Jonathan Lear, Spinoza Chair lectures

Jonathan Lear will hold the Spinoza Chair at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Amsterdam in the spring of 2016 and will be delivering the accompanying two Spinoza Lectures on ‘Ironic Anthropos’ and ‘The Unconscious and the Meaning of Life’.

Lear’s first Spinoza Lecture is entitled ‘Ironic Anthropos’.

Does the very attempt to give an account of ourselves get in the way of understanding ourselves? We tend to understand ourselves through concepts we apply to ourselves, but these concepts are vulnerable – both to history and to irony. I may understand myself, say, as Crow Indian or as American, as Dutch or as European, but what happens to the concept when, for instance, the form of life in which I participate is devastated, or there is such a disparity of wealth that the idea of representative democracy is threatened, the promise of free speech is turned upside down, or there are massive immigrations of peoples with no desire to adopt a new way of life? And then, as Socrates showed, even concepts that seem impervious to historical shifts – such as teacher or student or doctor – have an uncanny instability built into them. There is always the possibility of an anxious fluctuation between how these concepts are realized in social formations and what they might call one to. How is one to account for that?

Jonathan Lear is the John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago.  He currently serves as Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, a new research institute within the University. Lear trained in philosophy at Cambridge University and The Rockefeller University. He later trained as a psychoanalyst and has been working with low-fee patients for thirty years.  He is a recent recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award.

His books include: Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation (2006), Aristotle and Logical Theory (1980), Aristotle: the desire to understand (1988); Love and its place in nature: a philosophical interpretation of Freudian psychoanalysis (1990), Open minded: working out the logic of the soul (1998), Happiness, death and the remainder of life (2000), Therapeutic action: an earnest plea for irony (2003), and Freud (2005). His most recent books is A Case for Irony (Harvard University Press, 2011).

Date and time: Thursday, March 10, 2016, at 20:15. The Aula will open at 19:30.

Location: Aula of the University of Amsterdam, Oude Lutherse kerk, Singel 411, Amsterdam

Admission is free (no reservation required).

On Thursday, Thursday, March 24, 2016, at 20:15 Jonathan Lear will give the second Spinoza Lecture entitled ‘The Unconscious and the Meaning of Life’.

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