History of topics
Pragmatism is under-represented in UK history and scholarship. OP’s monthly convenings are designed to provide an introduction to Pragmatism’s awesome power as an intellectual theory and attitude, while also exploring its depth and relevance to trending academic themes and the pragmatic needs of the world.
We meet every last Thursday!
Check back in September for Michaelmas Term dates!
Recent topic: Uncertainty and death
Most recently we discussed pragmatic approaches to the fundamental existential problem of death: it’s uncertainty. When is it coming, what happens when it does, and what should we do about it?
While open to revision, we have a tentative schedule for upcoming talks – as James says, so that we may know what’s in the wind for us! See what we’ve got coming up, and let us know if you’d like to get involved or propose a topic!
Pragmatism: A New Concept of Truth
The Big Pragmatic idea (says OPC founder Dr Stefani Ruper) is this: truth exists, but we have to think about it differently than ever before. We can only find it by doing what Pragmatism’s most famous advocate, William James, calls RADICAL EMPIRICISM.
Regular empiricism ignores the lived experiences of things people usually experience as real (consciousness, free will, love, God, the beyond). They try to just reduce everything to specific, quantifiable data points. But if we adjudicate truth on the basis of mixtures of thought and feeling (which humans already do anyway) that take place over time, then we can actually test everything, including things like consciousness, free will, love, God.
Traditionally, it is said that there are three schools of Western philosophy: Analytic, which dominates in the USA and the UK, Continental, which dominates in Europe, and Pragmatism, which has a few adherents here and there.
But more and more scholars are realising that Pragmatism matters. It’s already a part of what they do. (William James gave us the idea of the stream of consciousness, did you know?)
Cultural criticism, affect theory, the analytic analysis of language, pedagogy, psychotherapy, inter-religious dialogue, law, theories of governance, and theories of mind are all ripe partners for pragmatic discourse.
In these fields and in practical, real, lived life, Pragmatism is our best chance at finding truths, and choosing actions that serve us well.
Our Mission & Vision
We think critically and implement daringly for the sake of a better world
We have three primary arms:
Provide resources to UK Pragmatists
There are three arms of our resource initiatives. A) We provide introductory materials for those interested in pragmatism. B) We provide networking opportunities and support collaboration. C) We provide opportunities to present and exchange ideas. We invite all scholars at Oxford (or elsewhere – videochat in!) to present their ideas to the group, either in formal convenings or more informal settings.
Advance Pragmatism in Oxford and the UK academy
We advance Pragmatism in Oxford and the academy generally by A) supporting schoalrs already interested in Pragmatism, B) exploring scholarly consonance between Pragmatism and other disciplines or schools of thought such as affect theory or analytic philosophy, and C) exploring the usefulness of Pragmatism for trending topics and issues ranging from interfaith dialogue to fake news to AI ethics.
Explore the value of Pragmatism for life
Pragmatism is a philosophy designed to be lived. As such we focus on the “cash-value” of our ideas: how do we, our communities, or our institutions become better when understood through the lens of Pragmatism?
OPC 2024 is happening!
The first Oxford Pragmatism Conference will take place in the Fall of 2024. the precise date is TBD.
“What is it Logical to Believe?”
Dr Stefani Ruper received her PhD from the University of Oxford’s faculty of theology and religion in 2020.
Stefani wrote her doctoral thesis on science as a response to the existential despair of the modern world.
After Stefani finished this project, she realised that she didn’t have any real solutions to the existential despair. 15 years in the academy, and she had only ever studied problems.
Stefani started looking for solutions. She found them (or, at least, good ways for talking about them) in Pragmatism, specifically in the work of William James.
Stefani’s work currently focuses on William James’s ideas about what it means to be good, what it means to be true, and the relationship between those two things.
What should we believe? Why?
Like any good Pragmatist, Stefani knows that knowledge only advances in community. That’s why she’s started this centre, and why she’s passionate not just about furthering Pragmatism, but also about solutions for real life and fostering dialogue with as many diverse approaches possible.
The Oxford Pragmatism Conference
What is it logical to believe?
In 2018, New York Times author Michio Kakutani said that Truth is dead… and seemed to imply that philosophers were the ones who killed it.
Our society has no idea how to think about truth. At least, definitely not in a healthy way.
Philosophers have been wrestling with whether and how to make truth claims ever since the Enlightenment. Especially when it comes to ultimate reality, humans once just naturally believed what everyone else around them believed. But today, believing in anything has to be an intentional choice.
So we ask – what is it logical to believe?
The framing is intentional. Pragmatists, Continentalists, and Analyticists all have different ideas about licensing truth claims. But the Analyticists focus the most on the art of logic. We, the OPC, are interested in how we can have conversations about logic and belief across these three schools of thought.
The Conference is also seeking insight from history, psychology, the sciences, future studies, and any other discipline that can reflect on the licensing of truth claims, and/or the implications of making them.
The Conference logistics are currently being planned – the formal Call for Papers and information about timing, location, and other details will all be made available in the summer of 2023.