The Philosophical Significance of Freud’s Theory of Sexuality
Francey Russell (Barnard College)

October 29, 2020, 3:00am - 5:30am
Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto

Jackman Humanities building
Toronto
Canada

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University of Toronto at Mississauga

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The Continental Philosophy Group at the University of Toronto welcomes Francey Russell, an assistant professor of philosophy at Columbia University. She works on issues in moral psychology and ethics broadly construed (often overlapping with topics in social philosophy and aesthetics).  In terms of figures, Dr. Russell focuses mostly on Kant and Freud, but also Nietzsche and Cavell. Currently, she is writing a book on the concept of self-opacity and its significance for philosophical accounts of agency and moral psychology.

Talk Abstract

In philosophical discussions of human needs and desire, sexuality is acknowledged to occupy an uncertain position. To take just one example, Gary Watson writes that with respect to what he calls the natural appetites, “sexual appetite is anomalous in several respects . . . and has a much richer emotional and interpersonal content than hunger and thirst” (“Disordered Appetites, 79-80). As such, Watson wonders whether sexual appetite might count as what he calls an “acquired appetite,” but does not resolve the question. In this talk I turn to Freud’s theory of sexuality and drives to make sense of the difficulty of the question of where to place human sexuality in our moral psychology, with respect to the categories of natural and acquired appetites, or first and second nature. I will argue that for Freud, human sexuality does not fall neatly into either category, and I will borrow from contemporary discussions of the significance of self-consciousness and “transformative” theories of rationality in order to elaborate this. I then use this account to shed light on why Freud thinks sexuality is so important in our form of life, distinctively human and the source of such difficulties.

About the Continental Philosophy Group

One of six departmental research interest groups, the Continental Philosophy Group works in the traditions of textual interpretation of human consciousness, phenomenology, and post-structuralist critical theory, among other related traditions of thought.

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October 29, 2020, 9:00am EST

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