• “Aesthetic Self-Knowledge in Kant.” Workshop in Late Modern Philosophy. Boston University (invited).
  • “Aesthetic Self-Knowledge in Kant.” Central APA (invited).


  • “Nothing New: On Psychic Patterns and Genre Films.” A Night of Philosophy. New School for Social Research.
  • “Towards a Critical Theory of Self-Knowledge: Lessons from Du Bois.” Self-Opacity, Ethics, and Agency Conference. Yale University.


  • “Self-Opacity and the Social World.” Critical Theory Roundtable, Amherst University.
  • “The Illusion of Self-Conceit.” New York German Idealism Workshop, New School for Social Research University. (invited).
  • “Aesthetic Self-Knowledge in Kant’s Third Critique.” American Comparative Literature Association (refereed).
  • “The Paradox of Apology.” Annual Meeting, Central Division of the American Philosophical Association (refereed).


  • “The Paradox of Apology.” Humanistic Ethics Conference. Rice University (invited).


  • “Self-Opacity and Bodily Being (with Picasso’s Half-Length Female Nude).” Expose Yourself.  A talk series at the Art Institute of Chicago in which academics use the permanent collection to present their research to the public.
  • “A Perverse Nature: Freud’s Drive Theory and the Idea of Second Nature.”
    Die Kunst der zweiten Natur. Goethe University Frankfurt.
  • “Kant on Self-Opacity and Self-Conceit.” Annual Meeting, Central Division of the American Philosophical Association (refereed; response by Ryan Kemp).
  • “Opacity is the Rule: On Nomy Arpaly’s Account of Agency.” Opacity, Fragility, Responsibility Workshop at the Phenomenology Research Group, Loyola University Chicago (invited).


  • “Kant on Self-Conceit and Respect for Persons.” The Form of Practical Knowledge (Conference in Honor of Stephen Engstrom). Leipzig Universität.
  • “Repetition and Difference in Film.” Vanderbilt University (invited).


  • “Morality and Victimhood: Nietzschean Objections, Nietzschean Possibilities.” Annual Meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (refereed).
  • “Moral Self-Opacity and Moral Authority.” Society of Fellows Conference, University of Chicago (refereed).


  • “Life in Truth: On Parrhesia in Late Foucault.” Annual Meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (refereed).
  • “I Want to Know More About You: Knowing and Acknowledging in Polanski’s Chinatown.” Experience, Intimacy and Authority Workshop. IV Research Workshop of Identity, Memory and Experience. Universidad Carlos III, Madrid (refereed).

2019 Conference Self-Opacity, Ethics and Agency

April 5 & 6, 2019, Yale University.

Much contemporary philosophy has been concerned to articulate the special way in which human beings know the contents of their own minds.  Following Descartes and especially Kant, this tradition has seen a close connection between having some belief or desire and knowing that one holds that belief or desire.  And yet we also know from ordinary life, from art, and from empirical work in psychology, that we human beings are often opaque to ourselves.  In simple cases—like knowing why we are walking into the kitchen, and what we want there—we know what we are doing or what we believe and why.  But in evaluatively complex circumstances where our values and self-conceptions are at stake, we are often not clear why we do what we do, and our motivations and aims can be opaque to us.  One can thus trace another tradition in the history of philosophy—one that includes figures like Augustine, Montaigne, Kant (again), Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Murdoch—according to which human beings are essentially unknown to themselves.

This conference will investigate the idea that human beings are self-opaque, strangers to themselves, as Nietzsche put it.  Questions that we will pursue include the following:
Are failures of self-knowledge merely contingent privations, and if not, how should we conceptualize them?  What is the relationship between self-opacity and our being narrativizing or self-interpreting animals?  Can art tell us more about this feature of our lives than philosophy?  And if philosophy can tell us something, what philosophical methodology is adequate to this task?  Finally, if it is the case that human beings are often self-opaque, is this always something to be lamented, or might be there ways in which self-opacity can contribute productively to human life and human flourishing?