Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

The conference topics

Practical Philosophy – East and West
Since the days of Ancient Chinese and Ancient Greek ethics philosophy has always been concerned with matters of human action, society, and culture. The conference invites novel approaches to, and critical reflections upon, one of the most basic concerns of philosophy. The topic ranges over a number of issues from ethics, moral and political philosophy, and the philosophy of culture. The conference wants to bring together scholars from different contexts and traditions in East and West to engage in a fruitful and inspiring exchange. A comparative perspective on practical philosophy is particularly encouraged.

 

Practical Rationality
What is the relation between human action and human rationality? Certain ways of reason-guided behaviour are usually described as specifically rational acting, and at least some of them are often prescribed as rules for how rational beings ought to behave. What are practical reasons, and how is practical reasoning to be understood? Is it merely instrumental by nature, or are there any forms of non-instrumental, moral rationality? Is there any such thing as pure practical reasoning? How does practical reasoning relate to the desires of human beings? Is there a hierarchy of ends of actions, which should be accounted for by practical reason? Is there an ultimate end of human practices? Should practical reasoning be guided by the pursuit of happiness, or rather by the striving for justice, or by something else? Are there any alternatives to practical rationality, and to the grounding of practical philosophy in human reasoning?

 

Practical Norms
Are there any practical norms at all? Is their validity limited to individual persons, to particular occasions and situations, or to specific societies and cultures? Or rather, can there be universal practical norms? Do specific cultural traditions, like those of Classic­al Chinese Ethics, allow for the declaration and justification of human rights? Are practical norms merely a matter of convention and institutionalisation, or do they (or at least some of them) essentially belong to the nature of human beings?

 

Practical Justification
How can practical norms be rationally justified at all? Is this a matter of deduction from practical principles of (for instance) morality, utility, or justice? Or is it a matter of exemplifying modes of virtuous conduct by help of role models and educational narrat­ives?
Which specific methodology should practical philosophy at all adopt? Can there be a science of human action and practical matters? How does practical philosophy relate to our knowledge of the natural evolution of mankind, and of non-human animals? How can the empirical sciences contribute to practical philosophy?

 

Existential and Cultural Dimensions of Human Action
How does the fact that human life is finite influence human action and human happin­ess? Do we need to refer to something beyond the realm of human finitude to make sense of human practices at all? Is practical philosophy embedded in a web of religious beliefs and theology, or does it call for autonomous ways of reflection and justification?

In which ways are morally, legally or politically good actions influenced, limited, and supported by different cultural spheres and traditions? How do, for instance, aesthetic practices and the world of art influence action and practical philosophy? Is it possible to learn from works of art how to act appropriately? Is art merely a mode of decorum, and aesthetic experience merely a way of reducing distress, or are they valuable for educating people and making their lives better?

 

A Comparative Perspective
The conference especially encourage studies that engage a comparative perspective. Practical philosophy might turn out to be more complex and multifaceted than the standard models suggest. Are there are any alternat­ive ways of comprehending and modeling practical philosophy in the Chinese tradition? Or are there any common patterns or principles of practical philosophy in both cultural contexts? And finally, do these traditions, in their own ways, develop and promote any non-standard alternatives to practical philosophy?