Sydney Seminar for the Arts and Philosophy

The Sydney Seminar is a space for academics, practitioners and the public to exchange ideas about the arts, humanities, and culture in society. It is an initiative of Western Sydney University but is designed to operate collaboratively with other universities, educational and cultural institutions, media and arts organisations.

The Sydney Seminar operates under two thematic programmes, Arts and Philosophy and Culture and Society. The seminars take different formats ranging from accessible public lectures to conversations to performances with a strong emphasis on public participation.

Seminar 26: "What Do We Owe the Dead?"


Date and Time: Thursday  22 September 2016, 6.00 PM to 7.30 PM

Location: Metcalfe Auditorium, Macquarie Building, State Library of New South Wales

Recording available through the ABC RN

Dennis Schmidt
The aim of this talk is to show how some of our deepest ethical commitments are found in the way we think about, care for, and have a sense of responsibility to the dead. One way in which our sense of this responsibility is evident is found in the urge to recover the bodies of those who died in war even if this means that the living must risk their own lives to retrieve the dead. One finds powerful literary expressions of this in Homer's Iliad and Sophocles' Antigone, and one finds as well a profound understanding of the ethical meaning of the need to bury the dead in Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address". The purpose of this seminar is to examine some of the most penetrating literary, philosophical, and artistic presentations of this ethical sense of what we owe the dead, and to ask what the ethical sensibility might mean and what sort of conclusions we can draw from it.

Respondent: David Malouf

Dennis Schmidt is Research Professor of Philosophy at Western Sydney University. He is the author of numerous books, including Between Word and Image: Heidegger, Gadamer, and Klee (2016), Idiome der Wahrheit (2012), Lyrical and Ethical Subjects (2005), and On Germans and Other Greeks (2001).

David Malouf is the acclaimed author of novels including Ransom, The Great World (winner of the Commonwealth Writers' prize and the Prix Femina Etranger), Remembering Babylon (winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), An Imaginary Life, Conversations at Curlow Creek, Dream Stuff, Every Move You Make and 12 Edmondstone Street.


ChairAlex Ling
6:05 PMWelcome by Dimitris Vardoulakis (director of the Sydney Seminar)
6:10 to 6:50 PMDennis Schmidt - "What Do We Owe the Dead?"
6:50 to 7:05 PMResponse by David Malouf
7:05 to 7:30 PMQuestions and Answers

This Seminar is funded by the Philosophy Research Initiative at Western Sydney University.