CFP: How Not to do Philosophy

Posted on November 3, 2008


What is the appropriate way to do philosophy?   Historically, the form of philosophy has varied; Plato preferred the dialogue, Nietzsche the aphorism, Kierkegaard the parable. In the 20th century many philosophers pronounced a proper way to do philosophy. The logical positivists wanted to do away with metaphysics and held science as the ideal model for philosophy. Wittgenstein relied heavily upon examples. Heidegger proposed the dissolution of the tradition in order to start enquiry afresh. Foucault’s relation to the label ‘philosophy’ was, of his own admission, ambiguous. Derrida questioned the exclusivity of philosophical language. Today philosophers such as Cavell and Mulhall do philosophy in film, while others hold that logical analysis is still indispensible to philosophy. Is there a correct way to do philosophy? Does philosophy have one language? How important is the relation of form and content for philosophy? Should the fusion of philosophy and other disciplines be resisted? These are questions that receive radically different answers from different traditions and different philosophers.

The 12th International Graduate Conference in Philosophy at the University of Essex, to be held 9 May 2009, invites abstracts on any issue relevant to questions on the language of philosophy, philosophical method and the forms philosophy can take. Possible topics include:

– Problem-solving by dialogue in Plato
– Philosophy through reflection and action
– Is there a proper medium for philosophy?
– The role of logic and rigour in philosophical analysis
– Must philosophy be primarily ethics?
– Should a philosophical ‘point’ be explicit?
– Kierkegaard’s reaction to Hegel’s system
– Philosophy as… (film, literature, music…)
– Heidegger and the circularity of philosophy
– Wittgenstein and beginning in the middle
– Derrida and the distinction between literature and philosophy
– Cavell and teaching philosophy

We aim to hold a wide-ranging philosophical exchange and hope for a broad display of positions and perspectives. We invite papers that explore the diverse ways in which philosophy manifests itself;
conversely, we encourage papers that have a clear view about what the proper philosophical medium is. In short, we hope for a day of productive discussion of a contentious issue for philosophy.

Keynote speakers:

Daniel P. Watts (University of Essex)
Marie McGinn (University of East Anglia)

Final papers should be suitable for a 20-minute presentation (2000-2500 words in length), which will be followed by a discussion. The Department of Philosophy will be able to offer invited speakers limited financial assistance towards the cost of travel. For enquiries, please e-mail Matt at, or see the website.

Abstracts of 500 words in length should be sent by Monday 19 January 2009 to or in duplicate by post to:

Graduate Conference 2009
Department of Philosophy
University of Essex
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom