CFP: Racism and the Disciplinary Differentiation of Science and Philosophy

Submission deadline: January 15, 2018

Conference date(s):
May 17, 2018 - May 20, 2018

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology, University of Texas at Dallas
Dallas, United States

Topic areas


This workshop seeks to weave together three historical threads that have each separately received significant attention in recent years, but which have not so far been followed together, perhaps due to the siloing of different sub-disciplines of and approaches within the History of Ideas: (1) the role of racism in the formation of the philosophical canon, (2) the role of racism in the emergence of science as a distinct pursuit, especially the life and social sciences, and (3) the disciplinary and professional differentiation of philosophy and science from one another from the 18th to the 20th centuries.

We know from recent work in intellectual history that there are deep connections between the development of racist thought and the emergence of the modern concept and canons of philosophy, influenced especially by Kant and certain of his followers. In this process, Asian and African thinkers were read out of the canon, and philosophy was reconceived as a specifically western intellectual formation beginning in Ancient Greece.

Recent work has also shown that Kant’s work on race is also deeply imbricated with the development of biology and race science / scientific racism. We also know from various historians that the emergence of science, especially biology, physical anthropology, and psychology, is also deeply involved with the development of racist thought in the 19th century into the early 20th. In fact, the process starts earlier, with 18th-century changes in the field of natural history as it starts the transition that results in the contemporary biological and human sciences, and which is also tied up with the emergence of the modern research university (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen being a key nexus).

Taking place throughout the same period is the slow process of differentiating science and philosophy, which in a way also begins with Immanuel Kant, who is also central to the story of science & race and philosophy & race. Kant’s distinctions are one important influence over the process of differentiating and separating of institutions and professional identities, in the 19th century Anglophone world represented in the diverging terms of “scientist” from “natural philosopher” or “natural historian” or “moral philosopher” (thanks to Whewell). This process culminated in the early 20th century with the institutional extrication of philosophy and psychology, and the influence of anti-psychologism in philosophy. (This framing privileges the English language version of this trajectory, but similar changes were going on throughout early modern Europe.) In turn, the philosophy / psychology split and the anti-psychologism movement in philosophy was central to the founding figures of both analytic and continental philosophy, as well as the split between the two (many of the main figures being in one way or another neo-Kantians).

What happens when we read all of these processes together? How do they impact/inform contemporary science, philosophy, and our understand of the relation between the two (or lack thereof)? These will be the questions explored in this workshop. Our aim is to start a conversation that explores these tangled threads, with the ultimate aim of weaving a narrative that illuminates the connections between these so far separate inquiries.

Proposals should include a 250-300 word abstract. Talks need not attempt to cover the entire broad field laid out in this CFP, but we're especially interested in talks that make new connections among some of these threads.

The Center for Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology works to foster diversity and inclusiveness in our programming, events, and outreach efforts. Proposal authors and panel organizers will be asked to submit an optional 50-100 word diversity statement with their submission. We will also publish a statement of Conference Aims, Values, and Norms and designate an ombuds for the conference, who can receive confidential reports of inappropriate behavior and work with the organizers to determine appropriate responses.

This workshop, as well as the workshop "Feyerabend 2018: Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of Science in a Free Society," take place prior to and in connection with the Values in Medicine, Science, and Technology Conference. Workshop participants are encouraged to attend the other workshop and stay for the conference. Submissions to the workshops and the conference will be considered separately. Please be sure you submit your proposal to the correct track.

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)