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The 2018 Burman Lectures in Philosophy

Race, Manipulative Language, and Politics   

The 2018 Burman Lectures in Philosophy will be given by Prof. Jennifer Saul, University of Sheffield.

Februrary 21-23, 2018

Lecture I:  Dogwhistles, Political Manipulation and the Philosophy of Language

Wednesday February 21, 13.15-15, hörsal F, Humanities Building

Abstract: In recent years, an increasing number of analytic philosophers have turned their attention to the very important and fascinating intersection of philosophy of language with politics. In so doing, they have turned away from the thought that our primary concern should be with semantic content and truth conditions, or with how these are determined. Instead, we see careful attention to the political implications of what is presupposed, or what is conversationally implicated; and even some who focus on semantic content are exploring the politics of this content. This is an exciting and important development. But it is my contention that this has not yet gone far enough. We need to move beyond just a focus on content, however it’s conveyed—and indeed beyond just the conscious effects of our language use. I will argue for this through a careful exploration of the under-investigated phenomenon of "dog whistles" or "code words".

Lecture II:  Racial Figleaves, The Shifting Boundaries of the Permissible, and the Rise of Donald Trump

Thursday February 22, 13.15-15, hörsal F, Humanities Building

Abstract: The dogwhistles discussed in my first paper are used by politicians when overt expressions of racism are seen as socially unacceptable. This was commonly taken to be the case in the US between the civil rights era and the 2016 election.  That election, with the victory by Donald Trump despite his overt expressions of racism, presents a puzzle: what changed, in order to allow such success by an overt racist?  In this paper, I argue that one factor was Trump's use of a linguistic technique that I call a figleaf.  I argue that figleaves have the capacity to alter our norms of permissibility in powerful and disturbing ways.

Lecture III: 'Immigration' in the Brexit Campaign: Dogwhistle Terms in Complex Contexts

Friday February 23, 10.15-12, hörsal F, Humanitiets Building

Abstract: In this paper, I examine the immigration-related dogwhistles of the Leave campaign in the UK.  I argue that uncertainty (or, perhaps, contextual shifting) regarding the target of these dogwhistles made them particularly hard to fight.  This examination helps to illuminate both the successes of the Leave campaign and some previously unexplored complexities of dogwhistles.

All interested are welcome to these lectures!

Arranged by: The Department of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, Umeå University.

Previous Burman Lectures


Jenann Ismael, University of Arizona
Determinism, Time, and Totality
Lecture I:  Determinism and the Causal Order
Lecture II:  Time and Transcendence
Lecture III: Totality


Karen Bennett, Cornell University.
Making things Up
Lecture 1: Building
Lecture 2: Causing
Lecture 3: Relative Fundamentality


Elizabeth Anderson, Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Michigan.
Pragmatism in Ethics: Why and How
Lecture 1: Why Pragmatism?
Lecture 2: How to Be a Pragmatist 1: Correcting Moral Biases
Lecture 3: How to Be a Pragmatist 2: Experiments in Living


Michael Smith, McCosh Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University
What We Should Do and Why We Should Do It
Lecture 1: "The Standard Story of Action"
Lecture 2: "A Constitutivist Theory of Reasons"
Lecture 3: "A Case Study: The Reasons of Love"


David Chalmers, Australian National University and New York University
Structuralism, space, and skepticism
Lecture 1: Constructing the world
Lecture 2: Three puzzles about spatial experience
Lecture 3: The structuralist response to skepticism


Stephen Finlay, University of Southern California
Metaethics as a Confusion of Tongues
Lecture 1: Metaethics: Why and How?
Lecture 2: The Semantics of ”Ought”
Lecture 3: The Pragmatics of Normative Disagreement


Dag Prawitz, Stockholm University
Bevis, mening och sanning


Tim Crane, University of Cambridge
Problems of Being and Existence
Lecture 1: Existence, Being and Being-so
Lecture 2: Existence and Quantification Reconsidered
Lecture 3: The Singularity of Singular Thought


Jerry Fodor, Rutgers University
What Darwin Got Wrong
Lecture 1: What kind of theory is the Theory of Natural Selection?
Lecture 2: The problem about `selection-for`


Susanna Siegel, Harvard
The Nature of Visual Experience
Lecture 1: The varieties of perceptual intentionality
Lecture 2: The contents of visual experience


Alex Byrne, MIT
How do we know our own minds?
Lecture 1: Transparency and Self-Knowledge
Lecture 2: Knowing that I am thinking


Jonathan Dancy, University of Reading and University of Texas, Austin
Lecture 1: Reasons and Rationality
Lecture 2: Practical Reasoning and Inference


Ned Block, New York University
Consciousness and Neuroscience
Lecture 1: The Epistemological Problem of the Neuroscience of Consciousness
Lecture 2: How Empirical Evidence can be Relevant to the Mind-Body Problem


John Broome, Oxford


Wlodek Rabinowicz, Lund
Värde och passande attityder


Kevin Mulligan, Genève
Lecture 1: Essence, Logic and Ontology
Lecture 2: Foolishness and Cognitive Values


Hubert Dreyfus, Berkeley
Lecture 1: What is moral maturity? A Phenomenological Account Of The Development Of Ethical Expertise
Lecture 2: The primacy of the phenomenological over logical analysis: A Merleau-Pontian Critique of Searle's Account of Action and Social Reality


Herbert Hochberg, University of Texas, Austin
Lecture 1: A Simple Refutation of Mindless Materialism
Lecture 2: Universals, Particulars and the Logic of Predication


Susan Haack, University of Miami
The Science of Sociology and the Sociology of Science
Lecture 1: Social Science as Semiotic.
Lecture 2: Sociology of Science: The Sensible Program.


Howard Sobel, University of Toronto
Lecture 1: First causes: St. Thomas Aquinas's 'Second way'.
Lecture 2: Ultimate reasons if not first causes: Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz on 'the Ultimate Origination of Things'.


Ian Jarvie, York University
Science and the Open Society


David Kaplan, UCLA
What is Meaning: Notes toward a theory of Meaning as Use

Sidansvarig: Sandra Olsson


About the Burman Lectures

The Burman lectures started in 1996 on the initiative of Inge Bert Täljedal, then Mayor of Umeå and later Vice Chancellor of Umeå University. The lectures commemorate Eric Olof Burman (1845-1929), Umeå’s "first professor of philosophy”.

Burman was born in Yttertavle outside of Umeå, went to high school in Umeå, and became professor of Practical Philosophy 1896-1910 at Uppsala University. Nowadays Burman is best known as the teacher of Axel Hägerström, who is well-known for his realist anti-metaphysical stand and his expressivist theory of moral judgments). Some of Hägerström’s criticism of idealistic views were foreshadowed in the teachings of Burman.

It should perhaps be pointed out that our Burman is not the only Burman in the annals of philosophy. In addition to Eric Olov Burman from Yttertavle, there was the Dutch Cartesian philosopher Frans Burman (1628-78).

A presentation of Erik Olof Burman (in Swedish), written by Inge-Bert Täljedal, is available online:

Presentation of Erik Olof Burman