All posts by Patrick Stokes

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.

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.

Buddhist Studies in India

Ari’s image from inside a hand-painted Tibetan Buddhist temple, Vajra Vidya, in Sarnath

One of Deakin’s philosophy students, Ari Moore, has just published an account of her experience on our Buddhist Studies in India study tour:

I would recommend the Buddhist Studies in India tour to anyone with a few philosophy units under their belt, an interest in world religions, and a thirst for adventure. If you have the chance to study in India with Deakin, don’t think twice – it’s the trip of a lifetime.  

Read all about Ari’s time in India here.