Philosophy Also Morphs into Whatever Shapes It Requires, Composing, 8/12/2013

Just a short post for the weekend today, as I’m preparing a rather epic reflection on some of Margaret Urban Walker’s ideas and how they can relate to some of the major stereotypes about the philosophy-science relationship. How these two disciplines interact and influence each other, or how they appear to influence each other, has become a major concept in my philosophical thinking.

But today, I have plans to do some editing work for my job and for myself. In particular, the deadline to submit to the Canadian Philosophical Association conference is in about a month. I’ve been going to this conference every year since 2009, and I consider it now a regular part of my philosophy work. As long as I’m a philosopher in Canada, I want to go to the CPA. 

This year, I think my bid to present at the CPA will be my paper about Henri Bergson’s engagements with science. The version I’ve submitted to Critical Inquiry is a fairly long essay that introduces a general set of questions about philosophy’s relations with science, then presents Bergson as a case study in how things can go right and very, very wrong. The only problem with this is that CPA presentation papers need to be read in 25-30 minutes, and that sucker was just too big.

But to be fair, I don’t know that this paper would have been better suited for cutting down if I had purposely designed it that way. And of course I did; why would I raise doubts about such a thing? The major bulk of the paper takes up the Bergson case study to inform more general ideas about how philosophy and appropriate scientific ideas and contribute to scientific discussions. Cutting it down, I can just concentrate on the Bergson sections, making it explicitly an essay about the man himself.

Now I have an interesting paper about the history of philosophy, exploring the multi-disciplinary features of Bergson’s work. It can proceed in three sections: his successful appropriation of the cutting edge neurological science of the late 19th century, how his approach went wrong in appropriating evolutionary biology to his wider philosophical exploration, and how his late-career eclipse was less because of any scientific incompetence on his part, but because of the political fallout in his relationship with Albert Einstein over the policies of a new international body of famous intellectuals. It’s the type of paper that I’ve noticed works very well for the CPA: concentrated in scope, but ambitious in interpretation. I’ll work on it later today and throughout the week. I hope it goes well.

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