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Web International Meeting: "Dialogue concerning Philosophical Methods of Empiricist and Rationalist"

Web International Meeting
"Dialogue concerning Philosophical Methods of Empiricist and Rationalist"


      The 3rd Web International Meeting,“Dialogue concerning Philosophical Methods of Empiricist and Rationalist”of the 2nd Unit was held on October 12,2013, at the Toyo University Hakusan Campus (Building 8, Special Meeting Room). Japan, the United Kingdom and France, this three-nationsconference linked participants in Japan over the Internet with colleagues in two other countries: Professor Helen Beebee, a Hume specialist at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom; and Professor Edouard Mehl, a Descartes research at the Univsersité de Strasbourg in France. Joining from Japan were Professor Ichinose Masaki of the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, who served as commentator; Murakamikatsuzō (Ircp Director) ; Yamaguchiichirō(Ircp Visiting Researcher), who served as emcee; and ŌNishikatsutoshi (Ircp Visiting Researcher), who served as the designated questioner. Simultaneous interpreters worked in the Japanese-English and Japanese-French language pairs for the event, allowing participants to listen over their receivers in any of these three languages while viewing the conferees on their screens and monitors.      Prof. Okada, Prof.Yamaguchi, and Prof. Murakami participated from Toyo University, Prof. Benoist and Prof. Kuroda from Paris (the École Normale Supérieure) and Prof. Stenger from Vienna. The three venues were linked by the Internet.

      Prof. Yamaguchi opened the web-based proceedings with an overview of the conference and a summation of the guest speakers’ previous work.

      Prof. Mehl then gave a masterful talk titled, “The Problem of the Ideality in the External World.” Beginning with the phenomenological arguments of Husserl and Heidegger, he drew upon Cartesian philosophy for evidence to bring the debate back to the problem of proofs for the existence of God. He proceeded to discuss such medieval philosophers as Avicenna and Averroes and from there teased out the distinctive features of Cartesian philosophy. From this perspective, Mehl argued that the puzzle that is the world as seen in German idealism—a school of thought leading to the likes of Husserl and Heidegger—was constructed using a different approach.


      Prof. Beebee followed with her talk on “Inductive Skepticism in Hume.” Her talk looked at whether Hume’s skepticism—in which both subject and object were acknowledged—truly applied to all things, as well as at the role played by skepticism in Cartesian philosophy, while explicating the former in relation to inductive reasoning in particular. Relying scrupulously on Hume’s texts, Beebee argued that if we look at Hume’s work in toto then—contrary to the conventional understanding that skepticism plays a central role in his causal inferences—we see that his epistemological position is not one that is endowed with the products of skepticism.

      Two comments came from the Japanese participants in response to these presentations. First, informed by research on Descartes, Prof. Murakami brought up the relationship with the physical world mediated through the senses in Descartes’ Sixth Meditation to ask a question about the problem of “the world” being epistemologically reduced to “the phenomenon of the world.”

      Next, Prof. Inose drew upon research on Hume for a comment directed in English to Prof. Beebee. After stressing the great originality in Beebee’s interpretation, Inose posed a question in which he brought up the issues of descriptiveness and canonicity in Hume’s arguments, the issue of interpreting causal inferences psychologically, and finally the issue of the so-called “Hume’s fork.”


      A general discussion took place after a break. Prof. Ōnishi began by addressing questions in French and English to professors Mehl and Beebee, respectively. Following up on the various issues that Inose raised, Ōnishi solicited Mehl’s opinion on the relationship between canonicity and descriptiveness in Descartes, and Beebee’s opinion on the differences between “normative things” in Descartes and in Hume.

   In the general summing up that subsequently took place, a lively discussion unfolded between Manchester, Strasbourg, and Tokyo from the responses of Mehl and Beebee and the questions those sparked from the participants in Japan. This international web-based conference took place on a Saturday Japan time owing to the time differences, but regardless many people participated both from Toyo University and elsewhere. Although a few technical issues arose, possibly due to the participants being connected from three different locations via the Internet or the specialized discussion being conducted using simultaneous interpretation, the fruitful results of the discussion more than made up for any inconvenience.