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My Body, My Self – public lecture by Heather Widdows

Thursday 30 May 2019 (17:00-18:30)

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The 2019 public lecture of the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics will be delivered by Professor Heather Widdows on the topic of My Body, My Self.

Professor Heather Widdows in ‘My Body, My Self?’ will explore the move to bodies as selves under an ethical ideal and consider what this means. In locating the self in the body we do not simply objectify. The body is not passive. It is subject and object. The self is located in the body, but not just in the actual flawed body – the objectified body. It is also in the transforming body, a body of potential and possibility, and the imagined body, the perfect me.

Talk abstract for ‘My Body, My Self?’

“That our bodies have become our very selves in a visual and virtual culture is one of the main arguments of Perfect Me. This is so widely believed that we often don’t recognise either that it is true (until it is pointed it out) or how surprising and transformative this is. To think that our selves are our bodies is new. We used to think of ourselves as our ‘inner selves’. Self-improvement was not improving the body but improving the mind or the soul. Being better was knowing more, having a better character or being able to do more. Success is becoming appearance-success, and recognising the moral element in this is crucial to understanding what is going on. Body work has become virtuous. If we work hard enough – stick religiously to our diet, pump iron, run, buff, smooth and firm – we will be rewarded. And the rewards will be significant. We will be better people, and, in the logic of the beauty ideal, we will be rewarded with the ‘goods of the good life’. Better relationships, better jobs, happiness, better lives.”

This public lecture is a freestanding event related to the Fifth Annual Conference of the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics (30-31 May 2019, University of Birmingham) on Bodies and Embodiment.

Registration is free and open for all, but it is strongly recommended as places are limited. Tickets are now available via the public lecture Eventbrite webpage.

Heather's work on beauty:

In her recent book Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal (Princeton University Press, 2018), Heather Widdows explores the radical transformation of the status of beauty, of the beauty ideal and of what this means for how we understand human beings.

Heather in the media:


Heather Widdows is the John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor Research (Impact) at the University of Birmingham. Her books include Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal (Princeton University Press, 2018), Global Ethics: An Introduction (Acumen, 2011), The Connected Self: The Ethics and Governance of the Genetic Individual (CUP, 2013), and The Moral Vision of Iris Murdoch (Ashgate, 2005).

Heather is particularly committed to public engagement and work with policy makers. As such she has served as a member of the UK Biobank Ethics and Governance Council (2007-2013), the Philosophy REF-panel (2013-2014) and she is currently a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

Venue Information:

We aim to have our events in the most accessible venues on the Edgbaston Campus of the University of Birmingham. We will post more info here when we have confirmed the venue (April 2019). Please visit the venue information page of the conference website for general information on how to reach the campus.

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