Monday, October 29
6 p.m.
Russell House

Temporality and Normativity


Hedding Professor of Moral Science (Philosophy), Wesleyan University

A central problem of modern philosophy has been to understand normativity—how dealings with things can be correct or incorrect, meaningful, confused or senseless, justified or unjustified, appropriate or inappropriate, just or unjust, etc.—within a broadly scientific or even “naturalistic” conception of the world. This issue becomes especially acute for philosophical naturalists, since the sciences themselves are conceptually, epistemically, and politically normative enterprises: it is incoherent to conceive a scientific or naturalistic understanding of the world in ways that render unintelligible how scientific understanding could have a place in that world. This talk responds to these classic issues with two significant reconceptions of how the issues are usually framed: first, by recognizing the role of niche construction, especially discursive niche construction, in the co-evolution of human beings with their developmental and selective environments, and second by re-conceiving normativity as a temporal dimension of the discursively articulated practices that are integral to our biological organism/environment relations.