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Methods in Political Theory: Genealogy, Critique, and Conceptual Engineering

Dates:
  • Thu 16 Jan 2020 15.00 - 17.00
  Add to Calendar 2020-01-16 15:00 2020-01-16 17:00 Europe/Paris Methods in Political Theory: Genealogy, Critique, and Conceptual Engineering

It is popular these days to begin philosophical inquiry not with the question—‘What is X?’—but rather—‘What role does X play in our practices?’ This is by now a common move in epistemology (where X might be knowledge, trust, or belief), but it is also common in moral and political theory (where X might be gender, blame, or freedom, or democracy). This shift redirects our inquiry from moving in a narrow circle that alternates back and forth between intuitions and theory to a wider one that includes history and the natural, social, and other human sciences. We become concerned not just with identifying conditions for the correct application of a concept but with the inferential, functional, causal, and evolutionary relations that X stands in with respect to other natural and social phenomena. One might make this move for purely explanatory or descriptive reasons, but often this move is made as a step in a critique of X, where the outcome is either a recommendation to abandon X, to reframe it as oppressive, or to reform it. This seminar will aim to answer some of the following questions: What is genealogy? In what sense is it a form of critique? To what extent should we think of the genealogical project as aimed at conceptual engineering? Does genealogy presuppose a practice- and history-independent normative perspective in order to be critical? Is it self-defeating? Why is thinking about the function of a concept in a set of practices supposed to be revealing? We will cover some classic critical genealogies, including Nietzsche’s critique of morality and Rousseau’s critique of equality, and discuss more contemporary genealogies of gender, race, blame, truthfulness, and freedom.

For each seminar, be sure to identify the main claims defended by each author, and the arguments presented for them. What are the premises of the argument? What are the conclusions? Does the conclusion follow? Are the premises true? What kind of support does the author provide for them? Do you find the arguments convincing? What are the main lines of objection in the literature? What are your objections? What kinds of implications does the argument have for other, related topics? Are there blind-spots that undermine the argument’s overall thrust or force? 

The seminar is open to all. No background in political theory or philosophy is required. Students will come from a variety of backgrounds. Your contributions are essential and welcome. There is room to modify or extend the readings. If your own research project overlaps with the topics listed in the syllabus, let me know and I will tweak a session to allow you (and the rest of us) to get the most out of it.

Seminar Room 1 - Badia Fiesolana DD/MM/YYYY
  Seminar Room 1 - Badia Fiesolana

It is popular these days to begin philosophical inquiry not with the question—‘What is X?’—but rather—‘What role does X play in our practices?’ This is by now a common move in epistemology (where X might be knowledge, trust, or belief), but it is also common in moral and political theory (where X might be gender, blame, or freedom, or democracy). This shift redirects our inquiry from moving in a narrow circle that alternates back and forth between intuitions and theory to a wider one that includes history and the natural, social, and other human sciences. We become concerned not just with identifying conditions for the correct application of a concept but with the inferential, functional, causal, and evolutionary relations that X stands in with respect to other natural and social phenomena. One might make this move for purely explanatory or descriptive reasons, but often this move is made as a step in a critique of X, where the outcome is either a recommendation to abandon X, to reframe it as oppressive, or to reform it. This seminar will aim to answer some of the following questions: What is genealogy? In what sense is it a form of critique? To what extent should we think of the genealogical project as aimed at conceptual engineering? Does genealogy presuppose a practice- and history-independent normative perspective in order to be critical? Is it self-defeating? Why is thinking about the function of a concept in a set of practices supposed to be revealing? We will cover some classic critical genealogies, including Nietzsche’s critique of morality and Rousseau’s critique of equality, and discuss more contemporary genealogies of gender, race, blame, truthfulness, and freedom.

For each seminar, be sure to identify the main claims defended by each author, and the arguments presented for them. What are the premises of the argument? What are the conclusions? Does the conclusion follow? Are the premises true? What kind of support does the author provide for them? Do you find the arguments convincing? What are the main lines of objection in the literature? What are your objections? What kinds of implications does the argument have for other, related topics? Are there blind-spots that undermine the argument’s overall thrust or force? 

The seminar is open to all. No background in political theory or philosophy is required. Students will come from a variety of backgrounds. Your contributions are essential and welcome. There is room to modify or extend the readings. If your own research project overlaps with the topics listed in the syllabus, let me know and I will tweak a session to allow you (and the rest of us) to get the most out of it.


Location:
Seminar Room 1 - Badia Fiesolana

Affiliation:
Department of Political and Social Sciences

Type:
Seminar

Contact:
Adele Ines Battistini (EUI - Department of Political and Social Sciences) - Send a mail

Organiser:
Prof. Andrea Sangiovanni (EUI - Department of Political and Social Sciences)
Dr Juri Viehoff (EUI - Department of Political and Social Sciences)

Links:
Syllabus

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