Schedule and Accepted Abstracts

The 2020 VPPW will be held via Zoom. Link and schedule information below.

Zoom Link

Password: VPPW

First Session
9:00am – Welcoming Remarks
9:05am – Lukas Fuchs (University College London)
9:50am – Matthew Turyn (Georgia State University)
10:35am – Danny Wardle (University of Adelaide)

11:20am – Morning Tea (40 Minute Break)

Second Session
12:00pm – Alisha Rajaratnam (University of Melbourne)
12:45pm – Kael McCormack-Skewes (University of New South Wales)

1:30pm – Lunch (60 Minute Break)

Third Session
2:30pm – Marc Cheong (University of Melbourne) (Keynote Address)
3:15pm – Paul O’Halloran (University of Melbourne)
4:00pm – Jinesh Sheth (University of Mumbai)
4:45pm – End of Day

Any remaining questions or concerns? Contact us at


Suzy Killmister Announced as 2018 Keynote Speaker

We are very happy to announce our keynote speaker, Dr Suzy Killmister.


The Normativity of Social Kinds

When moral and political philosophers consider social kinds we typically focus on examples such as race or gender. Identifying these as social kinds is often undertaken as part of a broader debunking project: because race and gender are socially constructed, the thinking goes, the social norms by which they’re constituted – that is, norms determining who *counts* as a member, as well as norms establishing what *follows from* membership – have no moral force.

My goals in this paper are twofold. First, I seek to motivate the idea that *human* is best thought of as a social kind, in many ways analogous to race or gender. Second, I seek to show that, unlike race or gender, the social norms through which the human is constituted – norms concerning who counts as human, and norms concerning how humans ought to be treated – *do* have moral force. I’ll do this by developing an account of legitimacy. The human is a legitimate social kind, I’ll argue, while race and gender are not.


Suzy Killmister is Lecturer in Philosophy at Monash University, having joined the department in February this year. Her position at Monash marks a return to Melbourne after her joint appointment as Assistant Professor of Philosophy in the Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut. Her primary areas of research are social and political philosophy, ethics, and action theory, and her recent work has focused on the concept of dignity and the relationship between dignity and human rights.

You can find out more about Suzy’s publications, research and teaching on her website:



2017 Keynote

We are very happy to announce our keynote speaker, Dr Holly Lawford-Smith,  who will be speaking on ‘Many Hands and Many Times’.


Many Hands and Many Times

Holly Lawford-Smith (Melbourne), David Axelsen (LSE), Adam Slavny (Warwick), & Kai Spiekermann (LSE)

In a ‘many hands’ case, many people perform actions that do not do harm alone, but have the cumulative effect of harming. For example, one extra molecule of pollution from each factory won’t make a different to air pollution and so won’t harm anyone, but the cumulative effect of an extra molecule of pollution from every factory may well make such a difference. In this paper, our interest in many hands cases is comparative: we use them to draw out a related problem, which we call the ‘many times’ problem. We see it as the temporal version of the many hands problem. A single individual can perform a number of actions which taken alone do not harm, and yet which when added together do. For example, an individual may discriminate against someone (yet in a way that falls short of violating her rights), may emit a small amount of carbon, may fail to contribute to ending extreme poverty, may walk by a homeless person without giving them money, may buy a sweatshop t-shirt, may make a sexist, racist, or classist joke, may fail to ‘call out’ a sexist, racist, or classist joke, and so on, and so forth. But how do these harms agglomerate, and how and when is an individual blameworthy for performing many such (individually) harmless acts over time? There is discussion of how these cases work across persons, as we have just seen. But how do they work within the same person (or, to put this in another way, across time-indexed person-slices)? Is there an overlooked version of the many hands problem that shows up within persons?


Holly Lawford-Smith is Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. Her current work primarily focuses on theoretical questions about collective action, collective agency, and collective responsibility. She has applied these to topics including the ethics of consumption, the ethics of climate change, and both race and class privilege. Outside research and teaching, Holly is one of a few Canbassadors, promoting the virtues of Canberra to the non-believers.

