requiem for certainty

Posts Tagged ‘metaphilosophy

Philosophical Divides: a little story

with 14 comments

Picture the following.  Camps of philosophers cordon themselves off from one another by drawing lines in the still sands of a breezeless desert.  There they entrench, staring each other down from opposite sides of the line for a decade or two.  Eventually they tire of looking across the divide, and so begin to fraternize with only those philosophers in their proximity.  Later they forget about the philosophers on the other side of the line, and when the occasional hawkeyed upstart or pesky defector announces the existence of a whole country of philosophers not too far away, they retort that those on the other side of the line are not ‘real’ philosophers.  They are, the upstart and the defector are told, philosophical poseurs at best, or philosophical perverts at worst.  The language that is used, in fact, is exactly that contemptuous and contentious. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by Colin Koopman

January 12, 2011 at 2:58 am


with 6 comments

Late last week I attended a strategic reorientation meeting for ARC—the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory, a small group of philosophically-minded anthropologists to whom I was introduced by Paul Rabinow at UC Berkeley while on my UC Santa Cruz postdoc.  Those looking for reflections on ARC and related projects might take a look at Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary, a refreshing little book recording conversations amongst Rabinow and some ARC and non-ARC collaborators.

Over the past few years of (somewhat sporadic) involvement I have found ARC a refreshing and invigorating venue for fashioning new forms of cross-disciplinary inquiry.  One primary objective of ARC, or so it seems to me, is experimenting with forms of academic research.  Two projects I was involved in are the ARC Collaboratory (collaboration + laboratory) and one of Rabinow’s Labinar (laboratory + seminar) graduate courses in Anthropology at UC Berkeley.  The recent meeting provides an occasion for now looking back at my involvement in these two experiments in order to discern what has worked well and what still needs more work.  This will be useful (for me at least) as some of us seek to re-energize ARC as a venue for shared work going forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

June 15, 2010 at 2:57 am

Challenging Philosophy: Richard Rorty, Bernard Williams, Michel Foucault

with 5 comments

The three most important philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century were Bernard Williams, Michel Foucault, and Richard Rorty. The importance of each can in large part be attributed to the profound challenges they posed to entrenched assumptions about philosophy, its role in our lives, and its place midst our liberal democratic cultures. I insist on referring to the challenges posted by these three thinkers as profound—for their challenges, when taken seriously, run very deep indeed. By the time that Williams, Foucault, and Rorty had each finished laying out the intellectual projects characteristic of their mature work, it was clear that they had overturned many of the working assumptions of the philosophical tradition in which they had been reared. In this way, each of these thinkers challenged their respective traditions to move on to more ambitious and cunning conceptions of philosophy. Each exhibited inspiring levels of intellectual rigor and critical courage in provoking their respective traditions of thought to adopt a new self-image.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

November 19, 2009 at 6:02 am

Political Theory Reporter on Quentin Skinner lecture

leave a comment »

I have a report on Quentin Skinner’s lecture at Berkeley from the other night over here at the new Political Theory Reporter blog.

While I’m at it: anyone interested in joining me over there? It’d be nice to have colleagues all around reporting on the wealth of intellectual scholarship in political theory (including of course political history, political anthropology, political sociology, legal theory, and political philosophy) currently taking place but unfortuantely not yet taking advantage of internet interconnectedness. The idea is to keep everyone up on the latest in political theory as it unfolds. It would be nice to eventually have reporters around the Bay Area, Cambridge, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere both across the country and overseas. I’ll make a fuller push to recruit a fuller suite at some point. For now I’m just kicking this off.

Written by Colin Koopman

September 17, 2008 at 6:31 am

Further thoughts on Pragmatist Philosophy and Experimental Philosophy

leave a comment »

Following up on some earlier thoughts about Appiah’s book about X-Phi where I made the case that the pragmatists and the experimentalists (x-phi-ers) have more in common than has thus far been explored.  Now I want to air a point of possible divergence.  The divergence, in short, is that experimental philosophy wants to use experiment to help resolve certain pressing philosophical issues whereas pragmatist philosophy presses experiment into service for two somewhat different reasons: a) to help resolve pressing social-cultural problems, b) to help transform philosophy itself so that it may take these more socially-culturally attuned problems as its subject matter. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Colin Koopman

September 14, 2008 at 7:16 pm