Warwick Continental Philosophy Conference 2020/21
Theme: 'Continental Philosophy and Its Histories'
Professor Stella Sandford (Kingston University)
Dr Mogens Laerke (CNRS)
Dr Francey Russell (Columbia University)
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.
This conference is made possible by generous funding provided by the University of Warwick Philosophy Department and British Society for the History of Philosophy. It is an annual event within The Centre for Research in Post-Kantian European Philosophy (University of Warwick).