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Continental Philosophy Research Group Talk (Kate Withy, Georgetown)

Friday November 17, 2023, 3:00 pm - Saturday November 18, 2023, 5:00 pm

The Continental Philosophy Research Group is pleased to welcome as guest speaker Kate Withy, an associate professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. Dr. Withy specializes in the work of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), but she also has interests in 20th-century European philosophy and ancient Greek philosophy. Her research centres on Heidegger’s conception of the human being as open to meaning and subject to breakdowns of meaning. She focuses on the ways in which human beings are immersed in meaningful contexts, open to things that matter, and radically dependent on entities in the world for carrying out their projects.

Dr. Withy will be giving a lecture on Friday, November 17, 3-5 PM, and an all-day workshop on Saturday, November 18, on Heidegger on Being Self-Concealing, 10 AM–12 PM, and on Heidegger on Being-Affected, 2 PM–5 PM. The workshop will take place in JHB 418. For questions about or to participate in the workshop, please contact Tarek Dika.

Talk Title

Tolstoy’s Existential Crisis and the Meaning of Life

Talk Abstract

Midway through his life, at 50 years old, Leo Tolstoy’s life came to a halt: “[M]y life would come to a standstill, as if I did not know how to live or what to do, and I felt lost and fell into despair. […] On these occasions, where life came to a standstill, the same questions always arose: ‘Why? What comes next?’” (C28). On the standard reading of Tolstoy’s experience, what brings Tolstoy to a stop is a question about the meaning of life and what starts him going again is an answer to that question, which is provided by faith. In this paper, I complicate that reading—both the claim that Tolstoy is dealing with a straightforward question in need of an answer, and the claim that the answer is provided by a faith-based way of knowing. At stake is the sense in which questions about the meaning of life are questions that the discipline of philosophy can address. I hope to shed light on how philosophy can and should handle—that is: hold on to, and grapple with—(Tolstoy’s) questions concerning the meaning of life.

About the Continental Philosophy Group

One of six departmental research interest groups, the Continental Philosophy Group works in the traditions of textual interpretation of human consciousness, phenomenology, and post-structuralist critical theory, among other related traditions of thought.



Friday November 17, 2023, 3:00 pm
Saturday November 18, 2023, 5:00 pm
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Continental Philosophy Research Interest Group
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