U. Chicago conference on “Kant on Intuition” (Apr/May 2010)

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago will host a workshop-style conference on the topic of “Kant on Intuition” that will take place from April 30-May 2, 2010. We thought this event would be of interest to many readers of this blog. Here is the description of the conference that has been posted on the department’s website (click here for more information):

Kant on Intuition

The conference will bring together a number of leading German and American philosophers to discuss the interpretation and significance of Kant’s conception of an intuition, with special reference to the readings of Kant on this issue put forward by Wilfrid Sellars, Robert Pippin, and John McDowell, and with special attention to the following three questions: (1) what is an intuition?, (2) what role, if any, do our conceptual capacities play in the constitution of intuitions?, and (3) what significance do Kant’s answers to questions (1) and (2) have for contemporary debates in the philosophy of perception?

The conference will have a workshop-format: all papers will be distributed in advance as PDF files and the conference itself will consist entirely of discussion. If you would like to be sent the papers, please contact Justin Shaddock. Conference Coordinator: Jim Conant. Graduate Student Coordinator: Justin Shaddock

I am guessing that one topic that will be discussed at the conference will be the relatively recent exchange between Robert Pippin and John McDowell, which began with Pippin’s response to McDowell’s Mind and World, first published in Nicholas Smith’s edited collection, Reading McDowell: on Mind and World. Prof. Pippin has made this exchange available for download on his personal website (click here and scroll down to the section marked “Exchange with McDowell”). Many of you will already be familiar with this fascinating series of articles, but for those who’ve yet to read it, here is one particularly striking passage from late in the exchange, which I trust will pique your desire to read the rest:

From pp. 424-5 of Pippin’s “McDowell’s Germans: Response to ‘On Pippin’s Postscript’“:

… This is all rather breathless, but the general point is: once Hegel has shown us the internal insufficiency of the basic model of ‘consciousness’ (as if the mind-world or subject-object model of experience could be sufficient as a model, as if individual experiencers processing information and theorizing as monadic units; as if this could be a ‘world’), then the very possibility of mindedness (or objective purport) is shown to depend on forms of social self-regulation about all matters normative, forms that can be theoretically distinguished from, but never rightly understood as separable contributions to the world’s direct coming into view in perceiving, and forms that can ‘fail’ in a distinctive way. This will look different when the questions about normative proprieties are questions about distinct sorts of normative thinking (understood as conditions of intelligibility, and not as not particular beliefs) and so about the exercise of power in politics, religious condemnation, appraisals of art, certification of experts and authoritative models of cognition, but Hegel is a social holist and believes that such claims of authority have something essential to do with one another at a time. I realize how many trainloads of baggage such a claim carries with it, but I am just trying by this circuitous route to admit that the answer to McDowell’s incredulous question: ‘Are we to suppose that members of downtrodden minorities, say, or those who oppress them, cannot have their empirical thinking rationally controlled by objects they perceive?’ (McDowell 2007: 406–407) and this because they do not belong to a community shaped by mutuality of recognition among free, rational beings, is simply: Yes, of course. McDowell himself has emphasized how differently we must understand the bearing on and role in experience played by the deliverances of sensibility when the subject is a rational, self-conscious (and I would add essentially historical) being. Whatever might be the right way to state the inseparability of conceptual and sensory elements in the world’s ‘coming into view’, whenever we introduce the question of the determinate conceptual arsenal that is ‘at work’ in such a sensory uptake, it will be very hard to continue to maintain the common sense view that Greek slaves and modern data programmers must at some level have a common perceptual world in gazing out at the Aegean, ‘controlled by objects’ seen in the same way. Living in a world everywhere animated by intentional natural forces, one ‘sees’ their effects; socialized into a community of feudal order, there are visible inheritable properties in blood that entitle a family to rule over many generations; when there is a Great Chain of Being its orders of reality are directly manifest to all ‘with eyes to see’; when souls re-incarnate, the effects can be everywhere perceived; one ‘sees’ the soul in bumps on the head and so on and so on. These are all not simply empirical mistakes or bad science for Hegel, and are not beliefs that go beyond the right sort of (directly wrung out of us) ‘givens’, or theoretical impositions on an empirical experience everywhere and at all times available to any properly equipped receptor. This is the price of ‘blurring the boundaries’ between concept and sensibility, from Hegel to Heidegger (and so of course for the empirically bloody minded it counts as a reductio of such a blurring). What counts as having one’s thought ‘rationally controlled by the objects’ is not simply itself another event in the world, but an aspect of a complex norm inseparable from the practice of giving and asking for reasons in a community over a time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s