Lectures are free and open to the public and are followed by a question-and-answer period.
“Franklin, Autobiography, and the St. John’s Program”
Matthew Davis, St. John’s College
Friday, August 26, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin provides a model for "the rising people" of America to follow: himself. We can begin to grasp the character of Franklin's model in the very title of his work, the Autobiography, a title that reflects Franklin's aim to be the author of his own life, a "self-made man," someone who creates and even re-creates himself. This lecture will attempt to bring out how much of Franklin's model we have, consciously or unconsciously, adopted, and it will also attempt to show, as Franklin indicates, that this model is in many ways a radical departure from previous models, including and especially certain religious models. The lecture will conclude with some reflections on whether Franklin's model is a good one and on the importance of the St. John's program in considering this question.
“Alcmaeon's Islands: Politics and Metaphysics in Thucydides”
Borden Flanagan, American University, Department of Government
Friday, September 2, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
Thucydides suggests that Athenian imperialism constituted the political expression of the deepest longings of the soul, for immortality and freedom from all constraint. At the same time, many Athenians defend their empire by claiming that it follows from human compulsions that no community is able to resist; natural necessity determines the larger actions of politics, and so justice does not apply. Thucydides comments on these themes through the story of Alcmaeon, who murdered his mother and was condemned by Apollo to ceaseless wandering—until he found a way around the curse in part by virtue of his knowledge of natural necessity. Thucydides invites us to think about the connection between the sin of matricide and the longing for immortality, politics and the wandering of the cursed, the relation between divine authority and the laws of nature, and the relation between questions of justice and the cosmic forces of Motion and Rest in terms of which he casts the political and military events of the war.
Borden Flanagan is Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at American University in Washington DC. He teaches across the history of political philosophy, with classes in Ancient and Modern Political Thought, the introductory “Individual Freedom v. Authority,” American Political Thought, and special courses on Nietzsche, Machiavelli and Thucydides. He received the School of Public Affairs Outstanding Teaching Award in 2014 (AY 2013/14). He earned his Ph.D from the Committee On Social Thought at the University of Chicago with a dissertation entitled “Thucydides on the Political Soul: Pericles, Love of Glory and Freedom.” He has a book chapter on R. W. Emerson’s Representative Men in A Political Companion to Ralph Waldo Emerson. He got his BA from Kenyon College in Political Science and English Literature.
“Two Good Men in Aristotle’s Ethics, or Does a Liberal Education Improve One’s Character?”
Joseph Macfarland, St. John’s College
Friday, September 9, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
Does a liberal education improve one’s character? In order to explore this question, I will look at two words used in Aristotle’s Ethics to describe a good human being: spoudaios, that is, “virtuous" or "having serious worth,” and epieikes, meaning, “decent” or “equitable.” The intention will be to tease apart Aristotle’s sense of these two human types and to think about how they are related, with a view to thinking about whether and how our own joint activity might contribute to becoming one or the other.
“The Winnowing Oar: Odysseus’ Final Journey”
Claudia Hauer, St. John’s College
Wednesday, September 21, 3:15 p.m. The Junior Common Room
In book 11 of the Odyssey, in the underworld, Teiresias describes to Odysseus a final journey that he must take to propitiate Poseidon when his labors on Ithaka are concluded. Teiresias tells Odysseus he must walk inland with an oar until a wayfarer mistakes the oar for a winnowing fan. There, Teiresias says, Odysseus must build a shrine to Poseidon and plant the oar as a dedication. In this talk, I will explore various interpretations of this puzzling description of Odysseus’ final journey.
Dmitry Kouzov, Cello
Friday, September 23, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
Cellist Dmitri Kouzov and his accompanist will be performing Schumann's Fantasy Pieces, op. 73 ; Beethoven's Cello Sonata No. 3 in A major, op. 69; Debussy's Cello Sonata in D minor; and Shostakovich's Cello Sonata in D minor, op. 40.
