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Humane Philosophy and Human Nature – conference and workshop

Informacje ogólne

Kod przedmiotu: 3501-HPHN-KONF Kod Erasmus / ISCED: 08.1 / (0223) Filozofia i etyka
Nazwa przedmiotu: Humane Philosophy and Human Nature – conference and workshop
Jednostka: Instytut Filozofii
Punkty ECTS i inne: (brak)
zobacz reguły punktacji
Język prowadzenia: angielski
Rodzaj przedmiotu:


Tryb prowadzenia:

w sali

Skrócony opis: (tylko po angielsku)

The aim of the three-days conference followed by three-days workshop is to renew the question about the relevance, meaning and different cultural aspects of the category of human nature.

Pełny opis: (tylko po angielsku)

The dates of the conference: 24- 26. 09. 2015

Place: Pałac Kazimierzowski, Sala im. J. Brudzińskiego – keynote papers

The Library of University of Warsaw (BUW), room 211 and 212 – parallel short papers

University of Warsaw, Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28

The dates of the workshop: 28-30.09.2015 (each day: 10:30 – 16:00)

Place: Institute of Philosophy, Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, room 209

The detailed program of the conference will be available soon on the websites of The Humane Philosophy Project:,

The list of keynote speakers:

A. Z. Nowak (Vice-Rector of University of Warsaw) Z. Rosińska (University of Warsaw); M. Poręba (University of Warsaw); R. Piłat, (Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University); A. Bielik-Robson (Polish Academy of Science, University of Nottingham); A. Pinsent (University of Oxford); A. Steinbock (Southern Illinois University); J. Valberg (University College London); K. Stikkers (Southern Illinois University); A. Kinneging (Leiden University); L. Ryberg-Ingerslev (Aarhus University); Jos de Mul (Erasmus University Rotterdam)


Since classical antiquity the idea of human nature has played a central role in our understanding of ourselves and of our place in the world, providing the source of norms of conduct, as well as presenting a categorical framework for living a good, and fulfilled life. At the same time however this idea has always been controversial: the debate concerning the distinguishing characteristics of human beings, their grounding, and how fixed they are, is one of the oldest in philosophy.  

A tradition dominant since Plato and Aristotle has emphasized rationality as distinctive of human beings. Among the rational capacities characteristic of humans intellect and will are commonly singled out. Furthermore for many ancient thinkers, human nature is not only what distinguishes humanity as a kind, but it is also what human beings are meant to strive for to achieve perfection. Aristotle makes several influential suggestions concerning areas of human activity where our nature is most manifest: most notably perhaps, defining man in his ‘Politics’ as a political animal, and in his ‘Poetics’ as a mimetic animal.  The former points to an innate propensity to develop complex communities, the latter denotes the need to represent reality, and thus to create art.

In the twentieth century, many philosophers have put pressure upon traditional construals of human nature. In the existentialist tradition, the very idea has been challenged, accused of substituting an essence where there is really a set of relations and/or a free choice. This has prefigured a preponderance of anti-, post-, and trans-humanistic theories that deprive the category of any concrete meaning or lasting relevance. But although these traditions may be motivated by a desire to liberate humanity from deleterious constraints, many have felt that a denial of meaning in this domain entails a rejection of meaning more widely that can scarcely be made up for by our own contingent projects.

Furthermore, many commentators have disputed the gulf traditionally supposed to exist between the nature of humans and that of animals, drawing out close parallels in the evolutionary functions of animal behaviours with those of many spheres of human life.

Obviously, this raises the question of which discipline the study of human nature belongs to. If humans are just a part of nature then we might look to the natural sciences such as biology, and neurology, or the ‘higher level’ social sciences like anthropology and economics. However many thinkers argue that humankind is not amenable to these disciplines and that its study is better suited to the humanities such as history, theology and philosophy. This dispute was central to the ‘science wars’ of the nineteen nineties and to the bifurcation of late modern intellectual life into ‘two cultures’ lamented by C. P. Snow before that. Recent advances in neurobiology and cognitive science as well as recent challenges to the relevance of the humanities in contemporary thought make these questions more pressing than ever.


The aim of the workshop is to allow participants to discuss selected conference themes in a more intimate seminar format. Sessions will be convened by invited keynote speakers from the conference and Humane Philosophy Project organisers. Topics covered will include: personal identity; intersubjectivity (its ontical and ethical dimensions); the relationship between economic growth and human growth; and the ethical and cognitive aspects of human emotions.

