Wednesday, October 24th, 3pm

Room A, Executive Conference Center, Morehouse College

Dr. Shay Welch

Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Spelman College

“A Discursive General Will”

I argue that a discursive version of a general will grounded in collective reasoning mechanisms can, at least in one respect, enhance individual freedom. The individual freedom I target here is individual social freedom. For the purposes of this paper, I understand a general will to simply be a dialogical, participatory version of a collective will of the individuals who constitute a community. I understand social freedom to be the freedom to choose and act with and through other members of the community and to partake in the construction of the values, norms, and institutions of that community that shape one’s own daily life. Social freedom is determined by the extent to which individuals self-determine through social interactions with others in relations, including both public and private interpersonal relationships. I restrict my attention to social freedom since it is this sort of freedom that I believe is cultivated through a general will. Critics have resisted the potentially freeing aspects of previous conceptualizations of a general will because they have conceived of freedom either atomisticlly or as communitarian. The recognition of an individualistic, though social, form of freedom creates space for an individual, liberatory, participatory freedom that is distinctively cultivated only through communal exchanges.



Wednesday, November 14th, 3pm

Cosby Auditorium, Spelman College

Dr. Andrew Douglas

Assistant Professor of Political Science at Morehouse College

“W.E.B. Du Bois and the Critique of the Competitive Society”

This paper traces Du Bois’s evolving disillusionment with liberalism in an effort to stimulate our thinking about an American political culture consumed by both the fear and purported legitimacy of private competition.  Du Bois always encouraged sustained critical appraisal of an American society torn between winners and losers, the favored and the damned.  As his thinking developed into the 1930s, he trained focus more squarely upon the logic of modern capital, or the structural imperative ever to expand power, in the service of private interest, and always in response to a suspicion or fear of the other, the competitor.  Ultimately I suggest that Du Bois’s claims about the racist character of the competitive society, as well as his argument, put forth in a series of speeches and writings on “Negro education,” that black colleges ought to serve as incubators for the critique of such a society, may have some normative import today, as widespread, often unreflective acquiescence to the principles of competitive liberalism seems poised to exacerbate and further legitimize racial and economic inequities.



Tuesday, January 22nd, 4pm

African American Hall of Fame, Morehouse College

Dr. Lawrence P. Jackson

Professor of English and African American Studies at Emory University

“Our Commitment to Our Fathers: Of National Belonging”

A discussion of Dr. Jackson’s most recent book, My Father’s Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War (University of Chicago Press, 2012), with a specific focus on what the slave heritage means to the lives of contemporary African Americans and the place where the strength to embrace that lineage comes from.



Wednesday, February 27th, 3pm

Cosby Reading Room, Spelman College

Dr. Melvin L. Rogers

Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Emory University

“To Awaken His Audience: David Walker and the Political Power of the Appeal”

This paper provides an interpretive reconstruction of the political philosophy of David Walker (1796-1830), an early-nineteenth-century radical abolitionist. Walker’s 1829 Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World is often viewed as defending an essentialist notion of racial solidarity and as the precursor of militant black nationalism, eschewing the possibility for inter-racial cooperation. The paper rejects this reading and proposes an alternative framework for understanding the Appeal. It attends to the rhetorical character of the Appeal—a pamphlet whose title announces its quest to persuade—and it analyzes how Walker uses rhetoric to defend racial solidarity as well as elicit a wider ethical and political conversion among whites and blacks.



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