Contesting Academic Freedom: Descartes, Spinoza, and the Limits of Toleration

Description

The principle of libertas philosophandi (or freedom of philosophising) was widely debated in seventeenth century Europe. Should philosophers and other academics be allowed to write and teach without any boundaries given by religion and politics or should only those philosophies be allowed that were deemed acceptable by the ruling authorities? And if philosophical freedom was granted, who should have the right to exercise it, only members of universities or everybody? Many of the answers that were given to these questions led to the modern concepts of academic freedom and freedom of speech.

The philosophies of René Descartes (1596-1650) and Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677) became deeply embroiled in these debates. Not only were many of their respective positions among those that were frequently regarded as transgressing the limits of philosophical freedom, Descartes and Spinoza engaged in the debate themselves and developed their own concepts of libertas philosophandi.

This lecture will discuss the role Descartes and Spinoza played in the debate about academic freedom in the seventeenth century. It will focus on the Dutch Republic, the state in which both philosophers lived and wrote their major works. The Dutch Republic had become known for its religious and intellectual tolerance during the seventeenth century. Yet, even within the young republic toleration had its limits, not the least because of earlier internal conflicts about diverging religious ideas.

Dr Gerhard Wiesenfeldt is a lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Science Programme at the University of Melbourne.

The lecture will argue that in the course of the debates the ideas of Descartes and Spinoza on philosophical freedom were regarded as distinct concepts proposing different interpretations of libertas philosophandi.

When
Tuesday, 11 August 2015, 6:30 pm

Where
Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, The University of Melbourne, Parkville

Booking
Posted in Events, Historical and Philosophical Studies

Politics and the Idea of Evil

Description

The Wednesday Lectures Hosted by Raimond Gaita

When politicians use the word ‘evil’ rather than one of the many expressions with which we record our sense that something is morally terrible, people often become uneasy and sometimes hostile. They do so because they believe the use of the term almost always betrays moral simplification and a desire to demonise those who are accused of being or having done evil. Some people believe this though they have no hesitation in using strong moral language in politics. Scepticism about the use of the term ‘evil’ does not entail scepticism about the need for severe moral judgement in politics.

Raimond Gaita is Professorial Fellow at Melbourne Law School and the Faculty of Arts, the University of Melbourne and Emeritus Professor of Moral Philosophy at King’s College London.

When
Wednesday, 29 July 2015, 6:30 pm

Where
Public Lecture Theatre, Old Arts Building

Booking
Posted in Events, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Charlotte Smith’s ‘Beachy Head’: A Lecture and Recital

Description

This session will take the form of a lecture recital, with Beth offering reflections on each part of the poem that Amanda has set to music, Amanda playing piano, and Jeannie singing the words. The lecture recital itself will run 45 minutes to an hour and we welcome discussion afterwards: What did people hear in this "re-reading" of Smith's grand and complex poem? What is gained and what is lost by re-reading literature through another discipline, such as music? We also welcome questions on the process of collaboration itself.

When
Saturday, 25 July 2015, 5:30 pm

Where
Gryphon Gallery, 1888 Building, The University of Melbourne

Booking
Posted in Culture and Communication, Events

A Perilous Change of Correspondence: Romanticism after [Nature]

Description

The Romantic period has been called “the very advent of the Anthropocene” (Morton). In contemporary literary studies, the work of Bruno Latour has brought to light the “perilous changes” wrought by the Anthropocene. What happens to Romanticism, and above all to the Romantic figure of “Nature,” when we re-read them from this vantage point? Along with the sublime, this lecture revisits three mountains and two Yale critics, Hartman and de Man, whose work is synonymous with Wordsworth’s poetry and the rhetoric of Romanticism. Turning the tables, how might re-reading this powerful strand in Romantic studies provide a route to approaching Latour’s recent writing? Mary will argue that re-reading Latourian [Nature] brings into view the work done by Romantic tropes—including the trope of anthropomorphism—in his writing.

“A Perilous Change of Correspondence” is a keynote for the conference on “Re-reading Romanticism: Imagination, Emotion, Nature, and Things,” which will be held at the University of Melbourne from 23-25 July. Details of the conference are available at the conference website (http://conference.rsaa.net.au).

IMAGE: Mt Snowdon. Source: http://flickr.com/photos/eifion/107730003/ Author:Eifion (http://flickr.com/people/eifion/)

When
Thursday, 23 July 2015, 6:30 pm

Where
Macmahon Ball Theatre, Old Arts Building, Ground Floor, The University of Melbourne

Booking
Posted in Culture and Communication, Events

2015 Ernest Scott Prize Winners Announced

The Faculty of Arts, in conjunction with The Australian Historical Association, is excited to announce the joint winners of the 2015 Ernest Scott Prize are Alan Atkinson and Tom Brooking.

Alan Atkinson, The Europeans in Australia: Volume 3: Nation, UNSW Press, 2014.

Atkinson 2014

In the third and final volume of his history of The Europeans in Australia, Alan Atkinson pursues his inquiry into relationships between community and communication in Australia during the period between 1870 and the end of the First World War. The idea of ‘Australia’ nourished the hopes of those who judged their progress in moral or spiritual terms as it took shape in ways political, especially in the process of federation.

Showing how maps made people think differently, reading lessons changed accents and telephones connected voices, Atkinson’s work is akin to a ‘bottom up’ Australian version of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities. He enables us to sense change through evolving notions of manhood and womanhood, and moves nimbly between colonies and schools, families and parliaments, Aboriginal-White frontier violence and urban clubs. All the while, he says, Australians were feeling their way towards a marriage between continental nationhood and moral purpose.

Professor Alan Atkinson receives his award from Professor Joy Damousi.

Professor Alan Atkinson receives his award from Professor Joy Damousi.

Nation is organised mostly by considering Australians wondering and striving in relation to Enlightenment ideals in their distinctive circumstances. Atkinson turns to lead figures in this wrestle, such as Alfred Deakin and Rose Scott, and joins them with glimpses of Australia as seen from regional newspapers, medical pamphlets, and diverse other sources.  His great skill in exposing and reflecting on different forms of Australian conversation is to invite us into the realms by which Australians understood themselves and the times in which they lived. He achieves intimacy with his many characters by giving them their voices and by standing, as an author, in a close and sympathetic listening position. The result is a rich, and often audible, vista of humanity.

Congratulations Alan.

 

Tom Brooking, Richard Seddon, King of God’s Own: The Life and Times of New Zealand’s Longest-Serving Prime Minister, Penguin Books, Auckland, 2014.

Brooking 2014

Tom Brooking has produced a handsome, richly illustrated biography of Richard Seddon, New Zealand’s longest-serving Prime Minister (1893-1906) and arguably the country’s greatest leader. As Brooking shows in detail, Seddon was a defining leader through times of policy reform that did much to define the social contract in New Zealand. He was not always the primary agent of change, and followed slowly rather than led the move towards the vote for women, but his dedication to reducing inequality and building a robust role for the state in this ongoing task was unstinting. It extended to important infrastructure such as the railways, institutions such as the Bank of New Zealand, and polices ranging from pensions and housing to energy and environmental protection.

One of Seddon’s great strengths was his preparedness to strike out on foot through the electorates, and engage with those who would seek to speak with him. He was a big man, and through the pages of this big, meticulously-researched book (including a rich, 36-page Bibliography) we feel his strides. The strong connection with people underpinned his transformation into popular and even populist leader. As Brooking shows, he was always solidly grounded too, in his formative experiences of growing up in a rugged masculine environment and cutting his political teeth by championing miners’ rights (while developing an enduring hostility to Chinese immigrants) and better education, roads and services for the west coast.

Professor Tom Brooking with Professor Joy Damousi

Professor Tom Brooking receives his prize from Professor Joy Damousi.

Seddon was known for his dedication to family, and a talking point was his appointment of his daughter Mary Stuart as his private secretary. As Brooking makes clear, his wife Louisa, Mary Stuart and five other daughters, played quiet but important roles in relation to women’s suffrage and other issues.

