Lydia You


My work usually resides at the intersection of the philosophy of life, ethics, and political theory. I have long been interested in offering a “procedural” account of freedom and its maintenance (interpreted as an “achievement”), particularly regarding how the “fragility” of human life, which defines the essence of living beings, serves as a condition for the achieved emergence of this notion of freedom, rather than viewing freedom as a pre-given, natural quality of humans. This leads me to ask how this free process discloses, constitutes, and endures a form of “worldly objectivity,” where the objective quality of the world derives from how a subject is uniquely and freely correlated/conditioned by an existential fragile periphery (e.g., public space, sensible world) beyond subjective dominance. Yet, the formation of a subject is always externally presupposed by this site, place, or region, thereby creating multiple existential “distances,” i.e., a world, within the oscillatory intervals also made possible by other subjects’ distinctive correlations with the periphery in which they are situated. Worldling is a horizontal distancing among free subjective participation. 

Drawing inspiration from Machiavelli’s discussion of “necessity,” Arendt’s emphasis on the frailty of human action, Heidegger’s later thoughts on “clearing,” and Jonas’s discourses on “metabolism,” I aspire to pave the way for a novel notion of freedom that is intensively procedural yet provides space for qualitative “personal” achieved distinction. This would maintain a delicate balance between immanent vitalism (the univocity of beings) and a transcendentally qualitative approach to humans (equivocality) as a whole. Hopefully, it will offer a practical advantage in sensing, identifying, and, most importantly, judging what genuine free actions are. 

The key concepts reproductively engender my thoughts include agency, life, intensity, individuation, worldliness, temporality, spatiality, appearance, and necessity. 

I received my B.A. in Political Science, with a minor in Sociology, from George Washington University and my M.A. in Social Sciences (focusing mainly on political theory and continental thoughts) from the University of Chicago. My M.A. thesis at the University of Chicago addressed how Machiavelli’s conceptualization of “necessity” demands an ethical-existential transformation of subjects, resulting in a particularly ferocious free ethos, and how that ethos can and should be maintained and continuously reproduced within a popular-democratic institutional context.

Research interests: 

Philosophy of Technology

Philosophy of Language

Critical Theory


New Media