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

Submission deadline: August 21, 2021

Conference date(s):
November 25, 2021 - November 26, 2021

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Conference Venue:

Utrecht University & Leiden University
Leiden, Netherlands

Topic areas


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.

> Aims

The conference aims to get a better understanding of the fruitfulness and implications of introducing the notions of intellectual virtues and vices into the (study of the) history of philosophy. We invite papers on the following and other questions: 

- What are paradigmatic or otherwise interesting case-studies of (the role of) intellectual virtues and vices in the history of philosophy? For instance, what are examples of debates or controversies which, implicitly or explicitly, revolved around different views on what it means to be a (good or bad) philosopher?  

- Why have certain intellectual virtues and vices and some ways of being a (good or bad) philosopher gained in popularity, whereas others became redundant or deemed old-fashioned? 

- How have views on intellectual virtues and vices shaped the initial and posthumous reception of major and forgotten philosophers? Similarly, what role did changes in these views play in the creation of the canonical status (the “greatness”) of certain philosophersand the exclusion or marginalization of others?  

- Can certain major schools and traditions in the history of philosophy be linked to specific intellectual virtues and vices?How was their rise or fall informed by changing views on what it means to be a (good or bad) philosopher? 

- Are there intellectual virtues or vices, and philosophical personae, that may be said to transcend history? If so, what can these teach us about the nature of philosophy? If not, what does this say about the development of the discipline?    

- What are the main challenges and prospects of introducing intellectual virtues and vices into the historiography of philosophy? How, for instance, is it related to attempts to rethink and remake the canon? 

- How can a focus on intellectual virtues and vices connect the history of philosophy more closely to the history of science and the history of the humanities? Are there historical examples ofcases where “philosophical personae” where shaped around intellectual virtues and vices borrowed from science or the humanities – or vice versa?

> Practical information 

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. 

Please send a 200/250-word (anonymized) abstract, including title, to l.m.verburgt[at] before 21 August 2021. The author’s name, institutional position and affiliation, as well as contact information, should be included in the body of the email. Notification of acceptance or rejection by 14 September 2021. 

> Conference organizer 

Lukas M. Verburgt (Utrecht University/NIAS/Leiden University) 

> Conference committee

Lukas M. Verburgt (Utrecht University/NIAS/Leiden University), James McAllister (Leiden University), Annemarije Hagen (University of Amsterdam) and Paul Ziche (Utrecht University)

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