Symposia and Seminars

SIHN Symposium on Enlightenment Thinking

Portrait of Denis Diderot

Louis-Michel van Loo, French, 1767, Portrait of Denis Diderot. Oil on canvas.

3 August 2015
University of Sydney

Presented as a research event in support of ANZSECS

Please contact Jennifer Milam for further information.

Key Speakers:
Charles Walton (Warwick)
Kate Tunstall (Oxford)
JB Shank (Minnesota)

Research Day in 18th Century Studies at the University of Sydney

Topic: 18th Century Philosophy in Dialogue


Adolph Menzel, German, 1850, Tafelrunde. Oil on canvas.

Friday 28 August 2015

University of Sydney

The Sydney Intellectual History Network (SIHN) is sponsoring a Research Day in Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of Sydney on 28 August 2015. The event supports the efforts of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ANZSECS) in building a new community of scholars and postgraduate studies from a broad range of disciplines within the humanities.

The Research Day will begin with an interdisciplinary panel discussion with experts from a number of fields speaking on the relationships between philosophy, music, literature, art and architecture during the eighteenth century. Led by Dalia Nassar (Philosophy), the panel features visiting scholar Justin Smith (Université Paris Diderot - Paris VII) engaged in discussion with Jennifer Ferng (Architecture), Alan Maddox (Musicology), Jennifer Milam (Art History) and Matthew Sussman (English Literature). Postgraduate students will then take part in an intensive seminar (full description below) on The Praxis of Philosophy and the Role of the Philosopher in the Eighteenth Century with Professor Smith and Dr Nassar. A public lecture concludes the day with Professor Smith speaking on Philosophy as a Way of Life: Not Just for the Ancients. The date marks the 266th anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s birth.

Interested postgraduate students currently enrolled in a PhD program at an Australian or New Zealand university may apply by sending a short CV (1-2 pages) and a brief statement of interest (max. 500 words) in a single pdf by 15 July 2015 to Martin King (

Travel support (up to $300) will be available for a limited number of students. Please indicate your interest in applying for travel support on your statement of interest.

Course credit may be possible for particular students. Please check with the postgraduate coordinator in your department.

Questions about the research day should be directed to Dalia Nassar.

Seminar: The Praxis of Philosophy and the Role of the Philosopher in the long 18th Century

In 18th-century France, philosophy was not only a course of academic study, it was also a fashion, a sensibility, and a way of life. It moved out of the universities and into the salons, and one's social status could be significantly impacted by one's proximity to, or association with, a given current of philosophy. What inspired this interest in philosophy, and which ideas were being popularized and why? What kinds of changes were taking place within philosophy and philosophy's self-understanding in this new setting? And how did the practice of philosophy transform through dialogue with other modes of knowledge (moral science, poetry and art, as well as natural philosophy)? What, ultimately, was the role and significance of philosophy in the long 18th century?

It seems to us that one crucial dimension of the answer to this question will involve a consideration of contemporary currents in Germany, of the way in which German philosophers of the same era were engaging with and seeking to define their discipline. We propose to look at the continental circulation of ideas in the 18th century in order to learn, if we can, how the tension between competing conceptions of philosophy, as produced and maintained in very different but closely interconnected national traditions, helped to shape the conception of philosophy that we have today.

Questions which we will be considering
  1. What is the relationship between salon culture and philosophy in the 18th century?
  2. What were the social forces in 18th century France that made it suddenly so important for people to become literate in philosophy? What were the causes of the phenomenon that the French call 'vulgarisation'? Or we might call the democratization of philosophy?
  3. How did these new social and learning spaces (the salons) transform gender identities and the meaning of literacy for women?
  4. Which ideas exactly were being popularized in the salons and why?
  5. What were the philosophical and political commitments of the salon?
  6. How did philosophy define itself in contrast to other disciplines and modes of knowledge?
  7. What kinds of transformations were taking place within philosophy, on account of new insights into the natural world and new forms of art?
  8. What might be described as a philosophical form or mode of knowledge and how does it differ from other modes of knowledge?
  9. What exactly was 'enlightened' about the new philosophical ideals? Can we find undercurrents of the older idea of what inquiry into nature involves in these new ideals?

The Divided Brain and Humanistic Inquiry (SIHN@UWS)

Iain McGilchrist

Monday and Tuesday 23-24 November 2015

Parramatta Campus
University of Western Sydney

Call for Papers

Papers of 30 minutes duration are invited for this symposium around the importance of McGilchrist's work for scholars in the humanities and social sciences. We are interested in all papers by humanistic or social science scholars addressing the themes of McGilchrist's work. In particular, we are keen to hear from:

  • Scholars who have identified possible uptakes of McGilchrist's work on the history of the brain in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Scholars specialised in the history of left-right brain science, or in the history of neurology and psychiatry.
  • Scholars of the comparative history of religion, or of non-Western cultures, reflecting on the differences across cultures in the values placed on creativity, spirituality, social bonds, or on logic, bureaucracy and political power.
  • Scholars with expertise in the history of philosophy, literature or political thought who wish to engage with the account of the history of Western ideas and culture proposed in McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary.
  • Scholars specialising in forms of bioscientific-humanistic knowledge nexus.

All relevant proposals are welcome.Symposium papers should be original and not committed for publication elsewhere, as an edited volume of scholarly papers is planned to follow from the event. Please send an abstract (300-400 words) and brief biography to Alison Moore before 1 June 2015. Successful applicants will be notified by 1 July 2015.

The Sydney Intellectual History Network @ UWS is delighted to bring to Sydney Dr Iain McGilchrist, internationally renowned British psychiatrist and scholar of the nexus between neuroscience and the history of ideas. Iain McGilchrist is the bestselling author of The Mastery and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and The Making of the Western World (Yale University Press, 2012) - a scientific study that simultaneously explores the unique features of humanistic inquiry in a biography of the brain in Western civilisation. In addition to being a comprehensive review of the science of left and right brain function, it is a meta-history of the rationalist and bureaucratic trends of Western thought and their effects on neurophysiology.To date it has sold over 60,000 copies worldwide and has been positively reviewed by the Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The American Journal of Psychiatry, The British Medical Journal, The Sunday Times, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Financial Times, The Independent, The Observer, Contemporary Review, The Huffington Post and numerous other reputable international presses and journals. Iain McGilchrist is one of the leading pioneers of a new interdisciplinary perspective that crosses between the bio-medical sciences and the humanities. As such, his work appears to indicate a path toward transcendence of the tired dichotomies that are still often proposed between cultural and biological influences on human behaviour, expression and experience.

Past Seminars

Gerald Postema’s Legal Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: The Common Law World Symposium

Legal Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: The Common Law World (Springer, 2011)

Monday 15 June 2015

Common Room (Level 4)
New Law Building
University of Sydney

A symposium on Gerald Postema’s Legal Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: The Common Law World (Springer, 2011).

10:00am Welcome

10:05am Associate Professor Carlos Bernal-Pulido (Macquarie University)

10:25am Professor Ngaire Naffine (University of Adelaide)

10:45am Professor Miguel Vatter (University of New South Wales)

11:05am Dr Kevin Walton (University of Sydney)

11:25am Morning Tea

11:45am Response by Professor Gerald Postema (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Gerald Postema

Professor Postema has published extensively in legal and political philosophy and ethics. In 2011 he published Legal Philosophy in the 20th Century: The Common Law World. He wrote Bentham and the Common Law Tradition (Clarendon 1986/1989) and edited Racism and the Law (Kluwer 1997); Rationality, Conventions, and the Law (Kluwer 1998); Jeremy Bentham: Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy (Ashgate 2002) and Philosophy and the Law of Torts (CUP 2001). He is associate editor of the 12 volume, Treatise in the Philosophy of Law (Springer 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011).

A selection of the jurisprudential writings of Sir Matthew Hale will also be published by Oxford University Press under his editorship. Former Guggenheim and Rockefeller fellow, and fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies and the National Humanities Center, he was editor of Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and Law (1995-2006) and was special issues editor of Law and Philosophy (1996-2001). In fall, 2012, he was awarded the George J. Johnson Prize for Distinguished Achievement in the Art and Humanities, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

SIHN Roundtable on the East-West Dialogue

East-West Dialogue

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American, 1864, Oil on wood panel, 19.7 x 27 in.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Room 210
R.C. Mills Buidling
Unversity of Sydney

Participants: Professor Petra Chu (Art History and Museum Studies, Seton Hall), Professor Yixu Lu (Germanic Studies), Professor William Christie (English), Dr Stephen Whiteman (Art History) and Dr David Brophy (History). Followed by a lecture by Professor Petra Chu entitled Chinoiserie and Japonisme: Continuity or Rupture.