You can find out more about Holly’s publications, research and teaching on her website:


Post-Workshop Dinner and Drinks

After the workshop is finished, we would like to invite everyone to dinner and drinks. Please be advised that this is at your own expense.


The Clyde Hotel

385 Cardigan St, Carlton VIC 3053,144.9658632,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x9bc778b767e2bc73!8m2!3d-37.7971458!4d144.9658632


The dinner reservation is for 6:30pm, drinks will start at 5.30pm


2016 Keynote

We are very happy to announce our keynote speaker, Dr Ruth Boeker, who will be speaking on ‘Shaftesbury on Persons, Personal Identity and Character Development’.

Abstract: Shaftesbury’s major work Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times was one of the most widely reprinted philosophical works in English in the eighteenth century. Historians of philosophy credit Shaftesbury for his contributions to the history of ethics. However, as I aim to show in this paper, his contributions to debates about persons and personal identity deserve more attention.

In the first part of the paper I will show how Shaftesbury distances his own philosophical views from the views of John Locke, who was his former tutor. I will show that Shaftesbury’s criticism of a Lockean account of personal identity in terms of consciousness or memory is motivated by his moral views, which differ significantly from Locke’s moral views.

In the second part of the paper I will argue that Shaftesbury is best interpreted as replacing bodily and psychological accounts of personal identity with a developmental approach to self that aims at character development and realization of one’s true self.

Shaftesbury’s disagreement with Locke’s moral views is explicit in his correspondence and I will show that the moral differences between Locke and Shaftesbury motivate Shaftesbury to criticize accounts of personal identity in terms of consciousness or memory and instead to emphasize the importance of a stable character.

I will end the paper by showing that Shaftesbury deserves to be included in the reception of historical debates about personal identity, because he makes a unique contribution to the debates in the early modern period.


Ruth Boeker is currently Gerry Higgins Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Melbourne and in January 2017 she will start a new position as Assistant Professor at University College Dublin. Most of her research and teaching focuses on the history of early modern philosophy. She is particularly interested in debates about personal identity during the early modern period. She has worked extensively on John Locke and recently started to extend her research to eighteenth-century philosophers such as David Hume and Shaftesbury.

You can find more information about her publications, research and teaching on her websites:


Keynote Speaker

We are very happy to announce our keynote speaker, Dr Brennan McDavid, who will be speaking on ‘Knowledge in Aristotle’s Best Life’.

Abstract: Aristotle says the best human life is the life of contemplation (EN 10.8 1178b28ff.). Such a life is possible only for someone who has philosophical wisdom—what Aristotle calls “sophia”—since contemplation just is the activity of mulling over, studying, and gazing upon the things known through that special wisdom. Philosophers are the contemplators and, therefore, the happiest of us all. I will argue that the contemplative life is happiest only if one further, perhaps seemingly extrinsic, condition is met: the contemplator must have practical wisdom (phronesis) in addition to her philosophical wisdom (sophia). The former is “the quality of mind concerned with things just and noble and good for human beings” (EN 6.12 1143b19-21). Because Aristotle is committed to the absolute divorce between practical and philosophical wisdom, and because he assigns to the former and withholds from the latter any appreciation and understanding of what is good in a human life, he is committed also to the idea that a contemplator qua contemplator does not know the human value of his own activities and that only a practical wise person in a position to have such knowledge.

About: Brennan McDavid is the Seymour Reader in Ancient History and Philosophy at Ormond College. She also teaches philosophy in the University of Melbourne’s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies.

Brennan’s primary interests are in ancient philosophy, especially Platonic and Aristotelian epistemology and moral psychology. Her dissertation explores Aristotle’s ethical epistemology and compares his account of ethical knowledge with his account of scientific knowledge. This is an ongoing research interest. You can read more about it on Brennan’s dissertation project page.

Her website is: