Professor Paul Davies (University of Sussex)
“On Being Patient (with Kant, Kierkegaard, and Levinas)”
Wednesday 25 October
4-6pm, Dalhousie 2F13
Patience has generally been regarded as a good thing, perhaps even a virtue, but it has proved very difficult to say why this should be so. A phenomenology of patience quickly turns into ambiguity and confusion and it does so in a way that seems to hinder any straightforward moral evaluation of the term. Patience, even divine patience, appears indistinguishable from the willed constraining of impatience. Kant suggests that patience’s moral status can only be secured if it is supplemented by a less problematic virtue such as, say, courage. Kierkegaard in contrast keeps the focus on patience itself but argues that in order to appreciate it we need a radical change in our conceptions of both time and the self. Levinas’s cryptic remarks on patience and passivity seem at first to cohere with this Kierkegaardian move, but I shall argue that their real significance and philosophical achievement lies elsewhere.