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The Roles of Fiction in Early Modern Philosophy

Year of Funding: 

Conference dates: April 17-18, 2015

One central trope of early modern philosophy and natural science was the rejection of fictions, like so-called "feigned hypotheses," and the focus on empirically observed phenomena. Yet, even as philosophers rejected the abstract notion of a fiction, they still relied upon fictions and narrative models in fundamental ways.  

Participants in this conference will examine this tension and look at both particular philosophers--such as Descartes, Spinoza, Hobbes, Hume, and Kant--and general themes, including the conception of fiction itself, the use of fiction in producing metaphysical knowledge, the use of fictions as examples in moral theory, and scientific models as kinds of fictions. We also intend to consider how philosophy was used in fiction, both in the period itself and then later, as in the case of the novelist George Eliot.




Primary Contacts

Colin Marshall (Philosophy)

Michael Rosenthal (Philosophy)

Ellwood Wiggins (Germanics) 


Conference Speakers

Chiara Bottici (Philosophy, New School for Social Research)

Rüdiger Campe (German, Yale University)

Moira Gatens (Philosophy, University of Sydney)

Willi Goetschel (Germanic Languages & Literatures, University of Toronto)

Victoria Kahn (English, UC Berkeley)

Colin Marshall (Philosophy, UW)

Samantha Matherne (Philosophy, UC Santa Cruz)

Michael Rosenthal (Philosophy, UW)

Amy Schmitter (Philosophy, University of Alberta)

Leroy Searle (English and Comparative Literature, UW)

Lisa Shapiro (Philosophy, Simon Fraser University)

Ellwood Wiggins (Germanics, UW)


Additional Information 

Visit the conference website for detailed information, including the schedule and resources