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Distinguished Speaker of 2018 is EMU Philosophy Grad Prof. Leonard Lawlor

The EMU Philosophy Speaker Series is very pleased to announce our Distinguished Speaker of 2018! Come join Professor Leonard Lawlor (Penn State) for a conversation on the connection between violence and vulnerability, and different ways of reacting to violence.

When: Thursday, March 8th, 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Where: Eastern Michigan University, Halle Auditorium
Go to the Facebook event page

This event is part of the 2017-2018 Philosophy Speaker Series, and is sponsored by EMU's History & Philosophy Department.


Prof. Lawlor’s talk is entitled “The Poverty of the Remainder: On Reactions to Violence.”

There can be no question that today there is violence in the world. As Prof. Lawlor will try to show in this talk, experience itself is violence, and life is nothing other than violence, constantly struggling against illness and death. If life is nothing more than struggle, then there can be no more important question than that of a reaction against the struggle, which would not be reactive and nihilistic.

This talk tries to show the irreducible connection between vulnerability and violence. This connection leads us back to the ethical level of experience. If vulnerability makes violence irreducible, then at least two reactions to violence are possible. On the one hand, a reaction is possible in which one attempts to negate vulnerability in order to close down the very thing within us that allows violence to enter. This negative reaction is actually the worst violence. On the other hand, a reaction is possible in which one attempts to affirm vulnerability, even though its affirmation opens us to the violence that will happen. Affirming vulnerability is the least-violent reaction. If the formula for the worst violence is apocalypse without remainder, then the least violence is the maintenance of the remainder. The maintenance would happen only by not possessing the remainders, which places us in a new situation of poverty.

Read a preview [PDF] of Prof. Lawlor's most recent work.


This talk summarizes and expands on the work Prof. Lawlor has done over the last ten years, which resulted in his latest book, "From Violence to Speaking Out" (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). The ideas presented in this paper will also be the basis for his next book, tentatively entitled "Violence against Violence" (also with Edinburgh University Press).

As these two titles indicate, Prof. Lawlor has been investigating the question of violence—and, more importantly, possible reactions to violence. His investigations have followed a specific trajectory based in two impulses: one negative and critical; the other positive and creative. The negative impulse moves towards a criticism of violence. In particular, it moves toward the criticism of the reactions to violence that are based in transcendent or absolute values. These reactions—including and especially the reaction based in the valorization of peace—thinks Lawlor, are actually worse than the violence against which they are reacting. At the end, these reactions approximate suicide and apocalypse—without any remainders left over. These reactions end up in a great will to nothingness; they are nihilism in person. Therefore, the other and positive impulse moves toward the creation of a different, smaller, and less violent reaction.

About Our Distinguished Speaker

Prof. Leonard Lawlor is the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy and Director of Graduate Studies at Penn State University.

Prof. Lawlor earned a BA in Philosophy from Eastern Michigan University, where he was on the Dean's List. After graduating from EMU, he went on to earn an MA and Ph.D in Philosophy at State University of New York at Stony Brook.

His specialties are Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy. His current projects include a revision for the French translation of The Challenge of Bergsonism, and a book called Violence against Violence, for Edinburgh University Press.

Prof. Lawlor is the author of "From Violence to Speaking Out" (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) and "Early Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy" (Indiana University Press, 2011).

For more information, and for a full list of Prof. Lawlor's published works, please visit his faculty webpage.


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