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The Graduate Faculty of the Philosophy Department At
Villanova University

Cordially invites you to attend a Defense of the Dissertation

"Political Myth: An Archaeology of Magical Language"

Robert Leib
Dissertation Committee: Dr. Walter Brogan (director),
Dr. Georg Theiner, Dr. James Wetzel
Monday, October 17th, 2016 ~ 10:00am to 12:00pm
St. Augustine Center, Fedigan room 400
Reception to follow in the Philosophy Department Lounge


As every voter realizes, politically motivated lies, propaganda, and spin present significant challenges to a just and fair democracy. Political myth, however, is a less recognized and potentially more dangerous adversary. While lies and propaganda might be exposed for what they are, and spin may be corrected by the ‘facts’, political myth is largely immune to argument and reason because it projects a dream for the community, a narrative in light of which a group or nation orients itself and forms its identity. At the same time, however, these myths can be used to exclude and silence those whom a community rejects. As Jewish philosopher Ernst Cassirer wrote of the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933: “The real rearmament began with the origin and rise of the political myths. The later military rearmament was only an accessory after the fact.” But, what is political myth, and how does it work? According to Cassirer, myth works according to the 'magical' function of language, a mode of speech wherein saying and being coincide. This immediate link between what is said and what becomes the case for a community means that myth can breed discontent, violence, and paralysis, even while it speaks ostensibly in terms of freedom and security, and cultural identity. “Political myth acted in the same way as a serpent that tries to paralyze its victims before attacking them," Cassirer says. "Men...were vanquished and subdued before they had realized what actually happened.” This dissertation takes a sustained look at the problems posed by political myth, as well as the history of philosophy’s engagement with these issues, from Plato, through Kant, Heidegger, and Foucault, to contemporary thinkers, such as Agamben and Nancy. In its broadest characterization, this work examines the deep relationship between language, history, and politics, with an eye toward current and emerging forms of social practice.  


Conversations About Living Existentialism: A Panel Discussion In Honor Of Dr. Thomas W. Busch

Friday, April 22, 2016

3:00-5:00 p.m., St. Rita's Chapel

Sponsored by The Department of Philosophy and Villanova's Center for Liberal Education


Dr. Thomas Busch


Philosophy Graduate Student Union Presents

Prof. Silvia Federici

Towards a Theory of the Commons: Historical Trends, Ethical and Political Perspectives

Friday, October 2, 2015
4:00-7:00 p.m. - MENDEL 101
Reception to follow in the Philosophy Lounge, St. Augustine Center

Sponsored by: The Philosophy Graduate Student Union,                                 Philosophy Department, and the Office of Student Development



Villanova University Lecture Series

Prof. Steve Fuller
University of Warwick, UK
Department of Sociology

Transhumanism as an Updated Version of Humanity’s Divine Image

Monday, March 23, 2015

4:30-6:00 CEER 001

Co-sponsored by the Ethics Program, Department of Philosophy, and the Villanova Center for Liberal Education

For about ten years now, I have been developing a version of transhumanism (or ‘Humanity 2.0’) that is continuous with aspirations common to both Christian theology and modern science. These are traceable to the exceptional status of our species as having been created ‘in the image and likeness of God’. To be sure, there have been many well-voiced objections to this project, not least coming from theologians who regard such literal readings of the imago dei doctrine as blasphemous. But there are also objections from the transhumanists, most of whom see themselves as pro-science but anti-religion. In addition, there is a growing number of ‘posthumanists’, who while generally sympathetic to both religious and scientific matters, nevertheless see the continued privileging of the human as the source of much of the world’s problems. In this talk I plan to define and defend my position in the face of these challenges, which together point to the need for a more open and frank discussion about the value of being ‘human’ in our times.

Humanity 2.0: What It Means to be Human – Past, Present, and Future

A Roundtable Discussion with Prof. Steve Fuller

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
10:00-12:00 SAC 400

Co-sponsored by the Ethics Program, Department of Philosophy, and the Villanova Center for Liberal Education

20th Annual Conference Sponsored by the Philosophy Graduate Student Union (PGSU)

March 13-14, 2015
Villanova University

New Encounters in French and Italian Thought
Keynote: Jason E. Smith, Art College Center of Design (Los Angeles)  

The negotiation between French and Italian activists and intellectuals in the mid-twentieth century opened a field of theoretical experimentation, the effects of which pose a challenge for contemporary politics. This encounter materialized through various collectives, traversing the neat intellectual and practical boundaries of the academy. Whether through the images of intellectuals in the streets, or through radical activist groups extending from the Situationist International to Tiqqun, the laboratory of French and Italian thought poses a constellation of conceptual weapons that remain vital for any contestation with the state of things. These implements have been successful in intervening within contemporary struggles on the level of theory, practice, and the construction of history in the present.

Under the inheritance of this tradition, this conference will include submissions from the interstices and margins of recent French and Italian philosophy.