Here are the notes from winter semester of Snyder lectures on Ukrainian history. But we are curious whether we can contribute to defeat the aggresor by means of international law.


We are convinced, that the theory of the lectures should be transformed into the best practice to become demonstrable.

That’s why we try to transform lectures into the theory of humanitarian actions, into ‚calculations‘ that, unlike interpretations, always work like in mathematics:

So lets online continue with the event of „What good is philosophy?“, which schedule is here:

17th of March 2023

Session 1 – 13:00-15:30 ET (Toronto)

A.J. Wendland – ‘Introduction: On War and Philosophy’

Finite space-of-no-edges?

(so that we can quickly see where we’ve already been and so that the supposed or real infinity is learnable in a finite time to make it feasible)

How can the infinite ideal ethical demands space be transformed into finite space of real actions?

Jennifer Nagel – ‘Philosophy, For Better, For Worse, and In Itself’

How can it be shown when it can’t be said?

…we are in ancient Chinese conversation between the duke and craftsman. Putting down his hammer and chisel, the craftsman asked the duke: „Sir, may I ask what sort of words are you reading“? The duke said: „The words of sages“… „Are those sages still alive?“ … „They are dead“… „Then, what you are perusing is no more than the dregs and dust“… „Does a craftsman dare to judge what his ruler reads? If you do not explain it well, you shall die“… The craftman said: „I am looking at it from the point of my own profession. In hewing a wheel, I have to do it not too loose and not too tight. I cannot explain it with my mouth and yet there’s a certain knack to the procedure. I can’t even explain it to my own son to grasp it so even he has no way to learn it from me. The ancient sages died and that which they could not transmit died along with them. So I say that what you my Lord are perusing is just the dust and dregs and nothing more.

Quassim Cassam – ‘Liberation Philosophy’

How can it be communicated clearly to a wider audience?

…articulating and defending certain ends rather than certain other ends as well as articulating a way in which it can contribute to the achievement of those ends. So if you think of epistemic injustice as a real world phenomenon one aim is to end her (not only describe her) in collaboration with other disciplines.

Volodymyr Yermolenko – ‘Thinking in Dark Times’

How not to stop thinking in dark times?

…metaphore of Chiaroscuro (Benjamin, Descartes as existentialists rather than deconstrutivists (in a Derrida before Derrida sense) – truth as a deficit/rarity (Blitzhaftig) – light in the darkness)

…ideas go beyond material/biological reality of our lives and therefore we should pay great attention to them (our dignity)

…death is not an abstract word, far away from us. It is a physical void, that we feel when we or our close people die (value of life)

…evil we are facing is a repetitive evil, that was not condemned, punished, an evil that enjoys its punity (vicious circle of evil/a new norm/not a killer but a judge)

…individual responsibility and modesty and society creation is intertwined (similarly to quantum entanglement)

…we need to think beyond humans. It does not mean devaluation of humanity but the extension of the dignity from humans to other living things.

Session 2 – 17:00-19:30 ET (Toronto)

Sally Haslanger – ‘Philosophy and Shifts of Paradigm’

How to help a paradigm shift?

…the responsibility of philosopher as an instance/catalyst for change. He has to be engaged in drawing on the experiences in those directly affected to be able to take over part of their risks to work with them as a partners (, (Kuhnanomaly).

Philip Pettit – ‘From Philosophy to Politics’

How to institutionalize a paradigm shift?

Pettit has applied the philosophy of republicanism to politics in Spain (Zapatero)

…the polity of republicanism is based on searching non-domination, to keep it out of autocracy on one end and anarchy on the other end.

Zapatero has used the test of nondomination, a direct eye to eye test e.g. when the parliament had been approving the marriages of homosexuals.

Description of the direct eye to eye test

If you can you look others in the eye , walk tall, without kowtow, without bend the knee and being feerful, you are living in the true republic.

Elizabeth Anderson – ‘Philosophy is for Everyone’

How to decentralize the philosophical expertize?

By learning to discover the patterns and turn them into the meaningfull experimentation.

Jeff McMahan – ‘What Good Is Moral Philosophy?’

How to get rid from being credulous and latent cruel?

Is it something like demoralizing the defending side in my reasoning and actions?

18th of March 2023

Session 3 – 09:00-11:30 ET (Toronto)

Kieran Setiya – ‘Public Philosophy, Amelioration, and Existential Value’

How to reach happiness? (Paradox of altruism (activist type of philosophy), that is derived from the need to overcome a problem, solved by the culture of feelings/by the existentialist value not depending on the needs (edifying type of philosophy)

…John Stuart Mill, after his nervous breakdown in his twenties, tries to get the philosophical/moral lessons learned out of his breakdown and recovery. Here are his two object lessons:

  1. I never indeed wavered in the conviction that happiness is the test of all rules of conduct and the aim of life. But I now thought, that this aim was only to be attained by not making it the direct end. Those only are happy, I thought, who have their minds fixed on some objects other than their own happiness. Happiness of others, improvement of mankind, some art or other pursue/action, followed not as a means but its itself as an ideal end aiming at something else. They find happiness just as a side thing, i.e. by the way.

