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How Are Concepts Made?

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Organizer: Keston Sutherland

Co-Organizer: Anahid Nersessian

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Our title invokes Vladimir Mayakovsky's 1926 essay, “How are Verses Made?” in order to pose a question that links literary epistemology—what literature knows and how it knows it—to social life, in particular to a critical tradition that understands works of art as responses to "social command." Historically, the attribution of a shared political or ethical value to art and literature has cut against more abstract philosophical concerns about the truth-value or referential capacity of figurative or fictional texts: if you believe that novels, poems, and the like are incapable of denoting or accurately describing the world, you are unlikely to give credit to their power to explain that world, let alone intervene in it. Similarly, the capacity of aesthetic phenomena to evolve concepts—whether we think of these as mental representations that generalize from known entities to unknown ones (Locke, Hume), as the constituents of logical propositions (Kant, Gottlob Frege), or as serial disruptions of prior representational systems (Susan Carey)—seems tenuous at best. We invite papers that unsettle these kinds of assumptions, and that are interested in the unpredictable reciprocity of figurative and philosophical models of thinking, especially with an eye toward its social application. In particular, we are interested in work that takes seriously the thinking done by poetic or fictive idioms, and that finds in them a conceptual richness comparable to if, in many ways, distinct from technical, scientific, or analytical writing.   Proposals might consider: philology as a philosophical mode literary forms or mechanisms—e.g., meter, genre, the chapter—as ways of thinking latent or crytpo-concepts (see Laplanche on Freud) historical epistemologies and their literary interlocuters, antecedents, and postscripts literary revisions or applications of social science    interdisciplinarity and its discontents

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