HICO - Centrum voor Geschiedenis van de Filosofie en Continentale Filosofie

Department of Philosophy and moral sciences
Department of Literary Studies
Department of Languages and Cultures
Research focus 
Research Methodology 
History of philosophy
Continental philosophy



HICO Agenda


— Upcoming events

Lecture by Huaping Lu-Adler (Georgetown University): Kant on public reason and the linguistic Other

Thursday 20 June, 4pm

Aud 1 Jan Broeckx, Blandijn

Registration: Alice.Cambi@ugent.be

Abstract: On Kant’s account, “public use of reason” is the use that a truth-seeking scholar makes of his reason when he communicates his thoughts in writing to a world of readers. Commentators tend to treat this account as expressing an egalitarian ideal, without taking seriously the limiting conditions—especially the scholarship condition—built into it. In this paper, I interrogate Kant’s original account of public reason in connection with his construction of the “Oriental” as a linguistically and therefore epistemically and culturally inferior Other. I thereby give reasons to worry that Kant’s account is substantively inegalitarian (even if it is nominally egalitarian). I also draw attention to the fact that Kant constructed a linguistic Other against the backdrop of colonialism and from a position of power. This positionality gave what he said about the Other an ideology-forming and world-making effect. In this way, his exclusionary discursive practices—such as depicting the Oriental as an inferior linguistic Other—could have a lasting impact on knowledge production and on the real-world exercise of public reason.


Workshop: Logic and Life II: Predicating Objects

Thursday 27 June, 1pm-5pm

Faculteitszaal, Blandijn (+online)

Info & Registration: Alice.Cambi@ugent.be

Abstract. Function and object, predicate and object, attribute and substance, distinctions that have marked our Western philosophical tradition. Various philosophers have been occupied with the question of what objects are, what we call objects, why we call some things more object than other things, and what all this says about us, human subjects, who purportedly are the ones responsible for carrying the world along the lines of the predicates that make objects into genuine objects, and us into genuine knowing beings.

Whether we have made any progress since Aristotle is probably impossible to say. We did, however, contribute to fundamental changes in the Aristotelian view, certainly with the advent of the modern sciences, pushing forward the idea that nature, all of nature, is graspable in mathematical, functional terms. All of nature is, in other words, predicable, i.e. graspable through functions. And functions are predicates of judgment, as Kant would have it. Predicability is the modern lense through which the world is being objectified.

Today, it seems as if humanity is being compelled to become more aware of its own implication in constituting the world into objectivity. But what humanity? And what world? Two sides of the same coin appear here, the functional and the objective, reciprocally calling for each other, through quite variable manifestations: the Western functionalities (e.g., white, male, colonial, scientific, discursive, subject-predicate) and the multicultural objects confronting it (e.g., colored, gendered or non-gendered, post-colonial, intuitive). But it can also be the other way around: the multicultural functionalities, confronting the Western objects.

All these topics will be dealt with and lively debated during this small hybrid workshop. We hope for the contingent and start by welcoming it unconditionally.

13h: Alice Cambi (UGent): “On the possibility of culturally and linguistically rooted categories: the case of Chinese thought”

In “Problemès de linguistique générale” (1966), Emile Benveniste, in analyzing Aristotelian logic, connects his table of categories with ancient Greek’s grammatical forms. More recently (1986), renowned sinologist Angus Graham has attempted to apply Benveniste’s work to Classical Chinese, thus proposing a different table of categories that could be applicable to the Chinese context. His work has been taken up and expanded by philosopher Cheng Chungying, who has tried to connect it with Classical Chinese thought and with the idea of “philosophical categories”, i.e., of categories which “had the ability or provided the stimulus to inspire the development of new ideas” (Cheng, 2014, p. 30). These attempts open the question of whether logical categories should or not be considered a “cultural product that is already established, culturally rooted, and linguistically anchored” (Eco, 1997).

14h: Angela Condello (U Messina; U Torino): “Law and language back in style: datafied justice and the blurring boundaries between exemplary and ordinary, sense and reference, implicit and explicit”

In my presentation I will analyze the importance of approaching law from the point of view of language, like Frege's distinction between sense and reference, or indeed the terminological problems of classifying the objects falling within a certain category (a problem that will be addressed overall in the seminar). I will do so in particular by focussing on the shift of paradigm caused by the datafication of various legal operations, both in the document automation and in the prediction of judgments. I will try to address the problem of the risks of datafication in terms of a neutralization of the penumbra, of the uncertain, and of the basic disagreements about the meaning of legal terms.This presentation discusses datafied justice and the blurring boundaries between exemplary and ordinary, sense and reference, implicit and explicit.

15h: Gertrudis Van de Vijver (UGent): “Living and mental objects: particulary delicate regarding predication?”

This presentation starts from Kant’s radical claim that “there will never be a Newton of the grassblade”. According to him, there will never be a biological science, as there will never be a psychological science. I would question this claim, in view of the observation that it rests on what I call an imaginary conception of the living, as well as of the mental object – living beings and human beings are categories to be set apart, for Kant, a priori so. There will never be a predicative, functional account of them, within which those objects could find a place as determinable. I will put forward the idea that within the modern scientific tendency to mathematically functionalise nature, the place of the object is no less of the order of the determinable in biology or psychology that would be the case in physics. It are only its successes of achieving invariability that entertain the idea that real objects, even objects out there, are being dealt with. It is as if the imaginary idea that there are real objects that can be known as they are, is becoming less questionable. Which is in a way comforting, in particular to the extent that, if there are objects out there, there must be subjects over here, able to reflect on them, to know them, to talk about them. Nonetheless, it is good to distinguish, also in the case of stablized objects, the dimensions of function and object, attribute and substance, for at least two reasons. Firstly, to be able to be and remain critical about the workings of the imaginary and its ideological “recycling” – which are at work as soon as the world is conceived of as something that can be within our grasp. Then, it is the time of dividing territories of objects and constituting armies to conquer and possess them. Secondly, to remain open for the humanizing side of the law, that rests, purely formally, on the notion of generalisability. In that regard, it can be shown that, abandoning the requirement of generalisability leads us, precisely, to divergent, inconsistent, but ideologically easily recyclable ideas, properties (predicates) and values. The case of legalisation of euthanasia for purely mental suffering serves as my background in this reasoning.

16h: Ligeia Quackelbeen (Tilburg University): TBA


— Past events (Academic year 2023-2024)

Yearly HICO Lecture: Sam Berstler & Thomas Pendlebury

Wednesday 15 May, 3.30pm

Room 6.60, Blandijn

For our yearly flagship lecture, HICO is proud to announce a double bill, consisting of the honourable professors Sam Berstler (MIT) and Thomas Pendlebury (University of Chicago). Their lectures will be followed by a reception, generously offered to you by HICO.

3.30pm: T.A. Pendlebury, The Objects of Kant’s Copernican Hypothesis

Kant claims in the Preface to the first Critique’s second edition that metaphysics is possible under the hypothesis that “the objects must conform to our cognition” [die Gegenstände müssen sich nach unserem Erkenntnis richten]. I advance a reading of this claim as meaning that metaphysics is possible under the hypothesis that its constitutive topic is the form of the objects of human cognition as such, where the operative notion of object is that of the Scholastic obiectum formale, itself a descendent of Aristotle’s notion of antikeimenon. Kant contrasts this hypothesis with conceptions of metaphysics as having a constitutive topic defined without reference to, or defined as constituted independently of, capacities possessed by human beings. His claim is thereby not an idealistic thesis within the science of metaphysics but the advancement of an idealistic conception of metaphysics itself: Kantian metaphysics is the science of the human standpoint.

4.50pm: Sam Berstler, Controlling the Subject: Coerced Speech and the Construction of Social Face

Suppose I have you at gunpoint. I demand that you say certain words: that you confess to bogus charges, renounce your dearly held commitments, apologize for actions you stand behind, and so on. You refuse, at great personal cost to yourself. Stories with this structure pervade our cultural landscape and grip our moral imagination. Some of us even demand such sacrifices from ourselves. But under standard philosophical assumptions about speech and coercion, these sacrifices rest on a confusion. Here I propose that the confusion is not the victim’s but the philosopher’s. I argue that the perpetrator and victim are fighting for control over the victim’s self-presentation. The perpetrator aims to control and the victim aims to protect her face, or social self. Drawing on the work of mid-century sociologist Erving Goffman, I develop notions of self-presentation and face that not only explain our puzzle but provide new insight into the structure of social interaction and our concept of personal integrity.


Lecture by Eric Schliesser (University of Amsterdam): On The Possibility of an (liberal) art of Government: Foucault, professional philosophy, and Kuhn Loss

Friday 1 March, 4pm


Registration is not required: HICO welcomes all!

Including coffee break and refreshments, generously provided by HICO

Abstract: The circulation and eventual English translation of Foucault’s Lecture series known as The Birth of Biopolitics generated huge scholarly industries on governmentality, biopolitics, and neoliberalism (to name just a few). Without being too precise about it, a much smaller literature developed applying Foucault’s idea of an ‘art of government’ to contemporary issues. However, that there is a liberal art of government – diagnosed by Foucault in the 18th, 19th, and 20th century – has made a negligible impact on contemporary (normative) liberal political philosophy and 'analytic' history of philosophy. This is a bit odd because as Foucault's lectures indicate, there was once a thriving study of a liberal art of government.

My paper will re-inscribe Foucault’s account of the liberal art of government in a much larger history of the art of government, and then diagnose the grounds of the so-called Kuhn Loss. it consists of four parts.

First, in a once famous paper (1962), “Rationalism and Politics,” Oakeshott suggested that the very idea of an art of government is relatively new, dating back to Machiavelli. (Oakeshott is critical of this development.) As is well known, Foucault is familiar with Machiavelli’s significance to the art of government, and traces its effects in earlier lectures during the 1970s. In particular, Foucault calls attention to the seminal role of Bacon.

Second, in his narrative, Foucault leaves a century-long gap. I will point to the manner in which Locke and Toland conceive the art of government; and thereby provide a kind of missing preface to the Birth of Biopolitics. The gap in the narrative is less mysterious once one realizes that Elie Halevy’s *The growth of philosophic radicalism* is (alongside Tocquevile’s writings) both a source and target of Foucault’s lectures.

Before diagnosing the Kuhn Loss, I inscribe Oakeshott’s and Foucault’s narratives in a much longer framework. Foucault himself had noted the significance of Plato’s Statesman to his project. But on the narrative I propose, Plato’s Republic is the originating source—yes, footnotes again. The Republic is structured around the need for an art of government within the epistemic and cognitive division of labor. By using Plutarch’s reading of Damon, we can discern how Plato lets Socrates defer to Damon (a political advisor to Pericles) on the contents of this art, and thereby helps correct the image of Socrates as an isolated gadfly.

I conclude by diagnosing the source of a Kuhn loss by showing how from being central in Mill’s philosophy, the art of government was made disciplinarily homeless in the modern university.


Lezing door Emiliano Acosta (HICO): Over idioten, non-binair denken en emancipatie in de geschiedenis van de wijsbegeerte

Maandag 26 February, 4pm


Inschrijven is niet nodig: HICO heet iedereen welkom!

Inclusief koffiepauze met versnaperingen, U vrijgevig aangeboden door HICO

Abstract: Voor velen maakt de imperatief “ken jezelf” het wezen uit van het filosoferen. Maar is hetgeen men gebruikelijk onder "ken jezelf" begrijpt, ook de betekenis die filosofen aan deze woorden gaven? Filosofie is zeker en vast een soort antwoord op deze imperatief. Maar het idee dat deze zelfkennis kennis van de singulariteit van mijn bestaan is, is allesbehalve iets dat we bij de meeste filosofen zouden vinden. Het is eerder wat het gezond verstand – lees: de idioten die we allemaal volgens Heraclitus zijn – denkt dat de filosofie is. De zelfkennis waar bepaalde filosofen over praten is iets anders. Deze vertrekt vanuit de veronderstelling dat men pas begint te filosoferen als men voorbij elke vorm van dualiteit durft te denken, en het absolute, zelfs ahistorische, karakter van elke grens tussen normaal en abnormaal durft uit te dagen. In die zin is filosofie weliswaar reactief, maar in deze reactie zit de mogelijkheid tot emancipatie van het dogmatisme dat ons het paradijs of de comfortzone van het niet-denken aanbiedt.

Deze ideeën – het idiotisme, het non-binair denken en de emancipatie – maken de kern uit van het laatste boek van Emiliano Acosta: Filosofische Decamerone. In deze lezing voor HICO bespreekt en illustreert hij ze aan de hand van een aantal werken van filosofen die in zijn boek aan bod komen.

Lecture by Prof. Angela Condello (University of Messina): Sciences of the spirit vs. Sciences of nature: Law through the algorithmic revolution

UPDATE: Due to illness, professor Condello's talk was given online

Monday 12 February, 10am


Registration: gertrudis.vandevijver@ugent.be

Abstract: In this lecture I discuss the current opening of law and legal professions to artificial intelligence in terms of a “total social fact” generated by a graphical and linguistic revolution. I will address how this affects law mainly at an epistemological level, since it concerns its scientificity by involving the form of the data and the information circulated and used for legal operations.

Engaging with the dichotomy between “sciences of the spirit” versus “sciences of nature” through the work of Dilthey in particular, aiming to argue against such a challenge in our civilization and legal culture. Accepting a certain method means accepting a certain idea of law, because law does not just have a method, but is its own method.


The Entwinement of Logic and Life (12-14 September 2023)

Our honorable members Levi Haeck, Kobe Keymeulen, and Xuansong Liu have organized a conference on the entwinement of ‘logic’ and ‘life’ in German idealism and its intellectual legacy.




HICO aims to foster research in continental philosophy, broadly conceived, and in the history of philosophy at Ghent University. It coordinates, promotes and supervises research on the history of philosophy from antiquity to the present day. It also hosts research in contemporary continental philosophy that centres on politics, religion, art, aesthetics, culture, psychology, science, ... and that engages in a critical and interdisciplinary dialogue with the history of Western and non-Western philosophy. HICO welcomes PhD students and researchers in any area of continental philosophy and history of philosophy.




Tiziano Toracca

Angela Condello

Adjunct Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Torino; Adjunct Professor, Department of Law, University of Roma

Former Members