Events and announcements

Philosophy colloquia occur in-person on Fridays at 2:30pm in CLE A320. Typically, in-person colloquia events will also have a Zoom component.

Note: please email to be added to the Philosophy Colloquium mailing list so you may receive notifications about upcoming talks and Zoom meeting information.

2023-24 Season

Stanislas Richard - November 24 2023

Can exploitation ever be wrong?

If it is better to be exploited than neglected, how can it be impermissible to exploit if it is permissible to neglect? This paradox is called the ‘exploitation problem’. The present article argues the problem does not exist. There are no exchanges in which neglect is permissible and exploitation impermissible. The permissibility of neglect makes exploitation permissible as well – a principle sometimes called the ‘nonworseness claim’; and if exploitation is impermissible, then so is neglect. Any assertion to the contrary only creates confusion, since it can only be supported by a set of unreliable intuitions, which are very difficult to justify without appealing to ad-hoc hypotheses with implausible implications.

Matt Bedke (UBC) - January 12 2024

Francois Claveau (Université de Sherbrooke) - February 9 2024

Jonathan Schaffer (Rutgers) - March 15 2024

On What There Is, Was, or Could Be

Past entities like Socrates, and possible entities like Pegasus, have so much going for them. They are (evidently) nameable, in the range of quantifiers ('some philosophers’ can include Socrates, 'some mythical creatures' can include Pegasus), and capable of standing in relations (you might admire them both). But—unlike Barack Obama—neither Socrates nor Pegasus exist. Socrates used to exist, but—sadly—he’s gone now. Pegasus could exist, but—spoiler alert!—he never actually existed. This is puzzling. For the orthodox view in metaphysics—developed especially by Quine—is that what can be named, quantified over, and involved in relations is precisely what exists. Indeed here lies the puzzle that Quine called “Plato’s beard”—how can we even coherently say that Pegasus does not exist, or deny the existence of anything we can name, if naming requires existence? Something must go. I offer a non-Quinean approach—novel as far as I know—with two main ingredients. First, it embraces a big constant “outer” domain including Socrates, Pegasus, and Obama alike. In every scenario, they are all available to be named, quantified over, and admired. Secondly, the approach brings in a view on tense and mood in natural language, on which ‘exists’ (/‘is’) is not a unit but a blend of at least three syntactically distinct elements: root-exist (/root-be), present tense, and indicative mood. I use this to provide a consistent way to untangle Plato’s beard, and to explain how Socrates merely existed (/was), and Pegasus merely could exist (/could be).

Alex King (SFU) - April 5 2024

Chris Maier (UVic) - September 22 2023

2022-23 Season

September 16, 2022: David Liebesman (University of Calgary) with Ofra Magidor (Oxford)

Title: Thinking Outside the Lunch Box

Abstract: Lunch was delicious but took hours. How can this be true? It seems to many that only food was delicious while only events can take hours, and that nothing can be both. This is one instance of the problem of copredication, where there are true sentences that seem to ascribe categorically incompatible properties. On our approach to the problem there are not such strong categorical constraints on property instantiation, i.e. properties are more versatile than is commonly supposed. In this talk I’ll sketch the problem of copredication, our approach, and then delve into the details of the lunch example. Our approach yields a metaphysics of lunch on which lunch is a meal that is not straightforwardly identified with either the event of eating lunch or the food eaten.

UVic Events Calendar listing

November 18, 2022: Mark Povich (University of Rochester)

Title: The Expressive Role of Mathematics in Scientific Explanation

Abstract: Distinctively mathematical explanations (DMEs) explain natural phenomena primarily by appeal to mathematical facts. Some philosophers take DMEs to provide good evidence for the existence of the mathematical objects to which they appeal. Here I give a normativist account of mathematical necessity that blocks the indispensability-inference from DMEs – even ontic accounts thereof – to Platonism, by allowing the nominalist to accept the former – even deflated ontic accounts thereof – while denying the latter. Furthermore, I argue that deflated ontic accounts are just as explanatorily powerful, if not more.

UVic Events Calendar listing

December 2, 2022: Rob Wilson (University of Western Australia)

Title: Philosophical Silences: Some Thoughts on Race, Gender, and Eugenics

Abstract: Drawing on the work of Charles Mills on race and of Susan Babbitt on gender, as well as my own on eugenics and disability, this talk raises some questions about philosophy's boundaries, history, sociology, and community engagement.  The discipline of philosophy has had (and continues to have) an uneasy relationship with race, gender, and disability.  The hope is for the talk to spark some constructive thinking about how the future need not be like the past.

