Conference: Self and Others in Wittgenstein and Contemporary Analytic Philosophy

Below is some information about an upcoming conference at the University of Southampton that we thought would be of interest to many of our readers. For more information about the event, please visit the conference webpage by clicking here.

Self and others in Wittgenstein and contemporary analytic philosophy

University of Southampton, 26th-28th March 2010

Organisers: Denis McManus and Daniel Whiting

Conference theme

That Wittgenstein’s work has important implications for our understanding of both self-knowledge and knowledge of others was recognized from the very beginning (for example, in Anscombe’s reflections on the first-person and the debate over criteria). However, while there has been much interesting work inspired by Wittgenstein concerning knowledge of others, it is in discussions of self-knowledge in particular that his work has figured prominently in recent analytic philosophy.

One reason why the ‘problem of other minds’ has to some extent receded from view might be that, as Fodor suggests, ‘[i]t’s gotten hard to believe that there is a special problem about the knowledge of other minds (as opposed to knowledge of anything elses)’ (in A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, ed. S. Guttenplan. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994, p. 292). But recent Wittgensteinian reflection on self-knowledge doesn’t encourage that thought, in that it proceeds in part by pointing out the special character of self-knowledge (as opposed to ‘knowledge of anything elses’). If, as certain accounts that take their lead from Wittgenstein would have it, the attribution of a mental state to oneself is not based on observation of that state but is constitutive of it, for example, or a commitment to it, or an expression of it, what would another person have to do in order to know what one knows about oneself in one of these distinctive ways? For that matter, much work on knowledge of others inspired by Wittgenstein is likewise at pains to stress its special character. If, as certain accounts would have it, knowledge of others is not based on inference from observable evidence, let alone the bringing to bear of a theory, but involves imaginatively engaging with another’s point of view, for example, or direct perception, or some kind of ‘acknowledgement’, what significance does that have for knowing one’s own mind?

Guided by the thought that models of knowledge of other minds and models of self-knowledge stand and fall together, this conference aims to explore and assess Wittgensteinian perspectives on both forms of knowledge and reflect on how such perspectives relate to one another. In doing so, it would hope to shed light on the nature of the objects of this knowledge—the mental and the self.

Provisional programme

Friday 26th March
17:00-19:00   Public lecture: Dorit Bar-on (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), ‘Expression, Action, and Meaning’.

Saturday 27th March
9.30-11:00     Plenary speaker: Anita Avramides (University of Oxford): ‘Wittgenstein and Knowledge Externalism: Two Challenges to Traditional Epistemology’.
11:30-13:00   Plenary speaker: Andrea Kern (University of Leipzig), ‘Self-Conscious Animals: On Kant, McDowell and Wittgenstein’.
14:00-15:00   Parallel session A: Stephen Blackwood (Wilfrid Laurier University), ‘Expressivism, Self-Knowledge and Critical Rationality’.
14:00-15:00  Parallel session B: Stina Backstrom (University of Chicago), ‘Pain, Expression and Self-Awareness: Why Self-Awareness of Sensations is Not Like Perception’.
15:10-16:40   Plenary speaker: David Finkelstein (University of Chicago), ‘A Plea for Unity’.
17:10-18:40   Plenary speaker: William Child (University of Oxford), ‘Knowing From One’s Own Case’.

Sunday 28th March
9.30-11:00     Plenary speaker: Åsa Wikforss (University of Stockholm), ‘What Justifies Beliefs About One’s Own Beliefs?’.
11:30-13:00   Plenary speaker: Cynthia Macdonald (Queen’s University Belfast), ‘In My Mind’s Eye: Introspection and Authoritative Self-knowledge’.
14:00-15:00   Parallel session C: Edward Harcourt (University of Oxford), ‘Self-Knowledge, Knowledge of Others, and ‘the thing called love’.
14:00-15:00  Parallel session D: Anil Gomes (Birkbeck College, London), ‘McDowell’s Disjunctivism and Other Minds’.
15:10-16:40   Plenary speaker: Jane Heal (University of Cambridge), ‘On Your Knowing What I Think’.
17:00              Conference close

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