If the only thing that matters in life is helping other people and the only thing that matters in their lives is helping other people, then we seem to be puzzled in an endless regress in which nothing really matters.

To get to the bottom of what the mistake is there, we have to take to the second great lesson learned of Mill’s nervous breakdown:

2. And I saw that happiness is driven by the internal culture of the individual.

To understand it better, lets compare it with Aristotle Ethics of Nicomach, Book10.

So like Mill, Aristotle is concerned, that activities of practical virtue, fighting wars, engaging in politics, working for social reform are sustained by struggle and privation. Their value turns on the existence of problems, difficulties, needs, which these activities aim to solve. In an ideal world, which Aristotle is imagining in book10, there would really be no need tor the practical virtues.

The value of political action for Aristotle is ameliorative in a way it is a value of double negative responding to injustice or suffering or war, it is dependent on problems and their solutions by social work and political reforms. And for Mill its purpose turns to struggle with imperfection.

…when asked why people give to beggars but not philosophers, Diogenes the Cynic replied: „Because they expect that they become lame and blind, but never that they’ll become philosophers…

And I think we should try to change that (via pedagogy). Sharing the existential value of philosophy is a way of working to ameliorate what I think as a social harm, the precarious place for philosophy in public and private universities right now. And in that way it speaks to an existential challenge for philosophy itself.

Agnes Callard – ‘The Paradise Paradox’

What to do on leisure?

Aristotle has been differentiating leisure from rest and relaxation, from selfcare/entertainment. „Spudios“ means the serious use of leisure. It is neither restoholism, nor workoholism. But even Aristotle did not know what it realy is, which is visible from his rich work, that does not fit in the category of the leisure/contemplation as he defines it. So be carefull not to trap in a paradise paradox.

Dominic Lopes – ‘Aestetics of the barricades’

…is everything that does not dehumanize the defending side.

Margaret Atwood – ‘Crisis Literature’ (paradox of hope)

…if you feel hopeless, nothing will happen. Hope is a necessary precondition for a positive change. But it does not mean that you can afford to think that everybody is and will be good (Future library of Norway).

Session 4 – 13:00-15:30 ET (Toronto)

Timothy Snyder – ‘Thinking About Freedom in Wartime Ukraine’

…When I’m going to speak about philosophy in Ukraine, what I’m going to be doing is not instructing as to how philosophy might be applied to Ukraine. I will instead be thinking together with ukrainians and others about of what I take to be the central subject of this conflict, which is freedom.

…Here I’ll be aiming for something slightly different which is how might we think better or how might philosophy be better if we think together during this war.

I will be structuring my speech act as follows:

I’m going to begin from an utterance of two words and I’m going to think together with the person who uttered those two words.

My subjects is going to be freedom and I am going to break it down into four parts:

a) freedom of speech

b) freedom and risk

c) freedom and obligation

d) freedom and security

So the two words are: „President tut“, which means that president is here.


In politics and philosophy we treat freedom of speech as an empty concept. We don’t pay attention to the substance of what’s said, the setting where something is said, the semantics how something is said, none of those things matter. All that matters in our everyday portrayal of freedom of speech is unlimiteness…What I am going to suggest is that this understanding is buggy… Freedom of speech is not an empty, reflexive concept. It’s not a kind of habit. Freedom of speech has a purpose to allow people to speak truth to empower it to rule (Euripides, Foucault). So when president Zelensky said „President tut“, he was speaking truth against the background of lies. And he was speaking truth against the power, whereby thus the truth had being happening instead the power in the whole reality…

… And here we take a move from one tradition into another tradition of freedom of speech, closely associated with the Czech philosopher Jan-Patočka and political thinker and dissident Václav Havel. They said that truth is something that we vouch.

Def1: freedom of speech is the risking of speaking truth in the face of power.

Def2: freedom of speech is something that we vouch for.

Freedom of speech is the right term, because it implies the risking speaker.


…In those days before the war I felt pretty isolated after my public claim on Sunday evening American TV show (20th of February 2022), that Zelensky would remain in Kyiv… On the 22nd of February, I took part in the class of Yale colleague, where he had convened security advisors from the Trump and the Obama administrations and among the things he asked them the same question that I had been asked. And to my recollection all of them said that Zelensky would flee. So this is the setting, that I want to recall. And I want to be asking

a) why it was that we all thought that

b) what does it say about us

It lies in the false assumption that history goes to democracy and freedom inevitably. This kind of passivity about democracy and freedom breeds bad habbits, causing that her muscles grow limp and reflexes die.

