Who: Leon Kass, Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago, and Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
What: Dean’s Lecture and Concert Series
Title: “The Ten Commandments: Principles of a Humanistic Politics”
Where: Great Hall, Peterson Student Center, St. John’s College
When: Friday, October 30, 8:00 p.m.
Details: This lecture is free of charge, open to the public, and followed by a question-and-answer period.
This is the tenth lecture in the Fall 2009 Dean’s Lecture and Concert Series. Open to the community, the free lectures offer an opportunity to explore a deeper reading of books in the St. John’s Program as well as other topics.
The Ten Commandments embody the core principles of the way of life of Ancient Israel and of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Even in our increasingly secular age, their influence on the prevailing morality of the West is enormous. Yet, despite its notoriety, the Decalogue is still only superficially known, in part because its very familiarity interferes with a deeper understanding of its teachings and its moral- political significance. This lecture, a fresh interpretation of the biblical text in Exodus 20, aspires to such an understanding. It is informed by the belief that, if rightly understood, the Decalogue would command universal applause not only for its opposition to murder, adultery, and theft but also and especially for enunciating the principles of a truly humanistic politics.
Leon Kass is the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and a Hertog Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Kass was educated at the University of Chicago, where he earned his bachelor’s of science and medical degrees in 1958 and 1962, respectively, and at Harvard, where he took a doctorate in biochemistry in 1967. After doing research in molecular biology at the National Institutes of Medicine, Kass shifted directions and has been engaged for nearly forty years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advance. He has been a member of the National Council on the Humanities of the National Endowment for the Humanities. From 2001 to 2005, Kass served two terms as Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, and in 2003, he was one of four inaugural recipients of the Bradley Prize.