Tuesday, June 03, 2008

CPA Report 2: I win!

(Check out Part I here.)

Today was a good day for philosophy.

After lunch, the first thing I did was go to Shane Ralston's talk on Deweyan democracy, "In Defence of Democracy as a way of life." His commentator canceled, which cheesed me a bit, since I had originally volunteered to comment on that paper. But no matter. I think that Shane has a pretty good response to Talisse's criticisms of Dewey. I still worry that Dewey might not be able to accommodate the degree of pluralism that Berlin or Rawls demands, and that this might reflect negatively on Dewey. Shane called such positions "dogmatism" or "fundamentalism," but I worry then that even many liberals and democrats end up as dogmatists. I appreciate Dewey's call for experimentalism and fallibilism, here, but worry that there is a big tension with pluralism.

Next was my session. Jeff Kochan gave a talk on "Popper's Communitarianism." I think Jeff's paper is super-interesting, but ultimately suffers from a big problem that Jeff isn't alive to, since he comes from philosophy of social science rather than normative political philosophy. The debate between "Liberals" and "Communitarians" is essentially a normative debate, dealing with how self-determination and autonomy are valued. His paper casts it as a methodological difference, about how best to conceptualize and explain the behavior of individuals. I think the audience was ultimately sympathetic to my criticisms. I was left thinking that perhaps Jeff could recast his views in a way that was less problematic and might still be able to adopt the term "communitarianism" in a qualified way.

Finally, I caught most of Jacob's paper. Jacob's work on evidence and robustness is super-sharp. I have some serious reservations about the way that these discussions get cast, but Jacob has once again convinced me that the distance between our views isn't so large. I'm still convinced that looking at two oft-ignored features of evidence will dissolve a lot of the worries that Jacob raises, as well as showing the problematic features of the tradition that Jacob wants to critique. First, we need to look at the temporal dynamics of inquiry, and second, we need to look at the functional roles that evidence plays in the course of inquiries, particularly at the diversity of those roles. I think at that point, much of the talk about "robustness," "discordance," and "evidence for use" may look less important that Jacob thinks.

Then there was the President's reception with snacks and drinks, and more drinks at a grad student pub with UBC and other students. It was a good time. Conversation ranged broadly and interestingly. One particularly interesting discussion had to do with the way that standards of evidence changed in response to the complaints of AIDS activists. An important case discussed in cultural studies, by Epstein, and others. Roger Stanev has a couple of papers here on the topic, and Jacob was pushing him on it. Roger is a nice fellow, and so were Jaime and Josh, who I met. I had an awkward interaction with Alan R. at the reception, which is worrisome given that I'm supposed to be doing a panel with him in November (if we get accepted). But probably I'm over-worried. After all, he'd never met me!

Off to bed soon. Supposed to meet Jacob for breakfast around 8! We'll see if that happens.

No comments: