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John Bowlin (Princeton Theological Seminary): “Tolerance, Resentment, and Virtue”

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 at ***6:00pm***

We’re all supposed to admire tolerance, cultivate it in our children, and praise its exercise, and yet resentment toward tolerance abounds. No doubt, many of us consider its practices and attitudes indispensable aspects of a just response to the hard facts of pluralism, but dig a little deeper and one finds discontent, left and right, widespread and growing. This paper offers an explanation for this ambivalence, one that trades on the fact that tolerance is a virtue with semblances and imperfections that nevertheless generate its act.

John R. Bowlin is the Rimmer and Ruth de Vries Associate Professor of Reformed Theology and Public Life at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society of Christian Ethics, and the Society for Values in Higher Education, and has served on the editorial board of the Journal of Religious Ethics since 2003. His areas of specialization are Christian ethics, moral philosophy, social ethics and criticism, and the history of moral theology, and his courses cover ethics and the problem of evil, ethics and politics in Augustine, war and Christian conscience, and friendship, love, and justice. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and is the author of On Tolerance and Forbearance: Moral Inquiries Natural and Supernatural (forthcoming), and Contingency and Fortune in Aquinas’s Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 1999).

This lecture is free and open to the public.

Edwin Curley (Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Michigan): “From Augustine to Spinoza and Locke: Answering the Christian Case against Religious Liberty”

This lecture draws on a book in progress which will argue that many of the most popular arguments for religious toleration are inadequate because they fail to take proper account of the powerful arguments which have been made in the Christian tradition for restricting religious liberty.

Professor Curley is best known for his work on Spinoza. He published the first volume of his edition of Spinoza’s collected works in 1985 and is currently working on the second volume; he has also written two books on Spinoza (Spinoza’s Metaphysics, Harvard, 1969 and Behind the Geometrical Method, Princeton, 1988) and is working on a third, which will focus on the Theological-Political Treatise. He has written on a wide variety of topics in 17th century philosophy–spanning metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of religion, moral philosophy and political philosophy, and dealing with the other major figures of the period (Descartes, Hobbes, Locke and Leibniz) in addition to Spinoza. Notable here are his book Descartes against the Skeptics (Harvard, 1978) and his edition of Hobbes’ Leviathan (Hackett, 1994).

Currently Professor Curley is most interested in the history of early modern political theory, the development of heterodox religious ideas, and the associated development of the ideal of religious toleration. These interests have led him to expand into the 16th and 18th centuries, with work on Montaigne and Montesquieu. He is a past president of the American Philosophical Association, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a recipient of fellowships from the NEH, the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Humanities Center.

This lecture is free and open to the public.

Ian Buruma (Bard College): “Tolerance Under Fire”

Liberalism in the classic sense of tolerance, individual freedom, and moderation, is once again being attacked. Radicals of all kinds, whether left or right, have always despised liberals, for being wishy-washy, selfish, boring, bourgeois, and weak in the face of adversity. Between the two World Wars, Communists as well as the hard right tried to crush liberalism. Now it is often the self-appointed defenders of Western Civilization against the Islamic threat who attack liberals for tolerating intolerance, for being soft, appeasing, and cowardly. The talk will be a defense of classic liberalism. I will argue that liberalism does not have to be dull, wishy-washy, or cowardly, but that liberals are in fact the best defenders of open societies against all forms of tyranny. Henry R. Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights, and Journalism at Bard College, Ian Buruma was educated in Holland and Japan, where he studied history, Chinese literature, and Japanese cinema. In 1970s Tokyo, he had a career in documentary filmmaking and photography. In the 1980s, he worked as a journalist, and spent much of his early writing career travelling and reporting from all over Asia. Buruma now writes about a broad range of political and cultural subjects for major publications, most frequently for The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Corriere della Sera, The Financial Times, and The Guardian. Buruma has been a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin, the Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington D.C., and St. Antony’s College, Oxford, Ian Buruma was awarded the 2008 international Erasmus Prize for making “an especially important contribution to culture, society or social science in Europe, and was voted as one of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals by the Foreign Policy/Prospect magazines (May/June 2008). Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance (Penguin USA) was the winner of The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for the Best Current Interest Book, and Princeton University Press has published Taming the Gods: Religion and Democracy on Three Continents in March 2010, based on the Stafford Little lectures given at Princeton in 2008. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Noah Feldman (Harvard Law School): “Madison’s Politics of Religion Revisited”

Noah Feldman specializes in constitutional studies, with particular emphasis on the relationship between law and religion, constitutional design, and the history of legal theory. Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School, he is also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2003 Feldman served as senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and subsequently advised members of the Iraqi Governing Council on the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law or interim constitution. Feldman is the author of five books, including Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton University Press 2008), Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem – And What We Should Do About It (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2005), and What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building (Princeton University Press 2004).

