Center to Conduct Lecture Series and Campus Conference On America’s Western Foundations

September 16, 2008

Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037

MACON — Mercer’s recently established Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations will sponsor three lectures this fall and spring, as well as a conference in April to shed light on the intellectual underpinnings of American society, particularly the influence of prominent Western philosophers and thinkers.

The first lecture will take place Thursday, Sept. 18, at 6:30 p.m. and features Tulane University philosophy professor Ronna Burger, Ph.D., giving a presentation titled, “What is the Best Human Life?  On Aristotle’s ‘Nicomachean Ethics.’” The event will take place in the Fickling Recital Hall in the McCorkle Music Building on Mercer’s Macon campus and is free and open to the public. Dr. Burger will address the question of “happiness,” in the philosophy of Aristotle. In his book “Nicomachean Ethics,” Aristotle stages a contest among three lives: the life of pleasure, the political life and the theoretical life. Dr. Burger will explore a number of crucial questions that emerge from this inquiry.

The new center is an interdisciplinary, faculty-led enterprise that seeks to promote the study and teaching of the foundational works of Western Civilization, toward strengthening knowledge and understanding of the cultural-intellectual inheritance of America, according to center co-founder Matthew Oberrieder, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy.

“An assumption at many colleges and universities in our country is that students already know about the importance of Western Civilization simply because we live in the West, and that an exploration of the foundations of the West, including the American political order, is simply unnecessary, or something secondary, rather than primary and an indispensable ground for developing self-knowledge,” Dr. Oberrieder said. “Mercer, however, is one of a select few colleges or universities in the country that has a Great Books of Western Civilization program as part of our general education curriculum. We hope this center will complement Mercer’s curriculum with programs, such as this year’s lecture series and campus conference, and reinforce the importance of traditional liberal-arts education against the trend in contemporary academia away from a study of Western Civilization.” 

The Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations is one of three new initiatives supported by Mercer’s Academic Initiatives Monetary Fund grant program.  The purpose of the AIM Fund is to promote interdisciplinary and cross-university faculty collaboration toward developing academic initiatives that have the potential to become national Centers of Excellence for the University. The faculty of the center represent three different divisions of the University — the College of Liberal Arts, the Tift College of Education and the Eugene W. Stetson School of Business and Economics — and come from six different disciplines.

The center faculty include: Matthew Oberrieder, Ph.D., philosophy; Will Jordan, Ph.D., political science; Tom Huber, Ph.D., biology and director of the Great Books program; Charlotte Thomas, Ph.D., philosophy; Gregory Domin, Ph.D., political science; John Hintermaier, Ph.D., history; Susan Malone, Ph.D., Tift College of Education; and Angela Dills, Ph.D., Stetson School of Business and Economics. 

Western Civilization Guest-Lecture Series 2008-09
All four events are free and open to the public.

Fall 2008

“What is the Best Human Life?  On Aristotle’s ‘Nicomachean Ethics’”
Ronna Burger, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Tulane University
6:30 p.m., Sept. 18
Fickling Recital Hall
McCorkle Music Building
Macon campus

“Why Study the Classics?  On the Abiding Importance of Classical Education”
Christian Kopff, Ph.D., professor of classics at the University of Colorado
5:30 p.m., Nov. 20
Medical School Auditorium
Macon Campus

Spring 2009

“Caveat Lector: The Veiled Beginnings of Modern Political Life”
Stuart Warner, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at Roosevelt University
6 p.m. Feb. 19
Willingham Auditorium
Macon Campus

“Conference on the Triumphs and Travails of the Natural Rights Republic”
April 1
Location and time to be announced
Keynote Address: John Danford, Ph.D., professor of political science, Loyola University of Chicago. Dr. Danford will discuss the intellectual origins of the American founding. 

April 2 – Day-long Campus Conference
Locations and times to be announced
Keynote Address: Michael Zuckert, Ph.D., professor of government, Notre Dame University.  Dr. Zuckert will address the issue of race in the American founding by discussing the controversy over slavery at the Constitutional Convention. 

About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has more than 7,500 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah; three regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
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