After the Pragmatism and Naturalism workshop

Posted on May 12, 2008


I came back on the weekend from the Pragmatism and Naturalism workshop in Tilburg, Holland. Huw Price was the main speaker and it seemed like every second talk was about the Canberra Plan in one way or another, with Frank Jackson’s From Ethics to Metaphysics being mentioned almost more often than Huw’s work. Given the degree to which his work is a response to the Australian scientific realists, this is not as much a surprise as it might be otherwise. Apart from Huw, there were also a number of other well-known philosophers there as well as a few who are less well-known but doing very interesting work. In particular, I was glad to meet Jim O’Shea whose recent book on Sellars received a very enthusiastic write up on the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (I keep meaning to read up on Sellars and Jim’s book may be just the thing for me to read) as well as Mauricio Suarez who works at the Complutense University, which I am to visit in a couple of weeks, and who has an interesting approach to scientific representation. It is clear that Stephan Hartmann is doing a great job in organising the Tilburg Logic and Philosophy of Science centre as it has only been going for a year and already has hosted a number of very interesting meetings. The only problem for me was that the meeting was more closely focussed upon Huw’s work than I had expected so that my talk, dealing as it did with Herbert Simon, was kind of off in a corner of its own. I ended up making large changes to the presentation the night before so that it would fit more with the overall shape of the workshop. As part of that I removed the section on Goldman and, instead, compared Simon’s ideas to those put forward by Peirce as a number of talks discussed Peirce in one way or another. Certainly, it did seem that the strong realist tenor of both my talk and Peirce’s philosophy was out of tune with the deflationist approach favoured by many of the other participants. It seems that the fundamental difference between the views I argue for and those that Huw prefers is that he does not see reality as playing as much of a constraining role upon our theorising as that played by communication with other people.

I am putting the PowerPoint slides from my talk on the website, as well as a link to the TiLPS website.