Perspectives on Realism and The Use and Abuse of Psychology

June 20, 2017
Department of Philosophy, Utrecht University

Room 202
Janskerkhof 15a

Main speakers:

Frederick Beiser
Syracuse University
Tom Giesbers
Utrecht University
John van Houdt
Tilburg University
Peter Jonkers
Tilburg School of Catholic Theology
Chris Meyns
Utrecht University
Jan-Willem Romeijn
University of Groningen
Peter Sperber
Utrecht University
Thomas Sturm
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona


Paul Ziche
Utrecht University

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I. Perspectives on Realism

The period around 1800, normally viewed as the high time of philosophical idealism, is also a period of intense debate between idealists and realists – the latter reacting upon the idealists’ ideas, but also developing and forcefully promoting their own position. This form of realism is highly interesting because in many respects it does not coincide with contemporary associations with the term “realism”, and because it allows for a particularly lively insight into the philosophical (and also some theological and aesthetic) debates in the period around 1800. This workshop will present perspectives on realism from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

9:00 Coffee and tea

9:15 Paul Ziche (Utrecht): Opening

9:20-9:50 Tom Giesbers (Utrecht): Key Passages in German Realism

9:50-10:35 Jan-Willem Romeijn (Groningen): Realism, van Fraassen, and ontic structural realism

Coffee break

10:50-11:30 Frederick Beiser (Syracuse): tba

11:30-12:15 John van Houdt (Tilburg): Negative realism or realism about negativity? The Hegel-Jacobi polemic

12:15-13:00 Peter Jonkers (Tilburg): The (im)possibility of Philosophical Critique. Confronting Kant, Hegel, and Jacobi

Lunch break

II. The Use and Abuse of Psychology: Historical (and contemporary) perspectives

As a result of the psychologism-debates at the beginning of the twentieth century, philosophers in this century for the most part took it for granted that there was little to be learned from empirical psychologists for the sake of answering philosophical questions. In comparison to earlier centuries, this was a rather dramatic change, for during the entire Enlightenment and the nineteenth century, many philosophers (including figures as influential as Locke, Hume, Condillac, James and J.S. Mill, and Brentano) had believed that significant progress could be made in philosophy by means of an empirical study of the human mind. Interestingly, in recent decades there seems to have been somewhat of a revival of this idea: under categories such as Naturalized Epistemology and Moral Psychology, developments in empirical psychology are discussed extensively, and influential authors such as Tyler Burge, Tim Crane, and John Doris have in recent years argued for the necessity of taking research from empirical psychology more seriously in philosophical discussions on many topics. The use of psychological research in philosophy, however, raises difficult questions about the relationships between philosophical and psychological research, and about what methodological role (if any) results from empirical psychology can and should play in philosophical debates. In this workshop we will discuss such questions predominantly from both historical perspectives. The format of the workshop is intended to stimulate, initiated by short statements, active discussions in which we tend to relate these questions to more contemporary debates.

14:30-14:45 Peter Sperber: Introduction

14:45-15:15 Statements: Frederick Beiser (Syracuse), Chris Meyns (Utrecht)

15:15-15:45: Discussion

15:45-16:00: Coffee break

16:00-16:30 Statements II: Thomas Sturm (Barcelona), Paul Ziche (Utrecht)

16:30-17:00 Discussion

17:30 Reception

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