July 21, 2019 | 83° F

Annual lecture series draws world-renowned philosophers to Rutgers

Photo by Rutgers.edu |

Last year, the Rutgers Department of Philosophy sparked its annual philosophy lecture series, which will draw some of the world’s most well-renowned philosophers to the University for years to come.

The Department partnered with Oxford University Press to kickstart the series. Guest speakers will spend several days giving public and specialized lectures on campus, while also engaging in conversational meetings with Rutgers faculty and graduate students in workshop settings.

The guests will also take time to meet with undergraduate philosophy majors, according to a press release.

In an interview with the School of Arts and Sciences, former Department Chair Larry Temkin said, “We are bringing to Rutgers a broad constellation of superstars who are pathbreakers in their respective areas of philosophy. They are also incredibly dynamic and engaging speakers who can be counted on to make their thoughts come alive and inspire an audience.”

The series’ first lecturer was Kit Fine, one of today’s most profound analytic philosophers who is a Silver professor of philosophy and mathematics at New York University (NYU) and a distinguished research professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

Fine has made significant contributions to multiple aspects of the field, including philosophy of language, metaphysics, logic and the philosophy of mathematics.

This year’s series was held throughout last week and featured guest lecturer Richard Sorabji, one of the world’s leading experts in the areas of ancient Western philosophy and value theory. Sorabji is also the founder and editor of a series of over 100 volumes of translation from a period of 700 years of Greek philosophy, with over 300 collaborators in 20 countries, according to the press release. 

He is also the author of 17 books and over 90 scholarly articles.

Sorabji’s lectures all related to the discussion of free speech and its boundaries, as well as the challenges that governments and people face with regard to speech and possible solutions to them.

Max DuBoff, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, is a philosophy major and was able to attend the undergraduate meetings held by both Fine and Sorabji.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “Basically, the idea in general of talking in a small group with someone who has been doing this for a long time, has written a lot and is well respected is exciting because I want to be there someday.”

Being able to get perspectives in the form of personal stories from successful philosophers is very interesting, he said. Additionally, ideas and discussions that may not come out during the lectures are often brought to light in these smaller meetings.

DuBoff also said that the series is adding to the University’s reputation.

“For one thing, this whole lecture series is really raising Rutgers’ profile in the philosophy world,” he said. “Rutgers is already a well-known spot for philosophy, very well respected, but because of this whole partnership with Oxford University Press, and really sponsoring the new work by these philosophers and sharing it with the Rutgers community, and more broadly, anyone who wants to come, Rutgers is really doing something good for the field of philosophy and the endeavors in this field.”

DuBoff said that it is great to see philosophers tackling popular topics that everyone is thinking about.

“Philosophy is really useful in any case, on all kinds of topics, even ones that don’t seem to be readily practical,” he said. “This is the kind of topic that we can all listen to and then go home and have the kinds of interactions that, if we’re thinking about this, might make it a little better on campus, but also with conversations with peers.”

Future lecturers will include Robert Stalnaker from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Jeff McMahan from the University of Oxford, Béatrice Longuenesse from NYU and Martha C. Nussbaum from the University of Chicago.

“It’s nice to be a part of and it’s nice to know that my school is doing it,” DuBoff said.

Stephen Weiss

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