The JHI is excited to announce our 2023-24 Distinguished Visiting Fellow—Roy Sorensen, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin and Professorial Fellow in Philosophy, University of St. Andrews. He will join us from November 20 to November 25, 2023 during our theme year Absence.
Roy Sorensen is the author of Nothing: A Philosophical History (Oxford University Press, 2022). His earlier books include Seeing Dark Things: The Philosophy of Shadows, A Brief History of the Paradox, and A Cabinet of Philosophical Conundrums. He is interested in epistemology, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language. In his most recent book, he explores how nothing can cause something. The absence of something might seem to indicate a null or a void, an emptiness as ineffectual as a shadow. In fact, 'nothing' is one of the most powerful ideas the human mind has ever conceived. This book is a lively tour of the history and philosophy of nothing, explaining how various thinkers throughout history have conceived and grappled with the mysterious power of absence—and how these ideas about shadows, gaps, and holes have in turned played a very positive role in the development of some of humankind's most important ideas. Filled with Sorensen's characteristically entertaining mix of anecdotes, puzzles, curiosities, and philosophical speculation, the book is ordered chronologically, starting with the Taoists, the Buddhists, and the ancient Greeks, moving forward to the Middle Ages and the early modern period, then up to the existentialists and present-day philosophy. The result is a diverting tour through the history of human thought as seen from a novel and unusual perspective.