Brandom Thesis Plan

January 27, 2011

[I’m going to be talking from now on as if I’m writing a thesis on Brandom – this may very well of course not actually be the case, but I can’t be bothered to write ‘thesis-length-document’ every time I refer to the thing, so I ask you to bear with me.]

My own interest in writing on Brandom is related to social-theoretic (ultimately political-economic) analysis of contemporary society. Writing about Brandom is obviously drawing a rather long bow in order to address that issue, and I think one of the principal challenges that will be involved in writing this document will be doing so in a way that maintains its argumentative unity while also drawing some of the connections I want to between different disciplinary spaces. This shouldn’t be impossible – it’s obvious, just googling, that plenty of people have written about neopragmatism in relation to the meta-theoretical aspects of social science, so I should be able to slot into that discursive space without causing anyone to wig out too much. Still, in an ideal world I want the document to achieve a number of different things. At a first schematic pass:

1) Situate Brandom within a tradition that includes not just pragmatism and neo-pragmatism but also the canonical texts of the social theoretic tradition.
2) Articulate some of the problems that the social-theoretic tradition has classically faced, and position Brandom’s work as providing resources that can help resolve some of these issues.
3) Give an exposition of the structure and – in many (though not close to all) areas – detail of Brandom’s system. (This is a contribution to the interpretive debate around Brandom’s work – and will be the core of the document.)
4) [Maybe – if it fits] Argue that Brandom’s normative pragmatics is more dissociable from his linguistic philosophy than it is often taken to be (including, I think, by Brandom).
5) Show how the Brandomian resources expounded in the core of the document can resolve some of the problems set up in (2).

This is all subject to change – it may be too ambitious, and I’m mostly just trying to get my head around the general conceptual space the document needs to slot into, and its possible structure. If this is the general plan, though, there are several areas of reading I need to dig down into.

– The social theoretic canon. As I’ve said, I’m already ploughing through this in the out-of-sight blog boiler room, so this isn’t too vexing.
– The philosophical pragmatist tradition – 19th century to present day. This is a bit more troublesome, since I’ve not read most of the key figures here. But this is something I will have to address eventually, evidently.
– Brandom. The man has written heaps, and I’m obviously going to have to read lots and lots of it.
– Brandom-related stuff. The literature here will I think be acceptably small. Brandom’s a significant and frequently-discussed figure, but it’s not as if he’s Kant, and his major work was only published in 1994 – there’s only so much that can have been written on him.
– Stuff referred to in, and necessary to understand the context of, all of the above.

That sounds about right, I think. Not sure how I’ll approach all this as yet – I’m just articulating the ballpark of what needs to be done. I may yet heavily modify the plan.


With that articulated, I’m going to call an Official Brandom Break on the blog. I seriously need to attend to other things for a while. This stuff’s like crack.


2 Responses to “Brandom Thesis Plan”

  1. Tristan Haze Says:

    “I should be able to slot into that discursive space without causing anyone to wig out too much.”

    Oh go on, wig them out! Do it!

  2. duncan Says:

    Yeah, you’re probably right. Life’s too short for too much in the way of disciplinary-boundary stuff. The issue’s mostly just that it feels more manageable to parcel things up into chunks that correspond more or less with disciplinary spaces – I guess because one can orient to the discursive demands of those spaces, and establish something relatively solid within that framework, and then move on and build and connect. I’d go crazy if I tried to do the whole project from top to bottom straight – it’s too much stuff. But we’ll see. This is all super sketchy, obviously.

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