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Speaker Series: Grace Helton (Princeton)
August 20 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Does the Aim of Philosophy Require Convergence?
Is there an external world? What is good? Do we act freely? Philosophers famously diverge in the answers they give to these and other questions. It is sometimes suggested that a lack of convergence on these questions suggests that philosophy is not progressing at all, is not progressing fast enough, or is not progressing as fast as other disciplines, such as the natural sciences. Call the view that ideal philosophical progress is marked by at least some degree of convergence on the core philosophical questions the pro-convergence thesis. I will argue that there is reason to reject the pro-convergence thesis in favor of the anti-convergence thesis, the view that significant viewpoint convergence, in an arbitrarily large and long-lived philosophical community, is at odds with the aims of a philosophically ideal community. Specifically I will defend the following disjunctive claim: Either, philosophical communities which evince viewpoint convergence are philosophically defective in at least some respect, or else, our current philosophical methods are so woefully inadequate to the philosophical task that no employment of those methods, no matter how extensive or rigorous, could possibly produce philosophical knowledge. On the latter view, call it philosophical primitivism, ours is a kind of pre-philosophical era, something akin to a pre-scientific era. I close with some brief remarks about implications for collective knowledge as an aim of philosophy.
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