Archive for the 'Personalism' Category

14th International Conference on Persons

This year the International Conference on Persons will take place in late May (24-29), instead of early August as has been the norm. The reason for this is that it will be held at the Università della Calabria, just outside Cosenza, and some of the non-Italian organizers thought southern Italy would be too hot in August.

The local organizer this year is Giusy Gallo, who first attended the ICP at the University of Nottingham in 2009 and also participated at Lund in 2013. She is a philosopher of language who came in contact with personalism through her work on the relation between linguistics and Michael Polanyi’s concept of tacit knowledge, and she is the editor of the Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio (

The conference website is found at (there is something wrong with the links function here right now).

Papers from the Boston ICP

Some of the papers from the 13th International Conference on Persons in Boston last year have now been published in Vernon Press’s Series in Philosophy under the title In the Sphere of the Personal: New Perspectives in the Philosophy of Persons. The volume is edited by James Beauregard and Simon Smith, who both first joined the ICP at the 12th meeting at Lund in 2013, and, I am pleased to note, have now become leading forces in the institution that is the ICP. At least one volume of ICP papers have been published in the past, but it was a long time ago; the Lund papers should, as I understood it, have been published by two of the American participants, but this never happened. My friends and colleagues Jim and Simon deserve all credit for reviving ICP proceedings publication and bringing together this valuable volume. They also provide a long introduction, and there is a foreword by Thomas O. Buford, one of the ICP’s founders.


All conference papers are seldom included in volumes like this, which are almost always selections only. Yet it is somewhat surprising that the papers by Ralph Ellis, James McLachlan, and Phillip Ferreira are missing, as is Robert Cummings Neville’s introduction to the closing panel which, as far as I can remember, would have been quite possible to publish in this volume.

In this connection, I should perhaps explain why I declined to have my own paper – which was presented in a plenary session, together with Phillip Ferreira, on idealistic personalism – included. The only reason is that I have decided to discontinue all adademic publication by way of protest against the decision last year of Prof. Thomas Kaiserfeld and Dr Monica Libell in the department of the history of ideas at Lund University that I can no longer teach there because of what they call my ideology – by which they mean my political views – and their public proclamation of this in the biggest daily Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter.

It is not just that this decision left me without any academic institutional affiliation, so that I no longer know how to present myself in connection with publication. More important is the unacceptable reason given by them for this measure taken against me. Except for my writing in this very modest blog, I have in fact withdrawn from all publication, teaching and lecturing because of the appalling things that are suddenly being said or suggested about me here in Sweden by some people who do not approve of my political positions.

It could have been the case that Lund had found someone more competent to take my place, and if so, I would not have protested in the way I now do. I never held a formal position in the university, although I taught regularly and for 12 years. Given the almost total political control of the academy in Sweden, and, of course, the nature and substance of that control, it always seemed to me impossible to obtain such a position, and I hardly even tried. I taught only as an adjunct, and very little. In this sense at least, my teaching was not of any importance for the university, and few (of those who do not read Dagens Nyheter) will probably even have noticed that I no longer teach there. My protest concerns only the violation of the principle of academic freedom that Lund’s decision represents as explained by them with regard to its motive, and especially the spectacular public announcement of this motive.

As to what they meant by my ideology, no explanation was given, although it was clear from Dagens Nyheter’s article that they shared its view of what my ideology was, and I had also been privately informed that this was the case. The background of and the reason for Lund’s decision and statement was the attack on me and a few others by the Expo foundation in Sweden published on the website of their magazine in February 2015, an attack which had been referred to and repeated several times by Dagens Nyheter. But Expo has since withdrawn their article (written by Jonathan Leman) under threat of legal action.

It is not only that Expo’s and Dagens Nyheter’s allegations are untrue. The university’s motive and statement about this motive, i.e. about my political positions, are completely unacceptable quite regardless of them. There has, to my knowledge, never been any complaint from either students or colleagues about my teaching, my publications, or any other contributions of mine to the life and work of the university, and none of this has ever been considered to have been unduly influenced by my political views.

Not least Libell’s public statement to Dagens Nyheter – about Kaiserfeld’s decision and motive – means that what we have to do with here is an indefensible political act on their part. I wish to draw attention to this fact, and to insist that this kind of behaviour from professors, department heads and university administrators must not be accepted or tolerated. Their ideology should be rejected, they should not, in their academic capacities, embrace the ideology that is the basis of their action against me, they should be dismissed from the university.

I wish to thank those of my colleagues in the academic community as represented in other countries who have shown support in this new situation, and to thank them also for the kind interest in and great appreciation of my work that they have shown in the past. I may continue to attend the ICP because of my organizational responsibilities there, and perhaps also other conferences, but I will no longer present papers. Funding will be a problem however, since it seems I will now no longer be able to publish anything in any connection which pays (or at least not where I would like to be published), nor receive any research and travel grants.

Whether or not my paper would have added anything of value to the present volume, it seems clear that the papers of the others mentioned above would. But even without them, there are several important ones, not least those contributed by Juan Manuel Burgos who also joined the ICP at Lund, and the ICP veteran Richard Prust. One of the papers on which I was the commentator in Boston is indeed so important that I should devote a separate post to it. Among arguments related to a misleading title, we find Rolf Ahlers discussing recent German scholarship on Jacobi – one of the central figures in my book The Worldview of Personalism – that confirms my own argument about the relation between him and German idealism, and is of considerable importance not only for personalism but for idealism studies.

