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Visiting Speaker Series

Every semester, our department invites several guest speakers to lecture on various topics. All lectures are free, and are open to all members of the community and to the general public. Some talks are given in-person; others are via Zoom.

If you have questions about this speaker series, please contact this year's organizer, Dr. Pirachiula Chulamon (

Winter 2023 Schedule

Title:          "Weaving Politics"
Speaker:    Jill Frank, external link (Cornell University) 
When:        Tuesday, January 31st, 3:00-5:00
Where:       Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, 2nd floor boardroom.

Abstract: The weaving paradigm in Plato’s Statesman is often understood as underwriting a kingly (if not authoritarian) statesman and a statecraft of command and obedience. Taking the Eleatic xēnos’ paradigm of weaving as a provocation to interrogate the craft of weaving as it was actually practiced in ancient Greece, we draw on literary and archaeological evidence showing, contra the xenos’ representation, that weaving separates without cutting, combines without subordinating, and intertwines not by producing unanimity but by accommodating difference in unity. We argue that the dialogue as a whole endorses the statecraft for which actual weaving is a paradigm, one that rules not via kingly command and obedience, or by mastery and subordination, but through conjoint and cooperative practices of ordering that unfold, as does fabric, through the fabrication process itself.

Title:          [CANCELLED] "Universality, Necessity, and Progress: Marx and the Problem of History"
Speaker:    Amy Allen, external link (Penn State)
When:        Tuesday, February 28th, 3:00-5:00
Where:       Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, 2nd floor boardroom. 

Abstract: In response to postcolonial critiques of the Eurocentrism of Marx's theory of history, a new wave of scholarship has questioned whether Marx held on to this theory in his late work. Scholars have argued that in Marx's late journalistic and ethnographic writings, his teleological and stadial theory of universal history gives way to a multilinear and non-Eurocentric view. In this lecture, I argue that the theory of history that is employed in Marx's early work has three distinct components: universality, necessity, and progress. Although all three of these elements are combined in Marx's early work, they can be disaggregated, and, importantly, rejecting one of them doesn't necessarily entail rejecting the other two. In Marx's late work, in fact, what we find is a multilinear view of the history that nevertheless remains committed to claims about historical necessity and progress. 
Title:          "The First Acts of Kantian Cognition"
Speaker:   Thomas Pendlebury, external link (University of Pittsburgh)
When:       Tuesday, March 21, 3:00-5:00
Where:      Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, 2nd floor boardroom. 

Abstract: When Kant seems to define capacities like sensibility and the understanding, he mentions only some of their representations, and not even the ones with which he is apparently most concerned. Many commentators have concluded, reasonably enough, that these characterizations aren’t definitions after all. I explain why they are definitions and why it’s important. Belonging to each Kantian capacity is a system of acts with a determinate structure, but the capacity is properly defined in terms of only one of them. I defend this claim in application to his definition of the understanding as the capacity to judge.

Fall 2022 Schedule

Title:         "Metaontology and Temporality in Heidegger: Problems and Prospects"
Speaker:   Tarek Dika, external link (University of Toronto
When:      Wednesday, Nov. 30th, 3:00-5:00
Where:     Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, 2nd floor boardroom. 

Abstract: 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. 

Title:         "Trauma's Empty Promise"
Speaker:   Dian Million, external link (Washington)
When:      Wednesday, Nov. 23rd, 3:00-5:00
Where:     Online [Zoom link, external link]

Abstract: By the twenty-first century trauma had become a portmanteau—a catch-all concept that serves to read, diagnose, and ‘treat’ disparate bodily, psychological, and social harms to individuals and groups. I challenge us to look again at what trauma is. Here, I rework my earlier reading on our Indigenous encounter with trauma in my text Therapeutic Nations: Healing in an Age of Indigenous Human Rights to extend my assessment of our intergenerational well-being in North America. Trauma articulates with globalized liberal humanitarianism as it ebbs and stalls in its logics of care. Trauma is inadequate as a theory for the scale of death and dissolution that racial capitalism occludes in programs for individual subjective healing. I contend that trauma as a concept masks a deeply embedded racial capitalist motive for settler colonialism operationalized against Black, immigrant, and Indigenous peoples.

Title:         "Cohen and Heidegger on Principles and Anarchy"
Speaker:   Miguel Vatter, external link (Deakin University) 
When:       Tuesday, Sept. 13th, 3:00-5:00
Where:     Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, 2nd floor boardroom.

Abstract:  In his book Le principe d’anarchie Reiner Schürmann put forward the hypothesis that Martin Heidegger’s “overcoming” of metaphysics was intended to emancipate action from its derivative status with regard to principles (arche), and in so doing render back to action its inherent relation to anarchy (an-arche). According to Schürmann, the latter insight was developed systematically by Hannah Arendt. In this paper I suggest that, strictly speaking, it is Hermann Cohen who first developed something like a “principle of anarchy”. In this sense, my paper picks up from Franz Rosenzweig’s paradoxical and controversial last philosophical pronouncement before his early death, according to which in his disputation against Cassirer at Davos, Heidegger adopted the “position of our new thinking that lies wholly in the line descending from that ‘last Cohen’.” I argue that in order to appreciate both the divergences and surprising affinities between Cohen and Heidegger, one is best served by focussing on their interpretations of Plato and Aristotle, rather than on their interpretations of Kant. In the first part of the paper I discuss how Cohen’s philosophical anarchism brings together Plato’s conception of the Idea with the Jewish elaboration of the Messianic idea. In the second part, I offer an analysis of Heidegger’s interpretation of The Sophist where he is most explicit in explaining the philosophical relation between Plato and Aristotle, and its political and theological implications.

Title:           “Is this Me? A Story about Personal Identity from a 4th Century Mādhyamika Treatise”
Speaker:     Jonardon Ganeri, external link (University of Toronto)
When:        Tuesday, October 4th, 3:00-5:00
Where:       Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, Great Hall (Main Floor)
Abstract: In a Buddhist Mādhyamika treatise from around the fourth century CE there is a very remarkable story which serves as a thought experiment calling us to question the nature of self and the identity of persons. Lost in Sanskrit, the passage is fortunately preserved in a Chinese translation, the Dà zhìdù lùn. I will discuss the philosophical significance of the story in its historical and literary context. I emphasise the philosophical importance of embedding the story in two framing narratives, and demonstrate that the story taps a range of intuitions, and indeed fears, about the survival of the self which have also played a large role in the history of the topic in the West, and which continue to be of great contemporary concern.



Archive of Previous Visiting Speakers

  • Joan Tronto (Political Science, University of Minnesota), “Democracy and Care”, March 13, 2012.
  • John Lysaker (Emory University), “The Constellational Self: An Outline”, February 28, 2012.
  • John Hacker-Wright (University of Guelph), “Human Nature, Virtue, and Rationality”, February 7, 2012.
  • David Morris (Concordia University), “Sense, Development, and Passivity: Merleau-Ponty’s Transformations of Philosophy”, November 25, 2011.
  • Adrian Haddock (Stirling University), “Self-Consciousness and Rule-Following”, November 22, 2011.
  • John Turri (University of Waterloo), “Suberogatory Assertions”, October 18, 2011.
  • Bruce Gilbert (Bishop’s University), “Contradiction and the Fluidity of Life: Case Studies from Logic and Ethics”, September 27, 2011.
  • Sarah Stroud (McGill University), “They Can't Take That Away From Me: Restricting the Reach of Morality's Demands”, September 20, 2011.