Lectures & speeches (in Dutch & English)
Sometimes I'm asked to give public lectures. In Dutch, most often. Despite everything I do to spoil such an event, people keep asking me. I usually talk about topics I know far less off than I pretend, and I do so on the basis of sketches and notes I continuously fail to stick to after two or three minutes. What you find here are my notes (unedited and uncorrected) for a couple of recent lectures that fit this profile – including one in English. Those who were present now get a chance to see what I might have said had I shown a bit more discipline.
Ongelijkheid is niet het probleem
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During the national Philosophy Month, philosophers give public lectures all over the country to all kinds of audiences – united by one theme, which this year was Inequality, obviously inspired by the popularity of Thomas Piketty, who himself adds nothing to philosophy. Or economics, for that matter. Here’s my lecture – meant to offer a counterpoint to my colleague Ronald Tinnevelt’s lecture two weeks prior. He argued that socio-economic inequality is a moral outrage, I argue that people who believe so are deeply confused. On a global scale, it’s (lack of) sufficiency that is the real scandal, and in our better-off western societies, it’s ‘spiritual obesitas’, a genetically preprogrammed desire to obtain more and more muck without purpose or meaning. (The pictures used in my powerpoint presentation are not included for legal reasons.)
Are Human Rights Animal Rights?
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This is the (full) text that I used for a keynote lecture at the Autumn Convention of the International Association of Politics Science Students (IAPSS) in my home town Nijmegen – organized, flawlessly, by an indefatigable group of our own bachelor and master students. The question I posed is provocative – the more so given that the theme of the convention was the promotion and protection of human rights – and my answer is probably equally provocative: ‘Of course they are – how could they not be?
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A Facebook page lambasting ‘leftwing indoctrination’ in (Dutch) Academia went online in April 2013 and gained a national reputation in late November (drawing attention is still impossible without newspapers and television…). 2500 people like the page; I don’t. While I abhor the apparently ineradicable presence of the loony left and the rabid right in Academia, I do believe there are less vulgar ways of dealing with this menace. Asked for a reaction by (among others) my university’s journal, I prepared a text, from which I keep drawing inspiration whenever asked for further comments.
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Since it may be some time before I rework this keynote address at the quite memorable Youth Quotas Conference in Stuttgart (October 2013) into a legible and publishable academic text – I now offer you the full and uncensored version here. In English. It’ll probably offend many unreflective proponents of intergenerational justice.
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Presenting it as a non-partisan Festival of Reason, the newly founded Dutch Atheist Secular Party ASP organized an open-air conference in September 2013 on religious privileges with speakers from various walks of life. As an atheist slowly losing patience with religion but even more with any form of excitement over religion, supportive or critical, I was happy to oblige with a suggestion for a re-appraisal of religion as Live Action Role Plays.
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My keynote, given on 11 June 2013, at the annual workshiops of the KVAN, the Royal Dutch Association of Archivists. Won’t give away too much – I’m not just trying to say a couple of things on choosing. picking and selecting, but I’m also trying to sell archivists the idea that they should embrace a new identity: that of the politician.
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My keynote opening for an annual conference of 'company physicians' in Nijmegen on 18 September 2012, the day before the Queen reads out the government's plans for next year, and the government itself presents the National Budget. I try to show that some of the perceptions surrounding the (alleged) guiding principle of promoting 'self help' in care and on the job market are wrong: it is neither a monolithic ideal (rather, a bit like ManBearPig, an accidentally overlapping consensus based on fundamentally incompatible political ideologies) nor aimed at excluding (but instead at including) the weak and infirm. I could have called this lecture Tough love - but in Dutch, the reference to a biblical fable is wonderfully ambiguous.
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On 22 June 2012, the Telders Foundation organized a scientific symposium on Fairness and Liberalism at the International School of Philosophy (ISVW) in Leusden, Utrecht. Here is my keynote address, addressing the meaning of fairness for individuals (politicians and citizens) on the one hand, institutions (justice as fairness) on the other. I tried to elucidate a couple of points I did not feel I formulated sufficiently clearly in my contribution to the 2011 volume Eerlijk is Eerlijk, published by the Telders Foundation.
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Here is a brief, tongue-in-cheek lecture for a joint seminar in The Hague, 17 March 2012, of the young staff organizations of the scientific bureaus of PvdA (Dutch labour party: Jong WBS), VVD (Dutch liberals: Jong Teldersstichting) and GroenLinks (Green Left: Hellingproef). While I defended a more or less classical liberal perspective on the role of government in the creation of a just society, my colleague Roland Pierik defended the (again, more or less) social democratic position - "I'm from the government, I'm here to help", that kind of talk. We had great fun. An abbreviated and more chaste version of this text was published in Liberaal Reveil 2012 (2), pp. 80-83.
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Here is the text I almost literally read out at the Politicoloog in Perspectief Congress of 18 November 2011, an annual national conference organized for and by students in political science. This year the conference theme was "Politics and the media revolution".
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My notes for a kind of lecture (Utrecht, 23 May 2011) for a staff seminar of IKV Pax Christi, a Dutch NGO working ‘for peace, reconciliation and justice in the world’. IKV Pax Christi uses the concept of the social contract in its policy papers, and was on this occasion reflecting on (new and creative) ways to apply the idea of a social contract rather than use it merely as a flag for existing practices. My job in this context (as it seems to be more often than not when I give a public lecture) was at least in part to make life more miserable for everyone by showing there are interpretations of ‘social contract’ that are neither desirable nor practical. That is not to say that it should be abandoned – quite to the contrary. It’s just not an easy fix for transitional justice and/or failed states.
Commentaar op Onbeholpen Burgerschap
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My notes for a reply to Evelien Tonken’s keynote address at the Burgerschapslezing organized by the Forum voor Democratische Ontwikkeling in cooperation with Soeterbeeck Programme, The Hague, 3 March 2011.
Environmentalism: A transatlantic perspective
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This was a keynote address given at a conference called The Obama Effect at the Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, 27-30 October 2010. I tried to convince my audience that Obama’s environmental agenda would fare better if he took a few hints from the (former) Govenator. Even then, the deep cultural divide that exists between the individualist West (USA) and the communitarian East (Europe and Asia) will prevent any US administration from having more than token success in the shaping of international environmental policy. You’ll have to do without the powerpoint presentation I gave - which would have added a whiff of humour.
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During the local elections of 3 March 2010, I protested against the lack of privacy in Dutch polling booths: the constitutional guarantee of a free and secret vote was violated. Anyone could approach you and look over your shoulder or under your arm, and even from a considerable distance an observer could see which part of the ballot paper you were filling in, so that s/he could make a fairly adequate guess as to which party you voted for. There were far worse scandals that day in election land, but this was definitely the most wide-spread sign of a fundamental lack of respect for the citizen on the side of the political elite. I tried to catch all my objections (and rage) in a piece written for national newspaper NRC, where it was published in an abridged form on 19 March 2010. What you find here is the unabridged, truly complete version, which I also used as a basis for press comments and interviews.
Ecologisme: Politieke Waarden in Gebiedsontwikkeling
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A brief lecture for (mostly) local and provincial politicians and civil servants, introducing them to the different value catalogues and value systems of various brands of environmentally concerned citizens, from ordinary environmentalists through defenders of animal interests up to the 'real' deep green ecologists. (Zwolle, 12 March 2010)
Vrijheid en eerlijkheid
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Closing lecture in a series of four on the occasion of the (national) Philosophy Month, in which I give a glimpse into the ideas I was in the process of developing for a study for the Telders Foundation, the think tank of the liberal party VVD. Nijmegen, 29 April 2010.
Milieu en natuur: kiezen of delen
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Lecture for a symposium on international environmental policy from a liberal perspective on the occasion of the presentation of a new report by the Telders Foundation, the scientific bureau of the Dutch liberal party VVD. The lecture was given in the hall of the Netherlands Senate in The Hague on 16 February 2007.
Geloof, Waarheid en Wetenschap
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Lecture for the federation of protestant and catholic churches in Wageningen on the relation between faith and science, 19 February 2007.
Grenzen van Zorg
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Lecture for the Nijmegen chapter of the Dutch Humanist Society, on the meaning of the concept of care and the limits of care, 23 April 2007.
Liberalisme, duurzaamheid en een korreltje zout
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Lecture for the JOVD (Liberal youth organization) given during their political philosophy weekend, The Hague, 20 October 2007.