Dean’s Lecture and Concert Series

Lectures are free and open to the public and are followed by a question-and-answer period.

Friday, December 5, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall

Mitch Miller, Vassar College, Department of Philosophy

Lecture Topic: Plato

Lecture Title: "The 'Turnings" of the Soul: the Five Mathematical Studies in Plato's Republic VII"

Lecture Description: In Book VII of the Republic, Plato has Socrates introduce the study of five mathematical disciplines as the pivotal phase in the "turning of the soul" from "what becomes" to "what is" and to "what is the brightest of what is," namely, "the Good" (518c). We will ask: what is this "turning," and how is it that these five studies, in this particular sequence, have the power to occasion it? As we will try to bring to view, there are in fact several interrelated turns that the five studies occasion, and the way they function together in guiding thought from the sensible to the intelligible yields seminal questions about the relations between sense-perceptible things and forms.

Lecturer Biography: Mitchell Miller, until 2013 the Dexter Ferry Professor in Philosophy at Vassar College, is now emeritus. He works in the history of philosophy; in recent years he has concentrated on Plato and the presocratics, but he has long-term ongoing interests in late medieval philosophy, Descartes and Leibniz, and 19th and 20th century continental philosophy. He has published two books on Plato, Plato's Parmenides: The Conversion of the Soul (Princeton 1986, Penn State ppk 1991) and The Philosopher in Plato's Statesman (Martinus Nijhoff 1980, reissued with "Dialectical Education and Unwritten Teachings in Plato's Statesman," Parmenides Publishing 2004), a number of essays on Plato, and studies of Hesiod, Parmenides, and Hegel. He has recently been at work on the Philebus, the "so-called unwritten teachings" of Plato, and, as the Platonic provocation for this inquiry, the notion of "the longer way" (Republic 435c-d and 504b-e) to the dialectical study of the Good and a more "precise grasp" of the city, the soul, and the cosmos that, he argues, Plato projects as the yield of the "longer way".

Friday, December 12, 3:15 p.m. The Great Hall

David Pengelley, New Mexico State University, Department of Mathematical Sciences

Lecture Topic: Euclid

Lecture Title: "Did Euclid Understand Fractions? Do We Understand Euclid?"

Lecture Description: What does it really mean for two fractions to be equal? How can one legitimately detect their equality? Euclid's Book VII is at the heart of this issue, but has been sorely misunderstood. We will explore a conundrum in Euclid on prime divisibility and fractions, discover a flaw, and aim to fix it in the spirit of Euclid.

Lecturer Biography: David Pengelley is professor emeritus at New Mexico State University. His
research is in algebraic topology and history of mathematics. He develops
the pedagogies of teaching with student projects and with primary historical
sources, and created a graduate course on the role of history in teaching
mathematics. He relies on student reading, writing, and mathematical
preparation before class to enable active student work to replace lecture.
He has received the Mathematical Association of America's Haimo teaching
award, loves backpacking and wilderness, is active on environmental issues,
and has become a fanatical badminton player.

Friday, January 30, 7:30 p.m. The Great Hall

Michael Fried, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

Lecture Topic: Euclid and Apollonius

Lecture Title: The Power of a Point: Euclid's Elements and Steiner's Geometrical Reflections

Lecture Description: In this lecture, I will look at how the last three propositions in Book III of the Elements become transformed in the hands of the 19th century geometer, Jacob Steiner, in his 1826 work, "Some Geometrical Reflections" (Einige geometrische Betrachtungen). In fact, however, I am after much smaller game. The very smallest or rather simplest thing: a point. One actually goes quite far in understanding the difference between ancient and modern mathematics when one understands the different ways a point is treated. Because it has no parts, as Euclid tells us, a point can have no property other than being somewhere or being the limit of something. By the 19th century, however, a point becomes an element in a "space," and, more importantly, it can be assigned a number or numbers. Steiner's "power of a point" in his "Geometrical Reflections" is an example of this and serves well to bring out the difference between the modern and pre-modern conceptions of a point, among other things.

Lecturer Biography: Michael N. Fried (1960–) is associate professor in the Program for Science and Technology Education at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. His undergraduate degree in the liberal arts is from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland where he read the "great books," books he still reads and loves. He received his M.Sc. in applied mathematics from SUNY at Stony Brook and his Ph.D. in the history of mathematics from the Cohn Institute at Tel Aviv University. His books include Apollonius of Perga's Conica: Text, Context, Subtext (Brill, 2001), and Edmond Halley's Reconstruction of the Lost Book of Apollonius's Conics: Translation and Commentary (Springer 2011), as well as his translation of Book IV of the Conics (originally published as a separate volume by Green Lion Press in 2002). He also works in mathematics education, and has recently edited with Tommy Dreyfus, Mathematics and Mathematics Education: Searching for Common Ground (Springer, 2014)

 

Upcoming Lectures

Friday, December 5, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Mitch Miller, Vassar College, Department of Philosophy

Friday, December 12, 3:15 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
David Pengelley, New Mexico Student University, Department of Mathematical Sciences
Professor Pengelley will discuss Euclid.

Friday, January 23, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Concert by Pro Musica

Friday, January 30, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Michael Fried, Ben Gurion University of the Negev
Professor Fried will discuss Euclid and Apollonius

Friday, February 6, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Alice MacLachlan, York University, Department of Philosophy
Professor MacLachlan will discuss forgiveness.

Friday, February 20, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Michael Zuckert, University of Norte Dame, Department of Political Science
Professor Zuckert will discuss Lincoln.

Friday, March 6, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Tobin Craig, Michigan State University, James Madison College
The topic of this lecture is Bacon and technology.

Friday, April 3, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
James Onstadd and Nathan Salazar in concert.

Friday, April 10, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Walter Brogan, Villanova University, Philosophy Department

Friday, April 17, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Annual Worrell Lecture

Friday, April 24, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Richard Levin, University of California, Davis, Department of English
Professor Levin will discuss Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Friday, May 1, 7:30 p.m.
Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
James Conant, University of Chicago, Department of Philosophy
Professor Conant will discuss Wittgenstein.