The Logic of Problem Articulation: Dewey, Bachelard and the Problem of Sex in Beauvoir

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Abstract

The concept of ‘problem’ continues to take centre stage as a pedagogical tool in learning theories and as core category of transdisciplinary science methodologies as the warrant that the scientific inquiry is anchored in the world and produces new knowledge rather than repeat established ideas. In order to understand the epistemological logic of the problem’s heralded catalyst powers, this paper evokes the early 20th problem-philosophies’ insight that the productivity of the problem resides in its articulation (rather than solving) which involves an act of construction (rather than discovery). It argues that cross-reading Dewey and Bachelard reveals a shared conception of the structure of problems comprising two constitutional traits.

First, problems consist in a conflictual relation. Contrary to accounts promoting it as an inherently ‘positive’ concept, the paper argues that the problem is characterized by determining an opposition to an already exisisting concept or theoretical framework. Second, it involves a commitment to exemplarity. Taking its departure in a particular issue and claiming its exemplary character, the problem carves out a field of intelligibility while holding on to and privileging a concrete content.

Taken together, these two traits account for the intellectual productivity of problem articulation while avoiding the pitfalls of i) conceiving problems as completely spontaneous and therefore essentially detached conceptual inventions and ii) presenting intellectual activity as a matter of blindly ‘applying’ theory to concrete cases.

To back its claim, the paper finally illustrates this logic by tracing the formation of the ‘woman-problem’ in The Second Sex. It argues that the conflictual and exemplary moments are instrumental in Beauvoir’s conceptual development of what is in fact an entirely novel object of inquiry and that this approach facilitates the profound political and theoretical significance of her work.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date31 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2020
EventThe Society for European Philosophy-Forum for Philosophy Annual Conference 2020 -
Duration: 30 Oct 202031 Oct 2020
https://sep-fep.com/program/

Conference

ConferenceThe Society for European Philosophy-Forum for Philosophy Annual Conference 2020
Period30/10/202031/10/2020
OtherDue to the pandemic, the conference this year will be held on line, using Zoom as the main platform.
Internet address

Keywords

  • problematisation
  • problem-oriented project learning
  • John Dewey
  • Gaston Bachelard
  • Simone de Beauvoir
  • Philosophy of science

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