The conference aims to explore the connections between the pragmatist tradition, and the divide between ‘continental’ and ‘analytic’ philosophy. Like the analytic and continental traditions, pragmatism developed around the turn of the 20th century. The early pragmatists influenced (and were influenced by) the founding thinkers on both sides of the divide, and their work contains elements which both the analytic and the continental traditions can recognise. Charles S. Peirce, for instance, developed a first-order logic alongside a sophisticated general theory of signs. William James’s detailed phenomenological analyses of experience and late metaphysical speculations have resonances within the continental tradition, whilst his philosophy of mind and meta-philosophical reflections have been taken up within the analytic tradition. Contemporary pragmatists can be found on both sides of the supposed split.
Consequently, pragmatism provides a unique lens through which to view the analytic – continental split. Some have hoped that pragmatism might provide a kind of ‘bridge’ between the two traditions, whereas others have suggested that the best aspects of pragmatism can be assimilated to one side or the other. Still others have suggested that pragmatism can help further dissolve the distinction between the analytic and continental traditions, or that it represents a unique option, irreducible and perhaps even superior to either side.
The conference committee contains members from both York and Sheffield, and the invited speakers are likely to contain speakers from both institutions. We have speakers attending from across the UK and North America, and we think that the conference will further the reputation that the White Rose Universities already have for being a centre of scholarship of American pragmatism. We also intend to provide a bursary to encourage graduate students from White Rose Universities to attend.
James Lewis, Sheffield