A versatile performer, cellist Dmitry Kouzov has performed on five continents with orchestras, in solo and duo recitals, and in chamber music performances. He has appeared with such orchestras as the St. Petersburg Symphony (Russia), as well as National Symphony of Ukraine, and the South Bohemian Chamber Philharmonic (Czech Republic), and the Symphony Orchestra “Classica” (Russia), to name a few. He has awarded First Prize at the International Beethoven Competition in the Czech Republic and he is a two-time laureate of the International Festival-Competition “Virtuosi of the Year 2000” in Russia and is winner of the New York Cello Society Rising Star Award. His credits include numerous performances at many prominent concert venues throughout his native Russia, including both St. Petersburg Philharmonic Halls, the conservatoire halls of Moscow and St. Petersburg, respectively, and the Mariinsky Theater. Mr. Kouzov made his New York orchestral debut at Alice Tully Hall in 2005, under the baton of Maestro Raymond Leppard. Since that time, he has also made recital appearances in New York at 92nd Street Y and Bargemusic.
Highlights of Mr. Kouzov recent seasons include his debuts with the the Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra, Johannesburg Philharmonic, solo appearances with the chamber orchestra “Soloists of St. Petersburg Philharmonic Society”, duo recitals in Moscow and St. Petersburg with all Brahms and Beethoven Sonatas with the prominent Russian pianist Peter Laul, and chamber music appearances at the Ravinia and Caramoor Festivals Rising Stars Series. Most recently, Mr. Kouzov made his recording debut on Naxos with three C.P.E. Bach Gamba Sonatas and a recital CD “Two Hundred Years of Cello Masterpieces” on Marquis Classics.
Mr. Kouzov has appeared in command performances before Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Andrew, Duke of York. In 2005 and 2006, he was a guest artist at the Verbier Festival, International Bach Festival (Switzerland) and Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (Germany). Additionally, he has performed at the “May of Janacek” International Festival (Czech Republic), and at the “Art-November” International Festival (Russia), and the “Kiev Summer Music Nights” International Festival, amongst others.
A consummate chamber musician, Mr. Kouzov has collaborated with Joshua Bell, Yuri Bashmet, Krzysztof Penderecki, Donald Weilerstein, Ilya Gringolts, and Pacifica Quartet among others. Mr. Kouzov is a founding and active member of the Manhattan Piano Trio, with whom he has toured extensively throughout United States and captured First Prizes at the Plowman and Yellow Springs National Chamber Music Competitions.
In addition to his concert activities, Mr. Kouzov is a devoted teacher. Currently Mr. Kouzov is an Assistant Professor of Cello at the University of Illinois. Prior to this appointment he was on faculty at the Juilliard School and Oberlin Conservatory. Mr. Kouzov holds Bachelors & Masters of Music degrees from the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, and Artist Diploma from the Juilliard School in New York. His principal teachers have included Professors Mark Reizenshtock, Victoria Yagling, Joel Krosnick, and Darrett Adkins.
“A Muslim Spy in the Paris of Louis XIV”
Alain Antoine, The University of New Mexico, Ph.D. candidate, French Studies Department
Wednesday, September 28, 3:15 p.m. The Junior Common Room
The mysterious creation of an international protagonist in a 17th century novel: Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, all but forgotten today, was a great success when first published in 1684. This epistolary novel may be the first “spy” story ever published, as well as the first to feature a Muslim protagonist, an Arab living incognito in Paris during the reign of Louis XIV and reporting his observations to the Ottoman Sultan. My talk will explore the many facets of this mysterious character, a Muslim in a Christian world, a vegetarian in a meat-eating society, a skeptic amidst the wars of religion, and ultimately a deist whose ideas presage Enlightenment thinkers.
Alain Antoine hails from France and moved to the United States in 1996. He graduated from the Liberal Arts Program at St. John’s in 2003, and from the Eastern Classics Program in 2010. His experience at St. John’s convinced him to pursue his studies and he is presently a doctoral candidate in the French Studies Department at UNM, finishing his dissertation on Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, the text he will present in his talk.
“Einstein between War and Fiction”
Jimena Canales, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Friday, September 30, 7:30 p.m.
Recent scholarship on Albert Einstein and the publication of his collected papers have presented an unprecedented opportunity for historians and philosophers of science to rethink his work. My talk will focus on three axes, “War, Fiction and Media,” to show how the cosmological lessons of Einstein’s theory of relativity—usually considered as universal and fundamental—emerged from a particular historical context. My intention is to explore the relation of science to fiction and of theoretical science to technology in order to examine the formation of rationality more broadly. The realization that no message can travel at speeds faster than light, often associated with Einstein’s theory of relativity, was tightly coupled with the development of light-based communication technologies in the twentieth century.
Jimena Canales is the author of The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson and the Debate That Changed Our Understanding of Time (Princeton University Press) voted Best Science Books for 2015 (Science Friday, NPR and brainpickings), and A Tenth of a Second: A History (University of Chicago Press). She currently holds the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in the History of Science at the University of Illinois-UC and was previously an Assistant and Associate Professor in History of Science at Harvard University. She has published widely in specialized journals (Isis, Science in Context, History of Science, the British Journal for the History of Science, and the MLN, among others) and also writes for wider audiences (The New Yorker, WIRED magazine, BBC, Aperture, and Artforum).
“The Telos of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling”
Richard McCombs, St. John’s College
Friday, October 7, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
Fear and Trembling is Kierkegaard's most exciting book, but also his most misleading and most misunderstood book. In order to understand this book well it is crucial to get clear about its telos or purpose, and to read it in the light of its purpose. In his lecture Richard McCombs argues that the telos of Fear and Trembling is to provoke readers to perceive, with admiration and horror, the greatness and heroism of faith. Mr. McCombs will also begin to show the interpretive consequences of this telos.
“Political Order and Political Decay: The American Political System in a Time of Global Upheaval”
Francis Fukuyama, Stanford University, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law
Annual Steiner Lecture
Friday, October 16, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
The major divisions in world politics today are less about democracy v. authoritarian government, than about modern v. corrupt neo-patrimonial ones. The difficulties of sustaining modern states are present in the contemporary US as well, where state capture has provoked a crisis of legitimacy and government dysfunction that has laid the ground for the populist politics of the 2016 election.
Francis Fukuyama is Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and the Mosbacher Director of FSI's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. He is professor (by courtesy) of political science.
Dr. Fukuyama has written widely on issues in development and international politics. His book, The End of History and the Last Man,was published by Free Press in 1992 and has appeared in over twenty foreign editions. His most recent book, Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy, was published in September 2014. Other books include America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, and Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity.
Francis Fukuyama received his B.A. from Cornell University in classics, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science. He was a member of the Political Science Department of the RAND Corporation, and of the Policy Planning Staff of the US Department of State. He previously taught at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University and at George Mason University's School of Public Policy. He served as a member of the President's Council on Bioethics from 2001-2004.
Dr. Fukuyama is chairman of the editorial board of The American Interest, which he helped to found in 2005. He is a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute, and a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Center for Global Development. He holds honorary doctorates from Connecticut College, Doane College, Doshisha University (Japan), Kansai University (Japan), Aarhus University (Denmark), and the Pardee Rand Graduate School. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, and a member of the advisory board for the Journal of Democracy. He is also a member of the American Political Science Association, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Pacific Council for International Affairs. He is married to Laura Holmgren and has three children.
“Speaking of the Dead: Plato’s Menexenus”
Michael Davis, Sarah Lawrence College, Department of Philosophy
Friday, October 28, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
While the annual funeral oration was a ritual unique to ancient Athens, it reflects something more universal. We human beings understand, justify, and mold ourselves in terms of a past that we, on the one hand, celebrate as a paradigm and, on the other, seek to surpass. That we praise those who have died for their country as models for how to live as good citizens has to do with our natures as temporal beings. In the Menexenus Plato playfully (Socrates has been dead for thirteen years when he offers his funeral oration) invites us to explore the implications of this temporality both for political life and for thinking.
Michael Davis is Professor of Philosophy at Sarah Lawrence College. He taught philosophy for many years in the Graduate Faculty of the New School University and in the graduate program in political theory at Fordham University. Mr. Davis’s most recent book is The Soul of the Greeks: An Inquiry. He is the translator, with Seth Benardete, of Aristotle: On Poetics and has written on a variety of philosophers from Plato to Heidegger and of literary figures from Homer to Saul Bellow. Mr. Davis is currently writing a book on the self in Plato, of which “Speaking of the Dead: On Plato’s Menexenus” will be a part.