Boston Paper

This is the abstract of my paper, ‘Further Considerations on Personalism and Idealism’, at the 13th International Conference on Persons in Boston earlier this month:

Sitting down for questions and discussion after reading the paper (Photo: Jane Ferreira)

Sitting down for questions and discussion after reading the paper (Photo: Jane Ferreira)

Boston personalism was originally, and has to some extent remained, an idealistic philosophy. Borden Parker Bowne’s work represents, as does that of his British contemporary, Andrew Seth Pringle-Pattison, not least a further, independent development of central themes in German Spätidealismus in the 19th century. In this respect it differs considerably from the – often converging – main forms of European personalism, which are related to distinctly non-idealist currents such as phenomenology, existentialism, and neo-Thomism. In this paper I reexamine some aspects of the question of the relationship between personalism and idealism in the light of recent idealism scholarship and of a partial assessment of what can be considered to be of lasting value and relevance in idealism. Taking into account the European background of idealistic personalism, it is necessary to raise anew the fundamental issue of the definition of idealism, and to distinguish between some of its main versions, including a brief recapitulation of its transformations in the 20th century. My conclusion is that, whether or not personalism, as Bowne argued, is intrinsically and necessarily idealistic, the insights and resources of idealism remain not just valid but important and badly needed precisely for personalism.

13th International Conference on Persons

Phillip Ferreira

Min gamle filosofiske vän och interlokutör, absolute idealisten Phillip Ferreira, i ännu en gemensam session med mig på 13:e ICP i Boston i förra veckan.


13th International Conference on Persons

13th ICP: Final Schedule

MONDAY, August 3


Knowledge and the Person

Wecome and Conference Information:

Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Chair and Introductions:

James Beauregard, Rivier University (Nashua, NH, USA)

“Apprehending the Person: Two Approaches”

Grzgorz Hołub, Pontifical University of John Paul II (Krakow, Poland)

“The Comprehensive Experience (Experiencia Integral): A New Proposal on the Beginning of Knowledge

Juan Manuel Burgos, Universidad CEU San Pablo (Madrid, Spain)

TUESDAY, August 4

SESSION 1, 9:00-10:30

1A (Room B23): The Concept of the Person

Chair, Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College

“Love, Identification and Equality: Rational Problems in Harry Frankfurt’s Concept of Person”

Jorge Martin Montoya, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

“Persons, Animals, and Clinical Normality”

William Jaworski, Fordham University (New York, NY, USA)

Commentator: Eleanor Wittrup, University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA, USA)

1B (Room B24): Person, Mind, Brain

Chair, Grzgorz Hołub, Pontifical University of John Paul II

“Neuroethics and Impersonalism: Value Revelation in Subjective Disclosure”

Denis Larrivee, International Association of Catholic Bioethicists (Ottawa, ON, Canada)

“Why Cognitivist Accounts of Personhood Fall Short”

Nils-Frederic Wagner, University of Ottawa (ON, Canada)

Commentator: Ralph Ellis, Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA, USA)

1C (Room STH325): Moral Personhood

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Moral Personhood”

Sari Kisilevsky, City University of New York, Queens College (USA)

“The Linguistic Bounds of Personhood”

Ray E. Jennings, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, BC, Canada), David McIntyre, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Commentator: Genevieve Wallace, Sacramento State University (CA, USA)

SESSION 2, 10:40-12:10

2A (Room B23): Personal Identity

Chair, Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College

“Agency, Personhood, and Personal Identity”

Benjamin Yelle, Mt. Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA, USA)

“Pratical Concerns and Numerical Identity”

Maxwell Suffis, Rice University (Houston, TX, USA)

Commentator: Ben Abelson, City University of New York, Graduate Center (USA)

2B (Room B24): Ontological Dignity and Virtuous Knowing

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Wang Yangming on Personal Awareness as World-Awareness”

Joshua Hall, Emory University (Atlanta, GA, USA)

“A Process Ontology of Dignity”

John W. August III, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Robert C. Neville, Boston University (USA)

2C (Room STH325): The Self and the “I”

Chair, James McLachlan, Western Carolina University

“Imagining the Self: Lacan and Levinas on the Formation of the ‘I’”

Christopher Lucibella, University of Memphis (TN, USA)

“The Socio-historical Ordeal of Personhood:  Remarks on Later Nietzsche and Freud”

Jeffrey M. Jackson, University of Houston, Dowtown (TX, USA)

Commentator: James McLachlan, Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC, USA)

PLENARY SESSION, 2:00-3:10 (CAS B12)

Chair: Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College (Laurinberg, NC, USA)

“Teleology and Consciousness Theory”

Ralph D. Ellis, Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA, USA)

3:10-3:40 Break

SESSION 3, 3:40-5:10

3A (Room B23): Psychological/Physical Continuity and Personhood

Chair, Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University

“Personal Identity in Alzheimer’s Disease: What Supports the Self When Memory Fails?”

Marie-Christine Nizzi, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA)

Commentator: Michelle Maiese, Emmanuel College (Boston, MA, USA)

3B (Room B24): Higher Education, Race, and Societal Change

Chair, James Beauregard, Rivier University

“Dialectical Adherence to the Beloved Community: John G. Fee and the Founding of Berea College”

Eli Orner Kramer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

“Pedagogical Personalism at Morehouse College from Benjamin E. Mays and Howard Thurman to Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Kipton Jensen, Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA, USA)

Commentator: Thomas O. Buford, Furman University (Greenville, SC, USA)

3C (Room STH325): Early 20th Century Personalism

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Phenomenological Resistance to Tyranny”

Jason M. Bell, Assumption College (Worcester, MA, USA)

“The Personalism of John MacMurray”

Fr. Bogumił Gacka, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University (Warsaw, Poland)

Commentator: John Hofbauer, Mount St. Mary’s College (Newburgh, NY, USA)

PLENARY SESSION, 5:30-7:15 (CAS B12)

Chair, Ralph D. Ellis, Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA, USA)

“‘We Are Not Disposable’: People with Psycho-social Disorders and Social Justice”

Carol Moeller, Moravian College (Bethlehem, PA, USA)

“Dissociative Identity Disorder, Personhood, and Responsibility”

