Dr. Stamatoula Panagakou of the University of Cyprus presented her latest research on the feminist philosophy of J. S. Mill at the international conference “Knowledge Networks, the Grote Club and Cambridge Idealism” which took place at Wolfson College, Cambridge, June 26-27.
According to the conference organisers, “knowledge networks have emerged in scholarship as vital forces within the generation of new knowledge.” Many authors “have illustrated how knowledge is often situated in specific local spaces at specific times, such as Athens, Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople, Baghdad, Cordoba, Florence, Paris, Berlin and Vienna. Studies of British Idealism have identified Oxford, Glasgow and Edinburgh, while Utilitarianism has been located primarily in the London metropolis.” The conference connected “Knowledge Networks, Cambridge University and British Idealist philosophy.”
Dr. Panagakou’s paper was “An Idealist Commitment to the Common Good? J. S. Mill on Women’s Empowerment and the Improvement of Humankind.” She argued that Mill’s vindication of the rights of women and his critique of patriarchy do not only address issues of individual freedom, equality and justice, but they also refer to the improvement of society as a whole. The empowerment of women, the recognition of their contribution to society and politics, and the cultivation of a social and family environment based on respect, equality and friendship constitute necessary conditions for both the building of a truly democratic polity and the promotion of the common good.
Dr. Panagakou emphasised that Mill challenged conventional views and connected his feminist theory to a holistic narrative of civic consciousness and the good life. She showed that Mill’s acknowledgement of the interdependence of the different levels of social experience, and his view of the vital interrelation between individual good and the common good echo the idealist principle of institutions as ethical ideas and convey an idealist commitment to a shared common good that includes the self-realisation of individuals.
Conference organisers Professor James Connelly and Dr. John Gibbins stated that: “Dr. Panagakou presented a powerful case for female emancipation based upon the writings of J. S. Mill and his wife Harriet. Removal of legal impediments plus educational opportunities would give women an equal chance to improve human well-being. This paper provoked energetic debate and useful results.”
According to Dr. Panagakou, the enthusiastic reception of her paper demonstrated that there is a huge interest in cutting-edge interpretations of J. S. Mill’s political philosophy. She felt immensely happy that the “Knowledge Networks” conference provided her with the opportunity to disseminate her research findings to an international gathering of scholars. Dr. Panagakou concluded: “A knowledge network has been created between Cyprus and Cambridge which reflects the recognition and importance of the research done at the University of Cyprus.”
The conference was supported by the Centre for Idealism and the New Liberalism (University of Hull) and by the independent charity Education Services 2010. Regius Professor Sir Richard Evans, President of Wolfson College, gave the opening address. Plenary lectures were delivered by Dr. John Gibbins and by Professor William C. Lubenow.
From left: Dr. Panagakou with the Conference Organisers, Prof. Connelly and Dr. Gibbins in the garden of Wolfson College, Cambridge.
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