“The Emergence of Will and Morality in Late Antiquity” by Siegfried Van Duffel

Freewill is a perennial topic in Western philosophy. Many historians, however, date the origin of the concept in late antiquity (often either the Stoics or Augustine). If they are right, it would seem that the topic was not felt to be crucial to ethics in antiquity. Some seminal writings on the topic indicate that the concept of freewill was largely absent from Chinese thought before the nineteenth century and from Indian traditions. I suggest that the reason why freewill appears to have been considered a problem only in the post-classical West may have to do with the ethical outlook that emerged in the era. Characteristic of this outlook is the centrality of moral obligation. That would mean that the emergence of the “problem of freewill” is a result of the introduction of a law-like ethics and it would suggest that the problem may not be felt in other cultures because of the absence of a law-like ethics.

Date: 10 October 2019, Thursday
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the speaker:
Siegfried Van Duffel is an associate professor and department chair at Nazarbayev University. He was trained as a philosopher and completed a Ph.D. in law at Ghent University (Belgium). Before coming to Nazarbayev University, he taught ethics and Political Theory at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands) and the University of Hong Kong. He also held post-doc positions at the National University of Singapore and the Center of Excellence in Philosophical Psychology, Morality and Politics of the University of Helsinki and was visiting associate professor at Huafan University and National Taiwan University.

Siegfried’s main research interest is cultural differences, which is why he left Europe and continue living and working in a non-Western society. His project is to complete a book on human rights and cultural differences. The aim of this book is to describe human rights theories as an aspect of the culture in which they were developed. He also hopes to do comparative empirical research on intuitions related to human rights.

His work was published in journals such as The Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, The Journal of Political Philosophy, The Monist, and The European Journal of Philosophy.


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