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Philosophy Department Speaker Series

Fall Term, 2018


Unless announced otherwise, all lectures will be held on Fridays at 3:30pm

Kenneth Taylor Hall 109


14 September: Katy Fulfer (University of Waterloo)

“Welcoming Refugees? Rootlessness, In-Betweenness, and Belonging”

Abstract: How do we responsibly welcome refugees into our political communities as active participants? Drawing on Origins of Totalitarianism, I begin with Hannah Arendt’s conception of rootlessness, which captures the experience of being geographically, culturally, and existentially uprooted from one’s place in the world. Some dimensions of rootlessness may persist when a refugee resettles in a new country, as resettlement does not guarantee political inclusion. Next, drawing on her 1943 essay “We Refugees,” I examine how assimilation is a strategy that refugees may employ to assert belonging. While Arendt reveals how assimilation perpetuates rootlessness, she tends to depict assimilation as a totalizing experience. To reveal possibilities for counter-resistance to forces of assimilation, I draw on Mariana Ortega’s (2016) phenomenology of in-betweenness, arguing that rootlessness is a mode of in-betweenness that can offer potential for resisting assimilation. Finally, I examine how memory and story-telling support refugees and welcomers in building political community together.


21 September: Waheed Hussain (University of Toronto)

“Pitting People Against Each Other”

Abstract: Many important institutions in liberal democracies today tend to be competitive, including labor markets, elections, and college admissions processes. Most people would agree that these arrangements are permissible, but most  would also agree that there are limits: a friendly competition is one thing; a life or death struggle is another. This paper develops a novel account of the political morality of competitive institutions. It shows that these institutions are sometimes morally defective simply in virtue of the intensity of their competitive character and that the defect cannot be explained simply in terms of familiar ideas, such as welfare, fairness or equality. It goes on to develop a new view. According to the fragmentation account, competitive institutions are morally defective when they seriously obstruct the form of solidaristic integration required by certain social relationships, such as marriage, academic collegiality or co-citizenship. The paper develops the political implications of the fragmentation account, showing how a “common good” conception of the political relationship can explain the moral limits on large-scale competitive institutions, e.g. college admissions.

28 September: Fabio Shecaira

“Methodological Deductivism in Argument Construction”  

Abstract. “Deductivism” is a broad label that has been used to identify various theories that emphasize the importance of deductive argument in contexts of rational discussion. This paper makes a case for a very specific form of deductivism, namely, methodological deductivism. The paper highlights the dialectical importance of advancing deductively valid arguments (with plausible premises) in natural-language reasoning. In the first two sections, I explain the various forms that deductivism has taken. Section 3 makes a case for methodological deductivism. Section 4 discusses the value of methodological deductivism in law. Section 5 concludes and acknowledges critical questions that need to be addressed more fully in future work.

5 October: No Speaker


12 October: Reading Week – No Speaker


19 October: Nicole Hassoun

“The Human Right to Health and the Virtue of Creative Resolve”

Abstract: The human right to health plays many important roles in national and international affairs. One such role is to inspire human rights advocates, claimants, and those with responsibility for fulfilling the right to try hard to satisfy its claims. That is, the right should, and often does, give rise to what I call the virtue of creative resolve. Hope supports this resolve which embodies a fundamental commitment to finding creative solutions to what appear to be tragic dilemmas. Contra critics, we should not reject the right even if it cannot tell us how to ration scarce health resources. Rather, the right gives us a response to apparent tragedy in motivating us to search for ways of fulfilling everyone’s basic health needs.

26 October: Nathan Adams

“Social Accommodation”

Abstract: David Lewis argued that scorekeeping in a language game is importantly different from scorekeeping in games like baseball because language follows a rule of accommodation. Accommodation is the phenomenon where a speaker’s utterance apparently violates some norm but the audience changes the conversational context such that the speaker is no longer in violation of the norm, allowing the conversation to proceed. This has most commonly been investigated with respect to presuppositions and the norm not to rely on unshared information. Rae Langton and others have extended Lewis’ idea to cover the accommodation of illocutionary acts and the norms governing felicitous illocution. I argue that we should continue this extension to the case of what I call social accommodation. Audiences will change the context, negotiating the speaker’s utterance, in order to render the speaker in conformity with social norms beyond those governing speech acts per se, including moral, religious, prudential, and many other types of norms. Social accommodation is one way that norms are implicitly imposed and sustained. This is especially important to see in the case of injustice, where pernicious norms can resist challenge in surprising ways.

2 November: Bob Guay

Abstract to follow

9 November: TBD

Abstract to follow

16 November: Tony Reeves

Abstract to follow

23 November: Sandra Lapointe

Abstract to follow

30 November: Rich Neels

Abstract to follow

     Speaker Series 17-18

Speaker Series 16-17 Term 1

Visiting Speaker Series 2015-2016

Visiting Speaker Series 2014-2015

Visiting Speaker Series 2013-2014

Visiting Speaker Series 2012-2013

Visiting Speaker Series 2011-2012