The Department of Philosophy at York University is pleased to announce the 12th Annual Philosophy Graduate Conference, to be held on April 23-24, 2020 in Toronto. Our theme this year is The General Will and Collective Action. We invite submissions from graduate students working in all areas and traditions of philosophy related to our main theme.

We are delighted to announce that we will have three keynote speakers:

  • Peter Hallward, Professor of Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University, London.
  • Helga Varden, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Louis-Philippe Hodgson, Associate Professor of Philosophy at YorkUniversity.

Conference description:

The general will of the people has been a central, yet contentious, concept in the moral and political thought of philosophers since Rousseau, Kant, and Hegel. It is often disputed whether the collective will of the people could be conceived of as what legitimizes legal and political authorities, and how it could be manifested in social movements. Today, in the face of environmental disaster, widespread inequality, migrant crisis, rampant discrimination, and global social and political movements, understanding the notions of collective action and general will is particularly relevant, not just domestically but globally. Our aim in this conference is to explore the concept of the general will in relation to collective action.

Submissions from all areas and traditions of philosophy that are related to the theme are welcomed. We especially welcome submissions from underrepresented groups and areas. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • What does it mean to assert the general will of the people?
  • How can collective willing be understood as legitimating political authority?
  • Is there a global will? What are the conditions of the possibility of collective agency at the global level?
  • Do relational theories of autonomy, such as those espoused by feminist theorists, challenge or change our understanding of the general will?
  • How can we understand the general will at work in the collective mobilization of the people, liberation struggles, movements of social change and economic empowerment?
  • What is ‘acting together’? What are the normative implications of the theories of collective action, shared agency, and solidarity for the questions of political philosophy?
  • What is the relationship between collective self-determination, collective agency, and the general will?
  • How has the concept of the general will been developed throughout the history of philosophy?
  • How can social ontology and action theories inform the relationship between collective agency and the general will?
  • What can the cognitive science of mind and agency tell us about the nature and possibilities of collective willing?

Please submit your abstract (500-800 words) to, by Feb 28th, 2020. Abstracts should be prepared for blind review. Please in the body of your email include your name, the title of the paper, and affiliation. Papers should be suitable for a 20-minute presentation, followed by a commentary. Speakers will be notified by March 13th, 2020.

Any questions about the conference should be forwarded to