What would a decolonised curriculum look like? Join us 6-8pm on May 10th over Zoom. We have a very exciting panel of guest speakers who will discuss the decolonisation of philosophy, followed by a Q&A.
Achille Mbembe (Professor at University of Witwatersrand WiSER) ‘Necropolitics’, ‘Out of the Dark Night’
Gargi Bhattacharyya (Professor at University of East London) ‘Rethinking Racial Capitalism’
Lucy Allais (Professor at University of Witwatersrand & UC San Diego) ‘Kant’s Racism’
Nelson Maldanado-Torres (Professor at Rutgers University) ‘Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity’
This event has been organised by Naomi Snow in collaboration with Decolonise KCL and KCL Minorities and Philosophy Society.
The Centre for Philosophy and Visual Arts at King’s College London (CPVA) is promoting a new project titled “A First Brush with Philosophy“.
We are seeking candidates to feature in a series of videos where they will have a conversation with a philosopher on a topic of their choice. The candidates don’t need to have any previous experience in philosophy.
The concept is fairly simple: an opportunity for you to discuss a “real-life” problem and test which benefits a philosophical discussion can bring. You will be matched with an expert who is going to be your guide in the quest for conceptual clarity.
The session progresses in three easy stages (1) pick a topic and receive a one page-primer that’ll get you thinking and probably a bit puzzled; (2) Tune into your Zoom appointment at the agreed time with your hand-selected guide and they’ll guide you through the puzzle; (3) After a 15-minute meeting we’ll ask you how it all went and whether you would recommend the experience.
During the discussion, an artist will be sketching so that they can produce a portrait of the ‘a-ha’ moment. The portrait and the video will feature on our website.
Professor Alvarez is Head of the Philosophy Department at King’s College London. She works on agency, choice and moral responsibility. This weekend her opinion piece in regard to Covid passports was published in The Guardian newspaper. Read it in full here.
“More than 160 years ago John Stuart Mill argued that in a “civilised community”, the only justification for government coercion is the prevention of harm to others. In the UK, and many other countries, long before Covid, coercive state measures, from taxes to car seatbelts, were pervasive and accepted on grounds that go beyond Mill’s justification, or at least involve a very broad interpretation of his harm principle…Some have questioned whether the restrictions have been proportionate.”
What do you think? Read the article to find out whether you agree with Professor Alvarez.
According to Lopes, justice is goodness in a relatively large-scale social arrangement. Injustice is thereby badness in such a social arrangement. Aesthetic injustice becomes an issue when cultures encounter one another. The motivating example of the talk was the Canadian government’s use of Haida aesthetic culture (the Spirit of Haida Gwaii sculpture) on the $20 bill. There seemed to be something not quite right about the use of this First Nation art on the national currency. Lopes’s explanation for this is that the use of aesthetic culture subverted the process through which the Haida people fix their own aesthetic profile, contrary to the interest in social autonomy.
The account of aesthetic injustice maps on quite nicely to the familiar notion of political injustice. This is because there is an appeal to the large-scale structural features of society that frame how individuals come into contact with one another. This mirrors the typical approach in political philosophy of seeing justice as a matter of the fundamental political and economic institutions of society.
I will note two points. First, Lopes’s view assumes a perfectionist orientated approach to justice. Perfectionists appeal to an account of a good human life in their accounts of justice. (But what exactly is a good human life?) It is a great contribution, however, to conceive of aesthetic interests as being relevant to justice. The perfectionist approach can be contrasted with approaches of justice such as “realism” which aim to secure conditions for the non-violent coexistence of cultural communities.
