Inaugural lecture by Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir, "Being Indebted: From a Contractarian to a Care Ethical Approach"

Inaugural lecture by Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir, the Jane and Aatos Erkko Visiting Professor in Studies on Contemporary Society:


Being Indebted: From a Contractarian to a Care Ethical Approach


Date: Thursday 30 October 2014 at 16:15

Venue: Lecture Hall 13, University Main Building, Fabianinkatu 33 (3rd floor), Helsinki


Free admission. Welcome!


Short bio: Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir is professor of philosophy at the University of Iceland and presently Erkko Professor at Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. She studied philosophy in Boston and Berlin. She has published books on the philosophies of Nietzsche and Arendt, feminist philosophy, Beauvoir, and women in the history of philosophy. Her current research project, “Transphilosophies”, is about philosophy as transformative knowledge in an individual and sociopolitical sense. She is member of the board of FISP (International federation of philosophical societies), chair of its gender committee, and she is one of the founders and first chair of board of the United Nations University GEST Programme, a transnational studies and training program in gender equality. She belongs to a group of Nordic philosophers who are presently preparing the establishment of a joint Nordic MA-program in feminist philosophy.


Lecture abstract: The current state of financial capitalism as a “debt-economy” (Lazzarato 2012, Graeber 2012, Offe 2013) is a significant factor in producing subjects through debtor-creditor relations. Individuals as well as states are burdened with problem debt, creating nationally and globally an inacceptable imbalance of wealth. Indebting of the younger and future generations endangers the generational contract as well as social reproduction. The understanding of the debtor-creditor relation among institutions of financial and political power is based on a contractarian idea that dates back to Hobbes idea of the free individual and Locke´s idea of property in the person (Pateman 2007). The idea of individuals that are free to make contracts with each other presuppose equality and free relations. I will argue that a materialistic, care ethical perspective that is based on the idea of embodied, relational subjects shows the limits and endangerments of the contractarian conception of the debtor-creditor relation. A care ethical approach accounts for interdependence and asymmetrical relations and is hence better suited to deal with problems of debt-economies. A care ethical perspective furthermore allows problematizing simplified oppositions of greed and generosity and scarcity and abundance.


About the Jane and Aatos Erkko Visiting Professorship: The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation donated 2.92 million euros to the University of Helsinki Funds in 2008 for the establishment of a visiting professorship in studies on contemporary society at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. The research emphasis of the professorship will be on issues concerning social justice.