Gates of Hell, Rodin

An interdisciplinary conference organized by Matthew Babb, Amy Gais and Jonathan Gingerich.

An essential part of society and civilization is living with others. But living with others brings with it challenges to the freedom of individuals. What is freedom? How can political and social life be arranged so as to promote it? To what extent are freedom and coercion antithetical? Does society involve not just coercing what we do but what we think as well? What are the central threats to liberty of conscience, and how might they be overcome? What should we do when societal norms come into conflict with an individual’s conscience? This two-day conference brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars working in the social sciences, humanities, and law from across the St. Louis community to address these urgent and complex questions on the precarious project of living with others.

featuring the keynote lecture

“How to Live Free in an Age of Pessimism”

Neil Roberts, Williams College

NEIL ROBERTS is associate professor of Africana studies, political theory, and the philosophy of religion at Williams College. Roberts received a B.A. in Afro-American Studies and Law & Public Policy from Brown University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago with a specialization in political theory. A high school teacher, debate coach, and NCAA Division 1 soccer player prior to graduate school, Roberts is the recipient of fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation as well as a member of the Caribbean Philosophical Association Board of Directors.

His present writings deal with the intersections of Caribbean, Continental, and North American political theory with respect to theorizing the concepts of freedom and agency. Roberts is co-editor of both the CAS Working Papers in Africana Studies Series (with Ben Vinson) and a collection of essays (with Jane Anna Gordon) on the theme Creolizing Rousseau (2015), and he is the recent guest editor of a Theory & Event symposium on the Trayvon Martin case. In addition to being on the Executive Editorial Board of Political Theory and former Chair of CPA Publishing Partnerships that includes The C.L.R. James Journal and books with Rowman and Littlefield International, he is author of the award-winning book Freedom as Marronage (University of Chicago Press, 2015) and the collaborative work Journeys in Caribbean Thought (2016). His most recent book is A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass (2018) from The University Press of Kentucky. Roberts is President of the Caribbean Philosophical Association (2017-) and, as of July 1, 2018, the W. Ford Schumann Faculty Fellow in Democratic Studies