The 2016 Telos Conference: Roundtable on the Global Dimension of Ethical Life

From the 2016 Telos Conference in New York, the following is a video of a roundtable discussion of the question “What is the Global Dimension of Ethical Life?” Moderated by Russell A. Berman, the roundtable included Wayne Hudson, Adrian Pabst, Jay Gupta, David Pan, and Marcia Pally. We previously posted video of the conference’s plenary session here. Stay tuned for more conference videos and papers in the coming days.

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“John Galt is a Heathen!” The Inconvenient Atheism of Ayn Rand

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

The banking crisis of 2007–8 became interpreted by many commentators as a failure of the neo-liberal economics that had been internationally ascendant for approximately three decades. Following the government bailout of the banks, even some leading evangelists for laissez-faire capitalism, such as Alan Greenspan, came to reflect on “flaws” within their ideology.[1] The younger Greenspan had been a disciple of Ayn Rand, whose fiercely individualistic philosophy had been popularized in her best-selling novels The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957).[2] Yet the political fallout from the banking crisis provoked a resurgence of interest in Rand’s work,[3] with some on the political Right arguing the crisis had actually been provoked by state involvement in the economy. It was contended that the U.S. government had believed that large financial institutions were “too big to fail,” thus emboldening actors within these organizations to take far greater risks than they would otherwise have contemplated. In this regard Ayn Rand has even been referred to as a prophet of the crisis. Rand argued that government control over the economy would tend to induce deep problems that would then be blamed on the free-market and the avarice of businessmen. Consequently, demands would then be made for greater government control and more public spending. However (and as the plot transpires in Atlas Shrugged), these interventions only serve to make economic conditions worse as the creativity of entrepreneurs is further stifled by regulation. This explanation of the crisis has been influential within the renewal of the populist Right, evident in the “Who is John Galt?” banners that have appeared at numerous Tea Party events and anti-Obama protests.

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The Conquest of the North: A Modern Idea with a Mythical Twist

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

Province of Québec’s territory is vast, and much of it has been left in what could be considered a “natural” state. Today’s paper will focus on one particular region called Abitibi-Témiscamingue, located on the west side of the province, but north of Montreal (which is why we usually refer to it as a northern area).

Abitibi-Témiscamingue has been occupied for more than 8000 years, with the latest occupants being the Algonquins (the Abitibi and the Témiscamingue being the two main groups of Natives living there when Europeans arrived). While their presence has been known since the first French merchants came in the 1700s to trade fur, it is only around 1837–38 that Montreal’s Bishop decided to “take care” of these poor souls and sent missionaries to convert them. In 1863, the Oblate missionaries founded a permanent mission and from there, travelled the entire territory.

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Religion and the New Cosmopolitanism in a Postsecular Age

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

Flush with optimism following the end of the Cold War, many American and European scholars openly speculated about the possibilities of a Kantian perpetual peace, returning with renewed vigor to theories of cosmopolitanism. As Amanda Anderson has put it, such cosmopolitanism “endorses reflective distance from one’s cultural affiliations, a broad understanding of other cultures and customs, and a belief in universal humanity.” Indeed, recent developments in communication technology, combined with a proliferation of transnational migrations, have made it possible to truly imagine and experience “navigating beyond one’s state.”

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The Politics of Agnosticism: Latour and the Post-Secular

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

Despite the modern investment in the secularization of the political realm, religious discourse and concepts continue to inhabit it both explicitly and implicitly. Indeed, it should perhaps by now go without saying that the very idea of secularization or secularity has itself never been free of certain religious or theological determinations. This fact continues to present one of the most striking challenges to the very project of secularization, but alongside this, and of a piece with it, there have recently emerged with ever greater frequency and visibility examples of what we can understand as a breakdown in the basic functionality of religious discourse itself. On the one hand, those of us who wish to remain “tolerant” often experience nearly paralyzing reservations about speaking religiously in public contexts; on the other hand, there are those who exhibit a rash willingness to bring religious vocabulary into any discussion and even to oppose speech that does not employ such vocabulary solely based on this lack.

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Post-Secular Enchantments: The Non-reductive Materialisms of John Milbank and William Connolly

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

The philosopher John Caputo starts off his review of Slavoj Žižek and John Milbank’s debate book, The Monstrosity of Christ, by claiming that “Materialism just isn’t what it used to be. Nowadays everyone wants to be a materialist, even the theologians, while the materialists want to look like they lead a spiritual life.”[1] Caputo goes on to claim that today’s battle is “no longer between materialism and idealism, or hard-nosed Newtonians and far out spirit-seers, but between ‘materialist materialism’ and ‘theological materialism’,” and he continues and qualifies, “between crude soulless materialism and materialism with spirit.”[2]

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