Sunday, April 11, 2010
Well, I'm back from the workshop. I felt rather too tired to be thinking at my best most of the time, but it was still great fun. It's a bit, interesting, though, to think of what it says about our Era of a Hundred Myriad schools. What you had in the workshop was quite a selection of very intelligent people working very hard to present arguments to people who, by and large, did not and could not be expected to agree with the suppositions on which the arguments were based. In history of philosophy one would handle this by going back to the basics: HoP is evidence-based, and therefore you'd go back to the textual and historical evidence and work from there. It doesn't provide a full remedy for fragmentation, but it gives a clear shared beginning-point. But philosophy of religion, like a great many other areas of philosophy, starts in medias res; thus no one has anything in common except overlapping reading lists and related rhetorical methods of presentation. Good work gets done, but without some shared vector of progress it's difficult to see how most of it can avoid falling into the void. The workshop approach works fairly well to make it worthwhile in the short term -- people share ideas in progress, argue a bit about them, and go away with a bit more of an idea how to refine both ideas and arguments. If nothing else, people have a bit of fun thinking things through, and learn where they need to argue a bit more carefully. But it does leave one wondering, at least, it leaves me wondering as an outsider, if perhaps the field is entirely managing to overcome the grinding action of the sea, breaking it up into smaller and smaller bits whose connection to other bits is just that those other bits are in the vicinity.