Wednesday, January 19th, 2011, 6.15pm

Campus Westend, Hörsaalzentrum HZ5

Prof. Robert B. Brandom (University of Pittsburgh)

From German Idealism to American Pragmatism – and Back

CV

Robert Boyce Brandom is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Fellow of the Center for the Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Recipient of the A.W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities Award. His Ph.D. is from Princeton (1977) and his B.A. is from Yale (1972). He has held visiting fellowships at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford and at All Souls College, Oxford, and was Leibniz Professor at the University of Leipzig. He delivered the John Locke lectures at Oxford, the Woodbridge lectures at Columbia, the Hempel lectures at Princeton, the Townsend lectures at Berkeley, and the Nelson lectures at the University of Michigan. His books include Making It Explicit (Harvard 1994), Between Saying and Doing (Oxford 2008), Tales of the Mighty Dead (Harvard 2002 ), Articulating Reasons (Harvard 2000), Reason in Philosophy (Harvard 2009), and Perspectives on Pragmatism (Harvard 2011). He has edited In the Space of Reasons: Selected Papers of Wilfrid Sellars (with Kevin Scharp) (Harvard 2007), and Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind (Harvard 1997). His longtime philosophical interests include the philosophy of language, of mind, and of logic, German Idealism, pragmatism, and Wilfrid Sellars.

Abstract

Kant’s revolutionary normative turn presented judgments and intentional actions as commitments subjects are responsible for, so as subject to distinctive kinds of normative assessment. The American Pragmatists continued Hegel’s naturalizing and historicizing of this normative criterion of demarcation of sapience. This essay distinguishes what is most progressive in the pragmatists’ thought about sapience – their fundamental pragmatism (understanding knowing-that in terms of knowing-how), methodological pragmatism (semantics answers to pragmatics) and semantic pragmatism (functionalism about the relations between meaning and use) – from the instrumental pragmatism (understanding language and thought as tools) that is often identified as their characteristic doctrine. A weakness of the pragmatist tradition concerns its treatment of language, specifically, to answer the demarcation question (what distinguishes discursive practice?), which is the hinge linking the emergence question (how could and did discursive practices arise from nondiscursive ones?) and the leverage question (how is it that the transition to discursive practices brings with it so many other new capacities?). As a response to this difficulty, a return to something like the rationalist pragmatism of Hegel is recommended.

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