Philosophical Perspectives on Exemplarity
Recently, there has been a growing interest in the concept of exemplarity. In simple terms, exemplarity can be described as a practice of giving examples to convey a universal concept or norm. Exemplary cases mediate between singular instances and universal concepts or norms. This mediation means that exemplarity cuts across the established categories of singularity and universality. As one may expect, there are many philosophical issues related to this paradoxical constellation. One of the main issues pertains to the normative dimension of exemplarity. Are examples mere illustrations of universal concepts, or do they exert a normative force on them? We can reframe this question in the following terminological framework: are we dealing with illustrative examples, instances, or with normative exemplars, paradigms, models, etc.? This ambiguity can be traced back to the etymology of the Greek term “paradeigma” and also to the Latin term “exemplum”.
Exemplarity offers a fresh perspective on the age-old debate about the nature of universals. The question at hand is whether universals are ontologically rooted in specific exemplars or if they exist independently before their instances, which serve only to illustrate them. Platonists, such as A. Badiou, argue that true universals exist independently of particular instances. On the other hand, those following the Hegelian tradition (Žižek 2021, Mácha 2023) argue that such universals are abstract and ontologically deficient. Even if we were to grant ontological priority to particular exemplars or instances over universals, the ontological status of these exemplars remains unclear (Terrone 2018). This highlights that exemplarity holds both ontological and epistemological significance.
The deconstructive tradition presents a unique perspective on exemplarity. Derrida and other authors influenced by him (Derrida 1992, Gelley 1995, Harvey 2002, Agamben 2009) have questioned the binary oppositions that form the foundation of exemplarity. Specifically, they argue that the rigid separation between illustrative examples and normative exemplars should be understood as a fluid spectrum, rather than a discrete divide.
Exemplarity takes on many forms and has implications in a wide range of domains and disciplines, both within and beyond philosophy. Its epistemological significance has been acknowledged by a variety of authors (Foucault throughout his work, Agamben 2009, Mácha 2013) and it has been used in the realm of morality by thinkers such as Arendt 1981, Ferrara 2008, 2018, Zagzebski 2017, Beran 2018. In legal philosophy, exemplarity has a long tradition, where specific cases serve as precedents for future judgments (Goodrich 2018, Condello 2018). Exemplarity also plays a distinct role in the philosophy of art (Andina 2018). One of the most notable accounts of exemplarity in the philosophy of science is found in Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, where the concept of paradigm holds a prominent place.
Topics for the submissions would include, but could also go beyond, the following issues:
- What kinds of exemplarity can we distinguish? What are their specific issues, problems, and challenges?
- How can moral exemplars be justified? What makes a moral exemplar good?
- Exemplarity and virtue ethics.
- Political implications of exemplarity.
- Exemplarity in science. Kuhn’s account of paradigms and beyond.
- Must exemplars or paradigms be material objects? Are there abstract exemplars?
- What is the role of narrative exemplarity, especially in defining paradigms? Exemplarity in literature.
- Exemplarity in law (the role of precedents, landmark cases, etc.)
- Deconstructive approaches to exemplarity
- The role of non-standard (paraconsistent, paracomplete, multi-valued, etc.) logics in exemplarity
- Exemplarity advanced by or inherent in particular historical figures (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, etc.)
Ondřej Beran (University of Pardubice)
Marco Buzzoni (Macerata University)
Jakub Mácha (Masaryk University Brno)
All contributions should conform to the journal referencing instructions, as stated in https://www.mendeley.com/guides/harvard-citation-guide/. Further instructions can be found on the journal webpage.
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