On Thursday, 16 May Baroness Onora O’ Neill of Bengarve (CBE FBA Hon FRS F Med Sci) will give the second of two Spinoza Lectures at the Agnietenkapel of the University of Amsterdam.
Collectively titled ‘Speech Rights and Speech Wrongs’, O’ Neill will deliver these two lectures in her capacity as the 2012-2013 recipient of the prestigious Spinoza Chair. Named after Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza, the Chair - which forms part of the Department of Philosophy - was established in 1995 and offers a platform to stimulating contemporary thinkers.
In her second lecture, 'Speech Rights and Mediated Communication', O’ Neill will speak in-depth about mediated communication. Ever since writing began, there has been indirect or mediated communication, which reshapes possibilities for success and failure in communicating, and reconfigures possibilities for misinforming, misdirecting and misinterpreting. The truth and trustworthiness of mediated communication is often harder check and challenge than that of face-to-face communication. Socrates was so struck by this problem, and the realisation that writing would send his words ‘fatherless’ into the world, leaving them unprotected and undefended, that he relied solely on unmediated speech in communicating. The demands of understanding, and of judging truth and trustworthiness, are all reshaped when communication is mediated. Some contemporary forms of mediation allow potentially audienceless quasi-communication to gain great power. Activities such as self-expression, transparency, and openness, as well as disclosure and dissemination, are taken to have great importance. Other forms of mediation are adapted to communication with specific audiences, and take account of norms that must be met if they are to find ways of checking and challenging truth claims and commitments. The vast expansion of types of mediated communication during the last century permits, but may not justify, a highly differentiated respect for norms that matter for communicative success and failure in public, commercial and institutional life. In her address, O’ Neill will seek to answer whether we should be indifferent to the spread of speech that disregards the disciplines and norms that matter for readers, listeners and viewers if they are to retain (or regain) abilities not only to communicate, but to check and to challenge one another’s truth claims and commitments?
Onora O’Neill has taught at various universities in the US and the UK. She was Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge from 1992 to 2006, President of the British Academy from 2005 to 2009, and chaired the Nuffield Foundation from 1998 to 2010. She currently chairs the Equality and Human Rights Commission and is on the board of the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom. She has been a member of the House of Lords since 1999 and is an independent, non-party peer. She served on the House of Lords Select Committees on Stem Cell Research, BBC Charter Review, Genomic Medicine and Nanotechnology and Food and Behavioural Change.
She writes on ethics and political philosophy, with particular interests in conceptions of justice, in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant and in bioethics, and has published mainly in philosophical journals. Her books include Faces of Hunger: An Essay on Poverty, Development and Justice (1986), Constructions of Reason: Explorations of Kant’s Practical Philosophy (1989), Towards Justice and Virtue (1996) and Bounds of Justice (2000), Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics (2002) and A Question of Trust (the 2002 Reith Lectures) and Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics (jointly with Neil Manson, 2007). She currently works on practical judgement and normativity; conceptions of public reason and of autonomy; trust and accountability; the ethics of communication (including media ethics), and on Kant’s philosophy.
Date: Thursday, 16 May
Time: 20:15 - 23:00
Admission: free of charge (no reservation required)