Michigan State University
Department of Philosophy
503 South Kedzie Hall
East Lansing, MI
Keynote Talk by Douglas Anderson"Creating Cultural Space for Philosophy"
My talk will introduce three related provocations or stories regarding
the place of philosophy—both as a profession and as an everyday human
endeavor—in contemporary North American culture. The first involves a
brief review of philosophy’s recent history in the U. S. by noting a
few instances of the combat for ownership of “philosophy proper” in
academic settings. I will suggest that this sort of combat is
counterproductive to philosophy’s standing in our culture. The middle
story provides a bit of historical background to the recent combat by
recalling a division in Greek thought between the Eleatic emphasis on
theory and the Cynics’ focus on the conduct of life. I will suggest, as
many others have previously, that philosophy can embrace both kinds of
practice. Finally, I will turn to a brief philosophical
consideration of the ideas of “premises” and “grounds.” In a
deductivist’s world, these are fixed and unassailable beginnings. Yet
we are all aware that the most radical shifts in the history of
philosophy have been launched by a refiguring of grounds and premises.
In the abductive/inductive world of contemporary inquiry we might
therefore pay attention to the malleability and instability of our
grounds and premises. It might be better to think of them as the places
where we live—our functioning ideas—than as a priori certainties.
In presenting the three stories I hope to open some discussions
concerning both where we, as philosophers, fit into our culture and how
we might improve on where we are. I think we can do better than to
suffer jokes about philosophy degrees and to apologize for our presence
in North American culture.
Featured Faculty Talk by Kyle Whyte
"Current Views on Philosophy and Interdisciplinarity"
In some ways,
philosophy has always been practiced in collaboration with other
disciplines or at least with eye to what is happening in them. There is
a current discussion of how philosophy relates to the other disciplines
that is taking place in response to changes in how philosophy is
considered as contributing to institutions of higher education and
whether philosophical research should aspire to sponsoring more of its
research than has been typical in the 20th century. In this context, I
will discuss some of the positions that are being offered regarding how
philosophy should be perceived by practitioners of other disciplines as
contributing to multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and
The first argument is that philosophy plays a critical role by pointing
out the generalities that are relied on by non-philosophers in
empirical research. The second argument is that philosophical research
itself should be conducted "in the field" and always requires strong
engagement with other disciplines. The third argument is that
philosophers should take on the role of facilitators of collaborative
research. The fourth argument, which I favor, is that philosophers
should understand their contributions as unique yet not in a way that
gives philosophy a faciltiative, critical or other privileged role in
collaborations. I do not favor this view because it rules out the
others; rather, I will claim that accepting it opens up a fruitful and
exciting career path for many philosophers to pursue.
You can view abstracts from prior years at the archives.