Between Past and Future: Existence, Embodiment, and Historicity

June 17, 2024 - June 19, 2024
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology


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Vanderbilt University
Freie Universität Berlin
Södertörn University


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Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway 

June 17–19, 2024

Confirmed keynote speakers: Charlotta Weigelt (Södertörn University), Jan Slaby (Freie Universität Berlin), Thomas Schwarz Wentzer (Aarhus University), Lisa Guenther (Queen’s University Canada) 

Humans are historical beings. We live through, and interpret ourselves in the light of, our differing traditions, even when we are not aware of this fact. We may experience such traditions as traditions of power, domination, and suppression, but also as sources of inspiration and potential liberation from the present. At the same time all of us “have” our own history: we are born, we grow older, and eventually we die, and who we were at one time, as individuals and as parts of a community, affect what we are and are capable of becoming. Our past is, it may therefore be argued, ambiguous, and our future may depend on the way we appropriate and question our past. 

We also tend to deny the historicity of our existence, a tendency that may come to expression in a variety of ways. We may attempt to break radically with the past, to “move on,” and to regard past traditions merely as objects of theoretical inquiry with at most an antiquarian relevance for contemporary society and life. And we may try to hide from the biological fact that human beings age and change, be that through pursuing “eternal youth” or by tacitly denying the right of older generations to take part in discussions of contemporary problems on a par with younger generations. In short, we tend to concentrate on the present while disregarding our past and its significance for the future.  

We hereby invite abstracts for papers in phenomenology and related areas of philosophy, such as critical theory, feminist philosophy, queer theory, and the post-Kantian tradition widely conceived. This year we especially encourage work that addresses the way historicity affects our existence, as embodied individuals and as communities. Questions to be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following: What can past traditions teach us when it comes to addressing contemporary problems such as the ecological crisis or the apparent decline in democratic sentiments? Are categories from past traditions a help or a hindrance for coming to grips with such problems? How is fruitful dialogue between differing traditions and cultures possible and how does cultural appropriation differ from genuine dialogue? How do traditions in science influence our conceptions of rationality? Can traditions within art, religion, and other cultural spheres help us reach a more comprehensive understanding of human rationality? How should we understand the connection between past traditions and radical new beginnings or truth-disclosing experiences, for instance in art?  

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