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Deadline: "Action Theory in Philosophy and the Social Sciences"


Call for Applications for the SIAS Summer Institute

The summer school will take place from July 20 - 31, 2009 at the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA.

The conveners of this workshop are Professors Hans Joas (Universitaet Erfurt, Germany) and Robert B. Pippin (University of Chicago, USA).

In this seminar we will discuss a representative sampling of important work in the philosophical and social scientific literature on action and agency. The problem of action has been of crucial importance in philosophy and social theory since the late 18th century. But unfortunately the discussions in different disciplines and schools of thought have often gone on independent of each other. The discipline of economics, for example, has mostly been dominated by a model of rational choice. Related models of instrumental, strategic or utilitarian agency have also been important in other social-scientific disciplines, although sociology has mostly been based on ideas about normatively oriented action. For the German intellectual tradition with its strong emphasis on hermeneutics the model of action as expression, inaugurated by Herder, has been particularly important. In America for a long time the pragmatist understanding of action as creative was hegemonic. Revitalizations of the Aristotelian understanding of action (e.g. in the work of Hannah Arendt and Cornelius Catoriadis) or new approaches like the theory of communicative action (Jürgen Habermas) add to the enormous diversity of the field.

In academic philosophy, in addition to the traditions mentioned so far, analytical philosophy has developed an intense discourse of its own. The question there is whether there are distinct sorts of events for which we may appropriately demand reasons or justifications from subjects whom we take to be responsible for such events occurring. As it is sometimes put, to focus appropriately on that issue we also need to ask for a broad delimitation of the practical normative domain (whatever is done for reasons, purposively, where reference to such reasons is essential in understanding what was done), and so are asking about the possibility that there are these distinct sorts of events, actions, things done for reasons. That there may be no such distinction, that there might be just natural objects and their properties and ontologically uniform natural events, has been a major issue in modern practical philosophy for some time now. We often ask as well, sometimes as an independent question in practical philosophy, sometimes as tightly interwoven with an answer to the first, for an assessment of what rightly should count as such reasons or justifications, as distinct from what subjects might as a matter of fact themselves count as such reasons. In accounts that tie acting well to the exercise of practical reason, these discussions obviously include claims we take to be of the highest importance—ethical and moral sorts of reasons, questions of right or justice, etc.
This seminar will take an interdisciplinary approach to these issues, with the hope that for each participant from one discipline greater familiarity with work and approaches in the other disciplines will shed light on different ways of posing the central questions and will open up different avenues for research. On the philosophical side, readings will include both eighteenth and nineteenth century "expressivist" theories (such as Herder's and Hegel's) and their contemporary representatives (Charles Taylor, Pippin), as well as the extensive literature that grew up after Wittgenstein’s influence on the issues of agency and intention, such as work by Anscombe, Davidson, O’Shaghnessy and Searle. On the social scientific side, both classical positions (Weber, Durkheim, Tönnies, Mead) and more contemporary positions (Parsons, Habermas, Giddens, Joas) will be treated. The goal is not a survey of positions, but to find a way to bring various authors from differing traditions into dialogue with each other about the core issues involved in understanding human beings as agents.

Over the course of the two week seminar, each participant will be asked to make a presentation that will then be discussed by the group as a whole. In addition, various outside speakers from the two relevant disciplines will be invited to make presentations to the seminar.

The institutes are open to Ph.D. candidates and scholars who have received a Ph.D. since 2004.

The conveners of this institute are:
• Professor Dr. Hans Joas, Max-Weber-Kolleg, Universität Erfurt, Germany
• Professor Robert Pippin, University of Chicago, USA

The two workshops will take place from
• July 20 to July 31, 2009 at the National Humanities Center, NC, USA
• Summer 2010 in Europe (date and location to be announced)

Application Procedure

To apply, send the following, in English, to the appropriate address below:
1. A completed application (forms available below)
2. A curriculum vitae
A statement of up to 1,000 words (not counting cited references) detailing current research interests and past research and writing related to the institute topic
3. A list of not more than five background readings potentially relevant to all participants of the summer institute
4. One letter of recommendation

Application form

Applications should be received by February 27, 2009. Candidates selected will be notified by early April, 2009.

Candidates should note that they are applying for two summer workshops: one in Berlin, and another in the USA and that successful applicants will be expected to attend both workshops. The working language of the institute is English.


SIAS Summer Institutes
c/o Petria Saleh
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
Wallotstrasse 19
D-14193 Berlin, Germany
Tel.: +49 30 / 89001 - 158
Fax: +49 30 / 89001 - 400

Към новина: 17/12/2008 "Action Theory in Philosophy and the Social Sciences"

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