On modern college campuses, one can see two competing trends. At first glance, there is an atmosphere of relativism, in which students fear holding any belief too absolutely – about God, nation, family, and other classical subjects of loyalty and commitment. There is no truth since all is a matter of perspective. The great fear of contemporary students is not intellectual error – because no one can be proven right or wrong – but intolerance, since all perspectives have an element of truth or legitimacy.
At the same time, there is also a strong sense of growing dogmatism. Students and professors alike are outraged by anyone who doesn’t share certain political and moral orthodoxies. They are even willing to use power and protests to limit the speech of professors and other voices who don’t share their views on a range of social issues, from economic equality to LGBTQ rights to the role of religion in the public sphere.
How do these two phenomena reconcile with one another? And what does this mean for the future of free inquiry and thought in education? In this seminar, we examine some of the foundational texts, key thinkers, and historical developments to understand the intellectual experience offered on today’s leading campuses.
Dates: Oct 27, Nov 3, Nov 17, Nov 24, Dec 15, Dec 29
Dr. R.J. Snell
R.J. Snell is the director of academic programs at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, editor-in-chief of The Public Discourse, and occasional visiting instructor at Princeton University. He earned his MA in philosophy at Boston College, and his PhD in philosophy at Marquette University. Research interests include the liberal arts, ethics, natural law theory, Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic intellectual tradition, and the work of Bernard Lonergan, SJ. He is the author of Through a Glass Darkly: Bernard Lonergan and Richard Rorty on Knowing without a God’s-eye View (Marquette, 2006); Authentic Cosmopolitanism (with Steve Cone, Pickwick, 2013); The Perspective of Love: Natural Law in a New Mode (Pickwick, 2014); Acedia and Its Discontents (Angelico, 2015); and co-editor of Subjectivity: Ancient and Modern and Nature: Ancient and Modern, as well as articles, chapters, and essays in a variety of scholarly and popular venues. He and his family reside in the Princeton area.