possibility of a
Phenomenology of Language
14:00 – Discussion

14:30 – 15:00 – break

15:00 – ZSOLT ALMÁSI: Francis Bacon's Confession of Faith and Experimental
Science
15:20 – FERENC HÖRCHER: Autobiography as Philosophy: the Case of Vico and
Hume
15:40 – Discussion

16:00 – 16:20 – break

16:20 – THOMAS ROONEY: Philosophical Genres in the Writing Classroom
16:40 – LÁSZLÓ NEMES: The Philosophical Café as Philosophy
17:00 – Discussion

ABSTRACTS

J.D. MININGER: The Style Unto Death: Meditations on Untimely Late Style in
Philosophy

Assuming individual philosophical style can even be diagnosed with adequate
precision for the purposes of effective analysis, how shall we understand
so-called ‘late style’ in philosophy? How is this style related to the
‘late’ works to which we assume it corresponds? To what degree does a
philosopher’s personal history determine individual philosophical style?
And, assuming it does, how does biography influence the dialectical
relationship between form and content negotiated and expressed through
philosophical style? This lecture suggests at least two essential
categories through which to understand late style in philosophy: timely and
untimely late style. The former category contains examples of traditionally
understood late works that come late in life and which seem to demand
biographical interpretation. Inspired in part by Theodor W. Adorno’s
interpretation of Beethoven’s late style, the latter category contains
examples of philosophical late style characterized not by maturity in years
or experience, but by a relationship—often allegorical—to death. This
lecture develops several key sides to the contradictorily coherent concept
of untimely late style via analysis of examples from the work of, among
others, Heidegger, Spinoza, and Foucault. In response to the questions
above, and via the aforementioned categorizations of late style, this
lecture studies philosophy’s often difficult and always important
relationship to death—especially in works that, in their very style, make
continual reference to death.

TIBOR BÁRÁNY: The Unity of Form and Content in Philosophy and the Principle
of Expressibility

In his recent book, The Unity of Content and Form in Philosophical Writing
(Bloomsbury, 2013) Jon Stewart takes for granted that there is “an
important connection between the content of a philosophical theory and the
literary form that the philosopher employs to express it” (10). This
connection can be characterized as some kind of unity between literary form
(such as academic “papers” and monographs which nowadays dominate
contemporary Anglo-American philosophy—as well as texts written in other
perhaps less cultivated literary genres, e.g. philosophical dialogues,
poems, aphorisms, “meditations”, autobiographical confessions, essays,
moreover, philosophical novels) and philosophical content (conceived as
propositions arranged into formally valid arguments). Although Stewart
confidently claims that the Principle of the Unity of Philosophical Content
and Literary Form “may seem at first glance to be a ridiculously obvious
point that hardly needs to be argued for” (10), it is not so easy to give
the exact formulation of the principle. In its weaker form the principle
asserts that

Moderate Principle of Content and Form: Certain philosophical contents are
better suited to specific literary forms of expression.

Therefore, whatever content a philosopher wants to express, she can express
it by using any literary form of expression, but for any philosophical
content (set of propositions) we can find a literary form with which the
content would be most appropriately articulated (given the cultural or
historical context of the utterance). In its stronger form the principle
asserts that

Radical Principle of Content and Form: The literary form of a philosophical
text determines the very philosophical content expressed by the text.

According to this version of the principle, it is impossible to reformulate
a philosophical position by changing the original literary genre (e.g.
reconstructing the arguments of a philosophical novel in an academic
paper): certain philosophical contents can be expressed only by specific
literary devices.
Since the second version of the principle is quite implausible, Stewart
seems to be committed to the first one. However, the Moderate Principle of
Content and Form is not so unambiguous as we might initially think.
Depending on how one settles the norms of “appropriateness” (the rules by
which we can pick out the “most appropriate articulation” of the
philosophical content in question), we get different versions of the
principle.
In my presentation I will argue that (1) this problem is directly analogous
with the problem of the so-called Principle of Expressibility (first
introduced by John R. Searle in Speech Acts [Cambridge University Press,
1969] and elsewhere), and that (2) each particular version of the Principle
of Expressibility defines a relation of substitution or translation for
every utterance. This relation determines which (and what kind of)
contribution of the context of the utterance should be considered as
genuine part of the “total significance of the speech act”—which should
remain the same all along in reformulating philosophical positions by
changing the original literary genre.

DAVID WEBERMAN: A False Dilemma: Philosophy is Either Argument or Mere
Poetry

Some analytic philosophers ask about continental philosophy where its
arguments are, suggesting that it typically doesn’t have any. The
implication is that philosophy without argument is philosophy badly done or
else not philosophy at all. In the first part of this talk, I question this
appeal to arguments as a criterion for proper philosophy. To what extent
does it depend on an overly narrow model of what counts as providing an
argument? In the second part, I go to the other end of the spectrum, namely
the idea that, once arguments are left behind, such philosophy can only
turn to various kinds of linguistic inventiveness, indulging in metaphors
and ending up as “mere” poetry. I argue that continental philosophy is, for
better or worse, a far cry from poetry; it deals in ideas and thoughts that
are assessable for their truth, coherence and plausibility. In the last
part of the paper, I briefly illustrate through Nietzsche and Heidegger how
philosophy can bypass explicit arguments and still remain within the orbit
of critical discourse.

