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Humane Understanding Conference

Fordham University, New York City (Lincoln Center Campus)

May 31-June 1, 2019

As work on the nature of understanding has expanded in recent years, there has been increasing interest in the question of what might be distinctive about our understanding of other people, or humane understanding.

Our conference will explore this question, and consider how recent debates might be enriched by insights from areas such as epistemology, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of social science, the hermeneutical tradition, and the “verstehen” tradition in Continental philosophy.

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Confirmed Speakers:

Olivia Bailey (Tulane)

Kristin Gjesdal (Temple)

Stephen R. Grimm (Fordham)

Kareem Khalifa (Middlebury)

Michael Strevens (NYU)

Karsten Stueber (Holy Cross)

Call for Abstracts:

3-4 spots on the program will be filled via a call for abstracts. Submitted abstracts should be no longer than 500 words, and should be emailed to sgrimm@fordham.edu by December 1, 2018. Meals at the conference will be covered, but scholars whose abstracts are selected will cover their own travel and lodging costs. Abstracts should try to engage with the following questions:

  1. How does understanding people differ from other kinds of understanding, such as the understanding of concepts, language, or natural phenomena? Do these various types of understanding bring different cognitive resources to bear, or have different epistemic profiles?

  2. Is there a deep unity among these types of understanding, or not?

  3. What are the distinctive ways in which the study of literature or art or history enhance our understanding of other people?

  4. What role does the reenactment of another's perspective play in humane understanding? Is it merely a heuristic for discovering a person's mental states (as Hempel seemed to think) or does it play a more epistemically robust role? Is reenactment of this sort indispensable to intentional-action explanation?

  5. How does recent research on social cognition and mindreading bear on older debates about Verstehen?

  6. How does the hermeneutical tradition shed light on these issues? Is it engaged with different questions, or does it pursue them from a distinctively different angle?

  7. How do we adjudicate between competing interpretations of people's actions?

  8. What contribution does memory make to humane understanding?