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Colloquium (Lisa Shapiro, Simon Fraser University)
Thursday March 7, 2019, 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
The Department is pleased to welcome Lisa Shapiro, professor at Simon Fraser University. Professor Shapiro’s research interests include early modern philosophy, feminism and philosophy, and philosophy of mind (especially perception and emotions). She is also the Principal Investigator (PI) in a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant to further develop network of researchers invested in developing new narratives in the history of philosophy.
Professor Shapiro co-authored the volume Emotion and Cognitive Life in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy with our department’s Professor Martin Pickavé.
The Challenges of Being a Thinking Thing
What is it to be a thinking thing? Is it simply to be conscious, aware of our thoughts? Or is it something more? In this talk I draw upon Descartes and his near contemporaries to explore the question of what it is to think and to become a thinking thing. I argue, first, that Cartesian thinking involves essentially owning one’s thoughts, where this ownership is an achievement — the result of an active norm-governed process. However, if thinking is, in this sense, an achievement, it is an ability that we develop. Descartes’ near contemporaries recognize that developing this ability is premised on conditions of epistemic equality. This condition is materially challenging to meet, but there is a more difficult challenge. But developing our cognitive abilities also involves practices through which we develop habits of thinking well. Is this habituation — what we might call education — consistent with achieving the ownership of thought essential to becoming a thinking thing? I look to the school at Saint-Cyr founded by Madame Maintenon to motivate this latter challenge.