Summer Institute in American Philosophy

At the University of Oregon
July 26-31, 2010

Click here for information on the upcoming 2011 Summer Institute in American Philosophy, July 11-16 at the University of Oregon.

Overview | Seminars | Keynotes | Works-In-Progress | Reading Lists | Registration

Institute Overview and Theme: "American Diversity and Democratic Dissent"

The Summer Institute in American Philosophy is designed for faculty members and advanced graduate and postdoctoral students in philosophy and related disciplines interested in research and study in the American philosophic tradition. The program is centered around discussion-intensive seminar sessions concerning central problem areas, figures, and themes in the tradition. There will also be keynote sessions and works-in-progress sessions.

This year’s theme is “American Diversity and Democratic Dissent.” Part of understanding the American philosophical tradition involves considering the role played by national, cultural, and personal differences in the formation of American culture. When brought together in the context of changing American life, such differences often amount to a challenge to the dominant views of the present. Such challenges, in the context of a wide commitment to democracy, are manifested as a process of dissent that aims to unsettle expectations and shared goals and establish new perspectives and obligations in the wider culture. This year’s Summer Institute in American Philosophy will focus on aspects of these two issues: understanding American diversity and examining the process of dissent in the context of democracy. Institute participants will have an opportunity to consider (or reconsider) the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, whose seminal texts, The Souls of Black Folk and Darkwater: Voices from Inside the Veil, address both the character and value of fostering differences and the means of integrating them in the context of a democracy. The seminar on Latin American Philosophy will provide an overview of key aspects of the American tradition that are perhaps only recently apparent from the perspective of the North American academy, but which have long been formative elements of the American tradition. A seminar entitled "Expanding Pragmatist Political Philosophy" will focus on diversifying pragmatist contributions to democratic theory by making productive use of the contributions of William James, Josiah Royce, Jane Addams, and Richard Rorty, and the "How to Be an American Philosopher" seminar will give participants a chance to discuss their role as philosophers in a democracy characterized by diversity.

A finalized Conference Schedule is now available.

Housing is available on campus in one of the UO residence halls and nearby at one of local inns or hotels. The program includes time away from sessions to visit the Oregon coast, hike in the nearby Cascade mountains or visit hot springs there, or to join a wine-tasting excursion.

Seminar Sessions

How to be an American Philosopher

Three scholars discuss the various modes of philosophical praxis that they take to either be American or to mark out, prescriptively, how one should philosophize in the American context. A primary focus will be on what it means to practice philosophy in an "American" context. Or, to put the matter another way: How should philosopher's engage the complex phenomenon of "America"? Some key questions include: [1] When we think of "American philosophy" or "philosophy in America," to what does the term "America" refer? [2] Is there a distinct "American" philosophy? Does this mean more than pragmatism? In what sense is pragmatism "American"? [3] How should one tell the history of philosophy in America? [4] How should philosophers relate to the political history and present reality of the United States of America? Are those political realities part of being an "American philosopher"? [5] More generally, how should philosophers relate to their national & cultural identities? Sessions will proceed like seminars: the aim will be to facilitate discussions of these important questions, not simply present, in detail, replies to them.

This seminar will be led by John Lysaker (Emory University), Erin McKenna (Pacific Lutheran University), and Adam Arola (Pacific University).

Rereading W.E.B. Du Bois

Souls of Black Folk has been called "Poetic History". The telling is dense, as tragedy and promise move contrapuntally through the book’s pages. We will reconstruct DuBois’s alternative to the master narrative of America as land of freedom and progress. We will place DuBois in conversation with black intellectuals of his day, including Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Marcus Garvey, focusing on their discussions of Pan-Africanism, race, gender, and class. Although DuBois grants the color line global scope in The Souls of Black Folk, the book’s focus is on the spiritual strivings and the double-consciousness of those living within the veil in America. In Darkwater the transnational dimensions of the color-line are explicitly explored, as DuBois describes how the souls of white folk are infiltrated through and through with imperialist frenzy. We will approach Darkwater through the transnational experiences of peoples of color with imperialism and industrial capitalism, and note the resulting distortions of democracy. We will trace how DuBois weaves the layers of the transnational and the national, into and through his achingly beautiful excavations of individual souls.

This seminar will be led by Denise James (University of Dayton) and Marilyn Fischer (University of Dayton).

Expanding Pragmatist Political Philosophy

Political and social philosophy in a Pragmatist vein has for the last few decades been dominated by democratic, liberal, and communitarian theories that take the work of John Dewey as their point of departure and conceptual center. While Dewey’s contributions to pragmatist political philosophy are of inestimable value, there has been an unfortunate neglect of other pragmatist thinkers who offer philosophical resources not available in Dewey. In classical pragmatism we find Jane Addams working at the practical manifestation of democracy as a way of life, Mary Parker Follett presenting a pragmatist theory of power that is notably absent from Dewey’s work, and George Herbert Mead developing the resources of a pragmatist social psychology. More recently, we find thinkers like Sidney Hook and Richard Rorty putting pragmatism to work in the context of the Cold War and Civil Rights liberalisms to which Dewey’s Progressive Era thought does not always apply. This panel will explore, in Deweyan spirit, the philosophical resources of a wider range of pragmatist voices that are both of and beyond Deweyan political theory. Our four focal figures for this session will be William James, Josiah Royce, Jane Addams, and Richard Rorty.

