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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.

This semester's talks will be held in the London-Paris room of the International Living and Learning Centre.


Kelly Oliver “deconstructs” the opposition between humanitarian space and national sovereignty, and between humanitarian aid and humanitarian war, to diagnose a new form of humanitarianism, namely carceral humanitarianism. Carceral humanitarianism has replaced any properly political solution to the “refugee crisis” by turning it into a matter humanitarian aid or charity, on the one hand, and of national security, on the other, thereby justifying military interventions. In so far as the military and humanitarian aid organizations work together to deliver, manage, and police food, water, shelter, medical care to refugees, humanitarian aid is the flip side of humanitarian war.


  • Tuesday, October 17th, 3:00-5:00pm: Catherine Chalier (Universite Paris Nanterre): "The Invisible in Secular Society: Emmanuel Levinas".

Drawing on the philosophies of Henry Corbin and Emmanuel Levinas, Catherine Chalier argues that an orientation to the invisible is indispensable to the advent of the human self in its non-substitutable uniqueness. Without it, the very fact of individuation would be forever mutilated. Is a theophanic reading of the world acceptable in modern secular societies? Maybe yes if we understand it not as discovering a presence that would impose itself on perception, but as feeling and experiencing an absence, as being overwhelmed by it to such a degree that our own skeptical certainties are overcome and our life, its creations and loves, are altered by it.


  • Friday, November 17th, 11:00am-1:00pm, Eli Diamond (Department of Classics, Dalhousie): “Goodness, Beauty, and the Tragedy of Language: How to Read Agathon’s Speech in Plato’s Symposium”.

Note: the location for this talk will be SLC Room 516, 341 Yonge Street

Abstract: Agathon's speech in Plato's Symposium has not been well-received by interpreters. It is usually dismissed as a piece of purely formal sophistry which adds little or nothing to the unfolding argument of the Symposium. The sophistic flavour of the speech cannot be denied; stylistically deeply influenced by the sophist Gorgias, the arguments themselves, if they can even be called arguments, are often outrageously fallacious. Yet it is strange that Agathon's speech would receive such a prominent place between the two most profound speeches on love in the dialogue, if it were itself as superficial and empty as many readers have thought. In this presentation I will suggest that we ought to read Agathon not as a sophist, but as the second-generation tragic poet he was in reality, whose dramatic triumph is the very occasion for the symposium on love. We ought to take Socrates at his word about the speech; its beautiful poetic technique, which strives to disclose an object of superlative beauty and goodness, is full of truth, if only Agathon could see that it does not actually capture the nature of love, but rather of love's ultimate object. Without knowing it, Agathon has thus given us a precise and illuminating ode to the Good and the Beautiful as the ultimate object of all eros. His poetic technique is to use the everyday language humans use to discuss their experience within space, time, body, multiplicity, and nature, in order to show how this superlative and excessive object breaks down our everyday language. This poetic turning of human language and concepts against themselves to uncover a divine principle beyond their limitations and partiality, I shall argue, is a fundamentally tragic movement, and the view of love emerging from the speech is thus exactly the one we would expect from one of the great tragic poets of his age.

  • MUSIC TALK: Friday, November 17th, 4:00-6:00pm, Eli Diamond (Department of Classics, Dalhousie): "Prince and his Revolutions”

: Prince was one of the most prolific, versatile, and idiosyncratic musical artists of the 20th century. His worldview is a strange combination of extreme carnal hedonism, intense Christian spirituality, anti-institutional and largely apolitical cosmopolitanism; it is a Dionysian call to meet God in a place beyond traditional binaries and political or institutional conventions. He calls for and embodies the questioning of these oppositions, between the holy and the mundane, the spirit and the flesh, female and male, among racial differences, among distinct musical genres. In the wake of his recent death, this lecture will explore what makes Prince distinctive as a songwriter, musician, lyricist, and cultural icon, and will heavily feature clips from some of his most important recordings and performances. The presentation should of interest to Prince fanatics and skeptics alike. 


  • Tuesday, November 21st, 3:00-5:00, Wolfram Gobsch (University of Leipzig, Germany): "Kant’s Theory of Radical Evil".

: In the Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason, Kant claims that no human being is ever morally good. In my talk I will answer the following three questions about this astonishing pronouncement. First, what are Kant’s reasons for it? Second, how does he take it to be compatible with the doctrine, vital to his ethics, that we practically know ourselves to be free in the sense of being capable of acting morally? And third, why does he restrict this pronouncement of universal moral evil to human beings? Without answers to at least the first two questions, we will be hard pressed not to agree with Paul Guyer’s remarkably uncharitable verdict that Kant’s claim rests “on an odd mixture of empirical evidence and the lingering grip of the Christian doctrine of original sin".




Previous Visiting Speakers (with Videos of Some Presentations)



  • Peter van Inwagen (Notre Dame / Duke): "What Are We Talking about When We Talk about Free Will?", Friday, April 28th, 2017.
  • Gabriel Citron (University of Toronto): " ‘The Problem of Life’: Wittgenstein on the Difficulty of Honest Happiness", Wednesday, March 15th, 2017.
  • Tom Spector (Oklahoma State): "When the Better it is, the Worse it is: On Architecture and Moral Agency", Tuesday, March 7th, 2017. [VIDEO]
  • Graeme Nicholson (Toronto): "The Essence of Truth", Tuesday, Feb 28th, 2017. [VIDEO]
  • Joel Michael Reynolds (Emory University): "The Future of Bioethics: Ableism and the Life Worth Living", Tuesday, Feb 7th, 2017. [VIDEO]
  • Timothy Stock (Salisbury): "(A Very) Weak Martyrdom: The Comic as Public Philosophy", Tuesday, Jan 24th, 2017.
  • 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.