Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

Annual Justus Hartnack Lecture

Justus Hartnack

Justus Hartnack (1912-2005) is regarded as the founder of the Department of Philosophy at Aarhus University in 1954, and served as professor at that department until 1972, where he continued his career in the USA. He was known as an extraordinarily talented lecturer – which thousands of university students taking the at the time compulsory Filosofikum course benefitted from – and as an inspiration to generations of Danish philosophers. An obituary (in Danish) can be found here.

About the Hartnack Lecture

On the occasion of his 90th birthday, May 29 2002, the Annual Justus Hartnack Lecture was inaugurated in gratitude to his service, and to help preserve the international outlook that Hartnack gave to the Aarhus Philosophy Department from its beginning. The honour of giving the Annual Hartnack Lecture is given to an internationally recognized and distinguished researcher, who has made outstanding contributions in philosophy.

Past Hartnack Lecturers

  • 2002: Simon Blackburn, Cambridge University
  • 2003: John McDowell, University of Pittsburgh
  • 2004: Jonathan Dancy, University of Reading
  • 2005: Robert Pippin, University of Chicago
  • 2006: Barbara Herman, University of California, Los Angeles
  • 2007: Simon Critchley, New School for Social Research, New York City
  • 2008: Axel Hutter, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
  • 2009: Rainer Forst, Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Frankfurt a. M.
  • 2010: Onora O'Neill, Cambridge University
  • 2011: Stephen Darwall, Yale University
  • 2012: Jonathan Lear, University of Chicago
  • 2013: Nancy Cartwright, Universities of San Diego and Durham
  • 2014: R. Jay Wallace, UC Berkeley
  • 2015: Otavio Bueno, University of Miami

Hartnack Lecture 2016

Professor Helen Steward, University of Leeds

November 17, 12:15-15:00, 1324/025. The lecture will be followed by a catered reception. All are welcome!


In his paper, ‘The Sense of Touch’, Brian O’Shaughnessy argues for the striking thesis that tactile sensation is inessential to tactile perception. According to O’Shaughnessy, the tight connections between touch perception and bodily awareness render the touch sensation inessential to tactile perception of the world. In this paper, I shall try to argue both against O’Shaughnessy’s argument for the thesis, and against the thesis itself, by invoking (i) some empirical findings concerning the phenomenon of ‘numb touch’; (ii) considerations derived (ironically) from some of O’Shaughnessy’s own arguments against the idea that blindsight is a form of perception; and (iii) John Campbell’s reflections on the importance of the phenomenon of perceptual acquaintance in supplying objects for thought and knowledge. I argue that if touch is to put us in a position to think about the world beyond our own bodies, it must put us in conscious contact with that world – and in the case of touch, that means that it must involve tactile sensation.