International Philosophy Colloquia Evian
20th Colloquium 2014 - Evian, 13-19 juillet 2014

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Colloquium 2012: Contingency – Chance, Luck, Haphazardness

20th Colloquium 2014

Topic 2014

Call for Papers




The Colloquia




La Villa



Topic / Program

Contingent is what could be otherwise or not exist at all: It is thus what is neither necessary nor impossible. What is contingent is that which is not completely determined by logical or metaphysical principles, or else by fate or divine providence. That is, what is contingent belongs to the realm of what is changing or changeable; it is, therefore, a realm into which human actions inherently fall. Because human actions take place in the realm of the contingent, every practical self-reflection is confronted with contingency as an inherent problem. Practical reason, rational planning, and free deliberation are bound up with the uncontrollable contingency of chance, luck, and haphazardness: chance, because the consequences of action cannot be completely anticipated or explained given the unforeseeable effects of accidental causes that condition or help to shape the outcomes of our actions; luck, because the realization of intended goals or attitudes can often come about only with the world playing along, i.e., only through the coincidence of events behind the backs of agents; and haphazardness, because the good life itself, framed by the decisive or fateful events of birth and death, always has to reckon with the happening of events large and small that continually break into our lives and affect them going forward, so that one needs luck (fortuna, Glück, chance) for attaining happiness (beatitudo, Glück, bonheur) in a way that challenges our conceptions of virtue and justice.

The tension between contingency and reason in human practice has been understood differently in the history of philosophy. In one strand, beginning with Plato and reaching via Leibniz to the early Wittgenstein, contingency is regarded as a disturbance that undermines our claim to grasp the rational orderliness of the world and therefore should be excluded as a factor. The critique of reason – as in Nietzsche, Lyotard, and Rorty – continues unwittingly to share this view ex negativo, for it assumes that contingency as such undermines the justificatory pretensions of reason in our theories and practices. There is, however, an alternative strand in the philosophical tradition that begins as early as Aristotle and includes Hegel, the later Wittgenstein, and Derrida (among others), one that conceives contingency as the basis for novelty and human freedom in general.

Many debates about the significance of contingency in disparate areas of philosophy have taken place in the spectrum between these two poles. In philosophical reflections on the significance of history (Vico, Dilthey, Foucault), the acknowledgment of contingency has discredited our recourse to the necessity of social order and historical development (whether as progress or degeneration). In political philosophy, the contingency of social and political order has even been understood to be the enabling condition of democracy (Laclau/Mouffe, Lefort, Rancière). In the philosophy of culture and philosophical anthropology (Gehlen, Plessner), institutions, religions, traditions, and cultures have come to be regarded as forms and practices of dealing and coping with contingency. In ethics (Williams, Nagel), contingency shows up in the form of “moral luck”, moral dilemmas, and “dirty hands”. It also figures in Anglophone political philosophy in terms of the extent to which justice ought to compensate for the effects of chance, luck, and haphazardness as a legitimate means of creating some degree of fairness and equity given the contingency of one’s life-chances (Rawls, Cohen, Dworkin). In epistemology (Sosa, Greco, Pritchard), there is continued discussion about the effects of “epistemic luck” on our status as knowers. Finally, existential philosophy (Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre) has elevated an individual’s comportment toward the contingency (Geworfenheit: “thrownness”) of his or her own being to a fundamental constitutive aspect of human existence.

What is the significance of contingency, then, for the self-understanding of human beings in their practices? The 18th International Philosophy Colloquium Evian invites philosophers to come to the shores of Lake Geneva to examine the concept of contingency in all the different and possibly incompatible ways in which this concept can be considered and determined.


Programm als PDF-Download

Lundi, 16 juillet 2012

René van Woudenberg (Amsterdam): This is a chance event, hence it is not intended
Agnieszka Kochanowicz (Frankfurt/M.): Was es heißt, Glück oder Pech zu haben – Eine begriffliche Untersuchung
Magali Roques (Tours): Contingence et déterminisme dans le commentaire de Guillaume d’Ockham au Peri Hermeneias

Barbara Reiter (Graz): Acting without Aims. Tanking Contingency Seriously
Andrew C. Huddleston (Princeton): Nietzsche on the Contingency of Greatness

Mardi, 17 juillet 2012

Claudia Blöser (Bochum): Zufall und moralische Zurechenbarkeit in Kants praktischer Philosophie
Christopher Lapierre (Dijon): Contingence et probabilisme : Merleau-Ponty critique de la liberté sartrienne
Anna Wehofsits (Berlin): Gefühl und Zufall in Kants Moralphilosophie

David Espinet (Freiburg): Die kontingenten Vorraussetzungen des gelingenden Lebens. Zu Kants Glückseligkeitslehre
Edouard Jolly (Lille): Choc de la contingence et peur de l’être

Mercredi, 18 juillet 2012

Anne Gléonec (Praha): Claude Lefort et la déconstruction du « corps politique » : la démocratie ou le régime de la contingence
James Ingram (Hamilton): Politics as the Recognition of Essential Contingency
Robin Celikates (Amsterdam): Sind schmutzige Hände unvermeidlich? Kontingenz als Herausforderung politischen Handelns

Après-midi libre

Jeudi, 19 juillet 2012

Marion Schumm (Paris): Histoire et consolation. Hans Blumenberg et la contingence
Georg W. Bertram (Berlin): Einbildungskraft und Kontingenz: Kants »Deduktion« und die Zeitlichkeit menschlicher Existenz
Claire Pagès (Paris/Nancy): Le destin freudien de la contingence : « conférer un sens au hasard »

David Lauer (Berlin): When the World Does Us a Favour: Disjunktivismus und Kontingenz
Christian Skirke (Amsterdam): Self-knowledge and epistemic luck

Vendredi, 20 juillet 2012

Katherina Kinzel (Wien): Underdetermination and Lost Alternatives. How Social Constructivists Narrate Contingency in Science
Barthélemy Durrive (Lyon): Les contingences, entre hasard (physique) et histoire (biologique)
Erica Harris (Leuven): The Logic of Contingency

Alessandro Bertinetto
(Udine/Berlin): Playing With Chance: Some Remarks on Aesthetic and Artistic Luck
Discussion terminale


Organisation: Georg W. Bertram (Berlin), Robin Celikates (Amsterdam), David Lauer (Berlin). In cooperation with: Alessandro Bertinetto (Udine), Karen Feldman (Berkeley), Jo-Jo Koo (Dickinson), Christophe Laudou (Madrid), Claire Pagès (Paris), Diane Perpich (Clemson), Hans Bernhard Schmid (Wien), Contact: