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"Doing Justice to the Social" in Gilbert Ryle Lecture Series

Spirited debate helps students to form their own ideas, theories and beliefs

Dr. Sally Haslanger’s “revisionary” ideas in her talk, “Ideology is a Moral Issue,” struck a chord with students and faculty on Tuesday, March 20, igniting a spirited debate lasting longer than the lecture itself. Audience members remained in the lecture hall at the First Peoples House of Learning long after the question period ended, looking for further answers from the visiting philosophy professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Dr. Sally Haslanger, director of Women’s and Gender Studies at MIT, presented the talk as one of three lectures on Doing Justice to the Social,” for the Gilbert Ryle Lectures, touching on the meaning of ideology, the effects of linguistics and social norms on gender identity, access to reproductive decision as a personal/societal source of power, and the usefulness of gender identification and familial role obligations.

“You don’t understand the limits of your knowledge until you start asking questions,” said philosophy student Sara McLay, “And there were a lot of questions to be asked tonight.”

Ms. McLay, student representative on the Philosophy Department committee, believes that events such as the Ryle series are integral to student life. “You see what is going on in academia beyond the reach of your own experience,” she said after the lecture. “You see professional philosophers thinking on their feet, answering questions, and relating to your fellow students. You are introduced to major current thinkers.”

“It’s intellectual fermentation,” said Dr. Kathryn Norlock, Trent’s chair of ethics, “It can be exciting to have speakers that cause disagreement. It causes people to say what they feel, what they think, and what they believe. It helps students formulate their own ideas, theories, and beliefs.”

“I believe that many students, members of the public and wider academic communities crave opportunities to reflect philosophically about important problems, and it is with joy that the Philosophy Department can foster this kind of community reflection,” said Dr. Moira Howes, professor and chair of the Philosophy Department. “The terrific involvement of students and others in this year's series with Professor Haslanger is testimony to the continued importance of philosophical debate in their lives.

“The lectures give students a wonderful opportunity to engage with leading philosophers, both in the lecture hall and at lunch, dinner and other social events. Moreover, the evening lectures of many Ryle Lecturers become books – so, in some sense, students and members of the public get to share in this creative endeavor.”

The Gilbert Ryle Lectures were established by the Philosophy Department at Trent University in 1977 in memory of the late Professor Gilbert Ryle of Oxford University. They are made possible by a grant from the Franklin J. Matchette Foundation and by funds from an endowment established by members, alumni and friends of the Philosophy Department. Each year the Ryle Lecture Series brings a distinguished philosopher to the University for lectures and informal meetings. Recent lecturers include Alvin Plantinga, Iris Marion Young and Drucilla Cornell.

Posted on Thursday, March 22, 2012.

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