This last week I’ve been at TAPSS – the “Theory and Philosophy Summer School”, put on by people at the University of Cork in the Republic of Ireland. The school took place in Castletownroche, in the Blackwater Castle after which the town is named. The castle is a fairly important part of the program – being in a single building (although some of us were stuck sleeping at a convent a few miles away) for an entire week, with it’s own pub, meant that the conversations never had to stop.
The program was amazing – it went from early morning to late at night each day. It’s been a mix of theory, philosophy, sociology, economics and social policy – but everything has engaged the same issues in a really wonderful and open inter-disciplinary way. The key idea of this conference is, in fact, to develop a way of speaking across disciplines. Turns out that the way to do this is not establish a neutral theoretical language, but to remain open to the other – because you can actually understand what others are saying even when they speak a different language than you.
Wittgenstein said, “If a Lion could speak, we could not understand what he said.” – But this is deeply wrong: we can, through listening, open ourselves up to the worlds out of which others speak. We do not need to have a world in common in order to discuss, what we really need is respect.
This is apparent most of all, perhaps, in the analytic-continental split in Philosophy. It might appear to be a theoretical divide, but I think much more it is a divide in attitudes – at TAPSS the divide was apparent, but there was a respect across it. I even got Ronnie DeSousa to admit that Agamban had a salient (although perhaps simple) idea. More importantly – while Ronnie’s presentation asserted that anything we say about the emotions should have something to say about biology, he also stated that we should never think that biology could exhaust all the things we can say about the role of emotion in moral and cognitive framing. We can learn from science, but we can’t “learn it all” – there is no longer any dream that a scientific reflective equilibrium could get “to the bottom of things”. I also got Ronnie to concede that Husserl’s correspondance truth works as well as any modified coherence model.
I would certainly recommend TAPSS to any of my colleagues interested in dialogue between disciplines in the humanities. Or, to anyone who would like to have a week long wonderful time in a castle with academics.