CFP: Royal Institute of Philosophy Graduate Conference: Wittgenstein and the Idea of a Social Science

Submission deadline: September 12, 2022

Conference date(s):
November 11, 2022 - November 12, 2022

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Conference Venue:

Philosophy Department , Durham University
Durham, United Kingdom

Topic areas


On 11-12 November 2022, Durham University will host a conference sponsored by the Royal Institute of Philosophy on ‘Wittgenstein and the Idea of a Social Science’. Abstract submissions are welcome from researchers of all levels from disciplines relating to philosophy and/or social science, and are especially encouraged from graduate students and early-career researchers.

We are pleased to announce the following keynote speakers:

  • Nigel Pleasants (Exeter)

  • Rachael Wiseman (Liverpool)

  • Arif Ahmed (Cambridge)

This conference will explore Wittgensteinian perspectives on the philosophy of social science, in order to promote further dialogue between philosophy and the social sciences, and to build on the legacy of Peter Winch and his book The Idea of a Social Science. Key questions that conference papers are invited to address include (but are not limited to):

  • What are the philosophical presuppositions of social science, in its different forms, as it is practised today? Does social science depend on externalist conceptions of human relations, e.g. an atomistic view of human relations, or a form of reductionism such as behaviourism?

  • Should social science make a sharper distinction between causes of human behaviour and reasons for acting? What are the implications of this distinction for areas of study such as nudge theory and implicit bias? If willing is not, as Wittgenstein suggests, a kind of causality, does this limit the validity of social scientific studies of causes in behavioural patterns?

  • How might Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations in the ‘Philosophical Investigations’ illuminate the way we ought to study regularities in human behaviour? Is Winch right to apply Wittgenstein’s concept of internal relations to social relations?

  • How do Wittgenstein’s views on community and language use relate to social concepts and recent work in social metaphysics?

  • What role can the description and clarification of psychological concepts play in the social sciences? Does the Wittgensteinian idea that psychological concepts like belief cannot be pinned down to a particular mental state, and can exist in multiple language-games, spell trouble for social scientific methodologies?

  • How does Winch’s critique, or other Wittgensteinian critiques, of social science compare with other well-known philosophical treatments of social science (e.g. Alasdair MacIntyre’s, Charles Taylor’s)? Is there a distinctively Wittgensteinian philosophy of social science?

Abstract submission

Please submit an abstract (max. 300 words) to [email protected] by 12 Sep 2022. Presentations will be 30 minutes, plus time for discussion.

Abstracts should be anonymised, but please indicate in the same document if you are a graduate student (at the time of the conference).

Deadline: 12th September 2022.

Subsidies for UK-based travel and accommodation within Durham will be provided for graduate student speakers. 

In-person presentation of papers and attendance of the conference is highly encouraged for all speakers, but please let us know if you will require an option for online attendance or presenting. 

Registration for the conference is free for both delegates and speakers. To book a place, please email [email protected] with your name and affiliations.

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