CFP: Philosophical Perspectives on Aging: Vulnerability and Imperfection

Submission deadline: March 1, 2021

Conference date(s):
May 17, 2021 - May 18, 2021

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Conference Venue:

La Sapienza, Università di Roma
Roma, Italy

Topic areas


The seminar will develop philosophical perspectives on aging and the life course. One central focus is vulnerability and imperfection. Elderly people are standardly categorized as vulnerable, but vulnerability tends to be understood in a narrowly biomedical way, rather than being seen as a part of life, conceived biographically and existentially and tied to the life form. Dominant approaches to aging are based, explicitly or explicitly, on age-neutral standards or inflated notions of flourishing, health or managing life. The seminar will explore conceptions of aging that take into fuller account the intricacies of human nature and the human condition and are sensitive to the particularities of different stages in life. The notion of dignity is often invoked in attempts to state the conditions for a sufficiently good life in old age; but it is either defined very abstractly, e.g. on the model of Kantian ethics, or left more or less obscure. Ideas of aging “dignified” or “gracefully”, of “coming to terms with aging” or of “maturing” or “achieving wisdom”, as well as notions of the “melancholy” or “tragedy” of aging deserve closer scrutiny and interpretation. As against this mainstream understanding, or at least in order to complicate it, we invite participants to consider existential and transformative aspects of aging (not necessarily restricted to old age) and coping with life. The seminar is philosophical, but open to contributions from other disciplines, such as literary studies, psychology and qualitative empirical research. 

Submissions are invited on topics including, but not restricted to

- Vulnerability in a form of life approach to ethics

- Vulnerability from an existential (rather than biomedical) perspective

- Imperfectionist (or alternatively perfectionist) notions of aging and coping with life

- Notions and understandings of dignity, grace, tragedy and melancholy etc. 

- Philosophical perspectives on depictions of aging in literature and the arts 

- The experience of aging

- Time perspective, memory and anticipation in aging 

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2021. Notice of acceptance can be expected 2-3 weeks later. All submissions should include the name of applicant and the institution they are associated with. Abstracts (no more than 400 words) should be sent to

There is no conference fee, but lunch and dinner must be paid for.  

Organized by Piergiorgio Donatelli and Soren Harnow Klausen

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