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NU Graduate Political Theory Workshop: Tim Charlebois

When: Friday, September 25, 2020
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM CT

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Stephen Monteiro   (847) 491-7451

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Global & Civic Engagement


Please join the NU Graduate Political Theory Workshop as they host Political Science PhD candidate Tim Charlebois, "How to Die in Modernity: Compassion, Sacrifice and Loss in Political Theory's Ethical Turn"

Abstract: Central to contemporary political theory’s recent ethical turn has been the turn to compassion—the ability to ameliorate the violent disenfranchisement of others who have been harmed by structures of power in which one is privileged. Formulated in various ways, such as friendship (Allen), care (Tronto), recognition (Fraser), or generosity (Connolly), these turns to compassion have been criticized on two grounds. The first criticism, inherited from Friedrich Nietzsche, holds that compassion is used rhetorically by the powerful to maintain unequal distributions of power rather than genuinely incorporating the loss of power. The second, inherited from Hannah Arendt, holds that the sacrificial parts of compassion, wherein one loses their own power for the sake of another, isn’t a form of action that connects individuals among equals in a political arena, and is merely ethical rather than political. This dissertation seeks to recover compassion as a valuable concept for democratic theory by developing and responding to these two important critiques. Through a comparative reading of Nietzsche with Simone Weil, Weil is shown to share Nietzsche’s concern with the accumulation of power, but maintains that compassion is important to political life through her decreative reading of history, understanding that sacrificial compassion that allows one to lose power may not be available through such monumental readings of history. Then, through a comparative reading of Arendt with Judith Butler, Butler is shown to share Arendt’s concern with the need to speak and act among equals in the political realm, but maintains that compassion is important to political life because one must cultivate a political sphere in which the disenfranchised silent are included. It ends with an intervention into the recent ethical turn literature on compassion and responsibility, suggesting that compassion that incorporates sacrifice and loss is necessary in order to cultivate a political realm free from unequal inclusions into deliberative politics in a shared world. 

Bio: Tim Charlebois is a fourth-year PhD candidate in political theory. His interests are contemporary political theory, democratic theory, feminist theory, the ethics of care, and politics & literature.

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