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CALL. 01.09.2016: Aging in ancient thinking - Montreal (Canada)



LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Montreal (Montreal, Canada)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Elsa Bouchard (University of Montreal) ; Mathilde Cambron-Goulet (UQAM) ; Sébastien Grenier (University of Montreal) ; Laetitia Monteils-Laeng (University of Montreal)



Confirmed speakers: Louis-André Dorion (University of Montreal), Annie Larivée (Carleton University), Anne-France Morand (Université Laval), Patrizia Birchler Emery (Université de Genève), Stéphane Adam (Université de Liège) The picture of aging that we get from ancient sources reflects various and conflicting views. The pathetic discourse of tragedy seems to be counterbalanced by Plato’s idealized conception in which aging is consonant with both moral and intellectual superiority; but one can also think of Aristophanes’ silly old men and women ridiculed on the comic stage, of Aristotle’s devastating portrait of biological degenerescence, or of the scientific hypotheses of Galen and the authors of the Corpus Hippocraticum. The Greek proverb “Elders are twice children” (CPG I.235) carries a double-edged meaning, depending on the relative degree of contempt, condescendence, or tenderness that it expresses. Should old age be viewed as a privileged position in society or rather as a predicament due to the undermining of one’s cognitive skills, moral authority, and political importance? The ancients were evidently ambivalent as regards these questions. Remarkably, these issues are also largely those of contemporary research on aging. For instance, in the Laws Plato states that the frequent unwanted biological signs of aging are not inescapable, and that it is desirable to lessen their impact by political measures in order to improve the life of a population facing challenging conditions. Aristotle’s depiction of aging as an illness is also reminiscent of the atttiude now referred to as ageism, which sees the whole process as a pathological event that we should try to oppose, thus evoking the universal but dangerous fantasy of an immortal humanity. This conference aims to explore how far ancient societies and thinkers have raised some of the fundamental questions on aging that are still relevant today. Some of the issues that we propose to look at touch on the following (by no means exclusive) fields of reflection as their appear in ancient discourse and representations: - Biology: Is aging a normal process or a pathological one? What is its impact on mental capacities? - Medical ethics: Can we, and should we, endeavor to extend life? Should we favor quality or duration of life? - Politics: If wisdom is proportional to experience, should political power be handed over to the senior citizens? Or is this so-called declining population legitimately left at the margins of society? - Anthropology: Is aging a regression or an ascension toward a full actualization of our capacities? - Myth and metaphysics: Is human condition hopelessly condemned to a circular fate as the ancient tragedians, as well as Hesiod in the ‘myth of races’, seem to imply? - Society and demography: What perceptions of elders were current in ancient societies? Are these perceptions dependent on the way that age pyramids are configured? We invite papers of 30 minutes, in French or in English, addressing any aspect of this topic. We hope to bring together scholars working in the various fields of ancient studies (e.g. philosophy, history, literature, material culture). Please send your abstract (max. 500 words) to before September 1st 2016.

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