Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series 2016-17

Life According to Nature

March 14 - 16, 2017

Trent University

Members of the Department of Philosophy at Trent University are pleased to announce the annual Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series will be delivered by Professor Catherine Wilson March 14 - 16, 2017. The series is titled: Life According to Nature.


Moral Theory After Darwin

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

4-6 pm – Bagnani Hall, Traill College

‘Life According to Nature’ has been an ideal of philosophers since ancient times. By this, they have meant a life adapted to human needs, interests, and capabilities that are so basic as to be independent of cultural variation. But morality, as Kant pointed out, is a universal need, interest, and capability that seems to involve going against nature. In this lecture, Professor Wilson will indicate a partial solution by outlining the conception of the human moral platform presented by Darwin and elaborated since in light of anthropological and psychological research.


The Way We Live Now

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

4 - 6 pm – Bagnani Hall, Traill College

In the second lecture of the series, Professor Wilson will consider the scandal, and inspiration, created by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the mid-18th century. Drawing heavily on the civilisations-critique of the 1st century Epicurean philosopher-poet Lucretius, Rousseau condemned the stress, exploitation, and hypocrisy of his society, contrasting it with an earlier stage of happiness and equality lost with the chance invention of agriculture and metallurgy. Professor Wilson will discuss how such analyses, especially as they pertain to work and to relations between the sexes, appear today in light of our understanding of the few remaining hunter-gatherer societies.  


Life According to Nature  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

4 - 6 pm – Bagnani Hall, Traill College

In the final lecture of the series, Professor Wilson will pick up on Rousseau’s claim that he never meant to recommend, as he put it, ‘a return to the forest to live like bears,’ though his critics accused him of precisely that. In his Social Contract of 1762, he went further in performing a kind of about-face, praising the accidents that had raised human beings from what he now termed ‘stupid animals’ into noble representatives of their species. Without necessarily abandoning the insights gained from studying human beings outside civilisation, Professor Wilson will explore the use that might be made today of the notion of a social contract and its relationship to the ideal of a life according to nature, as the Stoic philosophers understood it in relation to special human competencies.  


Catherine Wilson is the Anniversary Professor of Philosophy at the University of York in England, as well as a Visiting Professor of Philosophy in the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Professor Wilson earned a BA, BPhil, and PhD in Philosophy from Yale, Oxford, and Princeton, respectively. She is the author or editor of a dozen books and dozens of articles that treat a wide variety of topics in the history of philosophy, the history of science, and ethical theory, including Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity (Oxford/Clarendon, 2008), which won the prize for best book from the Canadian Philosophical Association in 2009. Professor Wilson is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.


The Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series was established by the Philosophy Department at Trent in 1977 in honour of the late Gilbert Ryle. This year’s lectures are supported by the Franklin J. Matchette Foundation, the Office of the Dean of Arts & Sciences—Humanities, The Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics, Traill College, Lady Eaton College, and by funds from members, alumni, and friends of the Department of Philosophy.


All members of the University and the general public are cordially invited to attend this free series of lectures.


For more information, please contact Kathy Axcell at 705-748-1011 x7166 or philosophy@trentu.ca.




Past Gilbert Ryle Lecturers: 1976-present


2015-16:  Leo Groarke, Words, Pictures, Arguments: What Happens to Logic in an Age of Pictures?

2014-15:  Richard Swinburne,  God and Christian Morality

2013-14:  Harry Brighouse, Justice and Educational Policy

2012-13:  Claudia Card,  Surviving Atrocities

2011-12:   Sally Haslanger,  Doing Justice to the Social

2010-11:  Anthony Grayling,  Forms of Liberty: The Evolution of an Idea and its Applications

2009-10:  Paul Boghossian,  Rules, Relativism and Reduction

2008-09:  No Ryle lectures this year.

2007-08:   Nancy Fraser, Abnormal Justice

2006-07:   Simon Blackburn, Pragmatism, Minimalism, and Common-Sense

2005-06:  Evelyn Fox Keller, Self-Organization" and the Problem of Life

2004-05:  Alvin Plantinga, Christian Belief and Science: surface conflict, deep discord: Naturalism and Science: surface concord, deep conflict

2003-04:  Iris Marion Young, Political Responsibility and Structural Injustice

2002-03:   Drucilla Cornell, Whose Development?: Freedom,Equality, and Globalization

2001-02:  Dennis Dutton, Art and Human Evolution

2000-01:   G. A. Cohen,  Rescuing Justice from Constructivism

1999-2000:   Susan Haack, Defending Science - Within Reason

1998-99:  Paul Churchland, New Light on Some Old Philosophical Problems: How Computational Neuroscience Illuminates Mind, Meaning, and Morals

1997-98:  Thomas P. Kasulis, A Cultural Philosophy of Relationship—Intimacy vs. Integrity

 1996-97:   Kenneth Schmitz,  The Recovery of Wonder - Unmakable Things and the New Freedom

1995-96:  Francis Sparshott, The Future of Aesthetics

1994-95:  Calvin O. Shrag, The Portrait of the Self—After Postmodernity

1993-94:  No lecture this year.

1992-93:  William Newton-Smith,  The Nature of Rationality

1991-92:  Jonathan Glover,  Ethics: Lessons From the Nazi Period

1990-91:  Alan Donagan,  The Cartesian Myth Revisited (Cancelled)

1989-90:  Martha Nussbaum, Aristotelian Politics—Human Functioning and Social Structure

1988-89:   Daniel J. O’Connor,  Time and Free Will

1987-88:  Tom Regan,  Individualism Reconsidered

1986-87:  David Gallop, Reminations

1985-86:  David Kaplan, Word and Belief

1984-85:  Bernard Williams, Social Justice

 1983-84:  Errol Harris, Time and the World

 1982-83:   Donald Munro, Images of Human Nature

 1981-82:  Mary Midgley, Wickedness

 1980-81:  Richard Taylor, Directions of Moral Philosophy

 1979-80:  Robert Paul Wolff,  The Language of Marxian Economics

 1978-79:  A. J. Ayer, Hume’s Philosophy Reappraised

 1977-78:  William Dray, Theories of History

 1976-77: Master Anthony Kenny, Free Will and Responsibility