Michelle Maiese, Emmanuel College (Boston, MA, USA)



4A (Room STH325): The Life and Work of Thomas O. Buford

Chair, Christopher Williams, University of Nevada

“Buford, Kohák, and a Renewed Understanding of the Personal Nature of Time”

John Scott Gray, Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI, USA)

“Christianity and Intellectual Seriousness”

Mason Marshall, Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA, USA)

“Personalism and Global Bioethics”

James Beauregard, Rivier University (Nashua, NH, USA)

Commentator: Thomas O. Buford, Furman University (Greenville, SC, USA)


4B (Room B23): The Next Generation, Session Alpha

Chair, Fr. Bogumił Gacka, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University

Eudaimonia, Catholicism, Sex, and the Person”

Madison Forbes, Bridgewater State University (Bridgewater, MA, USA)

“The Consolation of Philosophers: Recovering Dignity and the Self After Sexual Assault ”

Mackenzie Lefoster, Belmont University (Nashville, TN, USA)

Commentator: Grzgorz Hołub, Pontifical University of John Paul II (Krakow, Poland)

4C (Room B24): The Next Generation, Session Beta

Chair, William Jaworski, Fordham University

“Freedoms Undone: Domination by Agents and Structures in Pettit’s Republicanism”

Mariela Libedinsky, University of Toronto, St. George-Woodsworth College (ON, Canada)

“The Emergence of Personhood and its Importance in the Experience of the Sublime”

Leslie Micheal Murray, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Sofia Inês Albornoz Stein, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (São Leopoldo, Brazil)

SESSION 5, 10:40-11:30

5A (Room B23): Howard Thurman’s Personalism

Chair, Thurman Todd Willison, Union Theological Seminary

“Reading Thurman as a Philosophical Personalist”

Kipton Jensen, Morehouse College

Commentator: Myron M. Jackson, Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI, USA)

5B (Room B24): Is the Universe the Work of a Person?

Chair, Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University

“Persons, Theology, and Cosmology”

Gilbert Fulmer, Texas State University (San Marcos, TX, USA)

Commentator: Wesley J. Wildman, Boston University (USA)

SESSION 6, 11:40-12:30

6A (Room B23): Person and Emotion

Chair and Commentator, Ralph D. Ellis, Clark Atlanta University

“Emotion Makes the Person”

Eleanor Wittrup, University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA, USA)

6B (Room B24): Climate Change

Chair, Wesley J. Wildman, Boston University

“Personalism and Climate Change”

Thurman Todd Willison, Union Theological Seminary (New York, NY, USA)

Commentator: John W. August, III, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

6C (Room STH325): Personalism and Monotheism

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Personal Identity with and without Monotheism”

Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College (Laurinberg, NC, USA)

Commentator: Kipton Jensen, Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA, USA)


Optional group trip to Concord, MA (home of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne’s Old Manse, Walden Pond, etc., site of the Battle of Concord).

THURSDAY, August 6

SESSION 7, 9:00-10:30

7A (Room B23): Self, Person, and Process

Chair, Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College

“On the Mistaken Lexical Liberty of Conflating ‘Self’ and ‘Person’ in Philosophy”

Megan Roehll, University at Buffalo (NY, USA)

“Self and Person: Distinctions in Bergson”

Robert G. Fiedler, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Gilbert Fulmer, Texas State University (San Marcos, TX, USA)

7B (Room B24): Descartes and Locke

Chair, Ralph Ellis, Clark Atlanta University

“Persons and Passions: The Late Cartesian Account”

Mark C.R. Smith, Queens University (Kingston, ON, Canada)

“Mixed Modes and the Non-Existence of Lockean Persons”

Sam N. Johnson, University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR, USA)

Commentator: Laura J. Mueller, Luther College (Decorah, IA, USA)

7C (Room STH325): Hegel and Personhood

Chair, Phillip Ferreira, Kutztown University

“A Limit to the Market: Hegel and Personhood”

Victoria I. Burke, University of Guelph (ON, Canada)

“Holy Robot: Early German Idealism on Persons”

Rolf Ahlers, The Sage Colleges (Albany, NY, USA)

Commentator: Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University, Sweden

SESSION 8, 10:40-12:10

8A (Room B23): The Concept of Person

Chair, Jorge Martin Montoya, University of Navarra

“Salvaging a Concept of a ‘Person’”

Ben Abelson, City University of New York Graduate Center (USA)

“Looking into Objects, Dispositions and the Lockean Person-Making Properties”

Mihretu Guta, Durham University (Durham, England)

Commentator: Benjamin Yelle, Mt. Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA, USA)

8Bi (10:40-11:30) (Room B24): Law and Culture

Chair, Lawrence Nelson, Santa Clara University

“Roma-Integration: The Existential Tension Between Public Policy and the Person”

Philippe-Edner Marius, Legislative Fellow, Sate of New York (Albany, NY, USA)

Commentator: Jonas Norgaard Mortensen, think tank Cura

8Bii (11.30-12.10) (Room B24):

Chair, James Beauregard, Rivier University

“On Buford on Trust”

Nathan Riley, Independent Scholar (St. John’s, FL, USA)

Commentator: Thomas O. Buford, Furman University

8C (Room STH325): Schelling and Boehme

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Personhood in the Board Room: A Schellingian Account of Corporate Agency”

Myron M. Jackson, Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI, USA)

“The Person and the Demon: Personality and the Possibility of Demonic Evil in Jacob Boehme”

James McLachlan, Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC, USA)

Commentator: Rolf Ahlers, The Sage Colleges (Albany, NY, USA)

PLENARY SESSION, 2:00-3:30 (CAS B12)

Chair: James McLachlan, Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC, USA)

“Further Considerations on Personalism and Idealism”

Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University (Sweden)

“Who Are the Real Impersonalists?”

