Speaker Series 2023-24 | College of Arts

Speaker Series 2023-24

September 25 -- note, a Monday:  Ron Broglio, Arizona State University

4 pm in MacKinnon 103

Considering the phenomenological membrane of animality

Using the work of Maurice Merleau Ponty, Alphonso Lingis, and Sara Ahmed this talk will explore the poetic-philosophical implication of phenomenology toward a shared human-nonhuman animality. The talk will attempt languages for discussing a broad interspecies community and its implications for human selfhood.

October 19: John Sarnecki, University of Toledo

4 pm in MacKinnon 114

Cultural preservation in wartime

The precipitous rise of ISIS and its barbarism towards both individuals and cultural heritage in the areas they dominated offers a stark contrast between how we respond to the sufferings of others and the loss of treasured objects and archaeology. While demands for military and humanitarian intervention to alleviate human suffering were urgent, it is also clear that many of these appeals were motivated by a desire to prevent future or ongoing damage to cultural properties. Can we justify the diversion of resources from the protection and care of a civilian populace towards the preservation of antiquities and archaeological sites? This problem has proven only more pressing in light of continued aggression against people and property in conflicts worldwide. In this paper, I will examine the ethical justification for prioritizing the preservation of archaeological and cultural artifacts. Does the desire to preserve historical artifacts provide any further impetus for intervention beyond the moral demands of preserving human life and decreasing suffering? In considering how and why we value cultural property, I will argue that this dichotomy is often a false one. Ultimately, however, I will argue that in most cases, we are unable to justify diversion of resources towards the protection of cultural property when those resources could be used to alleviate the pain and suffering of individuals affected by ongoing conflicts.

November 2: Tarek Dika, University of Toronto

4 pm in MacKinnon 114

Ontology and temporality in Heidegger: problems and prospects

Much of the motivation behind Heidegger’s project in Being and Time stems from his thesis that temporality has played a neglected dual role in the history of ontology: an ontological or metaontological role, in which it determines how beings or entities are understood and distinguished from one another, and an ontical role, in which it is itself regarded simply as one being or entity among many others. This dual role, Heidegger argues, can be detected in everything from Aristotle’s concept of substance (ousia) up to Hegel’s concept of spirit (Geist). I argue that Heidegger’s interpretation of ancient and modern ontologies does not unambiguously demonstrate that temporality played the ontological or metaontological role he claims it does, and I explore other possible candidates that may have played this role. I conclude by arguing that the prioritization of temporality in post-Heideggerean philosophy is in part due to an uncritical acceptance of Heidegger’s thesis about the dual role played by temporality in the history of ontology.

November 23: Alice MachLachlan, York University [cancelled]

January 26: Sarah Hannan, University of Manitoba

4 pm in MacKinnon 103

What is a counterfactual child?

This paper examines the question: is childhood good or bad for children themselves? Elsewhere, I’ve made the case for thinking of childhood as a predicament—that is, a state that’s bad for the people inhabiting it. This paper further strengthens the idea that childhood is a predicament by considering one of the most popular ways of arguing against such views: pill case arguments. Pill cases are thought experiments in which gestators have an opportunity to take a pill that would lead to the progeny in question skipping childhood. Critics of the predicament view argue that it would be a mistake to take such a pill and that this demonstrates that childhood is not seriously bad for children. Pill cases illuminate a number of interesting issues concerning how we ought to conceive of the value of childhood for children. I argue that many pill cases are incorrectly specified or underspecified, such that they identify the wrong counterfactuals and lead to inaccurate verdicts on the value of childhood for children. I contend that my redesigned pill case supports, rather than undermines, a predicament view of childhood and helps us understand what it means to say that childhood is bad for children.

February 16: Sara Aronowitz, University of Toronto [cancelled]

March 8: Kristján Kristjánsson, University of Birmingham

4 pm in MacKinnon 103

Phronesis: new developments

Drawing on my new book (Kristjánsson & Fowers, Phronesis, O.U.P., 2024), this presentation gives an overview of recent developments in phronesis research within philosophy, psychology, and education. After rehearsing some Aristotelian and neo-Aristotelian philosophical essentials, I reflect on recent work on phronesis within psychology and education, and where that seems to be taking us. I end by examining a mostly untapped source: Aristotle's account in the Politics of the integrative role of phronesis with respect to civic virtues, and the nature and value of collective phronesis.

March 21: Tom Angier, University of Cape Town

4 pm in MacKinnon 103

Goodness as natural perfection

I shall explore how Aristotle ties human goodness to our variegated functioning as a species of animal. In doing so, I shall respond to scepticism about the very existence of human functions, and delineate (what I will call) the ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ dimensions along which they operate. This should give a working picture of how goodness, on my view, is constituted by ‘natural perfection’, itself an inherently functional idea. Secondly, I shall investigate how modern, post-Darwinian, philosophers have analysed organic functioning, and what challenges this poses for the traditional, Aristotelian conception. Having, as I hope, overcome—or at least palliated—these challenges, I will, thirdly, go on to unpack an early twenty-first-century theory of goodness, which claims to be a descendant of Aristotle’s: namely, Philippa Foot’s theory of ‘natural goodness’. Building on the work of Michael Thompson, Foot’s theory is a valiant attempt to capture goodness in naturalistic, neo-Aristotelian terms. But, as I shall argue, it is hampered by at least two major flaws: first, its reduction of natural to moral goodness, constituting a ‘short cut’ (as I shall call it) to the latter; and second—especially in its specifically Thompsonian form—its perilous closeness to neo-Kantian a priorism about the human ‘life form’.

Fall 2024

September 13:  Alison Reiheld, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

September 26: Anthony Skelton, Western University

TBA: Liz Jackson, Toronto Metropolitan University