Department of Philosophy



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Kathryn Norlock (Trent University)

will be presenting on

"Perpetual Struggle: Pessimism, Evils, and Hopeless Situations"

THURSDAY, October 27th, 2016

WATSON HALL, ROOM 517 @ 4:00 p.m.

What if it doesn’t get better? Against more hopeful and optimistic views that it is not just ideal but possible to put an end to what John Rawls calls “the great evils of human history,” I aver that when it comes to evils caused by human beings, the situation is hopeless. We are better off with the heavy knowledge that evils recur than we are with idealizations of progress, perfection, and completeness; an appropriate ethic for living with such heavy knowledge, which I call an ‘Imperfectionist Ethic,’ could include resisting evils, improving the lives of victims, and even enjoying ourselves. Better conceptions of the objects of hope, and the good life, inform a praxis-centered, nonideal ethic, supportive of sustained moral motivation, resilience, and even cheer. I connect elements of stoic and pessimistic philosophy in order to outline some normative recommendations for living with evils. A praxis-centered ethic would helpfully adjust our expectations from changing an uncontrollable future, to developing better skills for living in a world that exceeds our control.


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