“Reason, Genealogy, and the Hermeneutics of Magnanimity”


Brandom, “Reason, Genealogy, and the Hermeneutics of Magnanimity”

Wow, that is a mouthful, and the talk does feature some elaborate (if not baroque) constructions with complex concepts. But the underlying ideas are clear and powerful. Robert Brandom argues (the start of his talk is about at 9:44) that there may seem to be irreconcilable differences between a genealogical approach to philosophy (which identifies all of the social, historical, and psychological causes leading up to an idea) and a more purely rationalistic approach (which considers the reasons behind the idea). Basically, it seems like a thorough-going naturalism will make it impossible to take ideas seriously. But this only “seems” so. In fact, trying to sharply demarcate naturalistic causes from reasons in the formation of ideas rests upon a naive view of concepts and meanings. This is the point that Quine was making to Carnap, and Hegel was making to Kant. We should understand ideas as complicated structures that reflect both causes and reasons. In Hegel’s philosophy, this view means reading history in the way that judges of common law read the past as precedent – looking for a rational trajectory behind the mess of daily details, and making use of it for the future.

I found the lecture to be brilliant, and worthy of attention. Plus, Brandom looks like Dumbledore, which is cool. I wonder if grad students at Pitt call him “Brandomdore,” or maybe “Brandalf.”

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
This entry was posted in Books, Historical episodes, Meanings of life / death / social & moral stuff. Bookmark the permalink.

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