If I’m gotten used to thinking that democracy and freedom are the results of objective forces, then when the forces are arrayed against me, the flee is all that I’ve got left.


How might be, that someone who seems to be free by comportment, who’s not restrained, feel as though there was nothing else he could have done?

If we imagine freedom as the highest value because freedom allows us to engage with and choose among and realize all the other values…and life as practice of making such choices, then the person who makes these decisions will, over time, develop herself the competence, which we could call character…

The accumulation of free choices over the years generates such competence at certain critical moments of life, that there’s really only one thing that can be done.


Freedom and security generally go together. I.e. if you’re dissassembling the torture chamber, the people around are not only more free, but they’re also more secure. It is incorrect to think about freedom and security as their tradeoff. Loss of security is the deprivation of freedom. Loss of freedom is the deprivation of security.


Thinking along with the people who have had undergo this war can help us do philosophy better.

Jonathan Wolff – ‘Values and Public Policy’ (engaged/bottom-up philosophy)

… even that we think we have got the arguments for things, more often we’ve got arguments from things rather than for the theories. So the bad approach, dogmatic, is to take the theory and deduce the policy from it.

Jason Stanley ­– ‘Discourses of Genocide’

What are the analytic philosophy tools to explain/investigate the rapid slide into fascism, mass killing and war?

I did not get the answer from Jason. So I guess, that the saussurian structural analysis of the perpetrator’s language is the framework for those tools.

Seyla Benhabib – ‘Philosopher’s Dreams of Perpetual Peace’

The Security Council resolution of a year ago on february 25th 2022 held Russia accountable violating Ukrainian sovereignty, international law and U.N. Charter. But since Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council, it vetoed the Resolution.

Perhaps more dismaying than Russia’s veto is the fact that the U.N. general assembly vote condemning Russia’s invasion Ukraine and calling for its withdrawal resulted in 141 votes for, 35 abstention and 5 votes against (North Korea, Syria, Eritrea, Bellarus). In 35 abstending there were not only China, Cuba and Nicaragua, but many countries of the south around the world. How can we explain this?

It cannot be explained. And therefore we should ask them

a) whether they accept it to their people.

b) whether the accept killing their culture as it is visible in dividing children from their parents in the Russian filter camps and their russification.

Session 5 – 17:00-19:30 ET (Toronto)

Kate Manne – ‘Philosophy and Gaslighting: It’s (Not) All in Your Mind’

Angel street, Gaslight

Gaslighting is a systematic process that makes someone feel defective in some way morally, rationally, or even health-wise for mental states like beliefs, desires, intentions, bodily-states and so on to which she is entitled in reality.

Gaslighter wants to maintain the appearence/illusion of an ongoing conversation to invariably forestall/disable the claims/argumentation of the others, achieving a continuous series of pureic victories.

…openness to the dissent of others does not mean consent with them in advance

…intelligent disagreemnt instead of convergence

Barry Lam – Discretionary decisions: A Philosophical Analysis of the Power of Bureaucrats

The good thing about philosophy is that it tries to address the questions/problems in a way, that does not give the truth to our natural inclinations.

Problem of self discretion

It is an ability of the people who are in charge of making and enforcing rules or making appropriate exceptions in sake of individuals.

It is a necessary evil, because humans are inperfect formulators of law…Failure to cultivate discretionary decisions in people is a result of having a society running solely on the basis of legalistic rules that apply blindly to everyone. We want people to act accountibly from their internal considerations. Not just obey the law out of fear.

David Enoch (big critic of liberal philosophy) – ‘What Good Is Political Philosophy in the Face of an Acute Political Crisis?’

Maybe philosophers are good in general thinking, but what is needed is particular/concrete thinking. Especially in political philosophy. Else it is only incompetent/iresponsible theorizing of rambling (which David Enoch associates with liberal political philosophy)

Peter Godfrey-Smith – ‘Philosophy and the Events of the Day/Everyday affairs’

We, philosophers remain silent during crises, e.g. during covid-19. Does this mean that what we say in good times is actually silence?


In online discussions of this topic when I’ve raised some of these queries a reply I got back are the following: this is a health issue, it’s specialized, it’s for health professionals, bioethicists and health policy people. (Slogans instead the real solutions (concrete or abstract/ideal)). Similar philosophical helplessness in the Ukrainian war.

19th of March 2023

Session 6 – 09:00-11:30 ET (Toronto)

Peter Adamson – ‘What Good Is a History of Philosophy ‘Without Any Gaps’?’

