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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. Pirachula Chulanon (

All events will be in-person, and will take place at the Arts & Letters Club, 14 Elm St.

Winter 2024 Schedule

February 1, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: "Hegel on Ethicality, Conscience, and Colonialism"
Speaker: Shannon Hoff (external link)  (Memorial University)

Abstract: I believe that Hegel’s philosophy—particularly his analysis of ethical life and conscience—has tremendous resources for addressing political problems it may not have been particularly alive to, and that to jettison these resources in the name of his apparent lack of concern for these problems may very well be philosophically and politically irresponsible. I also believe that the insights of Hegel’s philosophy that are particularly useful for political issues can themselves guide the question of how to think about Hegel’s relevance today for these issues. Thus this paper takes both its method and its content from its two central concepts: ethical life and conscience. Methodologically, I will speak within and of a traditional resource (in the mode of ethical life), but mobilized by critiques of its exclusionary character (in the mode of conscientious communication). Regarding content, I will put the ideas of ethical life and conscience in conversation with thinkers of colonialism, for the purpose of elaborating a critical orientation within the Western tradition to its own colonial tendencies: 1) with Saba Mahmood and Lila Abu-Lughod, I will show how anti-colonial critique of Western feminist conceptions of freedom can reveal the anti-colonial resonance of ethical life; and 2) with Frantz Fanon and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I will show how challenges to the colonial operation of liberal ideals can reveal the anti-colonial resonance of conscience. To conclude, we will analyze what Hegel himself says about cultures other than his own.

February 15, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: "Epistemic Trust and Civil Disobedience"
Speaker: Susan Dieleman (external link)  (University of Lethbridge)

Abstract: Evidence exists of a relationship between political trust and civil disobedience, though what that relationship and what political trust itself consists in remains underdeveloped. In this presentation, I aim to clarify the concept of political trust, and its relationship to civil disobedience in turn, by examining the specifically epistemic dimensions of our political relationships.

March 14, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: "Armed Self-Defense"
Speaker Derrick Darby (external link)  (Rutgers University)

Abstract: Drawing on Robert F. Williams, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., I will address two questions: What is armed self-defense? Is it the answer to racist violence? This talk is part of a larger project examining the case made in black political thought for taking up arms for defensive purposes.


March 21, 3:10-5:00 p.m. (This session is co-hosted by the Society for Women of Ideas (external link) .)
Title: "Out of Touch: Finding Our Way with a Praxis of Sensible Attention"
Speaker: Rebecca Rozelle-Stone (external link)  (University of North Dakota)

Abstract: For those of us living in industrialized countries, our social, political, and existential present can be characterized as being “out of touch.” Our being-out-of-touch can be understood in a double fashion. In one sense, we are more mediated than ever by screens and virtual worlds, and accordingly, we are more disconnected from the earth and its creatures, including fellow persons, and from our multiple senses—particularly touch. The Covid-19 pandemic only exacerbated a growing trend towards isolation, privatization, and desensitization in relation to the sensuous world. In another sense, growing numbers of us are out of touch with reality. Delusion is an increasingly significant element in the social-political zeitgeist, shaping policies and election outcomes, and supplanting distraction as the primary mental debility of our time. Two recent books address each of these tendencies: Richard Kearney’s Touch: Recovering Our Most Vital Sense (2021) and Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World (2023). This paper argues that these two phenomena are inherently connected, and it does so by drawing on the rich thought of Simone Weil, whose concepts of the void, the falsifying imagination, necessity, limit, and attention have much to recommend in diagnosing and addressing our current crisis of touch. However, I argue that we must extend Weil’s idea of attention-as-looking to include a more holistic praxis of sensible attentiveness, since the primacy of vision has, for some time, been a major factor in putting us out of touch with the world. 


March 26, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: Intellectual Goods: A “Natural Perfectionist” Account
Speaker: Tom Angier (external link)  (University of Cape Town)

Abstract: In this paper, I shall argue that our intellectual powers have natural perfections, which are tantamount to goods. Drawing on Aristotle's teleological essentialism, I will maintain that such goods are good both in and for humans. I shall argue further that although they are pre-"moral" in kind, any moral theory must presuppose them. For in brief, they articulate key (intentional) aspects of human nature. And it is human nature that lies at the root of moral theory. 

April 11, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: "Accept No Substitutes: Against Best-System Theories without Naturalness"
Speaker: Ted Sider (external link)  (Rutgers University)  

Abstract: According to the best-system theory, a law of nature is nothing more than a certain kind of pattern in what actually happens.  Out of all the possible "systems'' (sets of sentences), there is one that does a better job than all of the others in summarizing a lot of what actually happens in a simple way; the sentences in this best system, according to the best-system theory, are the laws of nature.  David Lewis's version of this idea appealed to a distinction between natural and non-natural properties.  But various people have objected that this opens up an epistemic gap between science and metaphysics, and have gone on to propose versions of the best-system theory that do not appeal to naturalness.  I defend Lewis's version of the best-system theory against the objection, and discuss various problems confronting naturalness-free versions.

