Jason Stanley, Philosopher and Author, Speaks

October 2, 2018

Yale philosopher and author, Jason Stanley visited Miami University, September 27, 2018 as part of the 2018-19 John W. Altman Series, "Truth and Lies" and spoke to over 250 members of the Miami Community in Benton Hall.

Stanley’s timely lecture focused on his newest book, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. The lecture, along with his book, center on the origins of fascism and how fascist propaganda functions in the public sphere. Drawing from his book, Stanley identified ten key characteristics of fascism, focusing on the ways in which ‘truth’ comes under attack by fascist regimes through, for example,  anti-intellectualism, sexual anxiety, and victimhood . As a child of Holocaust survivors, Stanley explained his personal relationship to the work and drew connections between the rise of contemporary fascist regimes and fascism of the past, including Hitler and Nazism.

After his public lecture, Stanley participated in the  Altman Seminar, where faculty fellows, scholars, and philosophy graduate students had the opportunity to discuss a work-in-progress from Stanley’s current book project, The Politics of Language, which he is co-authoring with David Beaver (forthcoming with Princeton University Press in 2019). The Altman seminars (part of the Faculty and student experience of the year long Altman Program) provide an opportunity for both faculty and graduate students to discuss a visiting speaker’s work in more depth. Stanley’s Seminar aptly followed this year’s theme of “Truth and Lies”, as he opened a dialogue on the ways in which speech acts do not always represent the intended meaning and through this have action. Drawing from a feminist philosophy of language, Stanley explained that the book project’s goal is not about denying that language is descriptive, but pushing against the primacy of description. When focus is shifted onto the actions that language produces, instead of on the descriptive qualities, the analysis can be on the consequences or effects of speech acts. Stanley’s work opened up a number of interesting conversations including linguistic resistance and the differences between focusing on oppressive structures of language and individual speech acts.

Since his visit with us in September. Stanley appeared on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and contributed to the the New York Times opinion section. More information on Jason Stanley’s work in philosophy of language and epistemology can be found on his faculty page (link) on the Philosophy Department at Yale’s website.  


By Sidne Lyon, Humanities Center Graduate Student Assistant