Presenters: Jackie Kegley (CSU, Bakersfield; and President of SAAP) on Josiah Royce, Colin Koopman (University of Oregon) on William James, Judy Whipps (Grand Valley State University) on Jane Addams and Mary Parker Follett, and Christopher Voparil (Union Institute and University) on Richard Rorty. [Reading List: tba].

Latin American Philosophy

The aim of this session will be to highlight the diversity of approaches, issues, and styles that characterize the quickly growing field of Latin American philosophy. In so doing we will focus on the manner in which Latin American thought stands to extend, and in many cases revise, the standard conception of classical American philosophy that has hitherto excluded thinkers that did fit easily within an Anglo-European context. This seminar will be led by David O’Hara (Augustana College), Joseph Orosco (Oregon State University), Stacey Ake (Drexel University), and Jeffrey Edmonds (Vanderbilt University).

Special Pre-Institute Seminar: "A Social Science Methodology Pragmatism Can Call its Own".

There will be a special seminar available to a limited number of participants (determined by application as described below) from 9:00a until 5:00p on Monday, July 26, 2010 before the beginning of the regular SIAP conference. In the social sciences there is a tendency of occasional readers of the classical pragmatist philosophers to emphasize their insights about the human condition and ignore their ideas about how such insights should be generated. In an effort to begin to address this gap in pragmatist philosophy and social science methodology, interested scholars are invited to apply to participate in this special pre-conference seminar. The primary focus of our day-long discussion will be to speculate about what the development of a sustained conversation between pragmatist philosophers and social science methodologists could generate in the form of innovative practices. The discussion will be moderated by Jerry Rosiek (Head of the Department of Educational Studies, University of Oregon). Participation is on a limited basis to applicants only and will be supported by a modest stipend to help off-set the costs of early arrival. For further information and to apply see the Pre-Institute Seminar Announcement.

Keynote Sessions (Larry Hickman and Dorothy Rogers)

Larry A. Hickman is the Director of the Center for Dewey Studies and Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is widely recognized as one of the foremost Dewey scholars in contemporary philosophy. He has published books and essays on a variety of topics, including American philosophy, the philosophy of technology, film studies, gay rights, and the history of logic. His books include John Dewey's Pragmatic Technology, Philosophical Tools for Technological Culture: Putting Pragmatism to Work, and Pragmatism as Post-Postmodernism. He has also edited (with Tom Alexander) a two-volume edition of The Essential Dewey. At the Center for Dewey Studies in Carbondale, Illinois he oversees ongoing publishing projects that focus on the life and work of the American philosopher and educator John Dewey. In this capacity he has presented on Dewey's work across the world including in China, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Germany, Chile, and Cuba.

Prof. Hickman was one of the original founders of the Summer Institute in American Philosophy and is a past President of the Society for Advancement of American Philosophy and the John Dewey Society.

The title of Prof. Hickman's presentation at this year's Institute is "Revisiting Dewey's Common Faith".

Dorothy G. Rogers is Chair of Philosophy and Religion and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She earned her Ph.D. as well as a master's in theological studies from Boston University. She is the author of America’s First Women Philosophers: Transplanting Hegel, and has served as editor of collections of the works of neglected women philosophers, including Catharine Beecher, the women of the St. Louis Philosophical Movement, and women in the American academy (1880-1900).

Her current research projects include serving as coordinating editor for entries on feminist and abolitionist thinkers for the biographical Dictionary of Early American Philosophers, 1620-1860. She is also working on investigating the nature and purpose of political/public altruism as well as examining the role and influence of women in the American pacifist movement, 1880-1920.

The title of Prof. Rogers' presentation at this year's Institute is "Philosophy/Diversity: Why Women Matter". The talk will draw on the work and ideas of three nineteenth century American philosophers (Luisa Capetillo, Anna Julia Cooper, and Marietta Kies) as well as contemporary American philosophers to point to the ways in which gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic factors have influenced women's thought.

Works-In-Progress and Dissertations-In-Progress Sessions

This year’s program will include several one-hour "Works-in-Progress" sessions, at which junior and senior scholars will present their current research projects, especially book manuscripts, and receive critical feedback from Institute attendees.

Presenters at this year's Summer Institute W-I-P sessions will be: Judith Green (Fordham), Eric Weber (Mississippi), Chris Terres (DePaul), and Alex Stehn (UT-Pan American).

There will also be a Dissertation Workshop at which graduate students, at any stage in the process of writing their dissertations, will present brief summaries of their work and receive feedback from Institute attendees.

Registration, Graduate Student Funding, and Further Information

To attend please fill out the Institute registration form.

The deadline for applications for graduate funding has passed. Congratulations to those who received competitive grants.

For more information about Eugene and Lane County, Oregon, see Travel Lane County. The Oregon Bach Festival runs from June 26 through July 12. The Oregon Country Fair in nearby Veneta, Oregon will be held July 11-13.

A color tri-fold flyer describing the Institute and suitable for distribution is also viewable online.

For more information please contact one of the Summer Institute organizers: Scott Pratt (University of Oregon), Colin Koopman (University of Oregon), and John Kaag (University of Massachussetts, Lowell).


The Summer Institute in American Philosophy is made possible by generous sponsorship from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Oregon.