Phillip Ferreira, Kutztown University (PA, USA)

SESSION 9, 3:40-5:10

9A (Room B23): The Metaphysics of Person

Chair, Ralph Ellis, Clark Atlanta University

“Personal Identity and the gumnos kókkos

Thom Atkinson, University of Liverpool (England)

“Person and Incarnation”

Randall Johnson, Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL, USA)

Commentator: Matthew Donnelly, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

9B (Room B24): Law and Punishment

Chair, Joseph Harry, Slippery Rock University

“Returning to Redemption as a Theory for Justifying Punishment”

Brian J. Buckley, Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA, USA)

“An Ethical Perspective on Legal Personhood, Prenatal Humans, and Feticide Laws”

Lawrence Nelson, Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA, USA)

Commentator: Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

9C (Room STH325): British Idealism

Chair, Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University

“No Free Lunch: Pringle-Pattison’s Ideas on Personhood, the Soul, and Personal Immortality”

Robert Devall, West Chester University (West Chester, PA, USA)

“Expression and Self-Knowledge”

Christopher Williams, University of Nevada (Reno, NV, USA)

Commentator: Phillip Ferreira, Kutztown University, PA, USA


Filippo’s Italian Ristorante, Boston’s North End 

FRIDAY, August 7

SESSION 10, 9:00-10:30

10A (Room B23): Intention and the Person

Chair, John W. August III, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“The Indexing Ego”

Matthew Z. Donnelly, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Mihretu Guta, Durham University (England)

10B (Room B24): Kant

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Imagination, Unfettered: Breaking the Sensuous Chains in Kant’s Critical Philosophy”

Laura J. Mueller, Luther College (Decorah, IA, USA), Randall E. Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

“Freedom and Value in Kant’s Practical Philosophy: the Core of Personhood”

Adriano Naves de Brito, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (São Leopoldo, Brazil), Sofia Inês Albornoz Stein, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (São Leopoldo, Brazil)

Commentator: Eli Orner Kramer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

10C (Room STH 325): The Sign of the Person

Chair, Robert C. Neville, Boston University

“Quotational Characters: Subjectivity, Journalists, and the Persons Portrayed in News Journalism”

Joseph Harry, Slippery Rock University (Slippery Rock, PA, USA)

“Peirce on Person: Peirce’s Theory of Determination and Personality”

Cheongho Lee, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Christopher Williams, University of Nevada (Reno, NV, USA)


Chair: Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University (Sweden)

The Future of Persons and Personalism?

Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Robert C. Neville, Boston University (MA, USA)

13th International Conference on Persons

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Michelle Maiese

MaieseMichelle Maiese is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Emmanuel College in Boston. Her research focuses on issues in philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychiatry, and the emotions. In recent work, she has examined enactivism, the integration of emotion and cognition, and the nature of psychopathology. She is the author of Embodied Minds in Action (co-written with Robert Hanna, 2009) and Embodiment, Emotion, and Cognition (2011).

13th International Conference on Persons

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Juan Manuel Burgos

BurgosJuan Manuel Burgos is a leading personalist philosopher in the Spanish-speaking world with a growing influence in Europe and America. He is Profesor Titular at the University San Pablo CEU in Madrid and has been a guest professor and delivered conferences in Britain, USA, Poland, Mexico, Sweden, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and many other countries. He is also the founder and president of the Spanish Association of Personalism and of the Asociación Iberoamericana de Personalismo, and founder and editor of Quién. Revista de Filosofía personalista. Burgos specializes in anthropology and personalism; among his books are Antropología: una guía para la existencia, Repensar la naturaleza humana, and Introducción al personalismo. Some of them have been published in Polish and Portuguese translations, and the last mentioned is currently being translated into English. Studies of Burgos’s philosophy have been published by Beauregard, Bermeo, Seifert and others.

13th International Conference on Persons

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Jan Olof Bengtsson

BengtssonJan Olof Bengtsson teaches the history of ideas at Lund University in Sweden. He is best known for his book The Worldview of Personalism: Origins and Early Development, to which a special issue of the journal The Pluralist was devoted in 2008. He has published articles and book chapters on personalism, idealism, and so-called value-centered historicism, the most recent being a chapter on the origins and meaning of the German concept of “late idealism” (Spätidealismus). He is the author of the entries on personalism in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (with Thomas D. Williams) and Springer’s Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions. He has also published a Swedish introduction to and translation of Eric Voegelin’s Wissenschaft, Politik und Gnosis. He regularly attends conferences on personalism and idealism in Europe and America, and, in 2013, organized the 12th International Conference on Persons at Lund.

13th International Conference on Persons

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Phillip Ferreira

FerreiraPhillip Ferreira is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Kutztown University. His work focuses on 19th century idealism and its relation to contemporary thought. He is author of Bradley and the Structure of Knowledge (1999) and many articles on philosophical idealism.

13th International Conference on Persons

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Randall E. Auxier

AuxierRandall E. Auxier is Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he specializes in process philosophy, American idealism, and the philosophy of culture. He is author of Time, Will, and Purpose: Living Ideas from the Philosophy of Josiah Royce (2013) and co-author (with Gary Herstein) of The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead’s Radical Empiricism (forthcoming). He has edited seven volumes of the Library of Living Philosophers and was for 15 years the editor of The Personalist Forum and its successor, The Pluralist. He writes popularly for books, magazines, newspapers and blogs, along with the usual scholarly journals.

13th International Conference on Persons

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Robert Cummings Neville

NevilleRobert Cummings Neville is Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at Boston University. He is formerly the Dean of the School of Theology at BU and is author of over 25 books, including his recent three-volume Philosophical Theology (SUNY Press, 2014-15), as well as Religion in Late Modernity (2002), The Truth of Broken Symbols (1995), The Cosmology of Freedom (1974), The Tao and the Daimon (1981), Boston Confucianism (2000), and many others. He is well known as a leader in comparative philosophy and theology and as a critic of personalism and process thought.

