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James Camien McGuiggan

Hi Eric, thanks again so much for this thoughtful response to (or reflection on?) my paper. It's immensely flattering, and I was quite astounded to see that you posted it something like twelve hours after I pinged you on Twitter. I won't be coming within a country mile of that insight:time ratio, and really I'm just coming here to thank you for drawing out some connections and literature that I'm not aware of.

The only point where I maybe don't follow you is in the last paragraph, concerning conceptual engineering. I think I argued in the paper that Collingwood is a conceptual engineer avant la lettre. Certainly, I would view a term such as "epistemic violence" as an expansion of our concept of "violence" into the epistemic domain. Is your disagreement that I don't do justice to the practical/political element of conceptual engineering? The conceptual engineer, that is, as you see them, wants not only to show that there can be violence in the epistemic realm but use that discovery to mitigate that violence? If so, I think you're right that Collingwood would not consider this second aim philosophical (cf., for indirect evidence, how he speaks about propaganda in The Principles of Art), though he would do so in a spirit of conceptual/disciplinary tidiness rather than a spirit of dismissiveness (i.e., he would say, "it's not philosophy, but it's no less worth doing for that"). For my own part, I don't think too much hangs on this and don't have an opinion. But perhaps I've mistaken your point altogether here.


Hi James,
Thank you for your interesting and kind response. It's sufficient for my argument that Collingwood would deny (somewhat surprisingly to me) that shaping the world (as it is in mitigating projects) is philosophical.
But the more important point lurking there is that the contrast between accounting for an addition to experience and for creating the conditions for expanding or developing our experience strikes me as not sufficiently robust or encompassing to treat it as fundamental to the distinction between analytic and continental (in virtue of the fact that both sides of the contrast may be present within a tradition and that is ad hoc to deny falsifying examples as not sufficiently philosophical).

James Camien McGuiggan

Right, I see the point now. Collingwood would have a restrained role for world-shaping in philosophy: in clarifying (or in other words engineering) concepts, you in some sense change them - they are clarified - and this changes any actions that are based on those concepts. But not just any conceptual change counts as clarification: one could also make a perfectly clear concept different because it's, e.g., bigoted. Collingwood doesn't consider this sort of world-shaping, and he might consider it philosophy, but my sense is that he would consider it more as a political activity. I'm happy to be corrected here, though: it's a while since I've looked at the texts.

Regarding the analytic/continental divide: yes, I fully agree. Indeed I was hoping to avoid any essentialisation of the traditions, and used the example of the analytic/continental divide in the spirit of, "So, dear analytic philosopher who thinks that continental philosophy is unclear because it doesn't use technical terms: I'll concede, for the sake of argument, your characterisation of continental philosophy re technical terms, but I refuse the further step that it's thereby unclear." But in fact I think this characterisation is only somewhat true (when I give examples of philosophers using poetic language on pp. 14-15 (pp. 28-29 of the preprint), I give examples from both traditions). And even this is my personal, incidental opinion; as far as the paper goes, the more important point is the abstract one of prising apart poetic use of language and unclarity.

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