Philosophy Forum: 2019-20 season

Sept. 14: Susan Sontag: “Notes on Camp”
Susan Sontag’s essay “Notes on Camp” is a classic and arguably the definitive work on the phenomenon.

Oct. 19: Andrei Marmor: “Philosophy of Law”
Andrei Marmor argues that “The law is a rather unique normative system” and that “the main problem that has preoccupied philosophers of law” are questions about the very idea of legality or legal validity and about the concept of legal normativity.

Nov. 16: Aristotle: “Politics” (book IV)
What is the best form of government? Aristotle describes various forms, draws conclusions about the best for meeting people’s aspirations. Would we reach the same conclusions 2,370 years later?

Dec. 14: Vladimir Jankelevitch: “Music & the Ineffable”
Can music be described as ‘ineffable’ in some meaningful sense…?

Jan. 11: Plato: “The Symposium”
We will do a group reading of one of Plato’s most famous dialogues.

Feb. 8: David Seiple: “Socratic Moral Seriousness & a Community of Philosophers”
David Seiple is a long standing member of the Philosophy Forum and will present a new original essay on what it means to be a community of philosophers.

March 14: Daniel Little: “Evidence & Objectivity in the Social Sciences”
Daniel Little notes that “The concepts of objectivity, truth and the authority of empirical standards have come under serious challenge by some critics of the social sciences in the past several decades” and poses the question, “how do we derive conclusions about facts on the basis of evidence available to us…?

April 11: Alan Watts: “The Myopic View of the World”
Alan Watts was one of the most influential figures popularizing Asian philosophy in the West; in this essay, he examines the limitations of ‘Western’ thinking.

May 9: Marcel Proust:
Marcel Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu” is considered one of the great literary masterpieces of the 20th century; but is it possible that Proust has something of philosophical import to say that is relevant to us in the 21st century…?

June 13: Raymond Guess: “Philosophy & Real Politics”
In “Philosophy & Real Politics,” Raymond Geuss argues that philosophers should try to understand why real political actors behave as they actually do and that far from being applied ethics, politics is a skill that allows people to survive and pursue their goals. To understand politics is to understand the powers, motives, and concepts that people have and that shape how they deal with the problems they face in their particular historical situations.

Philosophy Forum: 2018-19 season

Sept. 8: Elizabeth Anderson, “Feminist Epistemology & Philosophy of Science”
Anderson, the leading feminist epistemologist focusing on the philosophy of science, challenges the masculinist discourse of power that undergirds the contemporary understanding of science. Instead, she offers situated modes of cognition that recognize the discursive regime of privilege and power that constitutes the ideology of scientism.

Oct. 13: Søren Kierkegaard: “Seducer’s Diary”
In this intense work, questions of love, marriage, the ethical versus the aesthetic, dread, and the severities of Christianity are pondered.

Nov. 10: “The Chomsky/Foucault Debate: Human Nature”
In 1971, Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault were invited to debate: Is there such a thing as “innate” human nature independent of our experiences and external influences?

Dec. 8: Susan Wolf & Richard Taylor: “The Meaning of Life”
“Meaning arises when subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness.” Should one be attracted to these ‘worthwhile things’? And what does it mean to engage them in a positive way?

Jan. 12: Niels Christian Hvidt: “The Historical Development of the Problem of Evil”
Hvidt addresses the question of theodicy, the central issue in the philosophy of religion, with significant implications for ethics and even metaphysics and epistemology.

Feb. 9: D.T. Suzuki: “The Question of War”
Suzuki is a Zen Buddhist philosopher, whose work on the question of war has aroused considerable controversy.

March 9: Michel de Montaigne “To Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die”
Montaigne says we should all be booted and spurred and ready to go. And philosophy can show us the way.

April 13: Walter Benjamin: “On the Concept of History”
Benjamin challenges the notion of “progress” embedded in the historical materialism of Karl Marx. Instead, he argues for a notion of “historicism” that contents itself with establishing a causal nexus of various moments of history.

May 11: Rob Van Gerwen: “Ethical Autonomism: The Work of Art as a Moral Agent”:
In this essay, Van Gerwen examines one of the central questions in the philosophy of art: whether works of art can and should be evaluated on moral as well as aesthetic grounds.

June 8: Mikhail Bakunin: “The Immorality of the State”
Bakunin, the leading philosopher of anarchism, challenges the morality of the state’s legal authority. In his view it undermines the universal solidarity of human beings by demanding a patriotism counter to human morality.