Hi everyone,

This week’s speaker in the University of Sydney Philosophy Seminar Series is 
Jennifer Mensch (Western Sydney University).

The title of Jennifer’s talk is “Kant’s Four Examples: On South Sea Islanders, 
Tahitians, and Other Cautionary Tales for the Case of ‘Rusting Talents.’”. 
Here’s the abstract for Jennifer’s talk:

In this discussion I start with one of Kant’s most familiar texts, the 
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, in order to focus on his example of 
moral failure presented by the person who has chosen an easy path in life; one 
who has let their ‘talents rust,’ to use Kant’s phrase. I contend that this is 
an odd example, but once we follow the trail back to Kant’s immediate context, 
we can begin to make better sense of Kant’s choice to include it. I then 
identify four subsequent counter examples offered up by Kant during this 
period, each meant to offer negative portraits of non-Europeans in a manner 
that can provide further moral instruction for his readers on this point. This 
is significant insofar as it reveals the way in which Kant’s racism and his 
urge toward moral guidance were wholly compatible from his own point of view; a 
conclusion that is not so easily shrugged off in light of any change of heart 
in the last years of his life, and one which certainly calls into question 
claims regarding a purported deep contradiction between Kant’s moral and 
anthropological views.

The talk will take place on Wednesday the 22nd of March at 3:30 p.m. in the 
Philosophy Seminar Room (N494) in the Quadrangle and will be simulcast via 
Zoom: https://uni-sydney.zoom.us/j/88699564848.

The talk will be followed by drinks and informal discussion at the Rose. All 

Enquiries about the seminar series can be directed to 

Ryan Cox
Associate Lecturer in Philosophy
Discipline of Philosophy
School of Humanities
University of Sydney
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