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Tuesday, August 11, 1998 Published at 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK


Thinking the unthinkable

Philosophers are gathering this week in Boston

If you have ever lain awake at night wondering about questions such as "Why One Grain Doesn't Make a Heap" or "Do Sentences Have Identity?", then you should make your way to Boston this week.

The 20th World Congress of Philosophy is bringing 3,000 philosophers from around the world to Boston for a week of debate, lectures and thoughtful socialising.

Among the subjects to be discussed are such urgent matters as "Erotetic Logic and Explanation by Abnormic Hypotheses" or the more throwaway "Naturalisation of Intentionality".

For a bigger picture, you could drop in on the working session on the "Unity-of-Everything-There-is-Alive and Human Constitutive Engagement".

'Did We (Pragmatists) forget Kant?'

For the more sociable, there is "Exploring Susanne Langer's Corpus" or for the self-doubting, "Did We (Pragmatists) forget Kant?" and "Who's Afraid of Underminability?".

[ image: The heirs of Plato will be asking the big questions about ethics, logic and metaphysics]
The heirs of Plato will be asking the big questions about ethics, logic and metaphysics
Among the other conversational playthings on offer will be the "Latent Essentialism of Heidegger's Fundamental Ontology" and "Aristotle's Ordinary Versus Kant's Revisionist Definition of Virtue as Habit".

Since the inaugural congress in Paris in 1900, the big-hitters of the thinking world have gathered every five years or so at venues around the world, under the auspices, since 1948, of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies.

"Never has such a grandiose congress been organised," said the federation's president F. Miro Quesada, welcoming delegates to the first congress staged in the United States since 1926.

The six-day event was evidence of the continuing importance of philosophy, he said. "To believe in philosophy is to believe in reason. And to believe in reason is to believe in liberty, equality and democracy for people all over the world."

Among the topics to be addressed will be logic, ethics, metaphysics, philosophical methodology and the philosophies of science, education and religion.

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