“The Challenges of Being a Thinking Thing” by Lisa Shapiro (Simon Fraser University, Philosophy)
Date: Friday, 12th April, 2019
This is a SWIP-TR event.
Abstract: What is it to be a thinking thing? What is it to teach someone to be a thinking thing? I look to the school at Saint-Cyr founded by Madame Maintenon to problematize our understanding of a Cartesian thinking thing as simply conscious awareness and to motivate an alternative interpretation which holds that thinking is involves essentially owning one’s thoughts, where this ownership is an achievement – the result of an active norm-governed process. If thinking is, in this sense, an achievement, it is an ability that we develop. The curriculum at Saint-Cyr also highlights three challenges of this way of thinking of thinking: the pedagogical challenge of how to teach someone to own one’s own thoughts; the autonomy challenge presented by the fact that thinking involves practice and so habituation, making it difficult to distinguish autonomic from true cognitive activity; and lastly, the affective challenge presented by the infusion of all education, including that of thinking, with moral norms.
About the speaker: Lisa Shapiro is Professor of Philosophy at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on the 17th and 18th century, and in particular the theory of emotions, and the works of women philosophers of that period. Professor Shapiro is the lead investigator for a series of grants for the project New Narratives in the History of Philosophy. Among her publications is a translation of the correspondence between Elisabeth of Bohemia and Rene Descartes. Find out more about Lisa Shapiro here.