Philosophy Salo(o)n: The Stubbornness of the Empirical *** Oct 29th - Nov 2nd 2015

We’re very excited to be announcing a new philosophy initiative at PAF. Over the past years, PAF has increasingly become an important space where philosophy can move outside of the academy, both materially and in terms of the kind of thinking that can flourish here. In an effort to extend that, we’re going to supplement the two existing ‘big’ philosophical events (Spring Meeting and the Philosophy Week during summer university), with a program of more intimate, conversation orientated meetings over the course of 2015/16, to bring together both those who already have taken an interest in philosophy at PAF and some new bodies and minds.

We’re taking as a rough thematic for the year ‘The Stubbornness of the Empirical’, which will serve as an orientating pole for invited speakers and discussion, but should be viewed more as an inducement than an insistence. In general, we are interested in new ways to investigate the practice of philosophy, the possibilities for collective philosophical production, and in simply taking the opportunity to move at the speed of thought a little, and do so together, over an extended period.

We’re working out a lot of this as we go, as we want those who attend the events to feed in and help develop this project. For now however, this is the basic idea for the first of these events:

Dates: Thursday the 29th October - Monday the 2nd November. Things will begin with dinner on the Thursday evening and end with breakfast on Monday morning. The main ‘meat’ of the program will be the three full days (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) in between then. Two further events will follow in February/March and May/June respectively, with details to be announced at a later date.

Format/Content: We propose to essentially have a weekend long conversation, together, around the blackboard, and see where this takes us. This will be facilitated by one ‘programmed’ talk each day of 2-3 hours, which can feed into the broader dialogue. As things stands, we can confirm our first two speakers as Gabriel Catren and Dorothée Legrand both of whom we are immensely glad to be hosting. A third speaker will be confirmed later. Following an impromptu workshop period at the end of this summer, a few of us produced the following conceptual write up as an indication of what we’re orientating around with the theme. There is no reason that discussion has to be limited by this frame, but perhaps it can function as a useful ‘attractor’:

In many philosophical circles, the term ‘empiricism’ immediately brings to mind a naive or outdated way of approaching the world. While empiricism may have common sense use and applications, it fails to adequately ground or propel the rational, experimental or speculative enquiries required for philosophydefined as the boundless adventure of thought. Despite this, the conceptual bite of Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) remains palpable in both discussions of the sciences and thephilosophical attempt to situate the reach of those sciences, and human knowledge, in general.
Given the fact that numerous strains of recent continental philosophy have broken away from linguistic, phenomenological or other purportedly anthropocentric moorings, a turn toward the empirical may seem a backward step. Many, if not all, of the basic tenets of empiricism tend to run against the grain of new forms of philosophy invested in the great outdoors (Meillassoux), the outside, or in returning to the more ‘adventurous’ spirit of philosophy. These speculative endeavors, which set the wet blanket of Kantianism aflame, too quickly equate empirical access with unreflective common knowledge, and epistemology with modernist vanity.

If recent moves towards new rationalisms, materialisms and realisms have made anything clear, it would seem that either the rash abolition or staunch reification of epistemological constraints leaves open a space between which empiricism would seem to have broad appeal and functionality. Given the sheer complexity of the world, regardless of the perspective taken, empiricism is not reductive or myopic but the proper articulation of where and how our conceptual capacities arise in a way already imbricated by the worlds in which we find ourselves. In addition, empiricism allows for pluralisms to be formed in an augmentative fashion rather than as merely a multiplication of solipsistic frames. Empiricism, in this regard, should not be taken as a naive filter, but as a practiced, yet headlong, dive in the depths of the pulpy world (Merleau-Ponty).

Further, the old opposition between rationalism and empiricism ought not to be seen as absolute. Indeed, a fractured genealogy spanning the transcendental empiricism of Maimon and Deleuze, the maximal naturalism of Schelling, Badiou’s welding of formal and phenomenal analysis into an ‘objective phenomenology’, and recent developments such as Catren’s ‘transcendental phenomenology’, can be seen to effectuate a problematisation of such a division on multiple fronts: bending ‘rational’ methods to gain new purchase on the empirical, tackling head-on the empirical and material grounds of consciousness itself, and extending the conception of the empirical itself across novel, even ‘impossible’, horizons.

Taken in this context, empiricism is not merely a taking for granted that which is self-evidently apparent, but a productive way of interlacing local methodologies with farther reaching rational and speculative concerns.

Other/Practical information: simply email PAF with the dates you’d like to be here and bring whatever you’d like to the table ( Rates are as standard (20 euro per night + 12 euro membership if needed). For the full weekend 80 euro +membership). Food we will collectively organise on site, and from past experience has come to around 10 euro per ‘full’ day with a little excess from that, so in the area of 30 for the extended weekend.

Looking very much forward to having you, and get in touch with any questions that you have about the proposal,

Amy Ireland, Ben Woodard, Katrina Burch, Lendl Barcelos, Matt Hare