In his famous book The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom wrote that modern college students all held relativism as a moral postulate. For them, relativism is “the only plausible stance” and was “the great insight of our times.” But just how can relativism—the position that either there is nothing to be known or that we cannot know it—be a moral demand? Isn’t that a contradiction? In this seminar, we examine the theory and practice of relativism, and study how to overcome relativism. How it is that we actually can and do know reality, even while admitting that not everything is certain, or obvious, or monolithic when it comes to knowing?
Dr. R.J. Snell
R. J. Snell directs the Center on Ethics and the University at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, and is senior fellow at the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good. Prior to those appointments he was Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Philosophy Program at Eastern University and the Templeton Honors College. 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.
Meet the Instructor
Tikvah aims to make all of our courses available to as many qualified students as possible. In the event that Tikvah needs to add additional sections, this course may be taught by a different faculty member with a similarly high level of expertise.