Continental Philosophy and its Histories

March 26, 2021 - March 27, 2021

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  • British Society for the History of Philosophy
  • Warwick Philosophy Department


University of Warwick
University of Warwick

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Continental Philosophy often focuses its efforts on studying, comparing, and criticising the thought of past philosophers. One would be hard-pressed to find a thinker in the Continental tradition who has not understood and presented their own thought in relation to an Ancient Greek, or a Modern philosopher. But these philosophers do not approach historical figures as ‘historians of ideas’ or as ‘experts’ on a historical period. Rather, the new philosophy is seen as standing in contrast to, or as a continuation of, the problems and questions of the past. As such, Continental Philosophy often places a strong emphasis on the construction of, and the engagement with, its histories, thereby understanding and differentiating itself on the basis of traditions, schools, and systems, rather than theories, disciplines, and problems.

One of the aims of this conference is to investigate different ways in which Continental Philosophy engages with the thinkers that belong to its history: what is it to ‘read’ Plato, Spinoza, Kant, or Nietzsche in Continental Philosophy? How important is the canon and what is its methodological and philosophical significance? Should we keep putting forward various creative (mis)readings of the past philosophers or, as Husserl has suggested early on, is it better to get rid of the past and proceed afresh with a new method?

History, however, is more than a ‘tool’ utilised by Continental Philosophy. From Hegel’s Philosophy of History and Marx’s materialisation of it, to Heidegger’s distinction between Historie and Geschichte, and Adorno and Horkheimer’s Dialectic of Enlightenment Continental Philosophy makes the phenomenon (in contrast to the discipline) of history the very object of its investigations. Hence, we wonder: what does it mean to write a ‘philosophy of history’ and what possible form can such an enquiry take today?

But it must not be forgotten that Continental Philosophy can itself be seen as a period in the longer history of philosophy. This makes the very concept of Continental Philosophy open to inquiry by philosophers, but also to historians, sociologists, political scientists, etc. What does it mean to address Continental philosophy as a historical period? Can methods, approaches, traditions, and theories from other disciplines illuminate and inform philosophical understandings of Continental Philosophy? Can such approaches be helpful to disciplines other than philosophy? This is another crucial topic that this conference aims to investigate.

To this end, the Warwick Continental Philosophy Conference (WCPC) invites papers in Continental or European philosophy focusing on Continental Philosophy and its Histories, broadly understood. Suggested topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • How and why does Continental Philosophy utilise past thinkers as a part of its method?
  • How does Continental Philosophy employ history, understood both as an object of research (e.g. history of philosophy, society, nature) and as a method of thinking (e.g. dialectics, genealogy, archaeology, deconstruction)?
  • Is there such a thing as the Continental canon? Is such a thing possible or desirable, fixed or modifiable?
  • What is Philosophy of History? Can, or should, one engage in such an endeavour today?
  • Can there be a historiography of Continental Philosophy?
  • Can, or should, one employ methods and approaches from other disciplines in order to investigate Continental Philosophy?

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