The Precise Schedule:

1. Monday 28.09 – 10:30 – 12:00

Being with others: answerability and responsiveness, part I, lecturer: Line Ryberg-Ingerslev (Aarhus University)

The workshop will be devoted to the detailed and critical analysis of the concept of Mitsein derived from Heidegger’s philosophy and revisited in the perspective of the work by S. Crowell and S. Darwall. Being with others commits us to dialogical accountability in such a way that we must answer for our doings and can be held responsible for our actions. It means that prior to our orientation towards norms and our capacity for empathy, the responsiveness of being with others tells us something about how we exist as human beings. The proposed reading of responsive Mitsein, will partially rely on Nancy, Waldenfels and Levinas.

Suggested Readings:

Crowell, S. (2013) “Being answerable: reason-giving and the ontological meaning of discourse” in Normativity and Phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger, Cambridge University Press

Darwall, S. (2011) “Being With” in The Southern Journal of Philosophy, vol 49, pp. 4-24

Heidegger, M. (1927) Sein und Zeit, §§ 56-8, Niemeyer Verlag

2. Monday 28.09 – 12:30 – 15:45 (including 15 minutes break)

Naturalism and the Self: The Metaphysics of Human Persons, lecturers: Ralph Stefan Weir, Samuel Hughes (University of Oxford)

This class will discuss what considerations legitimately bear on the metaphysics of human persons. In particular, it will focus on whether our metaphysical views in this area are subject to considerations beyond those standardly adduced in the recent literature. Discussion topics will include Daniel Dennett’s claim that dualists are motivated by a desire ‘to keep science at bay’, and Joshua Greene’s claim that neuroscientists are motivated by a wish to witness ‘the demise of the soul’. The class will discuss whether putative ulterior motives for metaphysical positions concerning human persons are illegitimate, or whether they are of genuine philosophical interest. Attention will be paid to ethical arguments for naturalist and non-naturalist perspectives on human persons adduced by Joshua Greene and Thomas Nagel respectively.

The class will take the form of a presentation followed by discussion. Quotations from relevant works will be provided and no prior reading is required. Interested participants may wish to look at Joshua Greene, ‘Social Neuroscience and the Soul's Last Stand’ in A. Todorov, S. Fiske, and D. Prentice, Eds. Social Neuroscience: Toward Understanding the Underpinnings of the Social Mind, Oxford University Press.

3. Tuesday 29.09 – 10:30 – 12:00

Being with others: answerability and responsiveness, part II lecturer: Line Ryberg-Ingerslev (Aarhus University)

4. Tuesday 29.09 – 12:30 – 15:45 (including 15 minutes break)

Growth and Well-Being, Economic and Human, lecturer: Kenneth W. Stikkers (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)

What is the relationship between economic growth and well-being, on the one hand, and human growth and well-being, on the other? Orthodox economic thinking has assumed the two to be the same, but the work of economists such as Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz has made clear that the two are not necessarily related. The workshop will explore how orthodox economics arrived at its assumption and why the relationship between economic wealth and human well-being needs to be rethought.

5. Wednesday 30.09 – 10:30 – 13:45 (including 15 minutes break)

The distinctive structure of moral emotions, lecturer: prof. Anthony Steinbock (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)

The aim of the workshop will be to re-examine the immanent to the moral emotions kind of cognition and evidence, which help to clarify the meaning of personhood as well as to reveal novel concepts of freedom, critique and normativity. The subject of the workshop will be also how and in what ways moral emotions engage into our contemporary social imaginaries.

Suggested Reading:

Steinbock, A. (2014), Introduction: The Distinctiveness of Moral Emotions, in: Moral Emotions. Reclaiming the Evidence of the Heart, Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois

6. Wednesday 30.09 – 14:15 – 15:45

Summary session, Mikołaj Sławkowski-Rode (University of Warsaw, University of Oxford), Jonathan Price (University of Oxford, University of Oxford), Przemysław Bursztyka (University of Warsaw)

All suggested readings will be provided.

Efekty kształcenia: (tylko po angielsku)

Learning Outcomes

After the course student:

I. Knowledge:

- has a basic knowledge on the distinctive features of human nature as it was presented in the philosophical tradition

- knows the basic terminology of philosophical anthropology

- has the basic knowledge about controversies around the notion of human nature

- has a basic knowledge about moral aspects of human nature

- has a basic knowledge about complex nature of the moral relationships between the state and individual(s)

II. Skills:

- uses correctly acquired philosophical terminology;

- analyzes different dimensions of human being and their axiological aspects on his own;

- properly distinguishes different approaches to the study of human nature;

III. Social Competences:

- is open to the new ideas and ready to change his opinion in the light of evidences;

- is able to cooperate and to work in the group by taking the different roles in it;

Metody i kryteria oceniania: (tylko po angielsku)

1. Attendance at the conference (it will be 10 -12 keynote papers – attendance at least at 8; and 6 parallel sessions – attendance at 3)

2. Attendance and active participation (or written essay) in workshop sessions

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