One of the more important questions facing philosophers is what the value of philosophy is, and why exactly one ought to study it. Although consensus in the literature is that the unexamined life is not worth living, the general population often finds those in philosophy’s ivory tower – including those inhabiting the uppermost floor of Leacock – irrelevant.
Montreal’s philosophical community intends to alter that perception this weekend with Philopolis, a student-run event featuring conferences, workshops, and panel discussions covering a wide range of philosophical topics, including that of the discipline’s role in the public sphere. It kicks off Friday night at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business with a roundtable discussion entitled “What Is Public Philosophy?” featuring one professor from each of Montreal’s four universities. Saturday and Sunday’s talks, which take place at UQAM and McGill campus respectively, range from the traditional (“Aristotle and Hegel on Nature, Life, and Becoming,”) to the contemporary (“Violence By Women As a Political Tactic,”) to the downright peculiar (“Spaghetti Westerns and Philosophy.”)
In addition to academic presentations, Philopolis also features film screenings, an exhibition by local artist Sperenza Spir, two plays, and a peripatetic discussion which will take its participants on a walk around Montreal as they examine a variety of philosophical matters. Beginning Sunday at 11 a.m., a day of presentations sponsored by Queer McGill about safe spaces, queer theory, and feminist theory will take place in Arts W-215. Anna Cook, Philopolis co-coordinator and one of several McGill undergraduate students doing such presentations, will lead a talk entitled “The Creation of the Feminine Subject in Assault Prevention Literature.”
“The talk is about the importance of rape myths in the creation of feminist identity, including that of the female body being inherently helpless and susceptible to sexual assault,” said Cook. Like everything else at Philopolis, it is entirely free of charge.
“The motivation for organizing this event is to create a space for discussion and to create a community of philosophy in Montreal,” added Cook. “In light of philosophy departments being closed or cut back across campuses, Philopolis aims to show the relevance of philosophy.” Originally conceived by UQAM students involved with the now defunct Nuit de la philosophie, Philopolis also represents an attempt to bridge the anglo-franco divide and bring Montreal’s four philosophy departments together. Curious anglophones should not be dissuaded by the fact that the majority of the 83 talks are in French, since Philopolis’s tireless organizers have scheduled the event to ensure that not a minute of its 19 hours fails to feature at least one English presentation. Even for those who have not been bitten by the philosophy bug, Philopolis offers an enticing opportunity to see philosophy outside of its traditional confines, and to judge its value firsthand.
Philopolis presentations run this weekend at the UQAM and McGill campuses. See philopolis.net for more information and this year’s schedule.