Second, Lopes argues that aesthetic injustice can undermine individuals’ capacities to realise the interests of the value of diverse schemes of aesthetic value as well as communities’ interest in social autonomy. These interests can be viewed as part of an account of a good human life, where the former states that it is good, for instance, that there are different ways of doing rock music, and the latter refers to the good of being able to shape one’s life and have an impact on surrounding social practices. Lopes suggested that justice with respect to these interests can be seen as an aspiration to the maximum, and injustice can be seen as the falling below some threshold, where individuals’ capacities to realise these interests are set back to a sufficient degree. But where, we may ask, is this threshold? And what are the particularly aesthetic interests (if any) that are set back by aesthetic injustice? I look forward to hearing more about Lopes’s excellent work on this fascinating area.
by Mathilde Victoria Prietzel Nielsen, 1st year Undergraduate in Philosophy
On March 16th the annual Sainsbury lecture was held as it is tradition to honour Richard Mark Sainsbury’s contributions to King’s Philosophy department. This year’s King’s had the honour of hosting distinguished University Scholar and Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia, Dominic Lopes and the topic ‘Aesthetic Injustice’. An overlooked phenomenon in philosophy, that is, before the night’s lecture in which Dominic took the audience through his forthcoming ‘cosmopolitan theory of aesthetic injustice’. The theory aims at tracking down and bringing to light any aesthetic injustice where other theories fail to do so. To test the validity of the theory, Lopes presented and evaluated cases of aesthetic justice and injustice, first single-handed and later in joint research with the audience members, thus subtly but clearly demonstrating one of the theory’s main claims, that the success of an aesthetic culture’s profile – it could be that of philosophy – stands and falls not with the success of the individual philosopher (or dancer, or barista, or mathematician) but with the success of the (philosophical, dancing, coffee-making, calculating) community. Indeed, if the single aesthetic agents (philosophers, dancers, baristas, mathematicians) fail to work together towards the jointly agreed to aesthetic value, the aesthetic culture fails entirely. In each case – from rap to tap dance to computer games – Lopes kept a strict eye on the nuances and intricacies, thus constantly bringing the audience’s attention to another perhaps more general, yet easily neglected point: nuances matter. Concluding that the cosmopolitan theory is indeed successful in bringing to light otherwise sombre aesthetic injustices, questions were attended to, well-considered and answered, and noted down for final editorial remarks.
Topic: Simon Critchely ‘Pandemic Mysticism’Time: Apr 8, 2021 07:00 PM London to join the Zoom Meeting please email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the wake of COVID-19, many of us have grown used to being hermits, socially distanced and masked against a contaminated and untrustworthy reality defined by pestilence, suffering and death. In a world of contagion – possibly being contagious ourselves – we have followed a practice that the ancients called anachoreisis, a withdrawal into solitude, a retreat from the world. Whether we liked it or not, we all became anchorites or anchoresses. There is a strange asceticism to the world of lockdown and disease which opened us up to extreme experiences of doubt, dereliction, dreams, hypochondria, hallucination, and a desperate desire for love or a connection with something or someone outside or larger than the self. These experiences and emotion have profound historical and religious echoes with the logic, poetics and practices of mysticism. It is as if something elemental and primeval has been revived in the pandemic. Perhaps it is worth looking into. It seems to me, then, that this might be an opportune moment to study some mystical texts together and think about the nature of mystical experience. Such is the simple purpose of this seminar. In its attempts to articulate religious experience in thought, mysticism both borrows heavily from philosophy and undermines its standard procedures. What often results is a strange philosophy of contradictions, confessions, and enigmas. While not being blind to the many mystical traditions, we will focus on Christian mysticism, especially medieval texts, and especially those written by women. Authors that may be included are: Dionysius the Areopagite, Hadewych of Antwerp, Meister Eckhart, Marguerite Porete, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Angela of Foligno, and others. The seminar will also include selections from more recent authors inspired this tradition, for example William James, Bataille, Lacan, Michel de Certeau, Simone Weil, R.D. Laing, Caroline Bynum and Amy Hollywood. We will pay attention to the political dimension of these traditions that are focused around the odd phenomenon of mystical anarchism. And we will also pay attention to the relation of mystical experience to popular music in various forms.
This seminar has been organised by Mathilde Prietzel Nielsen, 1st year Philosophy student. Please email email@example.com for the zoom conference login details.
