Thetism / Analytic Existentialism

workshop in Ligerz, Thursday, November 5 (evening) – Sunday, November 8 (noon), 2020
Patrik Engisch
Philipp Blum

As part of the Swiss Doctoral Programme in Philosophy, we are organising a small and informal workshop in beautiful Ligerz.

"Thetism" is our tentative name for a research programme in 'positive philosophy' on the question of what positing is, the mental act preceding our acceptance of the existence of something, and what, if anything, makes such positing correct when it is. Under what circumstances is it correct (rather than just useful) to posit things, and in what does such positing consist? Positing - its rationale, its nature and its results - is a transversional theme found in surprisingly many different and often apparently unconnected parts of philosophy ("positing" shares this attractive feature with "grounding" and the 'philosophical' "because"). Arguably, a certain conception of it (and of its constraints) already underlies Aristotle’s famous insistence that there is no such thing as what it is to be Pegasus and no account of non-existing things. It may be (part of) the way in which Kantian intuitions undergird existential judgments without thereby entering into them (because only concepts can make up judgments). Positing is also what starts, and governs suppositional reasoning and may explain what cognitive norms, if any, govern the latter, and what conclusions, if any, can be drawn from it. By the way of Husserl’s "positing acts", positing and its constraints have been drawn upon to explain intentional reification and to generalise the notion of veridicality. Questions intimately connect to 'thetism' arise in all domains of philosophy where theoretical questions and explanatory needs are met with the postulation of entities, from Descartes' cogito, over phenomenological reflection to Fine’s 'postulationalism'’ in the philosophy of mathematics.

A related, though different, theme of the workshop is the question whether there could and should be a position in metaphysics that could be called "analytic existentialism". According to this view, the question whether 'essence' or 'existence' (however understood) is metaphysically and explanatorily prior should be decided in favour of existence. This view, and the question it answers, allow us to separate two different and often conflated strands in realist accounts of essence: the hidden-nature and the blueprint-model. While the first was arguably operative in Aristotle and restricts questions of essence to really existing things (what does not exist does not have a nature and hence no hidden nature), the second was superimposed on it during the Middle Ages, as essences came to be conceived as blueprints, complete concepts (perhaps ideas in the mind of God) which may or may not be actualised/created. A return to a more committing conception of essence, it may be hoped, may be of use in metaphysics, and perhaps in social ontology in particular.

On Thursday, November 5, the members of the dialectica-goes-OA project are having a workshop about the flipping of the journal. Everyone is very welcome to attend that too, and provide valuable input and suggestions!

If you are interested in participating, send a short abstract in pdf format to Patrik Engisch and Philipp Blum. Participants will have costs of simple accommodation and of food covered.

Participation. Participants should arrive by Thursday evening and stay at least until Sunday noon. They should commit to have a first draft / extended abstract of their paper or discussion contribution ready a week before the start of the conference, read at least some of those of the others in advance and make an effort at reading some of the other material suggested by the other participants. They should commit to staying in Ligerz for the whole duration of the conference, except of course for the joint excursions to the regions' vineyards and the shores of the lake of Biel/Bienne.

Covid-19. For information about the Covid-19 situation in Switzerland and how it affects the Ligerz conferences, please see here.

Location. The conference takes place in the beautifully located bilingual village of Ligerz / Gléresse, on the shores of the lake of Biel/Bienne (also bilingual):

Talks and meals are at the Aarbergerhaus, where a beamer and facilities to print out handouts are available. Participants stay at the so-called "Louis Haus", where there's also a small bar for late-night drinks. When you get out of the train arriving either from Neuchâtel or from Biel/Bienne, and you face the mountain and the church (turning your back to the lake), the Aarbergerhaus is to your right (in the direction of Biel/Bienne), about 150 m along the main road. You reach it after passing by the hotel "Kreuz" and by going through a garden door located at your left (facing Biel/Bienne), just before there is a street for cars on your right going over a small bridge (in the direction of the lake). Please come there when you arrive. (The Louis-Haus, in contrast, is to your left, about 50m through the pedestrian street, on your right just before the fountain).

Reading material. It would be good if as much as possible of the reading material could be made available to participants in advance (via a dropbox folder, for which participants will receive an invitation). This includes (i) abstracts / drafts; (ii) background reading, e.g. articles by others specifically discussed or older texts not easily available.

Travel. Ligerz is mid-way between Biel/Bienne and Neuchâtel and reachable by train in 1h43 from Zurich Airport, in 1h50 from Geneva Airport and in 1h55 from Basel EuroAirport. Check the Swiss railways website for timetables.