ZSOLT BAGI: Styles in Philosophy. On the Possibility of a Phenomenology of
Language

Continental philosophy, especially post-structuralism, is generally
well-known about its commitment to accept a philosophical thesis that
ultimately goes back to Hegel, that of the unity of form and content in
philosophical discourse. This is clearly an oversimplification; the
widespread popularity of Derrida’s philosophy is certainly one of the major
factors to blame for such a view. It is suffice to mention that one of the
most relevant critiques of that thesis comes from another
post-structuralist, Jean-François Lyotard. In his book, Discurse, Figure,
he criticizes Maurice Merleau-Ponty for trying to establish a philosophical
discourse that is analogous to the visible world, the object of its
philosophical “interrogation”. Moreover his critique expands to criticize
any possibility of a phenomenology of language by denying any
intentionality of the discourse. According to Lyotard, Discourse is closed
in itself, its signification is produced by itself, it does not have a
reference that is beyond its realm. Its only possibility to transcend
itself is through an exception that is through Figure. Among other
consequences this thesis confers philosophical style a secondary
importance, a mere decorative function. This paper argues that style in
philosophy has an intentional structure that poses its object in an
essentially definitive manner therefore it proposes a phenomenology of the
philosophical discourse.

ZSOLT ALMÁSI: Francis Bacon's Confession of Faith and Experimental Science

The present paper aims at placing Francis Bacon’s “Confession of Faith”
among his philosophical writings, especially among the ones that deal with
natural philosophy. Exploring the genres of Francis Bacon’s writings in
general would be beneficial at a conference dealing with the registers of
philosophy, as his philosophical works can be located on a complicate
matrix of genres and registers. This matrix includes his works written in
Latin and English, to different audiences, he published long treatises,
essays, fragments and fiction. Seeming through all these genres and
registers Bacon argued for the pragmatic renewal of philosophy, mainly
natural philosophy, from a variety of perspectives including methodology,
procedural considerations, moral issues, the classification of fields of
science and scholarship, implementation of scientific procedures and
science in general in a fictitious country, justification of scientific and
scholarly research. I will argue in this paper that within this pragmatic
framework the metaphysical aspects of the Baconian philosophical, natural
philosophical investigations are presented in his “Confession of Faith,” a
piece of writing that most of the time has not been deemed relevant for his
concept of experimental science. What I also propose is not only that the
“Confession of Faith” is relevant but that the unique metaphysical aspect
harmonizes with Bacon’s pragmatic concept of natural philosophy.

FERENC HÖRCHER: Autobiography as Philosophy: the Case of Vico and Hume

Trying to understand what philosophy meant in the early modern context, we
rarely take into account the autobiographical writings of those authors who
were (or for that matter became to be) regarded as philosophers. This seems
to reflect our own understanding of what philosophy amounts to. However, a
more historically faithful interpretation would defintiely need to ask why
some of them have actually worked on their autbiography seriously.
This paper takes the example of Vico and Hume, both of whom are authors of
autobiographical pieces. This paper provides an interpretation of these
texts and their authors starting out from the hypothesis that these pieces
may have been born to transfer philosophical message(s). In order to
fulfill this critical task, it will have to rely on a preliminary answer to
the question what philosophy might have meant in the eighteenth century,
and confront the hypothesis with the actual texts, which might themselves
transform this preliminary hypothesis during or after the dialogical
process of interpreting them.
The paper will also have to confront some of the following questions:
- What means are available for the authors of (philosophcial)
autobiographies to transfer message(s)?
- How far can we accept Greenblatt’s notion of self-fashioning in these
cases?
- How are these (philosophical) exercises connected to rhetoric and belles
lettres, as these categories were comprehended by these authors and their
different and divergent audiences?
- What (ancient and/or modern) examples might have influenced these authors
when composing their works?
- How did their contemporaries and posterity relate to these works, if they
did relate in any way, and if the case is to the contrary, what might have
been the reason behind the lack of a substantial corpus of interpretation?
- What is the relationship between the author’s life, his philosophy and
the philosophical account of that life?

THOMAS ROONEY: Philosophical Genres in the Writing Classroom

Graduate students devote a lot of time to analyzing the content of the
contemporary philosophical texts they read in professional journals, edited
collections, and course readers. But can they learn anything else from such
texts besides content? In this talk I will reflect on a genre approach to
teaching philosophical writing at the MA level, one that encourages student
writers to consider how various kinds of texts in the discipline are
constructed—from critiques to essays to MA theses—so that they can then
make more informed choices when writing such texts themselves. Of course a
writer should always keep in mind her audience when writing. For this
reason I will also discuss how a student might benefit from a genre
analysis of work written by the professors in her department, as well as
work written by former students for those professors. I will conclude with
a few thoughts on Jon Stewart’s recent call for more non-conformity in
professional philosophical writing, and how this might impact future
student writers.

LÁSZLÓ NEMES: The Philosophical Café as Philosophy

Today the far most usual way of doing philosophy is reading and writing
philosophical texts, delivering presentations at conferences and other
professional meetings or in forms of public lectures. The philosophical
café is a recently emerging world-wide movement to invite and help people
of a larger segment of the society to try out themselves in philosophical
thinking. The idea of philosophical café is surrounded by many
misunderstandings. The basic one is that it is nothing else then the usual
philosophy, only done in a rather amateurish way. In my lecture I argue
that the philosophical café proposes a radical alternative to the usual
conception and practice of philosophy. The philosophical cafés (and other
similar public philosophy events) are properly understood when we see them
as a new way of philosophical inquiry. Instead of writing philosophy, these
public philosophical discussions embrace a substantially group-based and
dialogic approach. To do philosophy in groups in a face-to-face and oral
way vastly differs from the lone and literacy-based activity dominating the
philosophical scene today. Additionally, philosophical café not just has
different form but different goals too: not just learning certain things
about philosophy and the history of philosophical thinking, it aims to help
people to live a more reflected and more democratic life.
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