Well, this page seemed like a great idea in pre-covid times! With travel frozen, and online events a very distant second best that I generally try to avoid, my anyway modest calendar of talks and events has turned to skin and bones. But for old times' sake, below is a smorgasbord of some of the talks I gave or was planning to give in 2019-20. They still reflect things I think, read, and write about, though the pandemic has turned my thoughts upside down to some extent as with everyone else. Some of my more recent projects and aspirations are sketched out further below.
Talks & events: a trip down memory lane
On March 20-23, 2020 I was due to give a talk on "Ethics as Aesthetics in al-Ghazālī" at the Annual Meeting of the American Oriental Society in Boston. (Cancelled due to Covid)
On May 29-30, 2020 I was due to discuss the place of practical reasoning in al-Ghazālī's ethics at the conference Wrestling with Ethical Decisions: Theories of Ethics in Islamic Theology and Law and their Relevance to the Modern Discourse on Applied Ethics at Goethe University in Frankfurt. (Cancelled due to Covid)
On November 20, 2019I gave a talk on "The Place of the Beautiful in al-Ghazālī's Ethics" at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.
On August 30-September 1, 2019I took part in the seminar held at the Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics at Hamad Bin Khalifa University exploring Islamic Ethics: State of the Art and Future Directions, presenting my recent book on the "virtues of greatness" in the Arabic tradition.
On July 4-6, 2019I explored another theme in al-Ghazālī's ethics at the conference Casuistry, Contingency, and Ambiguity: New Approaches to the Study of Ethics in the Islamic Traditions at the University of Cambridge. This time my focus was onal-Ghazālī's medical conception of ethics and its implications for his understanding of virtue.
On May 8-9, 2019 I gave a keynote exploring approaches to the virtues in the Islamic world, and the role of philosophical and scriptural influences in shaping them, at the workshop Perspectives on Virtue: From Qumran to the Qur’an and Beyondat the University of Helsinki.
On May 2-3, 2019I gave a talk that tackled the question whether it is appropriate or helpful to approach al-Ghazālī's ethical ideas as a species of virtue ethics, as philosophers usually understand this category ("Does al-Ghazālī Have a Theory of Virtue?"). This was at the conference Mysticism and Ethics in Islam, held at the American University of Beirut.
On April April 26-27, 2019 I co-organised a conference on the relations between Sufism and philosophy with my colleague Richard Todd at the University of Birmingham. For further details, see here.
On April 5-6, 2019 I talked about the role of theological argument as a (defeasible?) mediator of experiences of wonder at the conference Wonder, Education, and Human Flourishing to be held at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. VU hosted the "Wonderful Education Project," funded by the John Templeton Foundation, on which I served as an adviser. For more details on the project, see here.
On March 13, 2019I gave a talk on attitudes to self-esteem in the Islamic tradition at the University of Lancaster. Is there room for virtuous pride in Islamic ethics?
Writing and suchlike
One of my main writing projects just now is a philosophical study of al-Ghazālī's ethics of virtue. But I'm slowly trying to turn my boat around toward rather different waters. One question that has haunted me increasingly over the last period concerns the status of my own writing as an academic. How would I articulate and defend its value? To the extent that every published piece of work makes a claim to be heard (it claims a public), do I have a reasoned view of why the type of scholarly literature to which I contribute deserves a hearing? In a world awash with words, such questions need an answer. I hope eventually I can develop my own answers in a book-length piece (more words to be sure! but hopefully worth their salt).
A couple of translation projects are also on my radar. On a more scholarly front, having recently started teaching a class on Islamic ethics, I realised the yawning gap in resources that would help both students and the general reader come to grips with the subject. One of my long-term aspirations is to put together a reader for Islamic ethics, which includes translations of selected Arabic texts.
More immediately, I've just started translating the latest novel published by the talented Egyptian writer Ahmad Al Qarmalawi, Warathat Āl al-Shaykh - literally "The Sheikh's Heirs", though perhaps "The Quest" might be a more fitting title. Clue: the story features a treasure. I loved this novel: it bursts with drama, history, larger-than-life-characters, and yes, magic.