Philosophy conference puts minds to the big questions

Victoria University of Wellington is about to host 300 of the world’s ablest thinkers as they put their minds to some of life’s knottiest questions.

The Australasian Association of Philosophy’s 2018 conference, held in association with the New Zealand Association of Philosophy, will be at Victoria University of Wellington’s Rutherford House from Sunday 8 July until Thursday 12 July.

With Victoria University of Wellington’s Associate Professor Stuart Brock as Chief Organiser, the conference features more than 120 sessions in which philosophy academics and postgraduate students from New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world will present their ideas and open them to wider discussion.

“The Australasian Association of Philosophy conference is an annual reminder of the breadth and brilliance of thinking being conducted by the world’s philosophers, with some of the best and brightest of them from New Zealand and Australia,” says Associate Professor Brock.

“Agility of thinking is of incalculable value to individuals and society alike as we confront and adapt to the many challenges thrown our way now and in the future, and agility of thinking will be in abundance during the five days of the conference.”

Among 10 Victoria University of Wellington speakers at the conference will be Professor Simon Keller, who, as President of the New Zealand Association of Philosophy, will give an address exploring mental health-related issues.

Victoria University of Wellington PhD candidate Snita Ahir-Knight will be presenting a paper titled ‘Is non-suicidal self-harm in youth a mental disorder?’, while Victoria University of Wellington’s Associate Professor Sondra Bacharach and the University of Memphis’s Professor Deborah Tollefsen will argue that the controversial Fearless Girl sculpture installed opposite the Charging Bull statue in New York City on International Women’s Day last year was an act of vandalism.

Other Victoria University of Wellington speakers are Associate Professor Justin Sytsma, Senior Lecturers Dr Ramon Das and Dr Cei Maslen, PhD students Michael Gilchrist and Jonathan Pengell, and Master’s students Sean Johnson and Thomas Prout.

Victoria University of Wellington’s Philosophy programme is in its Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Professor Keller’s fellow keynote speakers include Serene Khader, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Jay Newman Chair in Philosophy of Culture at Brooklyn College in New York, and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Women’s and Gender Studies at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

Associate Professor Khader will be giving the Australasian Association of Philosophy’s annual Alan Saunders Lecture, this year held conjointly with Victoria University of Wellington’s annual Maurice Goldsmith Lecture in Philosophy.

The Alan Saunders Lecture aims to spread the joy of philosophy and make it accessible to the wider public, and is each year recorded and broadcast in Australia on Radio National’s Big Ideas programme.

Associate Professor Khader’s lecture—which is free, open to the public and at Rutherford House, 6.30pm–8pm on Tuesday 10 July—is entitled ‘What is Global Women’s Empowerment?’

“From the popularity of charities that tout the transformative effects of giving a woman a goat or a sewing machine to the inclusion of gender equality among the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, enthusiasm for empowering women in the global South seems to be at an all-time high,” says Associate Professor Khader.

“But what does it mean to empower someone and what are the moral and political responsibilities of those who see themselves as charged with doing the empowering? My talk clarifies and criticises the values underlying existing empowerment practices and offers a vision of women’s empowerment rooted in concerns about global gender justice.”

The conference will be preceded by the Australasian Association for Logic Conference at Victoria University of Wellington on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 July.