Dom Lopes presented at the annual Mark Sainsbury Lecture a novel and promising framework from which to better understand cases of aesthetic injustice: the cosmopolitan theory. The goal of this theory is to capture what is special and sometimes problematic about our engagement with other aesthetic cultures. Lopes started the talk by characterizing justice as goodness in the arrangement of social life. From there, social arrangements of social life are aesthetically unjust when they harm people or communities in their capacity as aesthetic agents, which capacities serve two interests: value diversity and social autonomy. A well-known scenario of aesthetic injustice is cultural appropriation. Lopes’ strategy was to apply his theory to this form of injustice in order to show how there is more to cultural appropriation than “violation of the source culture’s property rights, misrepresentation, disrespect or assimilation”. Using the example of a Haida artwork, ‘Black Canoe’ Lopes convincingly showed that aesthetic cultures also ask for “recognition of the right kind”. By focusing on how the members of an aesthetic culture coordinate and collaborate around their aesthetic profiles, Lopes concluded that this expertise and interaction can be undercut and harmed. And, that is precisely why cultural appropriation is problematic, because it prevents such capacities. The talk was followed by a lively discussion. Some of the issues that came up in the Q&A: how to draw the line between insider/outsider of an aesthetic culture? Who is aesthetically responsible for acts of aesthetic injustice? Are some artistic developments (those that made other artistic forms disappear) to be characterized as cases of aesthetic injustice? How are we to understand ‘aesthetic value’ within the cosmopolitan theory? The conference was attended by an international audience of over one hundred people, including KCL staff and students.
Would you like to post a review on the King’s philosophy blog? If so, then please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
This year’s Mark Sainsbury lecture was given by Professor Dominic McIver Lopes. The topic of which was what he described as a cosmopolitan theory of aesthetic injustice. I have not personally studied philosophy of art, and I am therefore not going to attempt to give a precise account of the theory. I think Professor Lopes did a great job at that himself.
I will however write about my initial thoughts on the conversation. I found Lopes’ conception of aesthetic injustice as a phenomenon separate from cultural appropriation very interesting. The idea that too much attention can limit one’s capacity as an aesthetic agent was something I’d never considered before. Despite being a newcomer to this subject of philosophy, Lopes’ lecture was clear and easy to follow, and like most pieces of great philosophy, it left me with questions I didn’t even know I could ask.
Dominic Lopes, philosopher of aesthetics at the University of British Columbia, spoke at the Mark Sainsbury lecture about a new kind of injustice, aesthetic injustice, which will be the subject of his forthcoming book, Aesthetic Injustice: A Cosmopolitan Theory. This notion may be reminiscent to many of us of epistemic injustice, which has recently been an extremely salient and widely discussed topic in epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy.* According to Lopes, an aesthetic injustice is a large-scale social arrangement that harms people in their capacities as aesthetic agents, which capacities serve interests in value diversity and social autonomy. Lopes applied this notion to the cases of contact between different aesthetic cultures (such as contact between indigenous Haida and mainstream Canadian culture), and spoke about cases of cultural appropriation, the weaponization of the aesthetic, and what Haida artist Yahgulanaas dubbed the “Medusa Syndrome”, whereby outsiders to an aesthetic culture can petrify the aesthetic capacities of cultural insiders, presumably via many of the same kinds of mechanisms that work in stereotype threat (which can also lead to epistemic injustices). We eagerly await Lopes’ forthcoming work on aesthetic injustice, which promises, like the notion of epistemic injustice, to be extremely fruitful and salient in discussions about cultural equality and intercultural respect, and in our everyday lives.
* Miranda Fricker originated the term “epistemic injustice”. But, importantly, Rachel McKinnon notes that minority ethnic feminist philosophers had been working on issues of epistemic injustice for quite some time before its more recent widespread uptake.
This is our first review of Dom Lopes’ presentation for the Mark Sainsbury Lecture, Tuesday 16th March 2021. Did you attend? Would you like to submit a review? If so, please contact email@example.com.