The Philosophy Department at Lehigh University is pleased to launch a new annual conference series. The theme for the 2013 inaugural conference is “The Last Chapter.” Papers presented at this conference engage two dimensions of the theme: aspects of the often under-read or overlooked final chapters of philosophical texts, and philosophy's relation to the idea of its own "final chapter" or of that of some other domain. The papers address the works of twenty-two different philosophers, with a historical span from Plato to Cavell, and focus on issues in many areas of philosophy as well as applications to other areas of human life.
Those moments in which philosophical texts arrive at a final resting place: what is their relation to the whole? Do they contain anything of great value? It happens even with the most famous works of philosophy that by the time we get to the final chapter we’ve already reached our own conclusions and so skip lightly over the author’s. Sometimes it is so hard to slog through the preceding chapters that we simply pretend the last chapters don’t exist. However, both moves risk serious error. Conference papers addressing the first dimension of the theme argue that, for at least some philosophical texts and even in some cases a whole philosophical corpus, the final chapters are of vital philosophical importance. Some of the papers contend, for example, that the last chapters of certain texts radically alter the interpretations that might be derived from earlier chapters; to skip them would thus be to misinterpret the whole. Other papers argue that the last chapters are essential for bringing the systems constructed in the earlier chapters into final workable form; without them the systems would lack plausibility and insight. Together the papers explore the effects that the often unfamiliar endings have, as they ricochet, on familiar readings of canonical texts, making a strong case for the power of those last chapters.
It is not only books, of course, that have last chapters. The conference papers that address the second dimension of the conference theme call attention to philosophical encounters with other kinds of endings. Some of the papers focus on the whethers, hows, and aftermath possibilities of various activities beyond reading, including that most human of activities: waging war. Other papers address questions about philosophy’s own end: what could it mean for philosophy to come to an end and how would philosophy look after reaching that end?
Republic, The World as Will and Representation, Nichomachaen Ethics, Critique of Pure Reason, Adorno, Mill, Wittgenstein, Hegel, Maimonides, ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, pragmatism, pantheism, induction, transcendence, politics, war, death, peace…and so much more.
The conference series has been made possible through the generosity of an anonymous Lehigh University alumnus, to whom we are most grateful.