“Reading Collingwood’s Idea of History through his Principles of Art” in Journal of the Philosophy of History, November 2017.
While Collingwood’s Idea of History is an excellent resource for defending history’s autonomy, its invocation is not without problems. If history deals only in reflective thought, how can it encompass irrational action? How can history reconcile its subjective method with its claim to objectivity? Most solutions to these problems attribute to Collingwood a restrictive and unintuitive view of historical inquiry. We are left with a historical practice that is less equipped to address the problems we intuitively want it to solve – those dealing with past human experience as it actually occurred. Using his Principles of Art, I present an interpretation of Collingwood’s philosophy of history in which emotions are communicable between individuals. He defines artistic creation as a process in which unconscious emotions are harnessed and transformed into conscious emotions, which can then draw another individual into an imaginative experience that ‘repeats’ or ‘is identical with’ the artist’s original experience. We thereby acquire an account of historical inquiry that permits the interpretation of emotionally-driven actions. In my interpretation, the a priori imagination is an irreducible faculty of everyday human activity – interpreting fellow agents in our social environments – and the onus is transferred to the natural sciences to justify their encroachment into this irreducible human activity.
“Conjoint Communicated Experience: Art as an Instrument of Democracy” in The Pluralist, Vol. 17, No. 1, Spring 2022).
To be democratic, a society’s members should be endowed with capacities and dispositions to communicate and understand the diversity of each other’s experiences. Philosophical traditions have explored various forms of injustice arising in societies failing to meet this democratic criterion, including material and psychological harm. But when exploring methods for cultivating and enhancing such democratic-communicative behavior, cognitive processes and intellectual instruction face documented obstacles such as defensiveness, motivated ignorance, and perceptual-interpretive bias. Art, by dealing in aesthetic experience, possesses several capacities for facilitating communication between diverse people and encouraging understanding of each other’s lived experiences, while mitigating the limitations of cognitive approaches. This paper explains three cumulative capacities of aesthetic forms which make them indispensable instruments for cultivating democratic dispositions, including avoidance of explicit argumentation, communication of experiential immediacy, and transformation of pre-existing interpretive frameworks. In doing so, it argues that art plays a crucial function in democratic society.
“The Role of Values in Scientific Methods: A Pragmatist Approach” in Science and Humanism (Ed. A. Chakravartty), forthcoming publication scheduled for 2022
A humanist theory of science must satisfy two requirements which appear to be in tension. Firstly, in order to hold science accountable for its socio-political consequences, it must challenge narratives presenting science as objective and value-free. Secondly, in order to hold scientific knowledge as authoritative when deciding on public policy, it must challenge narratives presenting science as biased and unreliable, e.g. climate science denial or anti-vaccination rhetoric. I show that pragmatist philosophy can answer these apparently contradictory needs. Rather than taking science as a means of objectively representing an external world, pragmatism would hold that scientific method has evolved through human attempts to navigate their material environment, with increasingly abstract and broadly applicable practices for successful goal-achievement being honed and systematized in the process. So, while science’s proper function is to serve value-based purposes, it is nevertheless a method which carries authority in determining appropriate actions for navigating encountered problems.
[paper on pragmatism and scientism–title omitted to preserve review anonymity] (Under review)
As scientism receives increasing attention, it is also gaining philosophical focus. Recent work on scientism has identified distinct scientistic claims, separating ontological from epistemological varieties, and has presented candidates for rival philosophical positions to scientism. Despite its long history of dealings in topics in the philosophy of science, pragmatism’s tools for analyzing scientism’s arguments, as well as pragmatism’s legitimacy as a rival position, remains largely overlooked in this literature. This paper employs a broadly pragmatist conceptual analysis of experience and science to provide a counterargument to ontological scientism, the claim that only the kinds and qualities occurring in scientific theories or investigations reflect the world as it really is. It first challenges the subjectivist theory of experience upon which ontological scientism relies, arguing instead for a pragmatist concept of experience. It then reframes scientific inquiry and methods as means of partitioning qualities of experience, not according to their status as real or not real, but according to their usefulness in courses of action.