Pragmatism for Social Scientists: histories, criticism, and opportunities

February 22, 2018 - June 15, 2018
Department of Conflict and Development Studies, University of Ghent

vergaderzaal decaan John Vincke (Korte Meer nr. 5), 9000 Gent
Korte Meer nr. 5


University College Dublin
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
New York University
City University London


University of Ghent
University of Birmingham
University of Ghent
University of Ghent

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Deciding the methodological parameters of any social scientific research project has significant and far-reaching consequences. The methodological orientation of practicing social scientists is crucial for the work they do because it structures the way in which the research is conducted. One of the more significant and influential recent developments in philosophy globally — and in the theoretical branches of various social scientific disciplines in particular — is the recent rise to prominence of pragmatism.
Formerly little-known among scholars in continental Europe, pragmatism has now established a strong foothold there within various disciplinary and institutional formations, as represented by some of the leading intellectuals of our time. Figures such as Jurgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu, Bruno Latour, Axel Honneth and Luc Boltanski all rely significantly on pragmatism to underpin their work. Indeed, Boltanski has been credited with inaugurating a new “pragmatic school of French sociology”. Various research networks have also sprouted up, including the Nordic Pragmatism Network, Associazione Pragma, alongside burgeoning journals such as Pragmatism Today and the European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy. By participating in this
course, students will access a vital toolkit of concepts that will prove invaluable as they confront the methodological problems each researcher faces.
More particularly, this course will:
● Develop participants’ familiarity with the basic concepts of pragmatism.
● Provide a robust outline of the history and present of pragmatism as a philosophy of human action and social science.
● Draw out the consequences of pragmatism for the methodology of the social sciences and in particular for Conflict and Development Studies.
● Show how pragmatism influences major contemporary theoretical and social scientific programs and their fundamental concepts, such as: power, growth, agency, knowledge and domination.
● Think through the consequences of a pragmatic approach to how we see the purpose of social science in a democratic society.

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February 9, 2018, 4:00am CET

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