March 25-26, 2011 /  Keynote  Douglas Anderson  /  Featured Faculty  Kyle Powys Whyte



Michigan State University
Department of Philosophy
503 South Kedzie Hall
East Lansing, MI

email: philconf@msu.edu

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 transdisciplinary research.

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.