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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.

Paper Title:     The Unfolding of Empiricism in India
Date / Time:   February 26th, 3-5pm. 
Location:        ILLC, Paris-Vienna Room
Speaker:        Dr. Charles Goodman (Binghamton)

Abstract: Buddhist epistemologists in India were committed to a form of empiricism. Through the unfolding of this key tenet, they would make a series of intellectual discoveries – and also, it could be argued, several important mistakes – that anticipate parallel developments in the British empiricist tradition. Views found in both of these traditions include utilitarianism, idealism, and bundle theory of self. Perhaps the most striking of these parallels is the appearance in Indian Buddhism of a regularity theory of causation. This view may have been first proposed by Vasubandhu, and is explained in detail and with great sophistication in the Tattvasaṃgraha of Śāntarakṣita. Śāntarakṣita’s presentation of regularity theory suggests a surprising hypothesis about his attitude toward Nāgārjuna. The nature of the Buddhist regularity theory, together with the epistemological tradition’s rejection of realism about universals, may also be able to shed light on the famous puzzle of Dharmakīrti’s willingness to countenance the possibility that causation itself might be conventional.
Paper Title:     Notes Towards a Humanism from Below
Date / Time:   March 5th, 3-5pm. 
Location:        ILLC, Paris-Vienna Room
Speaker:        Dr. Jeff Noonan (Windsor)

Abstract: The paper begins from a very general definition of humanism: the attempt to derive evaluative criteria about the good life from universal conceptions of human nature. I then investigate—in a very open-ended way—a divergent understanding in the history of humanism of what is most salient about human nature. Those I will call humanists “from above” have posited a divine element within the human, towards which we must aspire. Others, humanists “from below,” look to the human body, its needs and the connections that it forges between human beings, the earth, and each other as the source of standards of good lives. The talk, I hope, will be the beginning of a new project that will explore the history, content, and philosophical and political potential of this idea of humanism from below.
Paper Title:     Rethinking the Temporality and Imaginaries of Death - Some Philosophical Considerations
Date / Time:   March 26th, 3-5pm. 
Location:        ILLC, Paris-Vienna Room
Speaker:         Dr. Margrit Shildrick (Stockholm) 

Abstract: My presentation will follow a philosophical examination of the uncared-for dead – with reference to the recent public revulsion in the face of disclosures about Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes – by looking at the issue of spectrality through the work of Derrida and others. What does it mean to respond to the dead, who, though temporarily forgotten, return to haunt us not as remembered human beings but as remnants or remainders? The distinctions between past and present; past, present and future; between living and non-living; absence and presence; and self and other are all made indistinct when the chrononormativity of the life course from being born to dying is displaced by a non-linear temporality. What differential is in play with respect to those who are grievable (as Butler has it) and the others – the abandoned mothers and babies - who constitute bare life (Agamben)? The re/discovery (for they never went away) of those lost to public discourse invokes a new sense of civic obligation to recover their voices and stories, and then to rebury them so that they (or rather we) may rest in peace. I will suggest first that such a strategy simply re-enacts the original offence of putting women in their place and fails on the grounds of both responsibility and justice. But is an alternative hauntological ethics, as suggested by Derrida, the only way forward? Are there social imaginaries that allow us to live well with the dead not because we give them respect, but because death itself has been rethought? I will close with some speculations arising from Deleuze’s understanding of vitalism and Braidotti’s optimistic claim that ‘death frees us into life’.


Previous Visiting Speakers (with Videos of Some Presentations)



  • Tuesday, November 20th, 3:00-5:00pm: Dr. Rohit Dalvi (Brock), "Against Understanding, Or How to Refuse 'Planetary Thinking'."
  • Tuesday, October 2nd, 3:00-5:00pm: Dr. William Clare Roberts (McGill), "Marx's Politics of Freedom".
  • Tuesday, September 25th, 3:00-5:00pm: Dr. Eric Sanday (Kentucky), "Myth and Concept in Ancient Greek Philosophy." [Video]
  • Tuesday, April 18th, 3:30-5:00, Dominic Martin (Université du Québec à Montréal), “Artificial Intelligence and Moral Decision-Making.”
  • Tuesday, April 10th, 3:30-5:00, David Barnett (Toronto), "Higher-Order Evidence is the Wrong Kind of Reason."
  • Tuesday, November 21st, 3:00-5:00, Wolfram Gobsch (University of Leipzig, Germany): "Kant’s Theory of Radical Evil".
  • 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”. [VIDEO]
  • Tuesday, October 17th, 3:00-5:00pm: Catherine Chalier (Universite Paris Nanterre): "The Invisible in Secular Society: Emmanuel Levinas".
  • Friday, October 13th, 3:00-5:00pm: Kelly Oliver (Vanderbilt) "Detaining Refugees: Deconstructing Carceral Humanitarianism”.  [VIDEO-Part 1] [VIDEO-Part 2]


  • 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.