Existential Philosophy for Times of Change and Crisis
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The past few months have been marked by several unprecedented historical events: first the coronavirus pandemic resulting in the simultaneous confinement of over half of the world population, placing restrictions on our freedom and imposing new forms of life and conditions upon our existence and closing our doors and borders to the outside world. Second, the world-wide demonstrations against racism and discrimination, beginning with protests against the brutal murder of George Floyd in the USA which have rapidly transformed into a global struggle for the recognition of the rights and value of all individuals.
Both events have exposed deep systemic inequalities inscribed into the rules that govern our societies. Therefore they bring to light the urgency of rethinking our relationship to others and to ourselves, and questioning our human condition and what we share. What is human freedom, what limitations can we accept without ‘losing’ ourselves, and what responsibilities do we have with regard to the freedom of others? What are authentic relationships, in an age where we are more and more dependent upon the mediation of technology? How do our practices, acts, and institutions affect our ways of being in the world and our possibilities for understanding ourselves and others? What is our ethical responsibility for our communities and societies, do we have an obligation to be political activists? And what would be the source of such an obligation? What can be considered as a firm ground of moral ‘ought’? Do we need a kind of minimal metaphysics of the human being to give acceptable answers to these questions?
The aim of this conference is to bring together international scholars to discuss these existential, ethical, and meta-ethical questions and challenges, and examine what philosophical resources can we draw upon to help us better think through our current situation. We are especially looking for contributions engaging with current issues from the perspectives of influential thinkers departing from universalist trends in philosophy in the first half twentieth century, such as Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and their nineteenth-century predecessors (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche…). Despite their differences, what these thinkers share is their focus of life, and the idea that the aim of philosophy, beyond being an academic discipline, is to enable us ‘to live more capably’ (Kierkegaard).
August 5, 2020, 4:00pm CET