2024: The Life of the Mind in the History of Philosophy

This year's colloquium, The Life of the Mind in the History of Philosophy, will take place on April 4-5, 2024.

Registration for the colloquium is now open. Registrants may attend in person at the University of Notre Dame or via Zoom.

Register for the 2024 Colloquium

Speakers

  • Anne Clausen, University of Göttingen
  • Alix Cohen, University of Notre Dame
  • Gerad Gentry, Johannes-Gutenberg University Mainz
  • Peter John Hartman, Loyola University Chicago
  • Julia Jorati, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Jari Kaukua, University of Jyväskylä
  • Katharina Kraus, Johns Hopkins University
  • Hannah Laurens, University of Oxford
  • Scott MacDonald, Cornell University
  • Wiebke Marie Stock, University of Notre Dame
  • Mark Textor, King’s College London

Conference Program

All times are Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

Thursday, April 4

Unless otherwise noted, all Thursday sessions will take place in 215 McKenna.

8:45–9:20 a.m. Continental breakfast

9:20–9:30 a.m. Welcome

9:30–10:30 a.m. Aristotle’s Prime Mover: Paradigm of Life and Self-Love
Hannah Laurens, University of Oxford

10:30–10:45 a.m. Coffee break

10:45 a.m.–11:45 p.m. Plotinus on the Wave of the Mind
Wiebke Marie Stock, University of Notre Dame

11:45–12:45 p.m. Augustine's Inward Turn
Scott MacDonald, Cornell University

12:45–2:15 p.m. Lunch, (216 McKenna)

2:15–3:15 p.m. Mind and Mental Existence in Avicenna
Jari Kaukua, University of Jyväskylä

3:15–3:45 p.m. Coffee break

3:45–4:45 p.m. Minimal Minds: Anti-Representationalism in the High Middle Ages
Peter John Hartman, Loyola University Chicago

4:45–5:00 p.m. Coffee break

5:00-6:00 p.m. Life and the Mind in Anne Conway and Margaret Cavendish
Julia Jorati, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Friday, April 5

Unless otherwise noted, all Friday sessions will take place in 215 McKenna.

8:45–9:15 a.m. Continental breakfast

9:15–10:15 a.m. Kant on the Feeling of Life in Aesthetics and Beyond
Alix Cohen, University of Notre Dame

10:15–10:45 a.m. Coffee break

10:45–11:45 a.m. Activity and Actuality in Hegel's Philosophy of Mind
Gerad Gentry, Johannes-Gutenberg University Mainz

11:45–12:45 p.m. Two Kinds of Unity and the Soul
Mark Textor, King’s College London

12:45–2:15 p.m. Lunch 216 McKenna Hall

2:15–3:15 p.m. Actuality Precedes Possibility: Henri Bergson‘s Notion of the “Life of the Mind”
Anne Clausen, University of Göttingen

3:15–3:45 p.m. Coffee break

3:45–4:45 p.m. The Life of the Mind: From Kant to Edith Stein
Katharina Kraus, Johns Hopkins University

4:45–5:00 p.m. Coffee break

5:00-6:00 p.m. Concluding discussion

For Zoom Attendees

Zoom links will be emailed to all registrants in advance and posted to this page.
If there is a handout for a talk, it will be posted in a folder linked here.

Travel

For conference venues, please see the map of campus here.

For travelers arriving by air, we recommend booking your flight directly to South Bend International Airport (code: SBN). From the South Bend airport, the Notre Dame campus is approximately a 15-minute ride by car. Various transportation methods are available (e.g., taxi, rental car, limo).

For those preferring to fly to Chicago Midway or Chicago O'Hare and take ground transportation to South Bend, please note that there is no longer any bus service from Chicago to South Bend; it is necessary either to drive or to take the train (see below).

For train service, see Amtrak (www.amtrak.com; depending on the itinerary, it may be convenient either to travel to South Bend, Indiana, or to Niles, Michigan, which is about 25 minutes away). From downtown Chicago, there is also the option of the South Shore Line train, which will take you from the Chicago Loop (at the corner of Michigan and Randolph) to South Bend International Airport.

Accommodation

Hotels within walking distance of the conference venue are: The Morris Inn, Embassy Suites, Fairfield Inn, and Ivy Court Inn and Suites.

What is the “Life of the Mind”?

What are minds? What makes us mental beings? Do minds exist distinct from matter? These and related questions have been vividly discussed in the history of philosophy. A standard story of this history of (Western) philosophy construes a dialectical development between two rival theories of the mind: dualism, according to which the mind is an immaterial self-subsistent entity that grounds all mental activities and exists detached from the natural world, and materialism, according to which all mental phenomena can be ultimately traced back to the properties of matter.

Yet this standard story overlooks a major position that has been present throughout the history as well: the view that the mind is best understood in terms of a living entity that is endowed with mental powers. Through exercising these powers in the course of life, a mental being develops in a characteristically unified way. For human persons, these activities typically include acts of sensing, thinking, willing, and feeling.

The concept of life should not be understood here in the narrow sense of referring only to organic life. Rather, life, taken more generally, refers to the ability of a being to change or develop according to a characteristic form, an inner principle, a Gestalt or an idea of what it is to be or become. In the Greek tradition, this concept of life – as the becoming from an inner principle – is often rendered as “βίος (bios)”, in contrast to “ζωή (zōē)”, the animal life. Since this position presupposes such a form, principle, Gestalt or idea as not yet fully realized in nature, it shares certain aspects with idealist theories of the mind, according to which all reality is ultimately grounded in something mental, of which the natural world is only an appearance (e.g. Leibniz). However, the core assumption that the mind is understood as something living is neither necessarily nor predominantly associated with idealism. The crucial point – against the rival views of dualism and materialism – is that a person’s mind should not be conceived as an entity fundamentally detached from the matter through which the person is realized in nature, nor should mental activity be reduced to the mechanical forces of material bodies.

This Colloquium draws together various models of the ‘life of the mind’ from across the history of philosophy and from thinkers as diverse as Aristotle, Plotinus, Ficino, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Bergson, and Edith Stein. The central questions that any such model must answer include:

  1. What are the basic constituents of mental life, including a set of mental powers, and what is the relation between parts and the whole?
  2. How can the characteristic kind of mental unity, i.e., the goal, purpose, or telos to be realized through/in life, be conceived?
  3. What conception(s) of life and what principle(s) of development and self-formation does the model presuppose?
  4. What conception(s) of time and temporal change does the model include?
  5. How does the model appeal to the distinction between efficient (mechanical) causality and teleology?
  6. How can the dependence between belonging to a collective mental life and individualization be modeled?
  7. How can stages of human development, personal growth, and character formation be understood in the model?
  8. How can fragmentation, crisis and stagnation of human life be explained?