…it is different to study history of philosophy without the gaps as a continuous function and its highlights by the helicopter, without climbing to them. So for example you really can’t understand Descartes, unless you understand the history of scholastic philosophy, because that’s what he was reading and unless you understand the Protestant reformation because it just happened in the previous century and if you don’t understand French skepticism…Other example is this.

Angie Hobbs – ‘Public Philosophy in an Age of Uncertainty’

There are different freedoms at issue here and tension that can arise between them. Part of the tension results from the difference between what are often known as positive and negative freedom: doing what you feel like doing in the moment and doing what you rationally choose to do. The latter based on accurate information and reflection, creative potential of e.g. thinking in contrafactual consequences helping to keep you on the right side of the uncertainty (emotionally/rationally), i.e. the real uncertainty and not sophistry/sophism/rhetorism/cynical opportunism. What matters is not so much what happens, but how you respond to it (epicureans and stoics, especially roman). Uncertainty is no excuse for sloppy or lazy generalizations, oversimplifications or unhelpfully blurred boundaries.

Against unlimited lies, deceptions and fantasies, it is essential and sufficient to recognizing our limitations.

Melissa Lane – ‘Philosophizing Our Way Out of the Cave’

Have we been trapping ourselves in a modern version of Plato’s cave? What would that mean to dare to leave that cave to face the challenge of making of our conveniences and competitions conform to the implacable demands of external reality? (e.g. during Russian invasion of Ukraine). What is the way out of the trap?

mutual respect vs. hubris

self-discipline/self-motivation to the intelligent desires vs. greed

courage vs. heedlessness/recklessness

wisdom (not a calculated cunning) vs. stupidity

Timothy Williamson – ‘Debating the Good’

Natural and social sciences tend to conceive themselves as value-free, they even pride themselves on being value free that they’re not involving themselves with any issues about values. (They forbidding themselves from discussing value questions by self-censorship on that matter).

A society, that didn’t ask philosophical questions (about values, meaning/semantics, knowledge, etc.) would lack curiosity and it would be as rather dogmatic.

If anybody wants to dismiss philosophy, something fishy is going on.

Session 2 – 13:00-15:30 ET (Toronto)

Simon Critchley – ‘Question Everything’

The Stone

If the writing is good, clear, makes a point, compelling and is free of philosophical jargon

Tim Crane – ‘Philosophy as Freedom of Thought’

What’s interesting here is not the views themselves or even the truth itself, but why anyone thinks something else.

One danger of political philosophy is moralism, the other is specialization (example: if you are not a political philosopher your ideas in political philosophy are not taken very seriously). This is a bad model for philosophy. A philosopher should be able to come in and say why are you starting from this assumptions, why is this an important starting place, why is this an important concept. To do that you have to step aside from expertize. You have to step aside from and idea that I know all the literature on the subject. If we don’t ask such questions, then philosophy becomes just a mobilization of various ideologies, battling against each other and shouting at each other across the void.

Once the philosophy becomes ideological, it is lost.

Mychailo Wynnyckyj – ‘Grappling with Evil’

Riddle of evil

For us evil was not an intelectualized idea or even an arguably fabricated mystical concept. Its instantiation in aggresion, destruction and death was very real. As we found out later, our experience was yet mild. Russian soldiers raped children in nearby Bucha. Russian occupiers murdered civilians in Mariupol and in towns and villages throughout the southern eastern and northen regions, that experienced occupation. Russians commited atrocities in Izjum, Cherson and Irpin and countless other towns and cities throughout Ukraine.

Were these actions no evil itself? What is the nature of this evil? Is it a property of all humans and thus represents the dark side of the natural condition or instead is evil a symptom of human imperfection, in other words a curable disease?

When we argue in favour of the philosophical foundations of the institutional order we take for granted, we propagate a fundamental assumption, that people are fundamentally good.

But they are not. Russian soldiers acted from their own initiative without direct order to do so, a real manifestation of evil. For Ukrainians, such an evil must be punished, destroyed so that it will not threaten them again.

As allready said, according to the agreed universal standards people are fundamentally good. So it cannot be true, that one side of war is fully good without evil and the other side fully evil without good. This sort of balance create an outrage in many Ukrainians. They think that evil must be recognized for what it is.

In 1946 the International military tribunal, which was established in Nurnberg after the WW2 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against peace and humanity stated that aggresion is the „supreme international crime because it contains the accumulated evil of the whole“

As we are not mystics, but secular intelectuals, we need a new secular tool/solution against the agency of evil as a collective physical (non abstract) responsibilty (of the group, community, nation).

Amb. Yulia Kovaliv – ‘Conclusion: Defending Democracy’

conclusion of the event by the Mrs. Kovaliv, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada