Weil Lecture to explore Arendt, Eichmann and the banality of evil

Associate Professor Matthew Sharpe will deliver the 2023 Simone Weil Lecture in Human Value.

The annual public lecture is presented by ACU’s School of Philosophy and is named in honour of Simone Weil, the French philosopher and political activist whose work focused on social justice and education.

Assoc. Prof. Sharpe joined ACU earlier this year from Deakin University and is a renowned philosopher and public intellectual.

“It is a humbling honour to be asked to deliver the 2023 Simone Weil Lecture,” he said.

“I’m using the opportunity to explore the nature of 'evil'-- a subject which will probably always be with us. 

“Many people of course deny that 'evil' exists, others that it is a ruse of sorts, other still that we should go 'beyond good and evil'. 

“On the other hand, there is a long philosophical and theological heritage which has considered the nature of evil, including considering the terrible atrocities of the 20th century.

“Using a very famous case, that of Adolf Eichmann, I want to reconsider these debates, and consider especially the role of deceit—the need for evil to appear other than it is—in forms of human evil.”

Associate Professor Sharpe said the annual lecture series was an important way to elevate public discourse.

“If philosophy is the business of trying to think clearly about the world, our place within it, and what is good (worth pursuing) and evil (to be avoided), philosophy will always be relevant,” he said.

“Today, more than ever, as societies, we face big philosophical questions: around AI and its implications for our sense of human dignity, around climate change, and the ways we understand our place in nature, around inequality, and how to build better societies.

“In another sense, the old idea of philosophy as a way of life has new appeal to many in the community, as we’ve seen with the global growth of the modern Stoicism movement.”

ACU Faculty of Theology and Philosophy Executive Dean Professor Richard Colledge said the Simone Weil lecture series provided a philosophical framework for contemporary moral, social and political debates.

“The lectures are inspired by the Christian intellectual and activist Simone Weil’s ethical vision that is rooted in radical attentive compassion and obligation to others,” he said.

Professor Colledge said the study of philosophy was an integral part of ACU’s mission as a Catholic university.

“The discipline of philosophy allows students to inquire into the larger questions that often go unexamined, and assumptions that often go unchallenged,” Professor Colledge said.

“In nurturing a spirit of intellectual inquiry, it allows us to address fundamental human questions, drawing on wisdom both ancient and modern, including our Catholic intellectual tradition.”

The Simone Weil Lecture series was launched in 2000 by then ACU Professor of Philosophy Raymond Gaita.

The Weil Lecture will be held in Brisbane on 21 November and Melbourne on 23 November. For more information and to register to attend, visit acu.edu.au/simoneweil

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