Wednesday, September 18th, 3pm
Location: Cosby Reading Room, Cosby Hall (2nd Floor), Spelman campus
Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Morehouse College
“The Philosophy of Nonviolence in Gandhi, Thurman, and King”
The distinction in Gandhi’s theory of non-violence between Ahimsa and Satyagraha – between the ‘philosophy of non-violence’ and the ‘methods of nonviolence’ – is one many observers conflate or overlook. Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King not only took up the distinction, they understood it. Both Thurman and King saw that the (a) philosophy and (b) methods of nonviolence remain no less distinct however intimate the connection.
Gandhi and Thurman understood ahimsa as “love in the Pauline sense, yet something more.” Thurman construed the philosophy of nonviolence as a “force superior to all the forces of brutality”. He saw ahimsa as a spirit of love capable of keeping the world of violence at bay. He believed ahimsa was at its core a deeply personal, spiritual discipline, and that it is this that must serve as a platform for conciliating victims and perpetrators of violence. Thurman’s distinctively African American version of ahimsa also aimed to generate a philosophy of transcendent moral purpose and self-respect among the disinherited.
Via the idiom of the Black Church, Thurman provided an illuminating interpretation of forgiveness. On the one hand, Thurman applied the philosophy of Ahimsa to racial oppression in America. On the other, he consistently adapted and extended that philosophy in an effort to “deliver [through African Americans] the unadulterated message of non-violence to the world.” Thurman sought to become a true representative of this philosophy, a vital force at the growing edges of nonviolence. In the end, his writings and sermons were influential, perhaps decisive, to Martin Luther King’s subsequent commitment to both the philosophy and methods of non-violence.
Monday, November 11th, 3pm
Location: Morehouse College, African American Hall of Fame (King Chapel, 2nd Floor)
“The Neglected Question of Race in International Humanitarian Discourse”
Wednesday, February 26th, 3pm
Location: Spelman College, Cosby Reading Room (Second Floor)
Associate Professor of Philosophy at Emory University
“Social Movements and Deliberative Publics: Countering Neoliberalism’s Anti-Politics”
Reconceptualizing the relationship between the social (e.g. new social movements) and the political (namely, deliberative publics) provides a way to counter neoliberalism’s anti-politics. I start this paper by explaining the problem of political elites deferring to market mechanisms rather than engaging in political thinking, deliberating, and judging other ways to address problems. Then I describe the present tension between (i) new social movements that also seem to shun politics (i.e., the politics of deliberative choice) in favor of protests and demands and (ii) deliberative publics, from informal citizen deliberations to formal legislative ones. I argue, following Iris Marion Young, that this tension between “the activist” and “the deliberative democrat” is not oppositional but rather is productive. This is best understood by conceptualizing the various moments in a larger political process, which includes the steps of naming and framing public issues as well as deliberation and choice. This brings to light the need for more formal entry points for citizen public deliberation into the political process as well as the importance that social movements play in challenging the status quo and showing what is being marginalized and needs to be addressed. Finally, I show how the challenge is especially pressing as neoliberalism goes global.
Thursday, March 27th, 3pm
Location: Morehouse College, African American Hall of Fame (King Chapel)
Associate Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University
Ownership by Agreement
This paper proposes a way of looking at ownership in which its central conceptual feature is the agreement that brings it into existence. Ownership, on this understanding, is a social fact, and as such derives its legitimacy from the extent to which people living under it give it their uncoerced consent. While any particular system’s substantive features can certainly be judged according to independent moral considerations, these considerations would necessarily be secondary to the facts surrounding the agreement. In rooting legitimacy to consent, the argument runs parallel to both contractualist moral philosophy and “externalist” rights claims, but, as I demonstrate, differs from both in its emphasis on the conceptual centrality of agreement. The latter half of the essay explores how this understanding of ownership shifts the grounds for what counts as a legitimate right of property, and then offers a few substantive conclusions regarding particular property rights and the nature of the moral obligations that systems of ownership (so conceived) both create and nullify.