13th International Conference on Persons

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Ralph Ellis

EllisRalph Ellis received his PhD in philosophy at Duquesne University and a postdoctoral M.S. in Public Affairs at Georgia State University. He has worked as a social worker as well as teaching philosophy, and is interested in applied phenomenology and integrating the social sciences with philosophy of mind. His books include An Ontology of Consciousness (1986), Theories of Criminal Justice (1989), Coherence and Verification in Ethics (1992), Questioning Consciousness (1995), Eros in a Narcissistic Culture (1996), Just Results: Ethical Foundations for Policy Analysis (1998), The Caldron of Consciousness: Affect, Motivation, and Self‑Organization (2000), Love and the Abyss (2004), Curious Emotions (2005), Foundations of Civic Engagement (2006, co-authored with Jim Sauer and Norm Fischer), How the Mind Uses the Brain (2010, co-authored with Natika Newton), and a critical thinking textbook, The Craft of Thinking. Ellis is also co-editor with Peter Zachar of a book series, Consciousness & Emotion (

13th International Conference on Persons

13th International Conference on Persons: Accommodations

Lodging will be at the Boston Common Hotel at the rate of $169 per night (plus tax), which is very affordable by Boston standards and is within easy reach of Boston University. When making reservations, mention the International Conference on Persons to get the conference rate. Space is limited, so it is best to reserve early, 617-933-7700, or you can reserve your room through the hotel website by clicking the “BOOK NOW” tab on the hotel’s main page. It will ask for the dates. Please fill in August 3 through 7 (even if you plan to stay longer). It will direct you to a list. Choose the room that fits your needs. The next page will be for advance payment – it is non-refundable. In the “Special Requests” box on that page, fill in that you are attending the International Conference on Persons, and if you need days apart from August 3-7, put that information there. You will be contacted for further adjustment of the reservation.

We have also reserved a block of rooms at Boston University. These are suites of four single rooms (each with one single bed) connected by a common area, with limited kitchen facilities, and available for $67 per person per night. This option will make sense for those who are traveling alone and on a limited budget. If two are traveling together they would have to sleep in separate rooms, share a bathroom, and pay $67 each (i.e., $134 together), and this means the hotel will probably be the more attractive option. But for those traveling alone with a limited budget, the BU apartment style dormitory is the best option. For this option, send an e-mail to the conference e-mail address with the word “accommodations” in the subject line and you will be contacted from there.

For overflow, or for those who want something a little bit snazzier, we recommend The Boxer Hotel. It is located on the Green Line of the Boston T and is a straight and easy ride to Boston University. There is no special conference rate, but the rates are very reasonable by Boston standards (starting at about $216 per night), and they are aware that we are referring people as overflow for the conference.

Call for Papers

British Personalist Forum Conference

Last week I spoke at the British Personalist Forum’s excellent conference on British Contributions to Personalist Philosophy: Duns Scotus to the Present Day in Oriel College, Oxford. Several prominent personalists and historians of British philosophy were in attendance, and Raymond Tallis was a special guest speaker (see the programme). I read a revised version of a paper from a conference on British idealism in 2013, ‘In Defence of the Personal Idealist Conception of the Finite Self’, with an added extensive, informal introduction.

I want to congratulate Richard Allen, Alan Ford, Simon Smith and my other friends in the BPA for this major success and step forward in the development of their group and its important scholarly events. This is how they described the aims of their conference:

“Although John Grote (Knightsbridge Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge) in 1865 named his own philosophy ‘personalism’, hardly any other British philosophers have been designated, by themselves or others, as ‘personalists’, save perhaps for the ‘Personal Idealists’ of c. 1885-1920.

Nevertheless some have focused upon personal existence and the freedom, responsibility and dignity of the individual person who is also a person in relation to other persons, and other philosophers have at least dealt with one or more aspects of distinctively personal existence,  and have done so in terms, concepts and categories truly appropriate to persons as distinct from ones applicable only to sub-personal or impersonal entities or those of merely formal logic.

The aim of this conference is to bring to wider notice those British philosophers who have made such contributions to personalist philosophy, not only to amend the historical record which has often neglected them, but also to suggest why they are worth reading today.”

13th International Conference on Persons: Call for Papers

Aug. 3rd to Aug. 7th, 2015

Boston University, Boston, MA, USA

Papers in any area or discipline are welcome, so long as their themes are of concern to the ideas and concepts of persons, personhood, and personality as a philosophical, theological, psychological, social, political, historical, creative or linguistic concern.

Papers must not exceed a length of 3000 words and should be prepared for blind review.

In the e-mail sent with the submission, we require the following eight items:

1.  Word count – 3000 words maximum

2.  Author’s name

3.  Academic status (professor, unaffiliated, graduate student)

4.  Institutional affiliation (if any)

5.  Mailing address

6.  E-mail address

7.  The paper’s title

8.  An abstract – 200 words maximum

Submission deadline for abstracts is MAY 25th, 2015. Abstracts will be accepted on that date, with full texts of paper due by July 1.

Submissions which do not include items 2-8 (if only abstract is being submitted) will be disqualified. Word count is due when full paper is submitted. No more than one submission by the same author will be considered.

Email as an attachment a copy of your paper and/or abstract in rich text format to:

Papers and/or abstracts will be reviewed by a committee. Notification of acceptance will be made via email in early June.

Each paper will have a commentator. Those interested in commenting should send a note to by May 25th detailing availability and areas of interest. Persons whose papers are accepted will be expected to serve as commentators, if asked.

Copies of papers will be available by July 1st. E-mails of authors will also be available for purposes of sending your commentary in advance of the conference.

Lodging Details will be announced soon, The Conference will begin with Registration from noon on Mon. August 3rd.  Further details about meals, schedules, and Conference fees will be provided as they become available.


