Jade Fletcher is a teaching fellow in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and she completed her PhD at the University of Leeds in 2018. She works on issues in metaphysics, philosophy of language, and social philosophy, and is particularly interested in places where these areas overlap. 

‘Truth in Metaphysical Languages’

Truth is required to play a complex theoretical role. Metaphysicians can be found saying things like the following: the goal of metaphysical inquiry is to provide a true picture of what the world is like; metaphysical theories correspond to the fundamental level of reality; truth is what a representation has when it corresponds to non-representational reality; when a representation is true, it is reality that makes it so. In addition to this deployment of the concept, philosophers of language can be found saying things like: truth is what speakers aim at when they make assertions; understanding a sentence consists in knowing the conditions under which it would be true; synonymous expressions can be substituted in a sentence without altering the sentence’s truth value; the truth value of a complex expression depends upon the truth value of its component expressions. Whereas the metaphysical deployment of the concept is supposed to secure some kind of relation between representations and non-representational reality, the deployment in the philosophy of language is centrally concerned with the requirements of knowing and using a language.

This generates some important questions:
(1) what demands do each of these enterprises place on the concept of truth, (2) how do these two deployments of the concept interact, (3) is there a concept which can satisfy all of the demands placed upon it, and (4) do commitments to a particular view of the role of truth on one side, force you into commitments about the role of truth on the other? I am interested in treating ‘truth’ as a theoretical term, and then trying to ascertain whether there is a consistent set of demands that can be placed on the concept.

Pursuant to this end, this presentation explores and evaluates a language-first approach to metaphysics, where the language in question is not natural language but rather a special metaphysical language. I take as a case study Ted Sider’s project in Writing the Book of the World (2011). His project is interesting as it offers a synthesis between approaches to metaphysics which take meaning and truth to be altogether orthogonal to metaphysical inquiry, and those which take metaphysics to be in some sense posterior to a satisfactory study of language. Metaphysics is therefore centrally concerned with meaning and truth, but not as these notions usually apply to theorising about natural language.

Wouter Kalf (PhD (Leeds) 2013) is a University Lecturer in Practical Philosophy at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He has published in such journals as Philosophical StudiesInquiry and Ethical Theory and Moral Practice. He is mainly interested in meta-ethics, political philosophy and environmental philosophy.

‘Moral Error Theory, Abolitionism, and Global Warming’

According to the moral error theory, all our moral judgments are systematically false. Our moral judgments purport but fail to refer to objective moral facts. In my talk, I will defend this theory. I will also ask and answer the so-called now what question for moral error theorists: moral error theory, and now what? What should we do with our erroneous moral thought and talk once we have accepted the error theory?

According to the abolitionist answer to the now what question, we should abolish our moral thought and talk completely. Morality is bad for us. It is an instrument in the hands of the haves to oppress the have nots. Morality, as Jason Dockstader writes, is “pathological, negative, guilt-ridden, sad, anxious, angry, resentful, passive-aggressive, hypocritical, arrogant, … and ugly” whereas abolitionism , as Joel Marks says, is “guilt-free, tolerant, interesting, explanatory, simple, compassionate and true”. I will also defend abolitionism. Finally, I will discuss what accepting the moral error theory and abolitionism entails for the solvability of the one of the most pressing problems of our times; viz., global warming.

Kelee(Kyong Eun​) Lee is a doctoral candidate at Husserl Archives at KU Leuven, Belgium. Her main interest is in the phenomenological research on imagination, particularly in relation to various types of communication and intersubjective experience. She is currently working on a project with the title “Understanding each other : phenomenological account of communication”, where she investigates the role of imagination in the intersubjective constitution of shared meaning.

‘Going beyond the boundary of our lifeworld: A Husserlian account of the role of imagination in communication’            

Husserl’s phenomenological notion of imagination has been constantly appreciated in various areas of related research. However, handled mostly in the context of discussing eidetics and intuitive experience, its import for communication has not been sufficiently addressed. In my presentation I aim to talk about some of the Husserlian insights that we can gain when we understand the unique role that imagination plays in communication, and ultimately discuss what that implies for the experience of expanding the boundaries of our own lifeworld.              

