02 April 2011

Anscombe Conference

I just returned from day one of a two-day conference on G. E. M. Anscombe and her student Anselm Müller, mainly vis-á-vis their work in action theory.  What fun!  The speakers were, in order,
  1. Michael Thompson, whose lecture concerned chiefly the role of first-person-like direct attribution (not merely [he is clever], but [he himself is clever]) of certain attributes to the second person in relational actions like marriage.  He closed with some intriguing criticisms of game-theory, charging it with ignoring the importance of peculiarly first-person-like attitudes.
  2. Matthias Haase, who used his lecture to respond to Dr. Müller's ‘How Theoretical Is Practical Reason?’  Among his noteworthy theses were that rationally informed action is itself an instance of practical knowledge, and that what first appear to be errors in our practical knowledge of our actions are (or at least can be) rooted in an inconsistency, tension, or confusion located in the action itself rather than our knowledge thereof.
  3. Anton Ford, who argued in great and insightful detail the Aristotelean contention that practical syllogistic inferences always have among their premises a concrete perception, and that we must believe as much if we are to take the conclusion of a practical inference to be an action as opposed to a mere norm or practical judgement.  In so arguing, he touched on a number of fascinating topics, such as the conceptual component of perceptions relevant to practical inference, the non-immediate nature of sensory investigation as explaining Aristotle's dictum that deliberation takes time, and the differences in structure between the explanation of an action and the deliberation that goes into producing that action.
I'll have to mull over the lectures before writing anything more substantive.  For now, all I can say is that I found them all alike engaging and well-argued, particularly Dr. Ford's.  Tomorrow: ‘The Source of Value?’ by Gavin Lawrence; ‘Involuntary Rationality?’ by Jennifer Frey (whom I met and is quite awesome); and the keynote address, ‘The Teleology of Virtue,’ by Anselm Müller.

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