Brooking’s book-ends, his reflections on how Seddon measures up against others for the claim to being New Zealand’s greatest Prime Minister, are perhaps unnecessary. This is a biography fit for the ‘King of God’s Own’.

Congratulations Tom.

 

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The 2015 Ernest Scott prize is worth approximately $13,000 and was judged by Associate Professor Katie Pickles (University of Canterbury) and Professor David Lowe (Deakin University).

The following publications were shortlisted for the prize, and are also highly commended:

Christopher Pugsley, A bloody road home: WWII and New Zealand’s Heroic Second Division, Penguin NZ, 2014.

Pugsley 2014

This is an original and innovative work that draws upon and combines a vast and diverse range of sources to tell the history of the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2 NZEF) during World War Two.

While the intention is to comprehensively capture all levels of participation, from general to private soldier, Pugsley’s command and interpretation of scholarship on military leadership, training and strategy is a persistent theme through the book.

Detailed, shrewd and masterful, this is history at a most comprehensive, intense and energetic level.

Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney and Aroha Harris, Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated History, BWB Bridget Williams Books, 2014.

Anderson, Binney & Harris 2014

This mighty illustrated history manages to successfully negotiate a pathway that offers a source-rich comprehensive history of Maori, along with leading scholarship. It skilfully incorporates and draws from a wide variety of scholarly perspectives to come up with a wholly new understanding of a Maori past.  This past runs from ancient origins to the early twenty-first century.

Tangata Whenua has managed to achieve a result that is greater than the sum of the parts contained within the pages. It renders the colonial past complex and worthy of challenge, and it opens up discussion concerning the present and the future.

Elizabeth Nelson, Homefront hostilities: The First World War and Domestic Violence, Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2014.

Nelson 2014

This insightful and sensitive study of domestic violence that occurred in Victoria before, during and after the First World War powerfully challenges and adjusts previous historical understanding. The book successfully shows the limits of the terms ‘war front’ and the ‘home front’, moving beyond the public privilege often accorded to these spheres into the private and hidden domestic domain. Significantly, through this study, Nelson is able to reveal and reconceptualise the relationship between World War One and domestic violence in Australia.

Nelson carefully shows how war could affect men’s domestic violence towards women, from the onset of physical and mental exhaustion to broader societal fears of disempowerment. She offers insight into the societal norms of the times that could lead to the silencing and toleration of domestic violence.

This is a brave book. It draws upon solid research to reveal and examine an important topic.

Congratulations to all of the short-listed authors. Read the full short list citations here.

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The Ernest Scott Prize is awarded annually to work based upon original research which is, in the opinion of the examiners, the most distinguished contribution to the history of Australia or New Zealand or to the history of colonisation. Click here for more information about the Ernest Scott Prize.

Posted in Uncategorized

Contesting Academic Freedom: Descartes, Spinoza, and the Limits of Tolerati

Description

The principle of libertas philosophandi (or freedom of philosophising) was widely debated in seventeenth century Europe. Should philosophers and other academics be allowed to write and teach without any boundaries given by religion and politics or should only those philosophies be allowed that were deemed acceptable by the ruling authorities? And if philosophical freedom was granted, who should have the right to exercise it, only members of universities or everybody? Many of the answers that were given to these questions led to the modern concepts of academic freedom and freedom of speech.

The philosophies of René Descartes (1596-1650) and Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677) became deeply embroiled in these debates. Not only were many of their respective positions among those that were frequently regarded as transgressing the limits of philosophical freedom, Descartes and Spinoza engaged in the debate themselves and developed their own concepts of libertas philosophandi.

This lecture will discuss the role Descartes and Spinoza played in the debate about academic freedom in the seventeenth century. It will focus on the Dutch Republic, the state in which both philosophers lived and wrote their major works. The Dutch Republic had become known for its religious and intellectual tolerance during the seventeenth century. Yet, even within the young republic toleration had its limits, not the least because of earlier internal conflicts about diverging religious ideas.