David D. Hall (Harvard Divinity School): “Charitable Hatred? The Civil State and Liberty of Conscience in Early America”

England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was, as a British historian has recently noted, “mostly a persecuting society,” justifying state imposed uniformity as, to quote another British historian, a gesture of “charitable hatred”: to be held within the boundaries of uniformity and orthodoxy was presumably good for the soul. Yet this system was rife with contradictions; and on the New England side, where the customary story is also one of suppression and uniformity, these contradictions are unusually visible.

David Hall, Bartlett Research Professor of New England Church History (Harvard Divinity School), is a cultural historian whose teaching interests span the entirety of American history. Since the mid-1980s, his research interests have included rethinking religion and culture in terms of “practice” (see, e.g, Lived Religion in America: Toward a History of Practice [1997]); the history of cultural criticism and the idea of culture in nineteenth-century America; and reconsidering the religious history of early New England from the standpoint of popular religion (see, e.g., Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment [1989]).

Tariq Ramadan (Oxford University): “Beyond Tolerance: Islam and Pluralism”

A world-renowned Muslim scholar and public intellectual, Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University (Oriental Institute, St Antony’s College). He also teaches at the Faculty of Theology at Oxford, is Senior Research Fellow at Doshisha University (Kyoto), and is President of the European Muslim Network (EMN), a think tank in Brussels. Through his writings and lectures he has contributed to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world, as well as on social justice and dialogue between civilizations. One of the leading Muslim intellectuals of our age, Tariq Ramadan is the author of numerous articles and over 20 books including: “What I Believe,” “Radical Reform, Islamic Ethics and Liberation” and his forthcoming book “A Quest for Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism.”

Susanne Sreedhar (Boston University): “Hobbes and Locke on Toleration”

Prominent in common understandings of the philosophical history of toleration sits a familiar story: the 17th century as battleground, with Locke, the champion of individual rights of conscience and proponent of separation of church and state facing off against the dreaded enemy, Hobbes, whose all-powerful Leviathan leaves no space for dissent – political, religious or otherwise. This familiar tale has a happy ending: the victory of the former over the latter paved the way for modern theories of toleration.

Of course, the victor in this tale has been scrutinized as much as he has been venerated; Locke’s theory has received both positive and negative commentary by subsequent readers. Hobbes’s views on toleration, on the other hand, have received little attention in the years since. It is as though Hobbes’s defeat left him unworthy of criticism rather than subject to it. Most contemporary debates about the nature and limits of toleration – and there are many – begin by assuming what Hobbes explicitly denies: namely, that the state should not impose religion on its people. This paper challenges the contours of the familiar story, reframing the received understanding of Hobbes’s position and, thus, disrupting a too-easy telling of his relationship to Locke.

Susanne Sreedhar is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Boston University.

Professor Jose Casanova (Georgetown University): “The Secular, Secularizations, and Secularisms”

Respondent: Adam Seligman, Institute for Culture, Religion & World Affairs Boston University

Announcing the first in a series of lectures co-sponsored by the Institute for Philosophy & Religion and the Institute on Culture, Religion & World Affairs. The series “Toleration and Freedom in a Global Age” begins with José Casanova of Georgetown University presenting “The Secular, Secularizations, and Secularisms.”

José Casanova is Professor of Sociology and Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. Previously he served as Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research in New York for twenty years, from 1987 to 2007. He has published widely in the areas of sociological theory, religion and politics, transnational migration, and globalization. His most important work, Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago, 1994) has appeared in Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Polish and Arabic editions and is forthcoming in Indonesian, Farsi and Chinese. He is presently working on two main projects, “Rethinking Secularization: A Global Comparative Perspective” and “Transnational Migration, Transnational Religion and Diversity.”

IPR Announces Lecture Series and Course for 2010-11: Toleration and Freedom in a Global Age

From head scarves to school prayer, the intersection of religion and politics raises important philosophical questions. How do American and European approaches to the issues of toleration and religious freedom compare? What are the best historical and contemporary arguments for toleration in an increasingly secular society?

As in previous years, the IPR will offer in parallel to the public lecture series a seminar course for graduates and undergraduates that will incorporate lectures in the course design (PH456/656, RN 397/697, STH TT819). For more information, contact Professor Allen Speight, Institute for Philosophy and Religion, casp8@bu.edu.

(Course times for Fall 2010: Wednesdays 5-8 pm)