Oslo Mind Group Seminar: Yvonne Hütter-Almerigi, The Moral Philosophy of Philosophy

Yvonne Hütter-Almerigi will be giving a talk on ‘Do You Value Topic-Continuity? The Moral Philosophy of Philosophy’.

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The main argument of the paper is that Cappelen’s insistence on the category of “topics” and, more importantly, the insistence on topic-continuity, is motivated morally and strategically not semantically or theoretically more in general. When investigating what accounts for samesaying, topics, just as meaning, are not defined by content (Cappelen 141). Further, topics are metaphysically lightweight (Cappelen 138). topics (and topics), are defined pragmatically and as we go: Speakers talk about the same topic when we (and they) attribute they do. But why should we do that? Why should we aim for continuity and why should we think it is possible in general?

On a political and societal level, the answer Sally Haslanger gives, is that by insisting on continuity of concepts like marriage inferential uptake is smoothened and, therewith, we guarantee (political) power to our word. On the other hand, Rachel Sterken has argued that rupture and friction can have just as fruitful effects. Cappelen’s argument operates on a higher level of abstraction, yet, I think, the same strategic choice between continuity and rupture applies at the theoretic level. This is especially the case, if one assumes, as Cappelen does, that there is no limit to (his version) of conceptual engineering (Cappelen 194), and that, following Williamson, linguistic practices can hold together even in absence of a common creed that all participants endorse (Cappelen 63, 142). Why, then, invent the category “topics” which’s only job-description is to account for continuity in revision, if, on a theoretical level, we could perfectly do without it?

My answer is that topics serve the same pragmatic role at the theoretical level that they serve at the practical/political/societal level: Cappelen’s engineering of “conceptual engineering” aims for uptake and Cappelen chooses the road  of continuity which I will try to contrast with rupture. Strategically, I will argue, Cappelen exploits the lexical effects of “continuity”, “unity of inquiry”, and “exchange of ideas” in order to click with the group of people in the theoretical departments that he wants to be and remain friends with. Morally, when taking Cappelen’s commitment to continuity at face-value, I will argue, that it all hinges on what you think communication is, how you constrain “ideas”, and how high you value novelty. Sometimes rupture might (morally) be the better choice, also at the level of abstraction Cappelen is working on.

Note: this is an online seminar and will take place in the Seminars channel of the Oslo Mind Group team, which is open to all University of Oslo members via Microsoft Teams. All are welcome to attend.


Keith Wilson
Published Aug. 28, 2020 11:22 AM - Last modified Dec. 2, 2020 12:52 PM