Matt Sharpe on Enlightenment critiques of the West


Jean-Baptiste Belley, Deputy of Saint-Domingue and French National Convention member (1793-97) with a bust of Abbé Raynal.

Associate Professor Matthew Sharpe has a timely new piece in The Conversation entitled “Criticism of Western Civilisation isn’t new, it was part of the Enlightenment”:


The duelling sides in today’s cultural wars about “Western civilization” are united in one thing, at least – each is inclined to gloss over the extent to which “Western civilisation” has always been deeply complex and divided.

Read the full article here.

Philosophon + VCE Philosophy Unit 2 Forum

Deakin philosophers were recently involved in two events working with the Philosophy in Schools community:

On Thursday 30th Patrick Stokes delivered a speech to students at the Victorian Association for Philosophy in Schools (VAPS) Victorian Secondary Schools Philosophon. Patrick and Cathy Legg then helped judge the competition. The standard was incredibly high and we were deeply impressed at the calibre of young philosophers!


On Friday 31st August Deakin hosted the first ever VCE Philosophy Unit 2 [Year 11] forum for teachers and students, in association with VAPS. This was a great success and we’re looking forward to expanding the event in future. 

Deakin philosophers in NDPR

Deakin Philosophy’s Cathy Legg and Jack Reynolds have just had a review discussion of Mark Eli Kalderon’s book Sympathy in Perception published in Notre Dame Philosophical Review:

Kalderon may be a philosopher who lives by the Rylean injunction that he would not be part of any ‘ism’ or philosophical group that might claim him. The reviewers found the corresponding broad-mindedness refreshing in these days of small and often rather ‘sealed-in’ philosophical communities and debates.

Read the full review here.

Blog from Talia Morag: “Imaginative Associations: The Return of the Repressed?”

Over at The Junkyard, Deakin’s Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Talia Morag writes:

Philosophers mobilize the term “imagination” for many explanatory tasks, including empathy, mindreading, counterfactual reasoning, and pretending. The recent flourishing of the study of the imagination favors the active exercise of imaginative capacity. When Amy Kind declares this to be the “primary sense” of the imagination, she reflects a contemporary trend (Kind 2013, 145). Kind contrasts this active sense to occasions where ideas “pop” into one’s mind, which she identifies with what Currie and Ravenscroft call “the creative imagination”, that is, “put[ting] together ideas in a way that defies expectation or convention” (Currie & Ravenscroft, 2002, 9).  I prefer to call this associative capacity “the passive imagination.”

Click here to read the rest of the blog post.

Liberal as Methodological Naturalism

Dr Cathy Legg will be giving a special presentation at the University of Hildesheim, Germany, Monday 11th June 2018:

Liberal as Methodological Naturalism

Many philosophers hold that Philosophy should learn at least something from the spectacular success of the natural sciences since the 17th century. Yet what exactly should be learned, and how after this learning Philosophy would continue to be practiced, is still contested. Disappointment with the rich suite of ‘human things’ dismissed by philosophers seeking to be ‘more scientific’ has recently produced influential calls for a liberal naturalism. Thus de Caro and Voltolini urge, “there may be philosophically legitimate entities that are… ineliminable and…not only irreducible to scientifically accountable entities but also ontologically independent from them” (2010, p. 70) .

Whilst applauding such broad-mindedness, as a philosopher not a scientist I seek a logical not an ontological solution to this problem. I draw on Charles Peirce’s pragmatist semiotics to reconceive ‘objectivity’ in a more open-minded and fallibilist manner than standard naturalisms, whereby the true key to science’s success lies in an indexical normative pragmatics which does not represent the world so much as provide a guiding function for a flow of experiences .At this point, the key question of naturalism concerning a given discourse becomes merely: Is what you’re talking about a reflection of your own idiosyncracies – or can the object itself guide your thoughts about it – in other words, does it have a nature?
Catherine Legg is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Deakin University(Melbourne, Australia). She completed her PhD at Australian National University with a thesis on the implications of Charles Peirce’s three fundamental categories for realism. Her research builds bridges between Peirce’s thought and mainstream analytic philosophy regarding philosophical methodology, truth,meaning, and founding logic in diagrammatic reasoning. She also has research interests in computer science in the area of formal ontology.

Cathy Legg interviewed by APA blog

Life is too short and precious to trudge through dreary philosophy papers allegedly ‘solving’ problems about which you struggle to care. After graduate school (and often even within graduate school – give it a try!) you don’t need the permission of someone powerful to do the work that most inspires you. Truth is a marathon not a sprint, so try to settle in and make yourself comfortable.

Deakin’s Dr Cathy Legg has just been interviewed by the blog of the American Philosophical Association. You can find Cathy’s full interview here.

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – October 10

James Phillips (University of New South Wales), “Towards an Ethics of the Close-Up: Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich”
This paper addresses some phenomenological questions concerning film spectatorship, as prompted by Josef von Sternberg’s Dietrich cycle (1930-35). I propose that there is something distinctive about cinema’s relationship toward its objects of depiction when compared with the representational arts and that it lies in the look or framing of the shot. As a site of artistic agency on the part of the filmmaker, the look differentiates itself from the technological automatism of the camera’s recording of the pro-filmic. This agency of the look does not extend to the cinematic spectator, whose gaze is disconnected from his or her sensorimotor nexus, since the changes in the space that we see on the screen do not result from movements we make with our bodies in the auditorium. This passivity of the cinematic gaze does not support the claims made concerning the gaze’s reifying oppressiveness. As Dietrich’s appearance in Sternberg’s films has been cited (by Laura Mulvey among others) as a prime example of the objectifying power of the gaze, I ask what traction this description has. Sternberg’s close-ups of Dietrich, I argue, can be read differently – as an assertion of female autonomy and as an exploration of a spatiality that does not collude with the off-screen in the viewer’s head to create a world.
James Phillips is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of New South Wales. He has, as author, published with Stanford University Press Heidegger’s Volk: Between National Socialism and Poetry (2005) and The Equivocation of Reason: Kleist Reading Kant (2007) and, as editor, Cinematic Thinking (2008). He has also written over two dozen journal articles on political philosophy and aesthetics, broadly conceived.

Where and when:

Tuesday, 10 October, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05

The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.

 For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss:
Hosted by the PHI research group and the School of Humanities and Social Science.

Between the Individual and the Collective: Processes of Sociopolitical Formation

September 25, 2017, Burwood Corporate Centre, Burwood Campus

The dichotomy of the individual and the collective has been a classic problem of philosophy and political theory since the beginning. Perennial questions have emerged around the nature and the viability of social bonds. Are social relations forged by consent to a social contract? Are they the expression of a common will of the people? Do they require the abandonment of natural rights and individual freedom? The sense of conflict or contradiction between the individual and the collective, the one and the many, has been a constant source of theoretical difficulty. There have been numerous attempts in contemporary theory to deal with this dilemma by rethinking traditional categories such as the ‘humanist individual,’ ‘the mass’ as an aggregate of isolated units, or ‘the people’ as a substantial metaphysical entity. One approach, for example, is to explore a mode of subjectivity that in some way is always-already part of a de-essentialised community. The political question then becomes that of enhancing the capacities of this subjectivity for thought, action, self-expression and practical freedom. According to this view, the non-social individual is an abstraction. In order to overcome the duality individual/collective, further categories such as the ‘group-individual,’ ‘transindividual,’ ‘multitude’ or ‘generic humanity’ have been put forward.

This workshop will explore conceptions of the political subject and ask what may constitute collective subjectivities in the twenty-first century. Is the subject still the locus of a radical left politics of collective transformation and systemic change? What are the practical conditions requisite to the realisation of political subjectivity? Do changes in modes of production caused by cultural and economic globalisation and technological development provide an opportunity for emancipatory struggles, or do they rather make it more difficult to resist a hegemonic world-capitalism? What are the possibilities and limitations of articulating collective politics today? How can we theorise a collective that is more than simplistic unity, other than a ‘natural’ or national identity, and that remains inclusive and open to continuous extension? The workshop invites contributions that pose and critically examine these and related questions.


10.00-10.50 Charles Barbour: ‘The Secret Society: Testimony, Perjury, and Oath in Derrida’s Later Work’

10.50-11.35 Miguel Vatter: ‘Dignity and Humanity: Averroistic, not Christian’

11.45-12.30 John Morss: ‘We Is A Thing: On the Political Grammar of Peoplehood’

13.30-14.15 Robert Boncardo: ‘The Individual as Constitutive Power: Jean-Paul Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason

14.15-15.00 Sean Bowden: ‘The Expression of Collective Intentions in Unstructured Groups’

15.10-15.55 Daniela Voss: ‘Simondon and Transindividuality’

15.55-16.40 Andreas Hetzel: ‘Transformations of Natural Right: Hegel’s Contribution to a Philosophy of a Non-Exclusive Community’

For details please contact Dr Daniela Voss.

Deakin Philosophy Seminar – September 26

Andreas Hetzel (University of Hildesheim, Germany), “Breaking Out of the Cycle of Fear: Exodus Politics”
Participants in those protests, which gave rise to the Arab Spring and to the Gezi-movement, repeatedly mentioned a decisive moment, of which it is difficult to say whether it preceded or rather resulted from the occupation of public spaces: breaking the cycles of fear. The paper explores the role of fear in the affective economy of subjectification techniques, and, apart from that, indicates, why and under which conditions the breaking of a cycle of fear may be regarded as a political event. For this purpose, the paper draws on concepts of an exodus-politics, as it has been outlined in Walzer’s and in Virno’s respective accounts of the biblical exodus-myth. For the exodus constitutes both for Walzer and for Virno a model for a ‘presentic,’ inner-worldly eschatology, which appreciates the departure from Egypt in terms of an in-subordination, that is, of a liberation from a fear, which has been identified as an instrument of domination and eventually disenchanted. At the same time, this in-subordination constitutes a new and genuinely political subject, which is associated by confidence and not by fear anymore.
Andreas Hetzel is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hildesheim (Germany). Previously, he was Full Professor at Fatih University (Istanbul), Interim Professor at the University of Magdeburg (Germany), visiting Professor in Vienna (Austria), and Private Lecturer in Darmstadt (Germany). His research interests include social and political philosophy, cultural theory, environmental ethics, pragmatism, and classical rhetoric. Currently he focuses on the philosophical relevance of rhetorical concepts of speech and on Ethics of Biodiversity. He is co-editor of the journal Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie and of the book series Contemporary Discourses on the Political. He published a book on culture as praxis (Zwischen Poiesis und Praxis. Elemente einer kritischen Theorie der Kultur, 2001) and a book on language between classical rhetoric and modern pragmatics (Die Wirksamkeit der Rede. Zur Aktualität klassischer Rhetorik für die moderne Sprachphilosophie, 2011).
Where and when:
Tuesday, 26 September, 4.00pm to 5.30pm, Deakin Burwood Campus, 221 Burwood Hwy, Room C2.05
Virtual Meeting Point: ARTSED VMP SHSS. Direct dial number: (+613) 5223 9354 
On joining a VMP, see here.
The seminar is free to attend and all are welcome.
For any inquiries, please email Daniela Voss:
Hosted by the PHI research group and the School of Humanities and Social Science.