“Evolution as a Cause”
Benjamin Liebeskind, University of Texas at Austin, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology
Friday, November 4, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
In what ways is evolution a cause of living organisms? Although modern scientific explanations are usually 'bottom-up,' biologists cannot do without 'top-down' reasoning, where the whole is prior to the part. I'll delve into modern evolutionary biology to show why this is, and discuss the implications for biology and other scientific fields. Finally, I'll briefly discuss how a better understanding of Aristotle's classic treatment of causes can inform modern biology.
Benjamin Liebeskind is a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology at the University of Texas at Austin, and a St. Johns alumnus. He works on the molecular evolution of the nervous system and the origin of animals.
Karolina Syrovatkova, piano
Friday, November 11, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
Karolina Syrovatkova will appear in the personna of Clara Schumann, offering a dramatic presentation of some aspects of her life, interspersed with piano solos by her husband Robert Schumann and by their dear friend Johannes Brahms.
Karolina Syrovatkova began her professional music studies at the Prague Conservatory in the Czech Republic. Her success at home opened doors to further studies in the United States. She received her Bachelor’s (University of Maryland), Master’s and Doctorate degrees (University of Texas at Austin) summa cum laude. Also an avid chamber musician, she won the Sidney M. Wright Endowed Presidential Scholarship Competition in Piano Accompanying. In 2014, Karolina and her husband David Chapman created a piano and guitar duo Musàdous which has been featured in festivals in Mexico and the US. Karolina has frequently appeared in concerts and master-classes in Europe, the United States and China. She played for teachers such as Claude Frank, Inon Barnatan, Barry Snyder, Andre Watts, John O’Conor, Malcolm Bilson, Kenneth Merrill, Narcis Bonet, and Dominique Merlet among others.
“Money or Love? An Introduction to Xenophon and his dialogue the Oeconomicus”
Eric Buzzetti, Concordia University, Liberal Arts College
Friday, November 18, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
The Oeconomicus of Xenophon contains a report of conversation that Socrates once had with a perfect gentleman named Ischomachos. The subject of the conversation was household-management (oikonomia). The subject included a discussion of how to make money through farming but also of how to educate one’s wife. Why was Socrates so eager to have this seemingly mundane conversation, as he reports that he was? The conversation even marked a turning point in the life of the philosopher. In this lecture, I will suggest that in his encounter with Ischomachos, Socrates was seeking clarity about the relation between what one might call the two poles of human life—the economic and the erotic. For if Ischomachos was an accomplished money-maker, the key to Socrates’s interest in him may lie in understanding how (or in what sense) he was also, paradoxically, a lover.
Mr. Buzzetti’s primary field of expertise is classical political philosophy. He is the author of Xenophon the Socratic Prince: The Argument of the Anabasis of Cyrus (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). He has also published papers on Plato, Xenophon and Leo Strauss.
“Learning to Read Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed”
Judith Seeger, St. John’s College
Friday, December 2, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
Over eight centuries ago the great Jewish scholar and philosopher Moses Maimonides wrote a book he called The Guide of the Perplexed. The work purports to provide guidance for a thoughtful person facing a crisis of faith brought on by the apparent contradictions between philosophical and scriptural teachings. Yet, despite its promising title, The Guide has resisted definitive interpretation to this day. My goal is not to provide that interpretation. It is, rather, to give a summary of the problems the book raises, to consider reasons Maimonides would have written it as he did, and then to follow a single interpretive path through this dense work to see where it leads.
“In Search of Manliness Herself in Plato’s Laches”
Leo Pickens, St. John’s College, Annapolis Director of Alumni Relations
Friday, December 9, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall
What is courage? This lecture is an attempt to gain some insight into the nature of this excellence through an examination of Plato's dialogue The Laches.
Leo Pickens graduated from St. John's College, Annapolis, in 1978. After working as a banker in Baltimore, he returned to St. John's in 1988 to serve as the Director of Athletics on the Annapolis campus, a position he held for 24 years. In 2012, he became the Director of Alumni Relations in Annapolis. This past July he joined the college's development team as the Director of Leadership Annual Gifts.