Andrew Bowie: Background Capabilities and Prereflexive Awareness


For those of you who are interested in jazz, improvisation, and/or the philosophy of action:

Last Wednesday, October 7, Andrew Bowie (Professor of Philosophy and German, Royal Holloway, University of London) gave a talk entitled “Background capabilities and prereflexive awareness” at The Humanities and Arts Research Centre at Royal Holloway, University of London. Prof. Bowie used jazz improvisation as his primary example of human action, and his presentation included a performance by the Andrew Bowie Jazz Trio. The Backdoor Broadcasting Company has posted audio of both the talk and musical performance, which you can access by clicking here.

Here is some information about the talk, performance, and performers:

Accounts of human action in many parts of philosophy tend to depend on the idea that action is to be characterised in terms of following norms or rules. This gives considerable emphasis to the idea of self-consciously determining yourself to do something, according to a rule. This model has considerable consequences for how procedures are codified in many areas of social and professional life. However, there are serious reasons to think that this model is inadequate as an account of how we actually do many things. This is because, even though rules are essential, so much that we need to do these things cannot come immediately to consciousness when we do them. Examples of what is involved here range from the ways in which we carry out conversations, to the example used for the talk: jazz improvisation.

Presentation includes musical examples and is followed by a performance by the Andrew Bowie Jazz Trio, featuring John Turville (piano), and Tom Farmer (bass).

John Turville studied Music at Cambridge University and at the Guildhall School of Music, and is one of Britain’s leading jazz pianists, playing, for example with Tim Garland, Tim Whitehead, Gilad Atzmon, Guillermo Rozenthuler, Koby Israelite and Robbie Robson. John and Andrew used to play together at Andrew’s regular Sunday evening gig in Cambridge, now at the Cricketers pub. Andrew was a semi-pro saxophonist in Berlin and still plays regularly in and around Cambridge.

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