What is Right?
June 9, 2017 | By Tim Pratt
When Matthew Reiner was attending St. John’s College in Annapolis, he loved to attend the Friday night lectures.
The weekly gatherings in Francis Scott Key Auditorium give speakers a chance to talk about a variety of topics and share different viewpoints, often related to Program readings. They’re followed by robust discussions.
During the summers, when Reiner (A05) was living in Annapolis, he also enjoyed many of the Wednesday night lectures hosted by the Graduate Institute.
Now an adjunct instructor at the University of Dallas, Reiner is preparing to return to Annapolis to deliver his own lecture as part of the Summer Wednesday Night Lecture Series. His lecture, titled “What is Right? A Question of Thomas Aquinas,” will kick off the Wednesday night series on June 14.
“It’s a great honor,” Reiner says. “In a way, it’s like a dream because of how much I enjoyed them when I was there.”
Reiner came to St. John’s in January 2002 after spending two years at Virginia Tech. St. John’s offered something different—a setting where he could read the great books and discuss literature, philosophy and other topics at length.
Reiner enjoyed his time at the college. Beyond playing intramural sports and helping friends with some of the Johnnie traditions, such as senior prank, he participated in rogue seminars and study groups.
The books he read and skills he picked up along the way would help him immensely in the following years.
“That approach to primary texts is applicable to anything,” he says. “Whether you’re considering political discourse, something natural or a film … to ponder and discuss what was said or observed on its own merits is an uncommon joy, and necessary.”
Reiner headed to the University of Dallas after he graduated from St. John’s. It’s a Catholic-affiliated great books university with some similarities to St. John’s, but also many differences, such as the classroom and course structures.
Reiner received his master’s degree in politics and is nearly finished his dissertation to receive a PhD, also in politics, from the university. He also serves frequently as an adjunct instructor, teaching Principles of American Politics.
Although Reiner has given talks at academic conferences and in the classroom, his June 14 lecture on Aquinas at St. John’s will be his first public lecture. He’s excited about the talk, in which he will discuss Aquinas’ account of right, and will attempt to show its place within his overall moral theology. He’s happy to return to his alma mater.
“St. John’s was amazing,” he says. “The education I got there, that exposure, that constant experience of the challenge of understanding another person’s thoughts has been an irreplaceable benefit in my own academic work.”
On June 21, Reiner’s former roommate at St. John’s, Ian Blaustein, will deliver a lecture titled “The Self-Deception Problem” as part of the Wednesday night lecture series. The events begin at 7:30 p.m. in the King William Room of the Barr-Buchanan Center.
Read more about the Summer Wednesday Night Lecture Series.