UVic Events Calendar listing

January 13, 2023: Kian Mintz-Woo (University College, Cork)

Title: Responsibility for Climate Loss & Damage

Abstract: This talk has two purposes: one conceptual and one normative. Conceptually, it distinguishes, in a new and robust manner, climate mitigation, adaptation and Loss & Damage policies. The basic idea is that there are limits to mitigation and adaptation and that these limits depend on, inter alia, (some mix of) physical, engineering, social and economic feasibility constraints. Given some limits and a time of evaluation, which impacts are mitigable, adaptable or losses and damages is determinate. Similarly, this distinction determines which climate policies are mitigation, adaptation or L&D. Normatively, the article defends several claims about blame and task responsibility regarding different climatic impacts falling within these categories. One important idea introduced is of climate-independent duties to adapt.

Feburary 10, 2023: Kristen Hessler and Lourdes Aguas (University at Albany)

Title: Indigenous Human Rights and the Rights of Nature

Abstract: Environmentalists have long debated whether natural entities should have legal standing—that is, whether courts should consider environmental damage as it impacts not only human individuals and communities, but also natural objects themselves. In the twenty-first century, laws recognizing the legal standing of natural objects have begun to be implemented in a number of jurisdictions around the world. Here, we present our early work on an interdisciplinary project to analyze the implications of legal “rights of nature” (RoN) frameworks, focusing centrally on litigation in Ecuadorian courts interpreting the RoN framework in Ecuador’s 2008 constitution. We have two relatively modest aims. First, we sketch and defend an interdisciplinary methodology, incorporating both philosophical and sociological methods, for analyzing the moral and sociological implications of RoN legal frameworks. Second, we consider and rebut objections to RoN based on their presumably inherent conflict with human rights. 

UVic events calendar listing 

March 3, 2023: Luc Bovens (University of North Carolina)

Title: Hope, Death, and Dying

Abstract:  When death is approaching, people tend to look back on their lives, and they may hope that they have lived a worthwhile life. They may hope that they will be missed, remembered, and respected in death. And they may hope to die a good death. We will lay out some questions about each of these hopes. Finally, people differ on whether they want to know ahead of time that they are approaching death or whether they want death to come unannounced. I will report on some x-phi results on how these attitudes correlate with demographic and personality variables.

UVic events calendar listing

March 24 2023: Zoe Drayson (UC Davis)

Title: Distinguishing epistemological and psychological roles for inner speech

Abstract: What role does our inner speech play in our cognitive processes? Ray Jackendoff (1996) and Andy Clark (1998) have argued that inner speech in natural language facilitates a particular kind of metacognition: the ability to self-reflectively evaluate our own thinking processes. Jose Luis Bermúdez (2003, 2010, 2018) draws on their work to make the stronger claim that natural language is essential for this kind of metacognition, concluding that while non-linguistic creatures may be capable of basic cognition, they necessarily lack this metacognitive ability. In this paper I challenge Bermúdez’s arguments and argue that both his conclusions and his methodology are distinct from those of Jackendoff and Clark. The important upshot of this is, I propose, that the philosophical literature on inner speech needs to distinguish between epistemological and psychological claims concerning the role and nature of inner speech.  

UVic Events Calendar listing

March 31 2023: Geordie McComb (University of Toronto)

"Consideration Machines: Short Stories as Thought Experiments"

When we read works of literature, such as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, we learn; and we learn much like we do when performing a thought experiment.  But how we do so also differs.  Novels, for example, tend to be more complex than thought experiments, and they tend not to have an intended outcome.  These differences hinder certain explanations of how we learn from literature; specifically, they hinder those that appeal to thought experiments.  Can this hindrance be removed?  I argue that it cannot.  In particular, I consider a best case for hindrance-free explanation—namely, Anton Chekov's short story, “Gooseberries,'' interpreted by George Saunders as a "consideration machine”—and I argue that even in this best case the hindrance remains.  Finally, I explain how my argument supports a weak non-cognitivist account of how we ordinarily learn from works of literary fiction.  


Chris Maier (UVic) - September 22 2023

"On Medals: Pinning Hope to the Battlefield"

An examination of the role hope that plays in establishing the resolve needed for members of an armed force to accomplish their most dangerous and difficult missions. We do not see these missions as supererogatory. The role of medals as gratitude for plain duty and recognition of valour is weaved into the argument to show that rituals and stories can provide the conditions needed to establish hope; hope can function as the resolve side of traditional military discipline, but in a way that respects members of the armed force as reasoners – as people entitled to dignity.