Based on Husserl’s doctrine of meaning act, we view communication as established authentically if the receptor in the communication is able to reconstitute what is meant by the speaker through the expression, in such a way that not only the meaning is conveyed but also the intuitive form of the meaning is constituted as the ‘meaning-fulfilment’. Hereby the receptor must be able to draw from one’s own experiential lifeworld as one’s meaning horizon in order to constitute such ‘intuitive fulfilment’. However, there arises the problem of the plurality of lifeworlds. At some point, the disparity between the lifeworlds may challenge the authentic meaning sharing, as the receptor’s experiential horizon may be too limited to provide the needed intuitive reconstitution. The function of imagination becomes crucial here, as the ability to deliver the intuitive contents in the form of secondary experience. It is Husserl’s notion of peculiar quasi-egoic character of imagination that helps us to see in more depth how this becomes possible and what kind of experiential structure is involved. According to Husserl, although the resulting fulfilment does not have the same level of evidential strength as first-hand experiences, it can still provide valid measures for the appropriation of secondary experience into the given experiential horizon. As a result, the expansion of the initial “home” lifeworld takes place.

Giving the due attention to the role of imagination when accounting for the process of communication not only opens a way for responding to critiques of Husserl that deemed his account of communication an outdated form of meaning theory, but also it also helps to advance our understanding of the complicated process of communication – especially with regard to how the encounters with the unfamiliar other can prompt us to go beyond the boundaries of our given lifeworld once we do not give up on the possibility communication and imagination.

Alena Rettová is Professor of African and Comparative Philosophy at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (UK). From April 2020, she will take up a professorship in African and Afrophone Philosophies at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, where she will lead a team of seven researchers working on African philosophy, funded from a European Research Council research grant entitled “Philosophy and Genre: Creating A Textual Basis for African Philosophy”. Alena’s research focuses on philosophies in African languages. She is the author of Afrophone Philosophies: Reality and Challenge (2007), Chanter l’existence: La poésie de Sando Marteau et ses horizons philosophiques (2013), and a number of articles in academic journals and edited volumes.

‘Philosophy in texts: Towards African-language philosophy’

The lecture interrogates the “borders” of philosophy, in the context of the debate on African philosophy. Mainstream African philosophy is an exclusively Europhone discourse: if you look for literature on African philosophy in libraries, you will find books in English, French, Portuguese, or even German or Czech, but you will search in vain for publications in Swahili, Yorùbá, Wolof or Bambara. While this gap can be explained by the colonial language policies in Africa, what implications does it have for contemporary African philosophy? Does philosophy exist in African languages? After decades of both political and epistemological “decolonization”, some scholars in African philosophy still believe that African languages are “unfit for philosophy”, for one reason or another.

The lecture first addresses the issue of language in philosophy theoretically. It examines two notions relevant for an answer to the question of Afrophone philosophy: on the one hand, the hypothesis of linguistic relativity. Ngugi wa Thiong’o famously argued for the use of African languages in literature; but is the language issue equally important in philosophy? Why does language matter? The second notion is translation. How does translation respond to the challenges of linguistic relativity? Is translation a way to develop African-language philosophy? In my lecture, I will argue that translation is a helpful, but not a sufficient strategy leading towards this goal. Instead, it is necessary to explore existing African-language discourses; but this then means crossing borders towards “other” fields of intellectual enquiry. It also means that philosophy has to address its own biases concerning its form: its language, style and genre.

The lecture will introduce selected case studies of authors of Afrophone texts that develop sophisticated philosophical reflections, in response to existing institutionalized (Western, African or global) philosophy or even independently of it, while at the same time they are not called “philosophical” by their authors or audiences. I will argue that such texts represent a rich, and hitherto largely untapped, resource of original philosophical insights.


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Sanne Barendrecht

Wijsgerig Festival DRIFT 2021 | 01 mei 19:00 | 't Zonnehuis (Zonneplein 30, 1033 EK Amsterdam)