Dr Gerhard Wiesenfeldt is a lecturer in the History and Philosophy of Science Programme at the University of Melbourne.

The lecture will argue that in the course of the debates the ideas of Descartes and Spinoza on philosophical freedom were regarded as distinct concepts proposing different interpretations of libertas philosophandi.

When
Tuesday, 11 August 2015, 6:30 pm

Where
Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, The University of Melbourne, Parkville

Booking
Posted in Events, Historical and Philosophical Studies

History at the Crossroads: A Melbourne Story

Description

For the urban historian, writing a new history of Melbourne is rich with possibilities and provocations. In this lecture Professor Andrew May will draw on examples from his current project to discuss the interpretive power of urban history to cast light on the historical relationships between people, places and institutions. He will also reprise two and a half decades of active engagement as a writer, heritage consultant, encyclopedist, exhibition curator, and digital and new media practitioner, to reflect on the role of the historian in the contemporary city.

When
Thursday, 17 September 2015, 6:30 pm

Where
Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, The University of Melbourne, Parkville

Booking
Posted in Events, Historical and Philosophical Studies

The Smithsonian Institution’s Provenance Research Initiative

Description

This lecture will give an overview of the Smithsonian Institution’s Provenance Research Initiative. As a leader within the area of provenance research and theory, Jane Milosch (Director, Provenance Research Initiative) is an unparalleled example to curators and the wider museum sector. Provenance research provides a powerful lens through which to look at and learn about art, the history of collecting, and museums. The Smithsonian Provenance Research Initiative (SPRI) aims to expand its focus beyond the WWII era, to assist with current provenance issues, and to explore the implications of provenance research for art history and connoisseurship. We anchor the museum in its core missions: stewardship, education, and appreciation of all cultures.

When
Tuesday, 14 July 2015, 4:00 pm

Where
Malaysia Theatre, Melbourne School of Design

Booking
Posted in Events, Historical and Philosophical Studies

Patriotism in War and Peace

Description

Patriotism is most fervently displayed in times of war and impending war. Even during times of peace, patriotism is often expressed in commemorations of war and in ceremonies involving the military.

Is patriotism warlike? Does patriotism lust for violence? Or is there an achievable form of patriotism grounded in respect for humanity in general, and aimed at achieving peace?

This talk traces a series of philosophical arguments about the connection between patriotism and war, asking along the way what values and beliefs characterise patriotism, how patriotism is cultivated and used, and how patriotism is manifested in Australia. The great danger of patriotism is not so much its inherent connection with violence as its tendency to suppress reason – and hence its tendency to suppress a crucial form of protection against ill-considered and unjustified war.

Simon Keller is a Professor of Philosophy at Victoria University, Wellington.

When
Wednesday, 2 September 2015, 6:30 pm

Where
Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, Parkville

Booking
Posted in Events, Historical and Philosophical Studies

What’s the best way to reform Australian federal democracy?

Description

The John Button Foundation and the Melbourne School of Government invite you to join Laureate Professor Emeritus Cheryl Saunders (AO) and ABC Radio National host, Mr Jonathan Green, as they discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by the current reform of Australia’s federal democracy.

Professor Saunders is Australia’s leading constitutional law expert and will argue that Australia’s basic democratic principles and practices provide the best guide to federalism reform.

Jonathan Green, the host of Sunday Extra on ABC Radio National, is the former editor of The Drum and his latest book is The Year My Politics Broke. Jonathan Green has worked in public radio, at Crikey, The Canberra Times, Melbourne Herald, Herald Sun, Sunday Herald and The Age.

This public event also provides the audience with the opportunity to actively engage in a discussion about the issues raised in the Commonwealth Government’s Green Paper on the reform of the Australian federation.

The discussion will commence at 6.30pm sharp with refreshments served afterwards in the historic Yarra Room, the former Council Chamber for the City of Melbourne.

When
Tuesday, 14 July 2015, 6:30 pm

Where
Swanston Room, Melbourne Town Hall, 90-120 Swanston St, Melbourne

Booking
Posted in Events, Government