PSU Conference: March 28th

psu schedule

Western Canadian Undergraduate Philosophy Conference

Saturday, March 28th 9:00am - 5:30pm Parkside Hotel

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Keynote Speaker: Dr. Audrey Yap

Title: Argumentation, Adversariality and Social Norms


Janice Moulton's paper "The adversary method: a philosophical paradigm" articulated several criticisms, from a feminist standpoint, of the popular idea of philosophy as adversarial debate. She criticizes it on epistemic grounds, arguing that philosophy's over-reliance on adversarial debate is to the detriment of its goals. Some, most notably Trudy Govier in her book The Philosophy of Argument have argued in favour of at least a minimal adversariality. While Govier agrees with Moulton that philosophy is not best served by hostile and aggressive disagreements, she believes that the back-and-forth discussion of opposing views, with the aim of rational persuasion, is a crucial part of philosophy that ought to be preserved. Further, she believes that it can be preserved if participants adhere to norms of good, respectful, argumentation. This paper/talk will suggest that Govier's faith in norms of respectful argumentation might be misplaced, because it neglects the social circumstances of the arguers. Similar points are made in Catherine Hundleby's "Aggression, politeness, and abstract adversaries,'' which focuses on the extent to which norms of politeness and aggression apply differently to those of different genders. We plan to extend that analysis to social factors other than gender, to consider further ways in which social norms might prevent individuals from full and equal participation in arguments. While this does not mean that adversarial debate ought to be eliminated entirely from the methodology of philosophy, we do believe that, if diversity in philosophy is desirable, a greater pluralism in its methodology is required.