Conference Programme

An International Conference on the Occasion of Launch of the UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life.

Images of vulnerability have been central to philosophical thinking from Plato to Hobbes, Fichte to Hegel, Foucault to Levinas, often designating a sense of corporeal susceptibility to injury, or of being threatened or wounded and therefore predominantly associated with violence, finitude or mortality. The responses to these images have often resulted in new forms of governmentality or paternalism as a means of addressing the fear of vulnerability, whether from war and terrorism, natural disaster, aging and illness, homelessness, dislocation or uneven socio-economic distribution. More recently philosophers have begun to rethink vulnerability as a critical or ethical category, one based on our primary interdependence as human beings. Perhaps one of the most significant factors in this constellation, is how the notion of vulnerability has been conceptualized or in what terms has it been evoked. Equally significant, is the question of how vulnerability has been positioned as the basis for a theory of justice or politics and policy formation. For example, does it refer to a human susceptibility to injury or harm; or does it designate underlying forms of interdependence, recognition or normativity; and equally what kinds of ethical responses might it evoke (from forms of care, to building capabilities or forms of resilience). The conference explores some of the most significant approaches to the condition of vulnerability in relation to the central themes of ethics, politics and injustice. We aim to bring together leading international and local scholars from across a range of disciplines who offer new frameworks for conceptualizing the condition of vulnerability as well as the forms of ethical and political responses that might be developed to inform public discussion.