Berlin Summer School (Abstracts)

For anyone who hasn’t come across it yet, I have recently been involved in organising a Summer school in Berlin this July (1st to 12th): ‘Emancipation as Navigation: From the Space of Reasons to the Space of Freedoms’ (see here). I’m also due to discuss some of the themes of the school with Anthony Paul Smith this coming Thursday (see here). I’m afraid that applications for places at the Summer school have already closed, but there should be some outputs from it that I will be sure to flag up here as they appear. In the meantime, here are the abstracts for the two sessions I will be leading:

Freedom and Reason

This first session aims to outline the connection between the concepts of freedom and reason. We will begin by tracing the dialectic of the concept of freedom, beginning with Spinoza and Leibniz’s attempts to make free will compatible with the principle of sufficient reason, and showing how this debate is refracted through Kant’s account of rational agency. We will see how this refraction splits the Kantian tradition into an authentic Spinozan form (Hegel, Marx, Foucault, and Sellars) and a vulgar Leibnizian form (Schelling, Sartre, Badiou, and Žižek). We will then outline Sellars’ authentic reconstruction of Kant’s account of individual agency, and use this to delineate two strands of post-Kantian thought about collective agency (Hegel-Marx and Heidegger-Foucault), before integrating them with Brandom’s Hegelian extension of Sellars’ Kantianism.

Navigation and Representation

The second session aims to approach the connection between freedom and reason from the opposite direction, by providing an account of the specifically linguistic capacities that a rational agent must possess to count as a rational agent. We will begin by tracing the dialectic of the concept of language in the 20th century, focusing on the analytic tradition that grows out of the philosophy of logic at the end of the 19th century. We will do this by framing the development of this tradition in terms of Brandom’s logical expressivism – the idea that logic is the organon of semantic self-consciousness, or that the role of logical vocabulary is to make explicit what is otherwise implicit in what we do. This will allow us to see the various blockages in the tradition’s development as forms of semantic false-consciousness engendered by fixation upon a particular logical vocabulary at the expense of the more complex pragmatics of which it expresses a fragment. We will then attempt to show how Brandom’s inferentialism aims to explain representation in terms of the pragmatics of dialogical reasoning, and how this identifies the capacity for dialectical navigation as the crucial connection between freedom and reason.

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