What Makes a Philosopher Good or Bad? Intellectual Virtues and Vices in the History of Philosophy

November 25, 2021 - November 26, 2021
Utrecht University & Leiden University


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University of Aberdeen
University of Warwick
Simon Fraser University


Utrecht University

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What Makes a Philosopher Good or Bad? 

Intellectual Virtues and Vices in the History of Philosophy

> Two-day conference | Thursday 25 – Friday 26 November 2021

> Keynote speakers

Adeshina Afolayan (University of Ibadan, Nigeria) 

Michael Beaney (University of Aberdeen, UK / Humboldt University Berlin, Germany) 

Quassim Cassam (University of Warwick, UK)

Lisa Shapiro (Simon Fraser University, Canada) 

> Description

This conference raises two simple but provocative questions. What makes a philosopher good or bad? And how have views on what counts as a good or bad philosopher changed over time? 

These meta-philosophical questions offer an opportunity to introduce recent historical and philosophical research on intellectual virtues and vices into the study of the history of philosophy. This combination provides a promising new way of bridging the gap between history, philosophy, history of philosophy, and historiography. 

In recent years, the notions of intellectual virtues and vices have become hotly debated topics, owing in large part to the groundbreaking work of, among others, Herman Paul and Quassim Cassam. Taking a cue from their writings, this workshop seeks to explore virtues (open-mindedness, intellectual courage, rigor, etc.) and vices (closed-mindedness, intellectual arrogance, sloppiness, etc.) as key characteristics of “philosophical personae”, that is, of historically changing ideal-typical models of what it takes to be a (good or bad) philosopher and of different ways of “being a philosopher”. 

This approach to the history of philosophy makes it possible to raise new questions and to answer old questions in new ways. How, for example, have (changing views on) intellectual virtues and vices shaped the philosophical canon and in what sense was the analytic-Continental divide primarily a clash between different understandings of what it means to be a philosopher? At the same time, the approach goes against the grain of more established ways of studying the history of philosophy, insofar as it turns the attention away from what philosophers think (“ideas”) toward the philosophers that do the thinking (“people”). For example, one might polemically ask whether the history of philosophy could be rewritten as a story of meta-philosophical changes in what it means to do philosophy – as opposed to, say, science or fiction-writing – and for thinkers and ideas to count as philosophical.This, in turn, puts strong emphasis on processes of inclusion and exclusion, and the various factors involved therein (gender, race, culture, language, etc.), in philosophical canon formation.

The conference will take place on Thursday 25 and Friday 26November 2021 from 9:30-18:00 (CET). It will in principle be held online, but it may be turned into a hybrid event when Covid (travel) regulations allow for it.

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November 14, 2021, 9:00am CET

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