Room TBA (in person
Note: This is a relatively advanced class, in that it will need to take for granted some knowledge of both ethics and epistemology – this is because State of Nature genealogical methods have tended to be introduced as an alternative to existing analytical treatments or traditions. Our focus will be on the new alternative approaches without first explaining the treatments or traditions they are responses to.
Genealogical method comes in a number of forms and can support different purposes. It can be combined with State of Nature method (a method previously at home only in political philosophy (cf. Hobbes, Rousseau, Nozick), and in this combination it aims to identify relatively necessary features of human practices and to distinguish them from more culturally and historically contingent ones. Often this combination of methods aims at vindicating, rather than debunking, a practice or concept or value. Hume offers a short vindicatory genealogy of justice, Edward Craig develops a completely new approach of ‘practical explication’ in epistemology to account for the concept of knowledge, Bernard Williams develops this in relation to the ethical-epistemic virtue of truthfulness, and Philip Pettit constructs morality out of the materials of cooperative ethical life in an imagined State of Nature, ‘Erewhon’. By contrast, when genealogy stands alone, not partnered with any conception of ‘origin’ or necessity, it is more typically directed at debunking a given practice, concept, or value. Nietzschean genealogy is normally associated with such a debunking project (though this interpretation of Nietzsche is not without its detractors), and Foucault explicitly denies any ‘origins’ stories as objectivizing fantasy. For debunking genealogists, all his history and contingency; for vindicatory genealogists the contingencies of our concepts and practices are conceived as growing from something more stable in our social human nature.
Major texts we will read from:
David Hume (1739) A Treatise of Human Nature
Friedrich Nietzsche (1887) The Genealogy of Morality
Edward Craig (1990) Knowledge and the State of Nature
Bernard Williams (2002) Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy Philip Pettit (2018) The Birth of Ethics
Matthieu Queloz (2021) The Practical Origins of Ideas
Other indicative readings:
Damian Cueni and Matthieu Queloz (2019) ‘Nietzsche as a Critic of Genealogical Debunking: Making Room for Naturalism Without Subversion’ The Monist 102(3): 277-97
Amia Srinivasan (2019) ‘Genealogy, Epistemology and Worldmaking’ Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society Vol. CXIX Pt 2: 127-156
Raymond Geuss (1999) ‘Nietzsche and Genealogy’ Morality, Culture, and History: Essays on German Philosophy (CUP): 1-28
Edward Craig (2007) ‘Genealogies and the State of Nature’ in Alan Thomas (ed.) Bernard Williams (CUP): 181-200
Miranda Fricker (2008) ‘Scepticism and the Genealogy of Knowledge: Situating Epistemology in Time’ Philosophical Papers 37(1): 27-50
Martin Kusch and Robin McKenna (2018) ‘The Genealogical Method in Epistemology’ Synthese 197(3): 1057-76
Matthieu Queloz (2020) ‘From Paradigm-Based Explanation to Pragmatic Genealogy” Mind 129 (515): 683-714
Catarina Dutilh Novaes (2015) ‘Conceptual Genealogy for Analytic Philosophy’ in J.A. Bell, A. Cutrofello & P.M. Livingston (eds.), Beyond the Analytic-Continental Divide: Pluralist Philosophy in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge): 75-110
Jesse Prinz (2007) The Emotional Construction of Morals (OUP) Ch.6
Nancy Fraser (1985) ‘Michel Foucault: A ‘Young Conservative’?’ Ethics 96 (1): 165-184 Raymond Geuss (2002) ‘Genealogy as Critique.’ European Journal of Philosophy 10(2): 209- 215
Colin Koopman (2017) ‘Conceptual Analysis for Genealogical Philosophy: How to Study the History of Practices after Foucault and Wittgenstein’ The Southern Journal of Philosophy 55: 103-121
Michel Foucault (1984) ‘Nietzsche, Genealogy, History’ in The Foucault Reader, ed. P. Rabinow (Pantheon Books): 76-100
Nancy Fraser (1981) ‘Foucault on Modern Power: Empirical Insights and Normative Confusions’ Praxis International 3: 272-287
Michel Foucault (1995) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Vintage Books), Part I, ch.1, pp. 3-31 & Part II, ch. 1, pp. 73-103
By the end of the course you should have a good understanding of genealogical method in its various forms. You will have a clear grasp of the distinctiveness of genealogical method and its aims, along with a sense of its advantages and disadvantages. There will be two strictly required readings for each class, which we will actively discuss in class, and there will also be at least two other recommended readings for each week. Our collective discussion of the required readings will be normally opened by a short student presentation, to help you develop relevant professional skills of producing a clear and cogent handout, presenting the points from it so that you convey the key points of the paper and a couple of questions or objections at the end to launch collective discussion.
This course will satisfy Distribution Group B or C.
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