Christophe Litwin is a Cotsen Fellow at the Princeton Society of Fellows. He holds a dual PhD from NYU and EHESS (L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales). A former student at the École Normale Supérieure, he taught philosophy for four years at the Sorbonne. He is the author of numerous articles on Montaigne, Pascal, Hobbes, Hume, Rousseau and the Enlightenment. He is currently finalizing his first book manuscript: Généalogies de l’amour de soi: Montaigne, Pascal, Rousseau (Garnier Classiques).
Can We Rationally Prefer Our Non-Existence? Rousseau’s Reflections on the Logic of Nihilism and Suicide
One of our fears, as expressed in science fiction, is that if machines were to calculate and compare the sum of the ills and the sum of the goods of human existence, they would likely come to the logical conclusion that since the former outweighs the latter, non-existence is preferable to existence for mankind. This rationale is based on the very formulation of the principle of sufficient reason in early modern Western metaphysics: There must be a reason why something is rather than is not and a reason why it is what it is rather than what it is not. I will discuss Rousseau’s critique of the argument of a possible rational preference for non-existence through a reading of his texts on the Lisbon earthquake and on suicide.
Time: 3:30 am
Location: Cultural Services of the French Embassy / Ballroom