History and the Individual Life: a Symposium

Joan of Arc

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, French, 1854. Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII, Oil on canvas, 94 x 70 in. MI667

Monday 3 November 2014

CCANESA Boardroom
Level 4, Madsen Building
Unversity of Sydney

This symposium will move beyond current debates about the place of biography in history by exploring the different ways in which historians are currently using individual lives to explore and analyse particular questions in a range of different fields. The symposium will begin with a general discussion of this approach and then focus particularly on the use of individual lives in imperial and international history and in the history of animal human interaction.

Barbara Caine (University of Sydney), 'History and the Individual Life'

Glenda Sluga (University of Sydney), 'Can Women be Individuals? Writing women into the history of international politics'

Bill Schwarz (Queen Mary University of London), 'Coming Home to History. The Lives of Enoch Powell'

Andrew Fitzmaurice (University of Sydney), 'King Leopold's Ghostwriter?'

Iain McCalman (University of Sydney), 'JT jnr: the individual life story of an African vervet monkey'

Adorno's Changing Views of Kierkegaard

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Muniment Room
Room S401
Level 4 via Lobby B (Southern Vestibule)
The University of Sydney

Prof Peter Gordon (Amabel B. James Professor of History, and Faculty Affiliate, Department of Philosophy, Harvard University)

Theodor Adorno, the philosopher and social theorist, devoted great energy throughout his life to the interpretation of Kierkegaard’s philosophy. In this paper I reconstruct the history of Adorno’s intellectual engagement with Kierkegaard, from the early habilitation (first published in 1933) to the more sympathetic reassessments of Adorno’s later years. The chief task of my paper is to explain what Adorno meant when he characterized his habilitation on Kierkegaard as an exercise in “inverse theology,” and, furthermore, to explain why, much later, Adorno equated this species of theological with materialism

Visual Manipulation and Auto/Biography


Click to download (PDF, 58KB)

Tuesday 25 February 2014
3-5 pm

Kevin Lee Room
Level 6, Lobby H
Quadrangle Building
the University of Sydney

This seminar will combine the work of two art historians researching the visual self-representation of royal woman at the French court during the seventeenth century.

Dr Gaehtgens (an independent scholar based at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles) explores how Anne of Austria used multiplied images as visual propaganda to change her image from a widowed queen to a self-assured regent. In turn, Dr De Vitis (National Art School) considers the theatrical performances of Elizabeth Charlotte as substantive acts of socio-political critique, calculated and incisive.

Discussion will focus on how the visual - in prints and performance - can be conceived as a form of writing biography.

Revolutionary Ideas


Click to download (PDF, 113KB)

16 November 2013

Public Symposium, co-sponsored by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, in conjunction with the exhibition America. Painting a Nation

Recovering untold stories

14 November 2013, 4-6pm
CANESSA Boardroom, Level 4, Madsen Building

This seminar will combine the work being done by Shane White on the little known Jeremiah G. Hamilton, 'the only Black millionaire in New York', with that being done by Laura Auricchio, from the New School in New York, seeking to re-interpret Lafayette and to re-insert him into his own time and place as a fallible human being.

Shane White, '"No Photograph, Howcum?": Writing a book about someone so obscure they didn’t even have a Wikipedia entry'

Laura Auricchio, 'Lafayette: Portrait of the American Hero as a French Man'

Putting yourself in the story

17 October 2013, 4-6pm
CANESSA Boardroom, Level 4, Madsen Building

The 'autobiographical turn' in humanities scholarship and the tendency of many contemporary scholars to link their own lives to their research has been the subject of much recent discussion. In this roundtable discussion, Sheila Fitzpatrick, Dany Celermajer and Barbara Caine will discuss their own work on autobiography within this framework. One of the questions on which they will reflect is how scholars make choices about positioning themselves as subjects in, in relation to, or outside their own research.