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Department of Philosophy

Visiting Speakers

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. Inquiries about the Visiting Speaker Series should be directed to its coordinator, Prof. Glenn Parsons.


Winter 2017 Schedule                                                                                                                                           ____                                                   ____                                   


  • Tuesday, Jan 24, 3-5pm, SLC508, Timothy Stock (Salisbury): "(A Very) Weak Martyrdom: The Comic as Public Philosophy"

: The idea of “public philosophy” has received widespread attention in recent years.  Though various itineraries for public philosophy are only loosely connected, basic to all, I claim, is the notion that philosophy must occur in significantly altered or entirely new forms.  I look in detail at one such form: public philosophy as comic caricature, with the paradigmatic example of Søren Kierkegaard cartoons that appeared in The Corsair from 1845 until well after his death, and which he described as a part of his “martyrdom to laughter”.  I will advocate a (very) weak form of such comic martyrdom, wherein we engage with public caricatures of philosophy rather than seek to exclude them.  By extension several contemporary comic artists, such as Alison Bechdel, Kate Beaton, Sydney Padua, and others, could be considered public philosophers.


  • Tuesday, Feb 7th, 3-5pm, SLC508, Joel Michael Reynolds (Emory University): "The Future of Bioethics: Ableism and the Life Worth Living"

Abstract: Disability bioethicists have long assailed mainstream bioethical inquiry for misunderstanding and misrepresenting experiences of disability. Despite notable gains, both commonsense and sophisticated forms of ableism endure. Drawing on and expanding the work of first- and second-generation philosophers of disability, I argue that the future of antiableist bioethics and philosophy is one based on ability as access, rejection of the ableist conflation, and the mutual principles of corporeal pluralism, epistemic responsibility, and hedonic equifinality.


  • Tuesday, Feb 28th, 3-5pm, SLC508, Graeme Nicholson (Toronto): "The Essence of Truth"

I shall review two early steps in Heidegger’s study of the essence of truth. My aim is to show why his conception of essence, Wesen, has the power to propel the study into several further variants of truth. This paper is extracted from a forthcoming book: Heidegger on the Essence of Truth: The Fate of Alētheia.

  • Tuesday, Mar 7th, 3-5pm, SLC508, Tom Spector (Oklahoma State): "When the Better it is, the Worse it is: On Architecture and Moral Agency"

It would be foolish to blame the file cabinet for the nefarious use of the contents held within. But on the other hand, are we not justified in a holding a confrontational attitude towards a building when its very form helps legitimate an immoral purpose? We will be attempting to navigate a path between complete moral autonomism towards artefacts which holds that agency, and hence, accountability, can only be rightly placed on humans and accounts which attempt to include objects in moral judgments. The difficult case of the antebellum Greek Revival mansions of the slave-holding South will form the narrative backbone of this discussion from which we hope to generalize some concepts concerning the moral agency of architecture to carry into the future.  

  • Wednesday, March 15th, 2-4pm, SLC508, Gabriel Citron (University of Toronto): " ‘The Problem of Life’: Wittgenstein on the Difficulty of Honest Happiness"

In August 1916, in the trenches of the First World War, Wittgenstein asked himself in his notebook: “How can man be happy at all, since he cannot ward off the misery of this world?” He came to call this ‘the problem of life’, and it occupied him profoundly until his death in 1951. I will seek to show that, for Wittgenstein, the problem of life is grounded in the terrifying fragility of all life’s goods, including even its most basic tolerability. For he thought that if we truly appreciated the radical insecurity of everything we hold dear, we would likely be overcome with such anxiety that this would poison even those times when things were otherwise going well. As well as reconstructing Wittgenstein’s conception of the problem, I will try to ward off a number of potential objections, and conclude that Wittgenstein succeeds in posing a strong pessimistic challenge to the possibility of happiness which deserves to be taken seriously.


  • Friday, April 28th, 3-5pm, EPH142, Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame / Duke): "What Are We Talking about When We Talk about Free Will?"

The topic of this paper is the effect that confused thinking has had on the language in which the free-will problem has been framed and discussed in recent philosophy. The thesis of the paper is that this language, this family of interwoven technical terms, has, as a consequence of this confused thinking, been corrupted—has in fact become hopelessly corrupt.


Previous Visiting Speakers (and Videos of Some Presentations)

  • Rebecca Comay (Toronto) "'Our Heritage Was Left to us Without a Testament’ — or is it the Other Way Around?”, Tuesday November 15th, 2016.
  • Samantha Brennan (UWO), “Ethics and Our Early Years: Making Decisions for Children as if Childhood Really Mattered", Thursday November 10th, 2016. [VIDEO]
  • Eric Marcus (Auburn), "Reconciling Practical Knowledge with Self-Deception", November 1st, 2016.
  • Matthias Fritsch (Concordia), "Do Gifts Obligate a Return? Indirect Reciprocity in Deconstruction and Intergenerational Economics", October 4th, 2016.


  • Jonathan Parry (Birmingham), "Consent and the Justification of Defensive Harm", March 24th, 2016. [VIDEO]
  • Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern), "Experts and Peer Disagreement", March 22nd, 2016. [VIDEO]
  • Kirsten Jacobson (Maine), “The Living Arena of Existential Health: Space, Autonomy, and Embodiment", March 15th, 2016. [VIDEO]
  • Francisco Gonzalez (Ottawa), "The Other Plato: Heidegger's Reading of the Parmenides, the Phaedrus, and the Theatetus in the 1930s", February 9th, 2016. [VIDEO]
  • Allen Patten (Princeton), "How to Justify Religious Accommodations: A Liberal Egalitarian Approach”, February 2nd, 2016. [VIDEO]
  • Frank Cunningham (University of Toronto), “Public Space and Walter Benjamin's Philosophy of Cities”, December 1st, 2015. [VIDEO]
  • Emily Carson (McGill), “The Mathematical Method from Leibniz to Kant”, November 24th, 2015.
  • Alia Al-Saji (McGill), “A Past that Lines the Present: Bergson, Merleau-Ponty and the Politics of the Past”, November 18th, 2015.
  • Daniel C. Russell (Arizona), “Putting Ideals in Their Place”, November 3rd, 2015. [VIDEO]

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