September 21, 2016
Virtually Intimate Lecture


Addressing an audience that filled Caldwell Auditorium, scholar Leon Kass argued that the Internet creates a barrier to true friendship and romantic relationships.

Titled "Virtually Intimate" his talk — part of the School of Philosophy Fall Lecture Series — focused on the struggles of forming true friendships and romantic relationships online. Kass argued that the "us" we present on the internet is not our true selves. This creates a barrier between ourselves and the people we meet online that keeps us from forming true relationships.

Leon Kass, Kathleen and Andrew Abela
Kathleen Abela, Leon Kass, and Provost Andrew Abela

"When we live immediately, we live on the way, in process, in medias res, unfinished yet seeking, tentatively yet honestly and organically yet responsively disclosing to another — and, a crucial point, also to ourselves — not some pre-fabricated finished "self" but the unfolding mysteries of what we really think and feel, and the translucent truths of who we are aspiring and striving to become," said Kass.

John McCarthy, dean of the School of Philosophy, introduced Kass at the Sept. 16 lecture, saying, "If there is a better person to give a talk on friendship, I don’t know who that is."

Kass began his academic career at the University of Chicago, where he received his undergraduate degree in biology at the age of 19 and studied medicine. He later earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University in biochemistry. Kass then began to study philosophy and to write on topics related to biomedical ethics, human nature, and the meaning of human life.

Kass argued that the Internet works as a force for objectification by looking to form a relationship relying on "voyeurism" and "selfish concerns."

The lecture prompted many questions as well as lively discussion at the reception after the event.

"It was interesting," said Cameron Hosseinian, a junior philosophy major from Virginia. "It’s relevant. A lot of times, philosophy tends to be bogged down by the rehashing of the histories, not really applying any original philosophy."

Learn about the philosophy lectures series.