Reconstructing Reason: Developing the concept of reason through history

November 15, 2019 - November 16, 2019
Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto

JHB 418 (Nov.15); JHB 100 (Nov.16)
170 St George St.
Toronto M5R 2M8

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University of Pittsburgh
University of Miami


University of Toronto, St. George Campus
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

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Reconstructing Reason:

Developing the concept of reason through history

Conference: November 15th – 16th, 2019

Keynote Speakers: Robert B. Brandom and Susan Haack

The Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto is pleased to announce the nineteenth annual Graduate Philosophy Conference, to be held November 15-16, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario. Our theme this year is ‘Reconstructing Reason: Developing the concept of reason through history’. 

Keynote Speakers

Robert B. Brandom (University of Pittsburgh). Robert Brandom works in the philosophy of language, logic, German idealism, and neo-pragmatism. His theory of reasoning known as “inferentialism” has been widely influential both inside and outside the discipline and treats many of the leading issues in contemporary philosophy in a way that is both systematic and historically illuminating. Dr. Brandom’s most recent book, A Spirit of Trust, gives a new and provocative interpretation of the distinctively social and historical development of reason in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

Susan Haack (University of Miami). Susan Haack is a leading figure in the philosophy of science, language, logic, and epistemology. Her work – deeply influenced by the American pragmatist tradition – encompasses both philosophical and legal concerns regarding the nature of evidence, belief, reasoning, and truth. Her books include Defending Science—Within Reason and Evidence Matters: Science, Proof, and Truth in the Law. Dr. Haack’s recent work documents the fascinating way social and historical circumstances influence the development of the meaning of scientific and legal concepts and shows how this tendency can inform our understanding of rationality.

Conference Description:

What is reason? Although the concept of ‘reason’ has been central to the practice and self-conception of philosophy throughout its history the way philosophers have understood this concept has changed dramatically over time. Ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle, conceived reason as a metaphysical principle of the world. Early Moderns like Descartes and Kant viewed ‘reason’ as a faculty of the human mind. Today, many philosophers conceive reason – and its sibling, ‘science’ – as one instrument or method among others whose authority may wax and wane with changing circumstances. In this conference, we explore the history behind the development of the concept of reason and investigate the relevance of this history to contemporary philosophy.

Topics covered include:

--Changing conceptions of reason through history.

--The relationship between history and epistemology.

--The relationship between pluralism and relativism.

--The role of genealogy in historical explanations.

--The role of social relations, recognition, and intersubjectivity in reasoning.

--Our rational relationship to past and future generations.

--Reason in the pragmatist tradition.

--The Kantian and post-Kantian ideal of the unity of reason.

--Style’s of reasoning in the history and philosophy of science.

--Reason in the social sciences vs. reason in the natural sciences

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