Untaming ReasonGloria Origgi, InstitutNicod, Paris Roma, 17 aprile 2009 Università Roma Tre
“History, if viewed as a repository for morethan anecdote or chronology, could produce adecisive transformation in the image ofscience by which we are now possessed” T. Kuhn, 1962
History and Human Science:• A need for historical explanations in philosophy and other human sciences• Objects of inquiry have an origin that can be located in space and time.• Is history the place to look at?
Problems with historical accounts:• Chain of events in terms of continuity, causality and influential cascades• Delegitimation of the impact of historical accounts due to the emergence of powerful synchronic methodologies in linguistics, anthropology, psychology
Questions:• What is the role of these approaches in philosophy and, more generally, in human sciences?• Are they defendable from the accusation of “genetic fallacy”, that is, that even if a claim on the origins of an issue is true it is irrelevant for justifying this issue?• Are we entitled to look at the genesis of a concept, an attitude, a value in order to explain what kind of thing it is or what can we know about it?• How much “thick” our concepts should be to avoid the shallow abstraction that is so frequently ascribed to timeless philosophical reflection?
Evolutionary explanations• An evolutionary explanation of a human attitude, such as a moral value, a cognitive disposition or a social behavior, conceptualizes this attitude as a selected trait, a darwinian adaptation.• It retraces its history in terms of the selective pressure that may have stabilized this trait in a population.• One of the major contributions of Darwin’s theory of natural selection is population-thinking: evolution through natural selection can be explained only at the level of a population.
Genealogical explanations• A genealogical explanation of a human attitude, a moral value, a cognitive disposition or a social behavior is a way of tracking back the social and institutional pressures that have shaped, in a precise historical time and geographical location, the form of that attitude, value etc., as well as our awareness of them and our self-ascriptions of them in describing ourselves and our social world.• it is not just a “thicker” reading of a phenomenon, which simply adds an historical dimension to its understanding:• it is a way, as Judith Butler has defined it, of investigating “the political stakes in designating as origin and cause those categories that are in fact the effects of institutions, practices, discourses with multiple and diffuse points of origin”