Philosophy and Autobiography

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Organised by the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing in conjunction with the Forum for European Philosophy in Oxford

Register via (browse OCLW & Forum for European Philosophy in Oxford Conference). Cost: £36 includes tea, coffee and sandwich lunch.


Theoretical and practical philosophical approaches to the ‘self’, the ‘subject’ or the ‘I’ have commonly provided poor guidance for comprehending autobiographies. Enticing doctrines of the self and their accompanying notions of rigour, drawn from different traditions of metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of religion and aesthetics, have encouraged partial, distorted, restrictive, inflated or inappropriately homogeneous ideals of the value of autobiographies and what autobiographies can achieve.  

Against this background, the conference takes experimental soundings of the advantages of thinking about autobiography and philosophy together, asking whether questions arising from writing and reading autobiographies can help to illustrate and enrich philosophy as a humanistic discipline and whether philosophical reflection can help to make orderly sense of the diverse accounts of what we seek and gain from autobiographies. The purposes of the conference are sub-disciplinary as much as interdisciplinary: presentations are as likely to subvert disciplines, disciplinary boundaries and methodological ideals as to specify what can be gained from observing them. The conference will succeed to the degree that it contributes to opening a public space for reasoning about philosophy and autobiography and to populating that space with shared and linked questions that are worthy of pursuit.


The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, OCLW

Audience: Open to all