Northwest American Philosophy Reading Group 2010

(aka the 'Pragmatism Coast Reading Group')

Topic: Meaning, Philosophy and the Boundaries of Scholarship—A Discussion of Peirce, James, Behar and Anzaldúa.

Saturday October 16, 2009
9.30am - 5.00pm, with lunch and dinner
Adobe Resorts, Yachats, Oregon

At a session of the 2010 Summer Institute on American Philosophy, Denise James and Marilyn Fischer examined W.E.B. Du Bois’s book Darkwater. In the subsequent discussion, the evocative style of Du Bois’s prose was characterized in a variety of ways—narrative, polemic, prophetic, politically engaged. But was this philosophy? Would it count as philosophy today? Would philosophy journals consider such writing and, if they would, what criteria would be used for evaluating its merits? Similar issues affect contemporary critical social science research, which is characterized by an acute self-consciousness about styles and modes of representing social realities. This self-consciousness has contributed to a spirit of experimentation in social science research methods and writing, which in turn has precipitated a crisis of identity in some fields.

In this 2010 meeting of the Northwest American Philosophy Reading Group, beginning from the perspective of James’s investigation of belief in science and Peirce’s “critical common sensism,” we will consider what resources the American philosophical tradition can offer to support scholarly work that uses evocative, narrative, exhortative, and prophetic writing styles. The assumption will be that these styles are not simply attention grabbing flourishes, but instead have epistemological and ontological implications. We wish to discuss writing that seeks to change the world by calling readers and listeners into a new relation to their experience--possibly an irrevocable change of relation.

Readings include excerpts by Peirce and James, as well as some examples of evocative writing that push at the boundaries of scholarship by Ruth Behar and Gloria Anzaldúa. As background, readings will also include several short articles about what constitutes legitimate research in the field of education. Finally, participants will be asked to bring a short excerpt of philosophical prose that takes the form of an exhortation, polemic, or that is stylistically evocative, provocative, inspiring, and that illustrate the issues at work in philosophy at the boundaries.

For more information contact Scott Pratt, University of Oregon.

Primary Texts for Discussion:

William James, The Will to Believe, pp. 4-19 [pdf of james]

C. S. Peirce, "Critical Common-sensism" in The Philosophy of Peirce: Selected Writings, pp. 290-301 [pdf of peirce]

Ruth Behar, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology that Breaks Your Heart, pp. 161-177 [pdf of behar]

Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera, second edition, pp. 99-113 [pdf of anzaldua]

Additional Readings (available as a [pdf packet])
Elliot Eisner, "What Can Education Learn From the Arts about the Practice of Education?" (2002 Dewey Lecture, Stanford)

Michael J. Feuer, et. al., "Scientific Culture and Educational Research"

Elizabeth Adams St. Pieere, "Response to Feuer"

John O'Neill, Making Sense Together: An Introduction to Wild Sociology (selections)

Debra Viadero, "What Is (and Isn't) Research"