Jón Ólafsson

A specialist of the history of the relations between Iceland and the Soviet Union and a former journalist, Jón Ólafsson studied political philosophy at the University of Columbia, where he defended his doctoral thesis on John Dewey in 1999. He was professor of philosophy at the University of Bifröst in Iceland from 2005 to 2014. He joined the Department of Political Science of the University of Iceland, in Reykjavik, in 2015.



The Icelandic Constitutional Experiment: Success or failure?

The Icelandic Constitutional Council was convened in Reykjavík in spring and summer of 2011. After four months of intensive work the Council submitted a draft constitution to Parliament. The constitutional bill however was never even voted on. The lecture is an attempted analysis of the complicated situation that may ensue when extra-institutional methods are used to accomplish legislative tasks.

  • 20 April 2017, 11:00-13:00, EHESS (room 2) - 105 Bd Raspail 75006 Paris 


Political epistemology: Balancing effectiveness and empowerment

Unelected individuals may directly influence public policy- and decision-making in two ways. First, the public may be consulted by government and local authorities. Second, certain areas of policy-making or even legislation may be given to the public as a whole. I will argue that while the first approach is more likely to be effective, the second approach is empowering in a way that the first approach is not.

  • 25 April 2017, 11:00-13:00, EHESS - 96 Bd Raspail 75006 Paris 


Dewey’s democracy as a way of life – Is it a democratic "theory"?

Many commentators have criticized Dewey’s idealistic notion of democracy as a way of life as a democratic theory that demands adherence to a more comprehensive moral view than a pluralistic conception of liberal democracy allows. I argue in the paper that one should not think of democracy as a way of life as pointing to a moral commitment, but rather as an exclusively epistemic commitment.

  • 26 April 2017, 11:00-13:00, EHESS - 96 Bd Raspail, 75006 Paris


Ignorance and democratic competence

Many thinkers lament the lack of public knowledge and understanding of science, expressing doubts about the wisdom of allowing public opinion to direct policy- or decision-making. Philip Kitcher argues that “free discussion” is just as likely to produce less, rather than more, informed public views. The paper takes Kitcher to task for his analysis of public knowledge and his claims that “irremediable” ignorance poses a great difficulty for properly addressing pressing social and environmental challenges.

  • 9 November 2017, 14:00-16:00, EHESS, Centre Norbert Elias - 2, rue de la Charité 13002 Marseille