The Philosophy of Events

June 30, 2018 - July 6, 2018
Internationales Zentrum für Philosophie NRW, Universität Bonn



  • VolkswagenStiftung
  • Internationales Zentrum für Philosophie NRW


Universität Bonn
Universität Bonn (PhD)
Università degli Studi di Torino

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- Extended Application Deadline: June 7, 2018 -

For more information, please see the following website:

Keynote Seminar Sessions: July 2 – 6, 2018

Optional Participants’ Conference: June 30 – July 1

Keynote Seminar Leaders:

Markus Gabriel (Universität Bonn)

Anna Longo (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Sean Bowden (Deakin University)

James Williams (Deakin University)

Participants' Conference Keynote Speaker (Skype):

Jean-Luc Nancy (EGS, emeritus Université de Strasbourg)

Thematic Description:

A major problem in contemporary ontology is that of explaining the nature of events and their place in reality. Traditionally, events have most often been assigned a secondary or derivative status with respect to substances or subjects, which are taken to underwrite them. An event, for instance, is understood to be a modification of the attributes of a substance. Linguistically, this framework is replicated in our grammar: a sentence begins with a subject and a predicate, while an event is represented as a change in predicate. However, over the past century an increasing number of philosophers have argued that no ontology can be sufficient without assigning events a primary, fundamental, or ontologically positive status in their own right. From American pragmatism, Heidegger’s Ereignis, and Whitehead’s process philosophy to Deleuze, Davidson, Badiou, Malabou, and Romano, the role of events and their theorisation have become cornerstones of contemporary philosophy.

At one level, events are just occurrences or things that happen: a leaf falling to the ground, a decision made, a meeting between friends. But at another level, events are transformative ruptures inaugurating new horizons of possibility. Events might occur in social, political, artistic, linguistic, psychological, conceptual, amorous, theological, literary, etc. contexts, actualising unforeseeable potentialities, producing genuinely new forms of thinking, acting, and existing. Events of this type are extraordinary moments that some argue are unpredictable (imprévisible), given that they disrupt regular or ordinary structures of possibilities in which ontological movements take place. The foundation of the modal structure of being in such events attests to several theoretical problems. If such events overstep the general structure of being, how are they supposed to happen? And where should an event take place and have a place if being cannot harbour its excess? Philosophers like Heidegger and Deleuze have famously argued that being is itself evental in character, and such excess is part of being’s structure. In this picture, the ruptural form of an event plays a central part in the ontological structures of time, ground, truth, language, history, community, the psyche, and so on. If in one manner or another events are ontologically prior to subjects, the cognitive apparatuses of representation, well-constituted beings populating worlds, and the quasi-stable identities of such beings, then an important consequence has been argued to follow: these sorts of things must be generated by ontological processes involved in events, not the other way around as our ordinary experience might suggest.

The theory of events bears directly upon how we understand the basic structure of reality and moments of political, artistic, existential, and psychological revolution, upheaval, and progress. This symposium will explore the philosophy of events from a variety of theoretical and historical perspectives. A shared theme will be the role of events in recent projects to rethink ontology, such as Claude Romano's event hermeneutics (hermenéutique événementiale), Markus Gabriel’s ontology of fields of sense, and Sean Bowden’s work on Deleuze’s ontology, the philosophy of action, and ethics (often addressing issues raised by contemporary pragmatists like Robert Brandom). Likewise, Anna Longo’s recent work suggests that the ontology of events challenges neopositivism and certain modes of formalism, working to think of history not as a continuous process determining thought, but as the discontinuous repetition of events that must be related to reconfigurations of an ideal differential structure.

This summer symposium will bring together interested graduate students, postdoctoral students, and junior faculty for a week of discussion, lecture, and close textual study. Together, we will pursue questions regarding the philosophy of events in relation to recent ontology, phenomenology, mathematics, theories of the subject, action, history, state, community, ethics, language, art, and literature. The keynote speakers will lead seminar sessions addressing such topics. Along with the work of Romano, Longo, Gabriel, and Bowden, we anticipate that our studies will draw on other figures like Leibniz, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Frege, Freud, Heidegger, Lautman, Vuillemin, Bachelard, Canguilhem, Gueroult, Sellars, Althusser, Klein, Lacan, Davidson, Lewis, Deleuze, Derrida, Rorty, Nancy, Kristeva, Dastur, Marion, Butler, Kim, Brandom, McDowell, Badiou, Žižek, and Malabou.

All texts and discussion will be in English.

Application Information:

Because there has been a change in our lineup of keynote seminar leaders, we are opening up a brief new application period. We will be happy to receive new applications until Thursday June 7, 2018. Since the Symposium is coming up quickly, we will notify new applicants about acceptances as quickly as possible on a rolling basis, but no later than Tuesday, June 12. 

We invite current graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and junior faculty in philosophy or related disciplines to submit an application composed of a C.V. and a short letter of intent (500 words maximum) to [email protected]. The seminar will be limited to around 40 participants.

Participants’ Conference (June 30 – July 1):

In order to facilitate a further exchange of ideas and research, a participants’ conference will be held the weekend before the seminar begins. Applicants who receive notice of acceptance as participants will be asked – if interested – to submit an abstract of up to 500 words on any theme related to the topic of the seminar. The participants’ conference will take place on Saturday and Sunday, June 30 – July 1, 2018.

Financial Information:

There will be a 100 EUR registration fee for each participant of the seminar. This money will be used for event expenses like a conference dinner, celebration, coffee, etc. Please note that participants will be responsible for arranging their own housing as well as financing most of their own meals for the duration of the symposium. However, we will provide recommendations for affordable options.

Contact[email protected]

Symposium Director:                                  

James Bahoh (Universität Bonn)                   

[email protected]                                          

Organizing Committee:

Marta Cassina (Universität Bonn)

Sergio Genovesi (Universität Bonn)

We are very grateful for support from the VolkswagenStiftung and the University of Bonn’s International Centre for Philosophy, which has made this symposium possible.

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June 7, 2018, 7:45pm CET

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