April 12, 12:00-2:00pm
Title: "It's All About the Land"
Speaker: Dr. Taiaiake Alfred

Abstract: Illuminating First Nations struggles against the Canadian state, Taiaiake Alfred’s new book, It’s All about the Land, exposes how racism underpins and shapes Indigenous-settler relationships and explains how the Canadian government’s reconciliation agenda is a new form of colonization that is guaranteed to fail. Bringing together arguments and themes in speeches and interviews from over the past two decades, this talk will focus on how Indigenous peoples across the world face a stark choice: reconnect with their authentic cultures and values or continue following a slow road to annihilation. Taiaiake’s perspective is rooted in ancestral spirit, decades of experiential knowledge, and respect for the original laws and governance of the Haudenosaunee peoples. This talk, like all the speech events in It’s All about the Land, will present a passionate argument for Indigenous Resurgence as the pathway toward justice for Indigenous peoples.

Fall 2023 Schedule

Thursday, October 26, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: "Is Ancient Stoicism Anthropocentric?"
Speaker: Bernard Collette (external link)  (Université Laval)

Abstract: Ancient Stoicism's position regarding man's place in the world is usually considered to be anthropocentric. In the past, the Australian philosopher John Passmore went so far as to hold the Stoa responsible for theorizing man's domination of nature. The label of anthropocentrism has recently been questioned by certain commentators who favour instead that of logocentrism, which they take to be better adapted to Stoicism. In this talk, I intend to look at this issue afresh and show that none of these labels actually fits the Stoa’s stance. Indeed, according to our best source (Cicero's De natura deorum), it is not man but the world itself which is the main object of divine providence, and man's principal task is, through contemplation of the world, to contribute to the development of its biodiversity and, in doing so, its beauty.
Thursday, November 9, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: "Toward a Behavioral Account of Social Institutions".
Speaker: Megan Stotts (external link)  (McMaster University).

Abstract: Social institutions—such as governments, universities, and religious organizations—often seem as real to us as mountains, oceans, and forests. And yet, it’s clear that social institutions are real in an importantly different, more human-dependent way. The question motivating my talk is the following: what, precisely, makes it the case that social institutions exist? The dominant view in the literature for quite some time has been the collective acceptance approach, according to which social institutions exist because we collectively have certain thoughts about them. I argue that this emphasis on the mental in the metaphysics of social institutions is a mistake. I will raise problems for the collective acceptance approach, as well as for some related approaches that have been touted as the best replacements for it. Lest my arguments undermining these approaches to the metaphysics of social institutions seem to also undermine our ability to give such a metaphysics at all, I end by sketching an alternative approach: focusing only on observable behavior, with no role for mental states.
Tuesday, November 21, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: Racists, Fascists, and Other Dejects: Authoritarianism Reconsidered"

Speaker: Noëlle McAfee (external link)  (Emory University)

Abstract: For nearly two decades I have been using psychoanalytic theory to identify the underlying causes of virulent nationalist and intransigent politics throughout the world. Such authoritarian politics have taken many forms. But whether we are in the company of colonizers, fascists, racists, or sexists, we are, I believe, encountering people who are unable to tolerate ambiguity, forever splitting and dichotomizing, hailing some things as perfect and other things as demonic, and out of their own immense insecure being, demanding that they are superior to others. The authoritarian is what I call a deject or stray, raised in a world where authority was conflated with brute power. They are caught in a mire of abjection. And out of that mire they try to dichotomize and hierarchize the world, to get their bearings by dominating those they deem abject. Here I explore how authoritarianism is the product patriarchal power, which in the literature is often enmeshed with the paternal function of the Oedipus Complex. Neither Freud nor the early Frankfurt School paid enough attention to this conflation and instead looked at phenomena such as ego weakness and regression to explain authoritarianism. In this presentation I argue that, if we are to truly address the roots of authoritarianism, we need to conceptualize a paternal function that is generative and opens on to a more positive, world-building politics.
Thursday, November 30, 3:10-5:00 p.m.
Title: "Transcendental Arguments and Metacritical Thinking"
Speaker: Anil Gomes (external link)  (University of Oxford)

Abstract: What is the status of Kant’s claims about the nature of the mind? This question was central to the development of analytic philosophy at the start of the twentieth century and it later resurfaces in the resurgence of interest in Kant’s work prompted by P.F. Strawson’s The Bounds of Sense. Kant’s contemporaries too pressed this question and thought it could only be answered by a metacritique. In this talk, I’ll sketch some of the ways in which metacritical challenges were presented to Kant in twentieth-century analytic philosophy with the aim of drawing out some of the commonalities and differences between Kant’s methodology and that of his critics. The hope will be to highlight a set of substantive issues about the role that the first-person perspective should play in philosophical theorising about the nature of the mind.



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.