From May 23rd to June 3rd, Montreal’s prestigious McGill University conferred honorary degrees upon 12 exceptional individuals during this year’s Spring Convocation ceremonies. Among the chosen few was philosopher Judith Butler, who received a Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa, from the Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Religious Studies on Thursday, May 30th. A press release from McGill University reads:
“Judith Butler is one of the leading philosophers, theorists of gender and sexuality, and public intellectuals of our time. Butler has made major contributions to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics and has frequently influenced debates about free speech and the role of religion in the public sphere. Her 1990 book, ‘Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity’ is regularly assigned in university courses and acknowledged as a groundbreaking study that facilitated a paradigm shift in the understanding of gender. Her more recent publications include: ‘Antigone’s Claim: Kinship between Life and Death’ and ‘Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable?’ In 2011, she contributed to ‘The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere’. Butler is also active in gender and sexual politics and human rights, anti-war politics, and Jewish Voice for Peace. Currently the Maxine Elliot Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, she also holds the Hannah Arendt Chair in Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Sass-Fee, Switzerland.”
In her address, Butler eloquently touches on the power, importance, and value of the Humanities. “We lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world,” Butler says. In a Brain Pickings column which praised Butler’s fantastic address, Maria Popova selected several standout moments from the speech, including: “We have to continue to shake off what we sometimes thinkwe know in order to lend our imaginations to vibrant and sometimes agonistic spectrums of experience.”
You can listen to the address below, and to read Brain Picking‘s look at Judith Butler’s McGill address, as well as AVENGERS director Josh Whedon’s Wesleyan commencement address, and Oprah Winfrey’s Harvard University address, be sure to visit BrainPickings.org. Earlier this morning The Wall Street Journal also published a terrific piece entitled “Humanities Fall From Favor”, which looks at an emerging “anti-intellectual moment,” according to defenders of the humanities. The concern is that as more students gravitate toward science, technology and math majors with better job prospects, is something essential being lost in our society? You can read it in full by visiting The Wall Street Journal.