JOB in Warsaw, 2005

8th International Conference on Persons. I suggest to Lech Wałęsa that there is reason for Poland be more critical of the EU, and, with its recent experience of totalitarian oppression, to set an example for Western Europe in this regard. Politics were of course inevitable in Wałęsa’s long and important opening address and in the discussion following it, but the role of personalism in recent history was strongly emphasized.


Photo: Marek Gacka

Pantheism and Totalitarianism

Disappointed both in his quest for pseudo-divine self-glorification and pseudo-divine self-annihilation, the romantic settled for cynical and/or sensualist naturalism. This was one of the ways in which the dialectic of the two wings of modernity was carried on, and rationalism and scientism, at length, reasserted themselves. The transformation into scientistic materialism was implicit in the pantheism of both rationalism and romanticism, and it was worked out, in different fields of thought and knowledge, primarily by the Young Hegelians, the French utopian socialists, and naturalists like Taine, Renan, and Haeckel, who in their very scientism are still typical romantic pantheists.

After the interlude of impersonalist idealism’s threat of absorbing the person into ideas, the person was thus again faced with the threat of being absorbed into matter. We are talking here about the most palpably concrete social realities, in the era of nationalism and incipient industrial warfare. Idealism was distorted and transformed into naturalism. In new spectacular forms of undiminished extremism, the two wings of modernity continued to spur each other on to further excess, locked in the fatal and by now centuries-old anti-differentiational dialectic in which the reality and the values of the person were ever insecure.

Heretical pantheism has become the orthodoxy of the modern West. It is not that this new pantheism denies that pantheism is older than Platonism and Christianity. The idea of a primitive pantheism appears in innumerable speculations, scientific as well as popular. Yet these speculations are decisevely shaped by specifically modern presuppositions. Not least, the whole speculative interpretation of history is an exclusively modern phenomenon. The intention of the modern pantheist’s progressivism is partly what is perceived as a “restoration” of what is perceived as original non-differentiation. But the meaning and nature of the non-differentiation of early pantheism is radically transformed by the romanticization, as mere compactness, i.e. non-differentiation or rudimentary differentiation, is replaced by principled, nihilistic anti-differentiation. Modern pantheism is sui generis.

Pantheism thoroughly shaped modern liberal theology, and in the characteristic form of Kulturprotestantismus, Christianity increasingly ignored its traditional concern with personal salvation and turned towards immanent objectives and secular culture: the moralism of sentimental humanitarianism, philanthropy, social involvement, and political activism. As the world set the agenda of the Church, salvation, faith, and spirituality receded. Significantly, it was all done through the standard device of reinterpretation of the very meaning of salvation, faith, and spirituality.

Without exception, the secular Ersatz religions of modernity tended to reduce man to the lower levels of reality, the levels which did not constitute his personhood. [For a Voegelinian intellectual history of the secular political religions, see Michael Burleigh, Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the Great War (London: Harper Collins, 2005); this volume was followed by a second part on the twentieth century: Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror (2008). The work is not without its flaws, and the relation between those flaws and Voegelin’s positions are worth analysing at some length, but this cannot be done here.] Born of the most high-flown romanticism, Marxism set forth a new, dynamized materialism, and denigrated the individual to the point of proclaiming the essence of man to be his true collectivity. Soon the doctrine was put into practice through the liquidation of unessential individuals by the millions.

All the while utopians in the West ignored this and played it down, and countless philosophers insisted, unperturbed, on their own increasingly totalitarian system in the theoretical form of positivistic and neo-positivistic, reductive scientism and utilitarianism and in the practical form of manipulative social engineering. High modernism and psychoanalysis set about revealing the weakness of the bourgeois remnants of the modern rational self through new aesthetic and therapeutic means. Primitivity and violence were celebrated. Capitalism still partly inspired by the individualism of classical political economy continued to shape the history of one half of the world, while the other succumbed to the new totalitarian collectivisms. In its new, existentialist form, individualist “freedom” itself was used by Sartre to support one of the latter.

By many strategies, the differentiational framework which had made possible the understanding of the person and its values was thus gradually dismantled. When the experience of the metaxy was obscured or made impossible, and its institutional embodiment and transmission abolished, it could no longer inspire order in the soul and order in society, and thus withstand and restrain the pantheistic revolution. Destroying the differentiation that is the person’s precondition, the closed immanence of secular modernity, in all of its versions, revealed itself as a threat to the person.

Romantic Pantheism

In Hegel’s version of the significative attempt to preserve structured order in this new situation, the personal God was seemingly only nominally preserved in some late defensive writings for quite extra-systematic purposes, and the unifying idea on which alone the structuring depended was never conceived as transcendent in the first place. As merely one of the many expressions of a Hermetically conceived immanence, Hegel’s new articulate cataphaticism was doomed already for such intrinsic reasons to fail in a much more obvious way in this regard. From the beginning, the Right Hegelians, or at least the so-called “speculative theists”, saw the need for, and called for, a metaphysical supplementation.

But quite apart from these reasons, Hegelianism was also fated to a considerable extent to become submerged in the forces unleashed by the industrial and political revolutions. Since their classicism had been mixed up with modern rationalism ever since Descartes, the refined defenders of the hitherto dominant, French-inspired culture were often unable, even as they were forced in the face of the historical development of the nineteenth century – in which France itself took a leading part – to turn towards a stricter and more traditionalist classicism, to see the partial truths of the new German criticism of Enlightenment thought. But they did see its untruths.

In the new darkness brought on by the pantheistic revolution, all cows must, in the eyes of the French critics, perforce turn black. There could no longer be any well-grounded distinctions, any proper discernment. Everything flowed, everything was becoming, everything was relative. Since the unity and totality knew itself only through the infinite forms of the chaotic dispersion, the whole noisy confusion of the energies let loose by the Revolution must be accepted, indeed enthusiastically welcomed, embraced by Cosmic Love. Predictably, the demons were already at large, in art and literature as well as on the battlefield. Moral discrimination became impossible. Since transcendence was denied, there was not even in principle the possibility of an accessible vantage-point, or even one accepted as a mere necessary regulative idea, from which to make judgements.

