By looking at the tension amongst rationalist theories such as Kantianism, naturalism, and mate- rialism, we will reflect and rethink the dispute between the analytic and the continental tradition in philosophy.
In epistemology, rationalism has been understood as the view which sees reason as the main source for knowledge. Since the Ancient Greek philosophy, reason has always had a special status. Within the history of philosophy, reason has been described in two ways: on the one hand epistemically and on the other instrumentally. The instrumental approach systematically accomplishes the targets and the intents set out by a specific relation between thinking and its surroundings — the enterprise of science, for instance. Instead, the epistemic approach focuses more on mapping each belief, model, system to their respective targets and on the efficiency of these cognitive and semantic maps.
In the first part of the seminar, we examine some of the ways in which pre-Kantian philoso- phies have elaborated the complex relationship between rational and sensorial knowledge and the world. In particular, we will put accent on the works of Plato, the Cartesian dualism, Spinozian monism, Leibniz, Hume’s empiricism and his influence on Kant’s philosophy.
Beginning from the end of 19th Century, philosophy has also seen a break into two traditions: Anglo-American analytic philosophy, and Continental European philosophy. Generally, the di- vide is hold as the former blames the latter on the accounts of its irreducible experience, which seems to resist scientific formalisation and lead to relativism, and the latter claims that the for- mer yields ethical and historical interpretations from epistemology. Interestingly, some analytic philosophers shared the same opinion on metaphysics with continental philosophers. An exam- ple is offered by Rorty’s destitution of metaphysics and Heidegger’s destruction of metaphysics.
Also, their political views were both disastrous to the extent that they both were apologetic of either a naïve liberalism or fascist regimes. However, the new century saw for both traditions a rehabilitation of metaphysics: respectively, a strict logical rationalism, which is often deflation- ary and avoids complex issues, and the speculative realism, which spans from Object Oriented Ontology to a metaphysical panpsychism. What is criticised of these contemporary movements is that they rehabilitate a ‘bad’ metaphysics, i.e. totality, cynicism, naivety, instead of a ‘good’ one, i.e. difference, pluralism, relationality.
In the second part of the seminar, we will overview the revival of rationalism in contemporary philosophy. We will start this journey by analysing the Kantian impact in Sellars, whose philoso- phy lies in the heritage of Piercian pragmatic naturalism aware of the Carnapian distinction of the analytic and the synthetic. Similarly to Sellars, in a more continental fashion, Meillassoux vows to vindicate scientific and mathematical realism in light of postkantian philosophy. By avoiding a vitalist and mathematical Platonism, reason reemerged alongside cognitive functionalism, meta- physical naturalism, and logical inferentialism in the works of Brassier and Brandom. Finally, we will conclude the seminar by looking at how Du Bois, Longino, Harding, and Anderson have articulated a crucial empiricist critique to the premises of rationalism with respect to postcolonial and feminist theories. These positions maintain a strong realism in science.
Week 1. Interpreting Ancient and Modern Rationalism:
- Brassier, Ray (2013). That Which is Not: Philosophy as Entwinement of Truth and Negativity, Stastis - 1, pp. 174–186.
- Hume, David (1739). Part 3: Knowledge and Probability in Treatise of Human Nature, Book 1.
Week 2. Kant’s philosophy and the postkantian heritage:
- Kant, Immanuel (1787). Transcendental Analytic, and Transcendental Deduction in Critique of Pure Reason.
- Negarestani, Reza (2018). Chapter I: Between Conception and Transformation in Intelligence and Spirit, Falmouth: Urbanomic.
Week 3. Metaphysical naturalism:
- Sellars, Wilfrid (1968). Chapter I – Sensibility and Understanding in Science and Metaphysics – Variations on Kantian Themes, Atascadero: Ridgeview Publishing Company.
- Brandom, Robert B. (2008). Modality and Normativity: From Hume and Quine to Kant and Sell- ars in Between Saying and Doing: Towards an Analytic Pragmatism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Week 4. Rational Materialism:
- Brassier, Ray (2016).Transcendental Logic and True Representings, Glass Bead.
- Meillassoux, Quentin (2016). Iteration, Reiteration, Repetition: A Speculative Materialist Analy- sis of the Sign Devoid of Meaning, in A. Avanessian and S. Malik, eds., Genealogies of Specula- tion: Materialism and Subjectivity Since Structuralism, New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Week 5. Feminist empiricism and the value-free ideal of science:
- Longino, Helene E. (1995). Gender, politics, and the theoretical virtues, Synthese 104, pp.383–397.
- Bright, Liam K. (2018). Du Bois’ democratic defence of the value free ideal, Synthese 195, pp.2227–2245.