Workshop on Historiography, Methodology, Metaphilosophy and the Canon

June 28, 2018 - June 30, 2018
Department of Philosophy, McMaster University

1280 Main Street West, Dept. of Philosophy
Hamilton L8S 4K1


University of Aberdeen
University of Melbourne
VU University Amsterdam
York University
University of Vienna
Virginia Tech
Harvard University


McMaster University
University of California, Riverside

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The Workshop

This workshop is a true workshop. It brings together leading scholars working in the history and historiography of philosophy to exchange views and share constructive proposals on a number of concerted questions. Each invited speakers at the workshop will lead a 90 minutes discussions focused around a topic of their choice. They will be invited to give a short presentation and make material available, but the program does not include formal talks and each session will be dedicated to evaluating specific problems and questions in a collaborative spirit. The aim of the workshop is to advance scholarship on the methodology of historiography in philosophy, a topic that has been vastly neglected. Topics of discussion might include:

·        What role does the canon play in agents’ practices.

·        What kinds of “devices” are philosophical canons?

·        What is distinctively philosophical about the history of philosophy and what makes it distinct from sociology of knowledge, history of science or intellectual history (if anything)?

·        To the extent that reconstructions and narratives are types of explanation, in what way do they differ from other types of reasoning (inductive, nomologico-deductive, abductive, etc)?

·        Does the history of philosophy – and the history of knowledge more generally – yield other types of explanation beside reconstructions and narratives?

·        What are they and how can they be assessed, respectively?

·        What kinds of recognitional capacities and cognitive processing strategies are mobilised in selecting and interpreting data for the purpose of a reconstruction or narrative in the history of philosophy.

·        What kinds of cognitive biases can be associated with what we otherwise think of as hermeneutic limitations?

·        What are the epistemic circumstances that underlie subscription to a canon?

·        How have canons been challenged in philosophy (and in other disciplines) and to what purpose?  

·        What kinds of psychological and epistemic circumstances can lead to such challenges? 

·        What have been conceptions of the canon and standard historical narratives at different times?

·        How have these evolved.

·        What kinds of sociological, intellectual, political factors seem to play a role in canon-formation?

·        To which extent are canons stable and what explains this stability or lack thereof?

·        Do reconstructions and narratives in the history of philosophy epitomise the values of the historians and if so, is this a good or a bad thing?

·        How do the the kinds of epistemic norms and values that are at play in the history of philosophy compare with those that are at play in philosophy more generally?

·        What is the nature and role of “counter-narratives”, e.g. debunking histories, revisionary tales?

All Invited Speakers have committed to contributing to the volume arising from the workshop. Discussants will also be invited to submit a 6000-9000 word paper for publication in the same volume. Papers submitted by discussants will be refereed by a scientific committee. Deadline for submission will be 31 May 2019.

Call for Discussants

Faculty and graduate students with expertise and/or interest in the history of philosophy and historical methodology or in connected discipline (history of psychology, sociology of knowledge, history of science) interested in joining as discussant are encouraged to send a short letter of intent explaining the nature of their interest in the topic. Discussants do not need to prepare a presentation, and their submissions will not be expected until 31 May 2019.

 Please send your letters of intent to Sean Dudley: [email protected] 

We hope to be in a position to offer travel stipends to eligible graduate students. Such stipends would be made available on a first-come-first-serve basis, subject to funding limitations.

 The workshop is free of charge.

Those interested in the workshop might also want to take part in the adjacent summer school on Historiography, Methodology and Metaphilosophy, 30 June-7 July. More information here:

We will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Russell Archive in 2018 and look forward to welcoming you at McMaster

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May 5, 2018, 7:45pm EST

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Ismail Aslan

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