Thought became so vague that contradictions could no longer be identified as such; the limited and the well-defined were dismissed as superficiality. There could be no well-grounded choices between different alternatives, all ideas had the same worth, truth was infinite and all-comprehensive, the mandatory tolerance could be based only on relativism. Criticism was lost, as was selection, refinement, and style. The differentiational perspective from which true and false, good and evil, beauty and ugliness could once be distinguished, at least to some extent, at least for the purpose of general orientation, had been absorbed in the process of the closed immanent totality.

In this pseudo-divine carnival, where the crassest material forces – both of the captains of industry and of the Enlightenment machinery of the state – advanced more ruthlessly than ever behind the shifting veils of neoclassicism, neohumanism, idealism, and romantic reverie and picturesqueness, it was the unstable Ego of individualism, rather than the person, that flourished, and that alone could flourish. For all his self-assertive, neoteric expressionism, the romantic individual moves from narcissism, via cosmic, subjective ego-inflation, to objective self-annihilation in the larger pantheistic whole in any of its manifestations.

Such self-actualization, drawing out the utmost nihilistic consequences of the self-creation of the Renaissance individualists, was sheer illusion, since there simply was no self to actualize. In a world closed upon itself and without ontic logos, the only values there could be were those posited by the individual, and such positing was what was expected of the new historical Heroes. Yet they pathetically failed to perform the expected Deeds, dragged down by the unacknowledged, constitutive imperfection of their human nature, devoid of grace.

The moral ambiguity of the new individual-cosmic self-actualization was glaring; with ethical dualism rejected along with metaphysical dualism, the new autonomy did not stop short of the Satanic. The only enemy, the only remaining evil was that which represented or was perceived as representing the resistance to the new pantheism itself, to the Righteous Goodness of the Human-Divine Ego and Nature: the conventional order of the establishment, the Church, the remnants of the ancien régime. The enemy’s scruples were only expressions of its false morality, and having been so repressed and deformed by this enemy, the Beautiful Soul had the right to go beyond its narrow conventions, to challenge them, if necessary by violent means. Only though releasing the demonic, the criminal, the perverted, the diseased, was it possible, under the present circumstances, to find the true self.

Or rather, to become one with the newly conceived whole. The underlying drive was the age-old one of the problematic forms of esotericism and monistic mysticism: to simply become God. But not only did failure produce disillusion; God was also redefined even beyond the undifferentiated oneness. The Beautiful Souls and Geniuses were lost in erotic intoxication with feelings, in the identification with the resurgent dark, irrational side of reality which the human fiat of modern rationalism had never managed to suppress; they were consumed by the Dionysian urge for ecstatic self-annihilation, for final extinction. At the peak of the absolute freedom, of “authentic” self-expression, of self-exaltation, they turned towards dissolution and destruction of an individual self which was in reality weak and sickly. What it really desired was ultimate ecstatic identification with nature/God, the erotic Mother-Goddess, the All-Ego, the irrational, arbitrary, nihilistic Will of the world-process, the empty oneness, the Void, Nothingness, Death. And a similar impulse was often found to underlie the new kind of search for identification with the Nation, the People, the State.

This, needless to say, is not the whole truth about this historical period. But the neglected fact is that its other truths, and not least its genuinely personalist ones, can be neither properly understood nor preserved or reappropriated unless these general truths about romantic pantheism are understood. The individualism it produced was often the shallowest thing. [For a few of the very many aspects and expressions of this, see Gerald N. Izenberg, Impossible Individuality: Romanticism, Revolution, and the Origin of Modern Selfhood, 1787-1802 (1992), which, however, is far from the fuller and deeper historical understanding of the pantheistic revolution.]

Personalism East and West

I just came back from the fifth ISKCON Studies Conference, organized at wonderful Radhadesh/Château de Petite Somme in the Ardennes outside Durbuy in Belgium, by Kenneth Valpey and Ferdinando Sardella (who both spoke at the 12th International Conference on Persons in Lund in August) of the ISKCON Studies Institute, a subdivision of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies; the institute publishes the ISKCON Studies Journal. Many old friends attended as well as new faces from different parts of the world. I spoke on ‘Personalism East and West’ (see abstract below).

Château de Petite Somme (Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont)

Château de Petite Somme (Photo: Jean-Pol Grandmont)

The Radhadesh website is temporarily offline for technical reasons so I cannot link to it here; awaiting the solution of the technical problems, they refer to this temporary blog. Radhadesh is almost certainly the most important ISKCON temple community in Europe, and the site not only of the temple and of ashramas, but also, and not least, of many important international conferences since the early 1990s. Among them I have attended several ISKCON Communications Seminars and ISKCON Conventions, and one meeting of the Bhaktivedanta Academy of Arts and Sciences, all with many prominent Hinduism and other religion scholars from inside and outside of ISKCON.

The restaurant (Photo: Jean Housen)

The restaurant (Photo: Jean Housen)

Radhadesh has gradually been developed into a first class conference centre with a new hotel – called a guesthouse – next to the château, and an excellent restaurant in an adjacent building. However, I think this was the first time the ISKCON Studies Conference was held here – a couple of years ago I spoke on ‘Conversion, Preaching, and Western Cultural Identity’ at an earlier ISC on the theme of Transmitting the Truth: Education, Preaching, and Conversion in ISKCON, at the equally beautiful Villa Vrindavana outside Florence; as far as I understand, that paper will soon appear in the next issue of the ISKCON Studies Journal. Radhadesh is also the site of Bhaktivedanta College, where ten years ago I taught the introduction to Western philosophy course. Since I was last there, a new building for accommodation of the students, as well as for the college library, had been built. Finally, on the premises is also found the building housing the Bhaktivedanta Library Services.

