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Berry Lectures in Public Philosophy

All Lectures are free and open to the public. Each is sponsored by the Vanderbilt Philosophy Department with the generous support of the Berry Fund.


Linda M. Alcoff (CUNY)

Tuesday, March 21st, at 7:00 pm CST | Wilson Hall 126

Berry Lecture, 3-23


Nancy Fraser (The New School for Social Research), "Three Faces of Labor: Uncovering the Hidden Ties between Gender, Race and Class"

Thursday, September 15th, at 7:00 pm CST | Wilson Hall 126


The Vanderbilt University Philosophy Department, thanks to the generous support by the Berry Fund, is pleased to invite you to the annual  Berry Lecture in Public Philosophy.  Our speaker, this year, will be  Prof. Nancy Fraser (The New School for Social Research), who will deliver a lecture entitled "Three Faces of Labor: Uncovering the Hidden Ties between Gender, Race and Class."


Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. (Princeton), "James Baldwin and Black Democratic Perfectionism"

Thursday, March 18th, at 7:00 pm CST | Zoom Webinar


Kimberley Brownlee (Warwick), "Social Isolation"

Friday, April 12 | Wilson Hall, Reception at 6:15pm, lecture at 7:00pm


John Lachs (Vanderbilt), "Death and Self-Importance"

Thursday, April 20 | Furman Hall 114, Reception at 6:15pm, lecture at 7:00pm


Moral Frontiers

Michael Lynch (Connecticut), "Knowledge in the Age of Big Data"

Friday, March 18 | 7:00pm, Furman Hall, Room 114

Leif Wenar (King's College London), "Blood Oil"

Friday, March 25 | 7:00pm, Furman Hall 114

Cheryl Misak (Toronto) and James Jackson (Vanderbilt Medical Center), "Delirium in the ICU: A Discussion"

Thursday, April 7 | 7:00pm, Furman Hall 114


Human Existence: Insights from Philosophy’s History

Lenn Goodman, “Two Ways to do Metaphysics without Really Trying: Aristotle and Avicenna on Being at Large”

Tuesday, February 11 | 7:00pm, Buttrick Hall, Room 101

Julian Wuerth, “What is Enlightenment? Kant’s Copernican Revolution”

Tuesday, February 18 | 7:00pm, Buttrick Hall, Room 101

David Wood, “‘What does not kill me makes me stronger’: Why we Still Read Kierkegaard and Nietzsche”

Tuesday, February 25 | 7:00pm, Buttrick Hall, Room 101

José Medina, “Love and Other Demons: Wittgenstein and Skepticism”

Thursday, March 13 | 7:00pm, Wilson Hall, Room 126


Life, Death, and Justice

All sessions meet 7:00 – 8:15pm | Furman Hall, Room 114

Larry May, “Can War be Justified?”

Monday, March 11

War and other forms of armed conflict involve the intentional killing of many people, combatants as well as civilians.  For several millennia, philosophers have debated whether something that in everyday life would normally be instantly recognized as unjustified could nonetheless be justified in war. The classic arguments talk about how war is sometimes necessary to prevent even greater tragedies than the killing that war inevitably involves. And the killing of soldiers in particular has been justified by claims that they have forfeited their rights by joining the military.  But many have not been persuaded, only some of whom are pacifists.

Lisa Guenther, “Is Solitary Confinement a Living Death Penalty?”

Monday, March 18

In recent years, several states have abolished the death penalty, and other states seem to be moving in the direction of abolition.  Sentences of life without parole are now common replacements for death sentences, and long-term solitary confinement is an increasingly popular instrument for controlling prison populations. Yet there is good reason to think that long-term solitary confinement has debilitating psychological effects which render people unable to engage socially.  So if capital punishment has been replaced by a sentence of life without parole in a system where long-term solitary confinement is increasingly common, have we truly abolished the death penalty?  Or have we replaced it with a form of living death?

W. James Booth, “Can the Dead Be Harmed?”

Monday, March 25

Can the dead be harmed? One on account, to be dead is to cease to have any existence whatsoever, and therefore to have no interests, feelings or hopes that could be thwarted or harmed by others. Counter- arguments advance claims that the dead or their interests do persist, and so can be wronged. These debates are of importance across a range of concerns. Do we actually owe something to our beloved family dead, for example devotion, remembrance or compliance with their will as it was when they were alive? Is doing justice to the deceased victims of past injustice something we owe them, such that if we failed in this we would further injure them? During this presentation, I will sketch and weigh some responses to these questions, and underline their importance for our everyday lives.