Pamela Hieronymi (UCLA) - October 13 2023

"No Inertia in Consciousness"

Sartre claims that there is no inertia in consciousness. Like many of his claims, this seems patently false. However, also like many of his claims, it can be interpreted in way in which it is both true and illuminating.  Consciousness, for Sartre, is the ability to “negate.”  As I will understand this, it includes the ability to entertain and answer questions.  Our “consciousness,” thus understood, will include our beliefs and intentions (regardless of whether we are aware of them “consciously”).  It is tempting to think of our beliefs and intentions as states of mind that are produced, at a time, by a discrete episode of mental activity, which then persist, in the mind, until revised or eliminated at some later point, by some later episode of mental activity—as if they were documents on computer.  So understood, belief and intention possess their own inertia, so to speak.   I will argue that this way of thinking about belief and intention badly distorts both our relation to them and our responsibility for them.  Rather than think of them as if they were items stored in memory on a computer—as something you might act upon intermittently to run, update, or delete—we should think of them instead as something more like our posture: they rely, at each moment, on our on-going activity, and so are, themselves, a kind of activity.  Thus understood, there is, in fact, no inertia in (this aspect of) consciousness.

The Victoria Colloquium on Political, Social and Legal Theory provides a forum for regular interdisciplinary exchange among faculty, graduate students, and upper-level LL.B students on critical issues in political, social and legal philosophy.

March 10, 2023: Duncan Ivison (University of Sydney)

Duncan Ivison

A Taxonomy of Injustice


In recent political theory, various arguments have been mounted to suggest that we can perceive or intuit injustice more directly than what is just (and perhaps, more broadly, what is bad as compared to what is good). Call this the asymmetry thesis. This thesis has become increasingly influential. But what kind of injustice? Whose injustice? After some general reflections on the nature of the asymmetry, I offer an initial taxonomy of injustice. Recognizing the diversity of our senses of injustice might well have implications for how we theorize about justice more generally, but might also cast some doubt on the strength of the purported asymmetry itself.


Duncan Ivison is Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Sydney. He is the author of Can Liberal States Accommodate Indigenous Peoples? (2020), Rights (2008), Postcolonial Liberalism (2002), and The Self at Liberty (1997). He was previously Head of the School of Humanities (2007-10), Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (2010-2015), and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) (2015-2022), all at the University of Sydney.

Pre-seminar reading

Ivison, "Pluralising Political Legitimacy"

Seminar reading

Ivison, "A Taxonomy of Injustice" 

January 20, 2023: Anna Jurkevics (UBC)

Anna Jurkevics

World-building, Democracy, and the Limits of Sovereign Mastery


What does democracy require of us when it comes to governing land? More fundamentally, what does it mean to be free with regard to land? This talk explores these questions and proposes a geographically-attuned theory of democracy as world-building. To do so, I draw on a set of puzzles and shortcomings in European political theories of land, property, and work. My primary interlocutors are Hannah Arendt, GWF Hegel, Martin Heidegger, and Bonnie Honig. Ultimately, I find that these thinkers fail, albeit in illuminating ways, to provide convincing normative foundations for democratic world-building. To ground a robust theory of democracy over land, we will have to turn elsewhere, for example to indigenous theorists and anarchists. Moreover, I find that when it comes to land, it is time to abandon the framework of popular sovereignty that has long guided democratic theory. A truly democratic and participatory theory of land governance must sever any connection with sovereign mastery.


Anna Jurkevics is a political theorist and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia (PhD Yale 2017). Her research explores theories of land and territory from the vantage point of critical theory and the German tradition. She is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Contested Territory: A Theory of Land and Democracy Beyond Sovereign Bounds. Her work has appeared in Political Theory, the European Journal of Political Theory, and Modern Intellectual History, among other venues.

Pre-seminar reading

Jurkevics, Land Grabbing and the Perplexities of Territorial Sovereignty 

Seminar reading

Jurkevics, World-Building and Democracy*

*Note: readers may want to skim the sections on Arendt and Hegel to save time.

November 25, 2022: Coel Kirkby (University of Sydney)

 Coel Kirkby

Inventing Necessity: Law and Revolution in Cold War Africa


Law and revolution have shaped modernity, yet their study remains dominated by the writings and concerns of a narrow Western canon. This paper responds to this history by exploring alternative anticolonial writing on the specific problem of the coups d'état across independent Africa in the 1960s. I first set out how British legal scholars framed and analysed the problem of revolutionary legality: if and how judges should rule on the legality of an unconstitutional change of government. I juxtapose this discourse and its assumptions to the heated debate in the pages of Transition, the Kampala-based popular magazine, between Ugandan, Kenyan and Tanzania scholars over these same events. The evolving answer of the loose 'Dar es Salaam school' started from an immanent critique of African postcolonial political economy. The result was a different set of problems that asked what role of judges should play in the broader reconstructive project to decolonise the modern African state characterised by political independence and economic dependence.


Coel Kirkby joined Sydney Law School in 2018 and is Associate Director of the Julius Stone Institute of Jurisprudence. He was elected the Smuts Research Fellow in Commonwealth Studies at the University of Cambridge for 2017-18. Before that he was a McKenzie Fellow at Melbourne Law School, an Endeavour Fellow at UNSW, and a researcher at the Dullah Omar Institute in Cape Town, South Africa. He has also worked on contemporary constitutional reform projects from Fiji and Tuvalu to Victoria and South Africa.

Dr Kirkby is both a historian of the legal thought and practice of British imperialism, and a comparative constitutional scholar concerned with its legacies in postcolonial states. He has published a number of articles and chapters in the Modern Law ReviewUniversity of Toronto Law JournalOsgoode Hall Law Journal and elsewhere. Coel is currently completing two books on the birth of liberal democracy in the British Empire over the nineteenth century. He is also working on a new book, The Immanentists, on law and revolution during the Cold War.

Seminar reading

"Inventing Necessity" [DRAFT] 

October 28, 2022: Kimberley Brownlee (UBC)

Kimberley Brownlee

Seminar: The Razian's Elephant in the Room: When do Interests Give Rise to Rights?


Many legal theorists and political philosophers – myself included – rely on Joseph Raz’s version of the interest theory of rights: we use rights-talk when we believe that some person’s interest has sufficient moral importance to justify holding others to be under specific duties to serve that interest. Sometimes the specified duties are purely moral, but often they’re presumptively legal too. When we rely on Raz’s interest theory we tend not to dwell, however, on the fact that we can conceive of the moral importance of interests in different ways which yield different answers to the question of whether those interests generate rights. This paper explores four factors that can alter our assessment of the moral importance of interests. These four factors represent challenges that must be grappled with if we are to draw determinate boundaries around rights generating interests, especially in key areas such as human rights law. First, when assessing the moral importance of an interest, should we take into account whether it is possible to secure that interest? Second, should we consider an interest in isolation from a person’s other interests or in aggregation with some of her other interests, thereby allowing that individually unimportant interests could aggregate to form morally important bundles that generate rights? Third, should we focus on types of interest or on token interests? For instance, in the case of marriage, should we focus on the fact that adults have a type-interest in being able to marry or on the fact that many women (and girls) lack token-interests in being able to marry? Fourth, should we take into account a person’s own perspective on the importance of her different interests? This lecture will unpack these four challenges and consider the pros and cons of possible solutions.

Pre-seminar readings:

Raz, "On the Foundations of Human Rights"

Tasioulas, "Morality of Freedom"

September 23, 2022: Terrell Carver (University of Bristol)

Terrell Carver

Seminar: Marx Update


Marx is a moving target, but so are his readers. And so are his scholarly editors and translators. Regrettably, though, some of his recent biographers and commentators haven’t moved on very much, partly from keeping him the same and playing safe, and partly from the genre-constraints of intellectual biography and textbook-mainstreaming. Moreover some of his ideas go unmarked and uncredited because they have merged with liberal-minded commonsense and taken-for-granted methodologies. In sum he is a complex cultural phenomenon, taking in visual, dramaturgical and cinematic representation.

This talk will cover various ways that Marx has changed, because we – or rather some of us in the scholarly community – have changed. The text for this talk will be in outline form covering topics such as the Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) or Complete Works project and its editorial politics; the shifting canon of ‘great works’ over the last 120 years; ‘Marx and ...’: ecology, the anthropocene, settler societies, Indigeneity and racial capitalism; feminism and the politics of sex, gender and sexuality; democracy, social democracy and socialisms.

But how to read Marx is changing, given his will to interpret the world and to change it. This is because our understanding of his reception through Engels and subsequent Marxisms has critically evolved; because our contextual understanding of what he thought his words were doing is improving; and because our literary and analytical skills have developed very considerably in a multi- and inter-disciplinary way.

It's a fair question what Marx’s words are doing for us, and why we don’t want him to leave us alone.


Terrell Carver is Professor of Political Theory at the University of Bristol, UK. He has published very extensively on Marx, Engels and Marxisms, and is co-general-editor (with Marcello Musto, York University, Toronto) of a book series of that name for Palgrave Macmillan. His latest books are Marx in the ‘Classic Thinkers’ series for Polity Press, 2018; Engels Before Marx for Palgrave Macmillan. 2020; and The Life and Thought of Friedrich Engels, 30th Anniversary Edition, for Palgrave Macmillan (2020).

Talk materials

Abstract + Outline

PhD candidate Ryan Tonkin awarded Dean's Dissertation Year Scholarship

Ryan and two other PhD candidates from the Humanities have been awarded the Dean's Dissertation Year Scholarship, an award meant to facilitate completion the completion of their dissertations.


“Bauhaus, Design, and the Livable Anthropocene” celebrates the innovative approach to design and architecture developed at the Bauhaus School, founded in Weimar, Germany, in 1919. The aim is to reflect on the historical impact of this approach, and explore its potential for addressing the design challenges of the Anthropocene. The bau1haus photographs by Jean Molitor, brought to UVic by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany Vancouver, present an exceptionally beautiful record of modernist buildings from around the world. The Exhibit is accompanied by an inter-disciplinary colloquium.