You are invited to join the Faculty Colloquium on the 23rd of February. Sandra Berges will elaborate on the abolitionist arguments made by Condorcet and Gouges. This colloquium will be held online (and will hopefully be the last in its kind).
Condorcet's writings on slavery are challenging for the modern reader. On the one hand, they contain all the ideals and sentiment that we would expect from a philosopher whose love of humanity manifested itself in all his endeavors. On the other, many of the arguments put forward, strike us as morally unacceptable. Condorcet wants abolition, but he wants it to happen slowly, so that slavery will not disappear till after seventy years of the program he wants to put in place.
Olympe de Gouges expressed impatience for those philosophers who made their revolutions on ‘exercise books’. She argued that slavery should be ended immediately because the conditions of enslaved life were intolerable. Yet, she responded harshly to the Haitian revolution, condemning the violence of Black men and women, and telling them they ought to have waited for the French revolutionary government to free them legally. Contrasting these two positions, I will ask whether what we find objectionable in Condorcet’s call for patience, and Gouges’s apparent change of heart after the Haitian revolution signal to a comparable lack of genuine desire to end slavery, and whether we should be suspicious of any abolitionist discourse of that period.
Berges is a professor in the department of philosophy at Bilkent University. she works on the history of moral and political philosophy, ancient (Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics), Medieval (Heloise, Christine de Pizan), early modern (Cavendish) and Eighteenth Century (Wollstonecraft, Sophie de Grouchy, Olympe de Gouges, Marie-Jeanne Roland). She also works on contemporary social and political philosophy, with an emphasis on the capability approach and feminism. She is an active member of the Recovery Project and has recently translated Sophie de Grouchy's Lettres sur la Sympathie into English.
Berges teaches feminist philosophy, ethics, social and political philosophy, and has taught aesthetics and ancient philosophy. She aims to present a less skewed view of what it is to be a philosopher by offering a more varied list of readings.