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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Stalnaker’

The connections between argumentation theory and mainstream analytic-ish philosophy may not always be clear for those outside of either discipline. For those that find themselves so bemused, I recommend having a look at yesterday’s interview with philosopher Robert Stalnaker, by 3:AM magazine.  The discussion ranges over a wide spectrum of issues, from the importance of pragmatics to the motivations for possible worlds metaphysics. Along the way a number of contact points with the concerns of argumentation theory can be discerned. Consider Stalnaker on this bit about contextualism and disagreement, for example:

There is a philosophical problem that needs to be addressed, but the threat is not just an abstract philosophical concern. The contextualist picture also points to a practical threat that is worth worrying about. The contexts in which discourse and inquiry take place can be, and are, manipulated in ways that distort the outcome. If, as I believe, we can make sense of rational discourse, deliberation and inquiry, only in a given context which involves substantive presuppositions, we face a daunting challenge when the contexts we find ourselves in are skewed – when the basic presuppositions that define the context are false. When disagreements are deep, or when one judges that our whole way of looking at things is radically mistaken, we need to find our way into a new context, and there may be no neutral way to do so. But we have rich and diverse resources for talking and thinking about the world and for deciding what we must do, and even if there is no absolutely neutral set of rules governing rational activity, and no safe platform where we are guaranteed to find common ground on which to settle our disagreements and find the truth, with good will we can usually find a way to get to a place where we can understand each other, and engage in what we can agree is rational debate.

The interview is well worth your time, if you have an interest in connections like these. A plus is that the interviewer makes a point of pushing the question of how the work that Stalnaker does as a professional philosopher is relevant to the world outside the discipline–a challenge that Stalnaker largely is able to answer.  You can read interview in its entirety here.

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