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Philosophy Department - ‘Future’ Seminar Series 2017-2018

“Blade Runner - Thinking the Future of Humanity”


Panel discussion with Jonathan Butler, Stacey Kalkowski, William McDonald, Phillip Meadows Chaired by Max Cappuccio.

Monday, 16th October 2017, 2.00pm - 4.00pm

The dystopian future originally described in the famous novel by Philip K. Dick “Do androids dream of electric sheep”, subsequently represented in the 1982 movie “Blade Runner” by Ridley Scott and finally in its most recent sequel “Blade Runner 2049” by Denise Villeneuve inspire the reflections of philosophers and literary critics concerning what makes humans human, the value of human life, the natural/artificial dichotomy, empathy, memory, and the preconditions of personal identity.

“Open Future or Closed Future? Some Lessons from Medieval Philosophy”


Prof. Jacob Schmutz (Paris-Sorbonne; Sorbonne Abu Dhabi University)

Tuesday, 24th October 2017, 3.30pm -5.30pm

Contemporary societies are obsessed with controlling the future: predicting climate change, anticipating the shortage of natural resources, avoiding terrorist threats, or just the all too common home-jacking – ‘detect an intrusion, before it happens’, as a famous advertisement from Verisure® aptly puts it. However, controling the futures goes against philosophical common sense, expressed in a famous formula of Aristotle: whereas the past and the present are necessary, the future remains contingent and the realm of indetermination – we don’t know yet whether there is going to be a sea-battle tomorrow. In this talk, I will recall that the first authors to show discontent with this Aristotelian time logic were medieval theologians, both in Christianity and Islam, who needed to square the idea of divine predetermination and predestination (praedestinatio, qadar) with human freewill. I will present a typology of the various medieval solutions, and then show how a specific model eventually developped in the seventeenth century European scholastic tradition, associating temporal discussions (about the future) with modal discussions (about possible worlds), which allowed to create the new concept of futurible (futuribile in Latin), defined as ‘what could be future if there was a certain condition’. This allowed philosophers to develop a model safeguarding both the prediction of the future with the freedom of human agency – a sort of rational choice model whose structure still governs most of our contemporary representations.

Jacob Schmutz is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (France). He was trained as a philosopher and historian at the universities of Brussels, Cambridge and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris). He is a former fellow of the French School of Hispanic Studies (Madrid) and has directed the Department of Philosophy and Sociology of Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi from 2010 to 2014. His research is mainly dedicated to the continuities between medieval and early-modern philosophy on topics such as modal metaphysics, theory of knowledge and theories of moral obligation, with a particular focus on the tradition of school formations (Thomism, Scotism, Nominalism).

“Beyond the East-West Dichotomy: Why the Future of Philosophy is Global”


Prof. Jonardon Ganeri (New York University Abu Dhabi)

Sunday, 19th November 2017, 2.00pm - 4.00pm

The world of academic philosophy is now entering a new age, one defined neither by colonial need for recognition nor by postcolonial wish to integrate. The indicators of this new era include heightened appreciation of the value of world philosophies, the internationalisation of the student body, the philosophical pluralism which interaction and migration in new global movements make salient, growing concerns about diversity within a still too-white faculty body and curricular canon, and identification of a range of deep structural problems with the contemporary philosophical academy in its discursive, citational, refereeing and ranking practices. We are entering what we might call “the age of re-emergence”, a new period the key features of which are as follows. First, philosophies from every region of the world, locally grounded in lived experience and reflection upon it, are finding new autonomous and authentic forms of articulation. Second, philosophical industry, leaving behind a centre-periphery mode of production, is becoming again polycentric: the philosophical world is returning to a plural and diverse network of productive sites. Third, Europe and other colonial powers have been provincialised, no longer mandatory conversation partners or points of comparison but rather unprivileged participants in global dialogue. Fourth, philosophers within the largely anglophone international academy are beginning to acknowledge their responsibility so to arrange international institutions as to enable wide and open participation; that is, acknowledge that their control over the academy is a fall-out from colonialism rather than a reflection of intellectual superiority. We may thus look to a future when there will be a vibrant pluralistic realism in departments of academic philosophy around the globe, and a new cartography of philosophy.

Jonardon Ganeri is a philosopher whose work draws on a variety of philosophical traditions to construct new positions in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. He is the author of Attention, Not Self; The Self; The Concealed Art of the Soul; The Lost Age of Reason; and Semantic Powers, all published by Oxford University Press. He joined the Fellowship of the British Academy in 2015, and won the Infosys Prize in the Humanities the same year. Open Minds magazine named him of  its 50 global “open minds” for 2016, and in 2017 he received “Best Professor of Philosophy” in the Middle East Educational Leadership Awards.

“The Future of Finance: Blockchain and its Philosophy”


Mr. Francesco M. De Collibus (University of Zurich; Sunrise)

Tuesday, 28th November 2017, 2.00pm - 4.00pm

Innovations are often born haphazardly, from the fortunate match of random circumstances and careful observations. In other cases they spring from the stubborn dedication and the scientific heroism of few enlightened minds that drive to the final discover. In cases all but common innovation is nothing more than the expected return on investment of a planned research and development expenditure from the budget of a multinational enterprise. This is not what happened with Bitcoin and Blockchain. The very idea of Bitcoin and Blockchain technology was inspired by Californian techno-libertarianism and anarco-capitalist doctrines. This seminar will critically examine the ideological and philosophical foundations that have inspired all the cryptocurrencies. Since we are well aware of the way Blockchain is redefining finance, what kind of philosophical conclusions can we infer from the success of this technology, and the way it is redefining our classical notion of “value”? We will trace a brief history of the innovative ideas that have brought to us this technological breakthrough.

Francesco M. De Collibus is Digital Architect at Sunrise Communications AG. He holds both a MA in Philosophy and a MSc in Computer Science from the State University of Milan, and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Zürich. He is the author (with Raffaele Mauro) of the book “Hacking Finance: la rivoluzione del Bitcoin e della Blockchain” (Agenzia X, Milan).

Oct 15, 2017