During this visit to Belgium I also had the opportunity to take photos of some parts of or with certain angles on Poelaert’s Palais de Justice in Brussels which I have not been able to find on the internet, and some of the Parc de Bruxelles by the Palais Royal and the streets next to it. I plan to publish them here. The many beautiful late nineteenth-century buildings on Avenue du Midi south of Place Rouppe, Boulevard Maurice Lemonnier, Boulevard Anspach, and Boulevard Adolphe Max must also be photographed on some other occasion. Especially the first two of these are in a part of Brussels that seems to be quickly slummed now (most of central Brussels is), so that it is not clear to what extent the buildings will be preserved. Buildings of this kind remain continuously threatened all over the world since the process of discovery of the fact that this was a golden age of architecture (as of much else) is still very slow. In some places, they are still almost systematically destroyed, and because of the lack of interest in them, they are not even properly photographed. Hotel Métropole on Place de Brouckère is now Brussels’ only remaining nineteenth-century hotel, and striving to preserve as much as possible of its original design etc. Imaginative historical reconstruction is needed in order to understand how beautiful and well-ordered this area was a hundred years ago. I also had time for a short visit to Leuven.

A corner of the main temple room, with the murti of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

A corner of the main temple room, with the murti of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

But I digress. Here is the abstract of my presentation, ‘Personalism East and West’:

This presentation will be an introduction to the comparative study of Eastern and Western personalism, with special reference to the personalism of the theistic form of Vedanta represented by ISKCON. A certain kind of propedeutic to this study is necessary, since without it, the real nature and implications of the differences between the respective forms of personalism are normally overlooked and the similarities to some extent misconstrued and misunderstood. The relevant historical, cultural and intellectual contexts will therefore be outlined, and only with these basic perspectives firmly in place will the presentation move on to a brief overview of the conceptual and terminological histories of “person” and related notions in the West and of comparable ideas in the East. This overview will, for the purposes of the introduction to the subject, be given exclusively in light of and with constant reference to the mentioned fundamental perspectives on the general, constitutive characteristics of and differences between Eastern and Western thought as historically developed. In this way, the presesentation will seek to prepare the ground for a subsequent step in the comparative work, through which, along with more particularized study of individual personalist thinkers, schools, and positions, meaningful East-West relations can be established and possibilities of mutual influence and adjustment and new syntheses fruitfully explored.

Photo by Jean-Pol Grandmont

Photo by Jean Housen

12th ICP: Abstracts PDF

Click for PDF with the abstracts (no abstracts of the papers of the plenary speakers Keith Ward, Juan Manuel Burgos, Fredrik Ullén, and Claes G. Ryn were included):

12th ICP abstracts

12th International Conference on Persons

12th ICP: Program PDF

Click for PDF with the conference program:


12th International Conference on Persons

12th ICP: Simon Smith Report

Simon Smith in Lund

Simon Smith in Lund

Simon Smith has published a report on the conference on the website of the British Personalist Forum. The BPF is the new name of the Society for Post-Critical and Personalist Studies, started by Richard Allen who organized the excellent 2009 ICP in Nottingham but unfortunately could not come this year; Allen and the BPF publish the journal Appraisal.

R. T. Allen

R. T. Allen

12th International Conference on Persons

12th ICP: Photos

I have posted some photos from the 12th International Conference on Persons in Lund last month on the conference website. It is likely that more will be added.

12th ICP: Thank You

I want to extend my warmest thanks to all sixty-one participants, presenting as well as non-presenting, for your contributions to this year’s International Conference on Persons. It was a pleasure to receive you at Lund. Together, you made the event a success.

Most of all, my co-organizer, Randall E. Auxier of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, the current editor of the Library of Living Philosophers, deserves credit for making this a memorable conference.

Randall E. Auxier

Randall E. Auxier

Special mention must also be made of our wonderful conference assistant Rebecka Klette, a promising student in our department of the History of Ideas, who took care of the welcome reception, the coffee breaks, and much else; without her, the meeting would not have been possible.

Rebecka Klette

Rebecka Klette

My friend and colleague Jonas Hansson also set aside much time and energy to see to that everything ran smoothly.

A number of partners or accompanying persons who attended the conference dinner and in some cases a few of the sessions also contributed to the event.

My thanks go, finally, to Kungliga Humanistiska Vetenskapssamfundet i Lund; to Prof. Marianne Thormählen; to Prof. Thomas Kaiserfeld, Christel Anderberg, Kristiina Savin, Karin Salomonsson, and Susann Roos in the department of Arts and Cultural Sciences; to MediaTryck; and to the staff of Hotel Concordia and of the Grand Hotel.

I, Randy, Tom Buford and other past organizers of the ICP whom you met hope we will get an opportunity to see you all again at future ICPs.

At least two prominent publishers have expressed an interest in publishing the proceedings in book form; we will come back to you with information about this as soon as possible.

Read more about the 12th International Conference on Persons under Uncategorized or on the conference website.

12th ICP: Recommended Restaurants

Since you will go out on your own for all lunches and dinners except the conference dinner on Thursday, August 8, some recommendations are needed:
Read about these and other restaurants in English on the Tourist Office’s site and InfoLund. And ask us about them at the Welcome Reception and we will tell you more!
Klostergatans Vin & Delikatess

Klostergatans Vin & Delikatess

Read more about the 12th International Conference on Persons under Uncategorized or on the conference website.


Jan Olof Bengtsson D.Phil. (Oxon.)


Arts & Humanities



For a Truly European Union

Carl Johan Ljungberg: Humanistisk förnyelse

All original writing © Jan Olof Bengtsson
"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi