The Department of Philosophy at Memorial University is a small but vibrant community of scholars actively researching and teaching in a variety of areas of philosophy in the heritage city of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The Department offers a variety of undergraduate programs and directs graduate research in the history of philosophy, continental philosophy, and political philosophy, as well as other areas. Students of all levels are invited to come with us and explore the nature and problems of existence, being and thought.
New in Philosophy
Welcome to the new year! We hope you all had a happy holiday and soe much needed downtime, while staying safe. We also look forward to an active winter semester 2021, still remote/online. Have a great beginning to a safe, healthy, happy, and productive semester!
For regular updates, including a phased resumption of on-campus activity, please see the following link:
In the meantime, as we continue to update in Philosophy:.
- NEW: The Philosophy Winter Colloquium Series starts virtually on Tuesday, January 26th., 3:30pm:
Our Philosophy Winter Colloquium is starting up again and we will have remote talks this semester. Please join us for the first talk of the season, by our very own Kyla Bruff, talking on Adorno and populism. (see below for abstract and details)
Tuesday, January 26th, 2021, 3:30-5pm remotely (Interested in attending? Please contact Suma Rajiva at email@example.com for connection details)
Kyla Bruff, PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy, Memorial University, will speak on:
"Legitimate Grievances, Flawed Response: Analyzing Populism Through Adorno"
In this talk, I propose that Theodor W. Adorno’s work can help us to understand the legitimate grievances of populist supporters, while simultaneously offering the resources to develop a multifaceted critique of populism. Drawing on contemporary political theory, I first delineate three characteristics of populists: (1) that they are critical of elites, (2) that they willfully invoke emotions or moods that speak to the identities of constituents, and (3) that they are anti-pluralist, denying the legitimacy of any opposition. Adorno's work helps us to identify a salvageable kernel of the populist's critique of elites and to make a case for attending to politically inflicted pain and negative affect. However, his critique of ideology and commitment to the non-identical preclude justifying a search for satisfactory solutions to these grievances in populist politics. This is because society, for Adorno, is fundamentally and irresolvably antagonistic. Relations of dominance and exploitation are ubiquitous. Therefore, even concepts which begin to describe the material basis of a conflictual society, such as class and labour, cannot serve as unifying terms for group identity. The oppressed are the majority, according to Adorno, and as a consequence they do not all experience their oppression within a single category or class. Accordingly, voters who are compelled to base their politics on the appeals to identity familiar from the rhetoric of populist politicians miss a crucial moment of possible social critique. The target of such a critique should be the failed notions of autonomy and the "equal playing field" of an unjust society, bolstered by an analysis of the material conditions that dominate and subjugate human life. According to Adorno, it is on the level of the material, not political parties and platforms, that we can begin to seriously consider the questions of emancipation and freedom.
- Philosophy Courses, Fall 2020
- Congratulations to our philosophy undergraduates, both majors and minors, for successfully completing their degrees this May!
Congratulations, Bethany, Joshua, Keegan, Kristen, Mackenzie, Nicholas, Reeves, Ryan, Sarah, Stephanie, Toomas, Travis! Some of you are going on to grad school, others to jobs, others coming back to complete your Honours degrees. We are very proud of all of you, especially completing your degrees under these difficult circumstances--and we will miss you all.
The Memorial Graduate Philosophy conference has been postponed indefinitely; more information will be posted here once available
The Memorial European Summer Seminar in Philosophy has been postponed indefinitely; more information will be posted here once available
- Philosophy Post: Those of you who attended Dr. Shannon Hoff's public lecture in February "The Challenges of Feminism" (please see below for the poster) will be interested in this link, a blog post from the APA (American Philosophical Association) Women in Philosophy Blog Post which has a shorter version of the lecture: https://blog.apaonline.org/2020/03/11/worlds-ideals-and-solidarity-a-feminist-primer/
Previously in Philosophy:
Our busy winter semester was in full swing, to be followed by an active spring term. Among other activities we had our winter colloquium series, visiting speakers, public lectures, and weekly Jockey Club discussions. And in May we were to have our biannual Grad conference (now postponed) as well as the annual summer seminar in Europe, this year in Florence (also postponed). Hopefully all this will resume eventually.
- The Winter Colloquium Series concluded with:
Dr. Suma Rajiva
Department of Philosophy, Memorial University
La beauté d'occasion: Truth in Plato’s Second-Hand Aesthetics of Writing
In Plato’s Phaedrus Socrates claims that writing provides not recollections or memories but reminders, seeds which bear harvest in their own time and which are subject to transformations, misunderstandings and the other vicissitudes attendant on any book or piece of writing whatsoever. This paper will argue that the role of the aesthetic in transmitting memory has an importance in Plato which includes the written word, even though writing is inferior to actual memory. The second-best, second-hand, status of written reminder is necessary once the living experience fades and once those who actually remember pass on. Writing thus preserves the truth, not directly but indirectly though the importance of the living reader remains. Like much in Plato (justice, politics) the second-best is where we live. Nonetheless, the dry seed-like written reminders flower into memories of living and even into actual living experience, because beauty is, according to Socrates, privileged in certain respects over other forms like justice or piety. This privilege, related to beauty’s ability to shine through in sensory experience, makes the aesthetic an important though ambiguous conduit for truth.
Tuesday, March 10th, 2020, 3:30-4:45pm, SN 2105
- The Winter Colloquium Series continued:
Visiting Speaker: Dr. Kym Maclaren
Department of Philosophy, Ryerson University
"Criminalization and the Self-Constituting Dynamics of Distrust"
Abstract: Prison, according to Foucault, is an apparatus for the "fabrication of a delinquency that it is supposed to combat" (1995, 278). This talk supplements Foucault's claim with a phenomenology of trust and distrust, and by proposing that security practices in prisons tend to criminalize people through the distrust that they enact. Distrust is not merely an emotional attitude within a person. Rather, like all emotions (I argue, based on Merleau-Ponty's thought), distrust is a dynamical system that comes to be installed between people, and that shapes distrusted individuals' sense of self, their sense of behavioural possibilities (their "I can"), and their positioning in relation to others. Ultimately, though I will have time only to suggest this, distrust's constitution of incarcerated individuals' sense of self tends even to shape those individuals' relations to society and law. The "fabrication of delinquency" in the place of "rehabilitation" is, then, in good part due to institutionalized practices of distrust. This demands that we rethink security practices within corrections.
Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 3:30-4:45pm, SN 2105. All are welcome!
The Philosophy Public Lecture Series kicked off on February 25th 2020 with:
Dr. Shannon Hoff (Philosophy)
"The Challenges of Feminism"
Abstract: For many decades, feminism has been a provocative and challenging voice of social critique. In recent times, however, feminism has had to grapple with various challenges of its own, as its critical voice has been turned upon its own presumptions. In this public lecture, Shannon Hoff will talk about both the challenges facing feminism and the challenges it continues to offer to the oppressive dimensions of our society.
Tuesday, Feb. 25th, 8;30pm, the Ship Pub
The Winter Colloquium Series began with:
Dr. James Scott Johnston (Education and Philosophy)
"The Positivity of Hegel's Speculative Interest of Reason"
Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 3:30-4:45pm, SN 2105.
FALL SEMESTER 2019
We had an active semester in Philosophy, with colloquium talks, a public lecture, visiting speakers, the annual Bradley Lecture, our regular Jockey Club discussions, and concluding with our Graduate Research conference.
Final event of the fall semester: The Philosophy Graduate Research Conference, 2019
A conference showcasing the ongoing research of the incoming class of M.A. and Ph.D. students in the Department of Philosophy, focusing on a broad range of philosophical authors and including topics such as:
- Philosophy of Time
- Language and Truth
- Phenomenology and Perception
- Community and Political Philosophy
- Philosophy of the Self
- The Fall Colloquum 2019 concluded, Tuesday November 26th with:
Dr. Shannon Hoff (Philosophy, Memorial)
“Between Weltanschauung and Weltwissenschaft:
A Phenomenological Consideration of the Intersectional Critique of Feminism”
The “intersectionality” critique of feminism circulates around two issues: the demand that we be alive to how different forms of oppression intersect with one another, and the critique that our situations produce a partiality in us that impedes our capacity to do justice to this demand. My goal is to illuminate phenomenologically the underpinnings of the this critique, defending the legitimacy of the hope implicit in the first claim—that we can be alive to different forms of oppression and their intersections—by exploring the elements at work in the second: that our perception is shaped in specific contexts and thus operates in a one-sided way. That is, I argue that specificity, while it may impede our capacity to do justice to the demand intersectionality makes on our perception, brings with it the possibility of perception beyond the one-sided terms by which we are inducted into being human. The ultimate commitment of the paper is captured by Merleau-Ponty’s claim in “The Philosopher and Sociology” that, “superficially considered, our inherence destroys all truth; considered radically, it founds a new idea of truth” (109). (Those who discussed this essay at Jockey a couple of months ago are especially warmly invited!)Tuesday, November 26th, 3:30-4:45pm, SN 2105
Visiting Speaker in the Fall Colloquium Series:
Dr. Uwe Voigt, the Chair in Analytical Philosophy and the Philosophy of Science at the University of Augsburg.in Germany, speaking on:
"The Anthropocene as an Environ-Mental Crisis"
Note: the time/date are different from our usual Colloquium time/date.
Wednesday, Nov. 6th, 2019, *5-6:15pm* SN 2105 (our usual room this semester).
Dr. Voigt was also involved in a number of other activities, including a workshop on pan-psychism organized by grad students in the M.Phil. in Humanities.
Our first public lecture of the season! Tuesday, November 5th, 2019 8:30pm at the Ship Pub, organizer, Riley Pike:
Dr. Michael Kirkpatrick of the History Department at Memorial spoke on:
"Modernity Interrupted: Motion and Stasis During the Guatemalan Fin-de-Siècle"
Abstract: For liberal-minded Guatemalan elites, the technological, economic, and cultural developments of late nineteenth-century “progress” were invariably described in the language of movement and dynamism: electric currents, market flows, and commodity circulation. They argued that in opposition to the motion and vitality of the modern world stood the obstinacy of indigenous Maya communities who refused to exchange their labour for wages, in addition to conservative institutions like the Catholic Church which opposed the liberal order. This talk seeks to understand the implications of these liberal ideas of motion and stasis in the context of economic crisis during the fin-de-siècle by examining the decades-long construction of Guatemala’s Northern Railway to the Atlantic.
The Fall Colloquia continued, Tuesday Oct. 22nd with:
Kyla Bruff (Philosophy, Memorial)
"The Outside of Politics: Could Adorno and Schelling Help Us to Better Understand Populism?"
Abstract: Much of the literature on 21st century populism thematizes ‘outside’ of the political, labeling populists as 'anti-establishment outsiders' who are critical of the status quo. In this presentation, I use Schelling and Adorno to critically examine this outside of state politics to which populist politicians appeal. Although I uncover a critical moment in populism that cannot be simply dismissed, I also use Schelling and Adorno to show that populist politicians do not have the last word on the outside of politics. Schelling and Adorno, I argue, can help us to identify elements of this outside—such as pluralism and the forces of identity formation—which transcend the split between left- and right-wing politics. They can thereby positively contribute to a better understanding of the rise of the rise of populism in our time. Tuesday, October 22nd, 3:30-4:45pm, SN 2105
Memorial hosted the meetings of the Atlantic Classical Association (ACA) and the Atlantic Medieval Association (AMA) from Friday October 18th-Saturday October 19th: click here for the revised ACA Program & click here for the AMA program : Faculty and graduate students from Philosophy gave papers in both conferences in the areas of ancient philosophy and literature and medieval philosophy and literature.
Previously in the fall colloquium series: George Saad (Philosophy, Memorial University)
“Know Thyself: Ancient and Modern Responses to the Delphic Dictum”
Tuesday, October 8th, 3:30-4:45pm, SN 2105
- This fall the Philosophy Department welcomed Professor Danielle A. Layne, Department of Philosophy, Gonzaga University as The James Bradley Lecturer for 2019. Dr. Layne is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Gonzaga University, Spokane WA. She is the author of numerous articles on Plato and Neoplatonism and was the co-editor of The Brill Companion to the Reception of Plato in Antiquity (Brill), Proclus and his Legacy (De Gruyter) and The Neoplatonic Socrates (Penn Press). Dr. Layne gave two presentations at Memorial:
Monday, Sept. 30th, 5-6:45pm, SN 4087 (the Sally Davis seminar room):Workshop on "Erotic Feminism: Plato and the Platonic Tradition on Resistance, Struggle and Becoming Otherwise" click for description
Tuesday, Oct. 1st, 3:30-4:45pm, Junior Common Room, Gushue Hall, The James Bradley Annual Lecture in Speculative Philosophy:
"Plato and Divination: Why Reason without the Divine is not Philosophy"
- First Fall Philosophy Colloquium:
Dr. Sean Fleming (Cambridge University)
“Rivers are People Too?: On Legal Personhood for Nature”
Tuesday, Sept. 17, 3:30-4:45pm, SN 2105
- Philosophy Courses, Fall 2019, updated:
Congratulations to our undergraduate philosophy students who convocated recently (May 28th)! We are so proud of each and every one of you and wish you every success after your degree, whether in grad school, jobs, or other exciting adventures. Two successes among others: Alex Morgan graduated with the University Medal of Excellence in Philosophy and the Whiteley English Prize(having won the Good Fellowship in Philosophy previously as well). And Kristen Lewis graduated with the University Medal of Excellence in Religious Studies (part of her Joint Honours with Philosophy for which she was awarded the Good Fellowship earlier this year) as well as the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences George Storey Medal. Congratulations Kristen and Alex! And to our other outstanding undergrads, honours, majors, minors, including many award/medal winners, whether majors, honours, minors: Congratulations to Callum, Clay, Emily, Grant, Lesley, Patrick, Spencer, Sarah, William, and many others! You made our Department a great place in which to do philosophy, and we will miss you. (the Kiefte Room will miss you)
And to our graduate students who received their M.A.s in Philosophy at this spring convocation: Benni, Chris, Phoebe, Sarah, Stefan, Thomas, congratulations! We are so proud of you and all you have accomplished: You wrote excellent theses, you presented papers and published articles, you argued philosophically in the classroom and outside, all while being research and teaching assistants, holding down other jobs, and mentoring younger students and each other. Some of you are going on to your doctorates, some of you are starting other exciting activities or jobs, all of you made philosophy in this Department a lively and welcoming "commons of the mind."
And stay tuned for our latest newsletter, coming soon!