The Hows and Whys of Amo's Critique of Descartes

Thursday, September 20, 2018 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

As part of our colloquium series, USF Ph.D. Candidate and Mellon Research Insitute Fellow, Dwight Lewis will be delivering a talk. We invite you to join us for this meaningful, thoughtful, and insightful chat!

Abstract: Anton Wilhelm Amo (c. 1700 – c. 1750) – born in West Africa, enslaved, and then gifted to the Duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel – became the first African to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at a European university. He went on to teach philosophy at the Universities of Halle and Jena. On the 16th of April, 1734, at the University of Wittenberg, he defended his dissertation, De Humanae Mentis Apatheia (On the Impassivity of the Human Mind), in which Amo investigates the logical inconsistencies in René Descartes’ (1596 – 1650) res cogitans (mind) and res extensa (body) distinction and interaction by maintaining that (1) the mind does not sense material things nor does it (2) contain the faculty of sensing. We will evaluate Amo’s critique of Descartes then inquire into why Amo critiqued Descartes. How might an 18th Century African’s critique of mind/body causation be different? Is it different from the early 18th Century Germans, where he studied and taught? Did race matter for Amo? This will be a two-fold historical investigation based, first, on human difference (i.e., racially) and, secondly, the history of ideas in the history of philosophy.

Bio: Dwight Lewis is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of South Florida, and a Mellon Research Fellow at Emory University in the James Weldon James Institute. His research focuses on concepts of human difference (e.g., race, gender and sexuality), underrepresented philosophers, and early modern philosophy generally construed. 

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PSY 226: Psychology Building Room 226


UCF Department of Philosophy 4078232273






Philosophy African talks colloquium