Monday, January 28, 2008

CFP: "What is Second Nature? Reason, History, Institutions," 14th Evian Colloquium, July 13-19, 2008.

Human beings have always understood themselves as beings that are not (merely) natural in certain respects. They are faced for this reason with the question of how their way of life should be understood as distinct from their "first nature". As a response to this question, there is widespread agreement that understanding the human way of life involves clarifying how it is essentially shaped through human beings' engagement in practices, an engagement through which they also shape themselves. Familiarly, the concept of culture expresses this basic situation of being human in manifold ways. But insofar as human beings comprehend themselves as beings with a particular first nature, it is also legitimate to account for the human way of life in terms of the workings of this first nature. It is in this theoretical context (among other things) that the invocation of the idea of "second nature" becomes interesting as a possible alternative to that of culture. For what distinguishes the idea of second nature is its insistence that the irreducibly expressive and self-constituting activities of human beings should be understood as broadly natural phenomena, not solely cultural ones. Even if the concept of second nature plays a direct or indirect role in many philosophical traditions, it is far from clear how second nature is to be determined as a broadly natural sphere of human activities. The wide variety of its determinations, ranging in the course of Western thought from Aristotle through Hume and Hegel to Bourdieu and McDowell (to mention only a very small selection of thinkers), can be arguably captured in terms of the three concepts of reason, history, and institutions. But these concepts should not be thought as exhausting all the conceptual possibilities; nor can they be conceived as mutually exclusive alternatives. Is second nature a sphere of living tradition or the lifeworld, as Gadamer has articulated this line of thought by way of his reception of Husserl and Heidegger, one which McDowell has recently appropriated in his own philosophy? Should we rather understand tradition as something essentially informed by reason (which contemporary philosophers like Korsgaard and Davidson have emphasized in their own appropriation of broadly Kantian ideas), or is tradition something fundamentally characterized by institutions as these unfold and develop historically (which philosophers as different from one another as Hegel, Foucault, Bourdieu, and Lukács have each claimed)? Should reason, in the sense that Horkheimer and Adorno emphasize as something instrumental or applying identity logic, be understood as a meta-institution that has achieved, for better or worse, a reified mode of existence? Or should we speak less of the reification of institutions than of the familiarity of practices, as the later Wittgenstein and pragmatists like Peirce and Dewey in different ways suggest? To what extent is the concept of second nature connected with a "naturalization" of the social (and perhaps also with the mental), in a way that feminist thinkers have sought to expose and criticize? Different philosophical traditions and systematic options intersect in multiple ways in the course of reflecting on the idea of second nature. The 14th International Philosophy Colloquium Evian invites philosophers to consider and discuss these intersections in an intensive and collective way. We especially welcome suggestions about possible presentation from (post)structuralist, phenomenological, hermeneutical, and (post)analytical perspectives concerning the idea of second nature, but do not exclude suggestions that come from other philosophical traditions. We seek to discuss and make systematically fruitful the differences and convergences among these approaches in philosophy. The International Philosophy Colloquium Evian aims especially to encourage its participants to transcend the narrow confines of different traditions in philosophy. It is conceived particularly as a place where the divide between continental and analytic philosophy is overcome, or at least where their differences can be rendered philosophically productive. The passive mastery of French, German, and English (the three languages of discussion of the colloquium) is a minimal and indispensable prerequisite for its participants. For details, please visit:

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