All colloquia are on Friday afternoons, 3:30pm in 115 Peabody unless otherwise noted, light refreshments follow in the atrium unless otherwise noted
March 29, 2017 - Rohan Sikri (DePaul University), "The Ailment of Knowledge Therapeutic Strategies in the Zhuāngzǐ Nèipiān"
The Daoist classic Zhuāngzǐ is widely acknowledged for its brazen rejection of Confucian and Mohist epistemologies. Scholars have frequently read its systematic dismantling of the very claim to knowledge (zhī 知), and the methods of dialectical ‘debate’ (biàn 辯) through which such a claim takes form, as evidence of either its anti-rationalist spirit or a doctrine of radical skepticism that its authors adopt. Yet, the text also exhibits a more positive strain in the skill-stories and exemplary figures it uses to foreground a “greater knowledge (dà zhī 大知)” and a deeper “illumination (míng 明)” or insight that is upheld and indeed celebrated. How should one accommodate these two apparently contradictory exercises undertaken in the Zhuāngzǐ?
In my talk, I situate the critical sections of the text in the larger arena of discourse formation in the Warring States era. A discernible feature of this intellectual landscape is the intersection of medical and philosophical genres of thinking and writing. When read against this backdrop, the authors of the core anthology of the Zhuāngzǐ, known as the Nèipiān or Inner Chapters, appear to consciously engage a medical vernacular to model their treatment of epistemological problems. Questions of epistemology, then, are coextensive with questions of sickness and health, and it is accordingly under the category of a pathology that the authors classify the philosopher’s drive to knowledge and the dialectical methods used. My argument does not make the case, however, that the Zhuāngzǐ thereby adopts a therapeutic program that is anti-rationalist in spirit. Rather, I hope to show how the Inner Chapters utilize a therapeutic discourse to transform the very dialectic of ‘debate’ into a practice that “nurtures life (yǎngshēng 養生).”
April 7, 2017 - William Maker (Clemson University) “'By any means necessary?': Hegel and Malcolm X on the Legitimate Use of Violence"
Malcolm X advocated for African-Americans to attain self-sufficiency and pride through developing solidarity with other African Americans, opposing the racially inclusive position of Martin Luther King. He also argued for their right to use violence in self-defense. Hegel contends that since slaves lack recognition as persons they have no moral obligations to their masters, and history illustrates slaves rebelling and slaying their masters in order to achieve freedom and a prospect for recognition as persons and rights holders. Since Malcolm X and others in the civil rights struggle were fighting not against slavery but against laws which established a society where African-Americans were de jure but not de facto citizens with full rights, is his case for legitimate violence correct? What is the significance of Malcolm X’s and Hegel’s views now as we witness a resurgence of ethnic and racial identity politics and exclusionary nationalism, increased violence against minorities and the growth here and in Europe of xenophobic nationalism?
April 14, 2017 - David Birks (University of Oxford; University of Kiel) "Benefiting Offenders"
According to a commonly held view, it is at least prima facie morally objectionable for the state to interfere with our own self-regarding choices with the aim of benefiting us. For instance, it would be objectionable for the state to ban a food with a high fat content, or to force us to take daily exercise for our own good. In this paper, I focus on the following two related questions: If it is impermissible to prevent an innocent person from harming herself, is it impermissible to prevent a criminal offender from doing the same? Similarly, if it is impermissible to compel an innocent person to pursue activities that benefit her, is it also impermissible to compel the same from a criminal offender?
Both questions concern the permissibility of paternalistic behaviour, which is thought to be morally objectionable regardless of whether a person has committed a criminal offence. I argue that even if we hold that at least some paternalistic behaviour is impermissible when direct towards innocent persons, in certain cases, the same behaviour is permissible when directed towards criminal offenders. I also defend the claim that it is morally preferable to behave paternalistically towards offenders than to impose traditional methods of punishment.
Recent Past Colloquia:
February 10, 2017 - Linda Alcoff (Hunter College City University of New York), "American Exceptionalism as White Exceptionalism"
February 24, 2017 - George Rainbolt (Georgia State University), “Freedom of Association: The Case for Mostly Open Borders”
September 16, 2016 - Eva Brann (St. John’s College), “Depth vs. Complexity”
August 26, 2016 - Jennifer Ryan Lockhart (Auburn), “Sexual Exclusivity and Procreative Practice”
August 19, 2016 - Melissa Lane, “Antianarchia:Iinterpreting Political Thought in Plato”
April 29, 2016 - Emily McRae, ”Emotion, Affliction, and Perception: A Tibetan Buddhist Account of the Psychology of Oppression”