Saturday, January 05, 2008

Political Thought Conference

I've just finished with the Oxford political thought conference (mention of which here), which has taken up most of my time since I got back. The two conveners chose an interesting mix of papers - half analytic philosophy (Cohen, Steiner, Mendus and McDermott) and half continental/post-modern/structural. No need to say which I preferred, but I attended seven of the sessions and benefited from at least five, finding the one on sex and genos in Republic particularly interesting...

As ever, it's not simply the papers that matter. Last year, I thought the social side of the conference was a bit of a let-down, in that I met very very people I didn't already know and think I spent most of the social time with fellow Oxford grad students. I think this is partly down to the slightly strange way the conference is run, so I wasn't an official participant or there for meals etc. Nonetheless, I think this year was much better.

Special credit to those willing to talk to graduate students, in the bar or over coffee. I got to meet Keith Sutherland, who has already published one book on sortition and whose Imprint Academic are hoping to publish more soon. I also got to pick up an issue of Polis (23:2) dedicated to Ernest Barker on Plato and Aristotle, which has an interesting looking paper about Greek democracy. On the subject of journals, I met Simon Tormey, reviews editor at Contemporary Political Theory, which may be useful (I'm still trying to get a copy of the Estlund book). Plus I got to have a chat with Hillel Steiner (who I may well see again at this year's Warwick grad conference) about his paper, over coffee, and meet and talk to several other interesting people and old friends. (Another plug: Clare's book, out very soon).


  1. What was said about Plato then? I mean, he does come across as not very pro-sex in The Republic, but I guess I just felt that was part of the general 'fun is bad' line.

  2. Not sex as in activity but the concept of sex like race.

    The argument was that passages such as 454c-e that typically translate genos as sex are misleading. Genos ordinarily means race, tribe, stock, class, etc. Thus Plato can speak of men-as-a-group and women-as-a-group but doesn't have a concept of sex meaning men or women.

    Plato's argument for female 'equality' is really a matter of his (in modern terms) prioritiisng gender to sex. Anyone can be a guardian, regardless of anatomy, provided they act male.