Each summer, the Program of Liberal Studies and General Program alumni/ae gather on Notre Dame's campus, eager to engage their teachers, the authors of the Great Books.
The Program of Liberal Studies coordinates the events which are centered on seminars that explore the week's theme.
THE FIFTEENTH ANNUAL
PLS/GP SUMMER SYMPOSIUM
JUNE 2-7, 2013
“Traditions of Moral Inquiry”
The annual PLS Alumni Summer Symposium for 2013 will be held from Sunday, June 2 to Friday, June 7. The theme this year is “Traditions of Moral Inquiry,” a focus inspired by Alisdair MacIntyre’s reflections on philosophical traditions in Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry. MacIntyre is arguably the most prominent Catholic moral philosopher of the late twentieth century, and Three Rival Versions offers an excellent introduction to his views both on philosophy and education, including his skepticism about Great Books programs. Besides reading MacIntyre himself, we will examine several texts that complement or challenge his perspective, thereby setting the stage for a rich dialogue across seminars during the week.
There will be two week-long seminars in this year’s Symposium. The first, given by Professor Tom Stapleford, will focus on MacIntyre’s philosophy; and the second, given by Professor Henry Weinfield, will explore the moral dimensions of literature through the work of the great French author Gustave Flaubert, especially his nineteenth century novel Madame Bovary. Professor Phillip Sloan will give a three-day seminar on “Science, Encyclopedia, and the Liberal Arts” that will explore several themes raised by MacIntyre through short readings from several authors of the Great Books (Bacon, Diderot, Rousseau, &Whewell) and one self-professed “Great Bookie”: Professor Otto Bird. Professor Walter Nicgorski will offer a three-day seminar on selected writings of Aristotle, examining whether Aristotle should be read (as MacIntyre proposes) as the originator of a “tradition.” Professor Robert Goulding will give a two-day seminar on Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, a text that heavily influenced MacIntyre’s argument. And finally, Rev. Nicholas Ayo will offer a one-day seminar on “Changes in the Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church,” while Dr. Matt Dowd and Professor Felicitas Munzel will continue our examination of the implications of modern physics. (The course descriptions for all of these seminars follow at the end of this message,)
I. Week-long Seminar
Alasdair MacIntyre’s Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy, and Tradition—Thomas Stapleford
These essays are the revised and published version of MacIntyre’s Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology at the University of Edinburgh in 1988. Delivered after his two major books, After Virtue and Whose Justice? Whose Rationality, these lectures present MacIntyre’s diagnosis of the systematic flaws in contemporary moral discussions and the roots of these flaws in the history of moral philosophy. MacIntyre returns to this history to illuminate his own perspective (Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy) and what he sees as its two main rivals: the positivist, “encyclopedic” approach that arose in the Enlightenment and the postmodernist “genealogy” of Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault. In the process, he reflects on the links between the structure of contemporary academia and the fruitlessness of moral debate, sketching an alternative vision that would enable a more authentic and productive intellectual engagement
Text: Alisdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry (University of Notre Dame Press, 1991)
Flaubert and the Problem of Interpretation—Henry Weinfield
In this week-long seminar, we shall read and discuss three works by the nineteenth-century French author, Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary (1857), which is generally considered one of the greatest literary masterpieces of the period, and two stories from his collection Three Tales (1877), “The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaler” and “A Simple Heart.” Although Madame Bovary was prosecuted for immortality by the French government when it was first published, Flaubert’s novel is in fact a profoundly moral work of art, though one that illustrates the difficulties and complexities involved in making moral judgments and that refuses to countenance simplistic answers to moral questions. A work of the highest artistic integrity (Flaubert is famous for his painstaking struggle to arrive at “le mot juste” – the precise word or phrase), it can serve as a valuable literary counterpart to the philosophical problems that Alasdair MacIntyre confronts in Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, which is the focal point of this year’s Alumni Symposium. Madame Bovary is short enough to allow us to consider two other works by Flaubert, both of them masterpieces of the short story genre, and so the seminar will also serve as an introduction to Flaubert’s writing in general.
There are many translations of Flaubert. The ones listed below are in my opinion the best:
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, translated by Mildred Marmur. Signet Classic Edition.
----- . Three Tales, translated by Walter F. Cobb. Signet Classic Edition.
II. Shorter Seminars
Science, Encyclopedia, and Liberal Education—Phillip Sloan
Our focus this summer on central themes generated by Alasdair MacIntyre’s Three Rival Versions of Moral Inquiry: Encyclopedia, Genealogy, and Tradition suggests a parallel reading in the texts chosen for this series of three discussions. MacIntyre’s approach to the questions of the modern university and the intellectual inquiry of the humanities as discussions between three mutually incompatible positions, which he characterizes as “Encyclopedia,” “Genealogy,” and “Tradition,” resemble in several respects some of the issues that motivated the founder of GP-PLS, Otto Bird, to write a somewhat similar book earlier book on the nature of liberal education in 1976, Cultures in Conflict. This summarized some of his fundamental reasoning in creating the General Program of Liberal Education, as it was first named, in 1950. In this work Bird developed a somewhat different characterization of rival traditions at issue in the modern intellectual debate: 1) The Literary-Humanistic ideal of Antiquity, represented most clearly by Cicero; 2) The Theological Ideal of the Middle Ages, particularly developed in Thomism; and 3) The Scientific Ideal, developed most clearly by Bacon and “Encyclopedism.” These he envisioned as the conversations to be put into dialogue in a program like PLS. Details are described in the attached Syllabus.
“Aristotle: Common Sense or a Tradition?”—Walter Nicgorski
Session I: Nicomachean Ethics Book I, Book X.6 to the end
Session II: Politics Book I
(note to those enrolling: any translations available to you are acceptable. If you are going to purchase the books and know some Greek, consider buying the bilingual editions published by the Loeb Classical Library. Otherwise, purchase Martin Ostwald’s translation of the Ethics and Carnes Lord’s of the Politics which are fully referenced below.
Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Edited and translated by Martin Ostwald. Indianapolis and London. Library of the Liberal Arts, Bobbs-Merrill and Pearson, 1962.
Aristotle. The Politics. Edited and translated by Carnes Lord. Chicago. University of Chicago Press, 1984.
Changes in the Moral Teachings of the Catholic Church—Nicholas Ayo
One session: article published in Theological Studies that reviews the changes over time in the moral teachings of the Catholic Church; specifically the author sets out to “describe four large examples of such changes in the areas of usury, marriage, slavery, and religious freedom, and then analyze how Catholic theology has dealt with them.”
Further Discussions on the Implications of Modern Physics—Felicitas Munzel and Matthew Dowd
For our session of the summer alumni week, Felicitas and I will be using the book, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory, by David J. Chalmers. It is available via Amazon at:
We will concentrate our discussion on chapter 10, "The Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics." This chapter will assume some familiarity with the issues of modern physics that we have discussed in prior summers. It will not be necessary that participants read the whole book.
MacIntyre’s Reading of the Philosophy of Science—Robert Goulding
Alasdair MacIntyre’s encounter with certain writers in the philosophy and sociology of science marked a turning point in his own intellectual development. In reading, in particular, the critical works of Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend, MacIntyre recognized that modern systems of knowledge had become mutually unintelligible to those who did not (quite contingently) share certain fundamental conceptions; that there were, in other words, incommensurable standards of rationality itself. But, as he argues in a semi-autobiographical essay which we will read in this seminar, “while [their] work[s] uncriticised ... represent a threat to our understanding, Kuhn’s work criticised provides an illuminating application for the ideas which I have been defending.” The insolubility of the epistemological crisis using the very tools (the philosophy of science) supposedly designed to resolve such a crisis points a way, for MacIntyre, out of the morass of total relativism which he takes to be the final end of contemporary philosophy of science (and ultimately, but with difficulty, to a more solid foundation in Thomistic Aristotelianism). Alongside the essay by MacIntyre, we shall also read extracts from the philosophers of Note that there are two readings by Lakatos. The first is from his earliest and most well-known work, Proofs and Refutations (which was actually a lightly edited version of his PhD dissertation). The “method of proofs and refutations” described there would eventually evolve into Lakatos’s characteristic conception of the “methodology of scientific research programmes.” For those of you who want to delve a little more deeply into Lakatos, I have scanned the most important article of his on this subject (“History of Science and its Rational Reconstructions”); this is the article the MacIntyre refers to in his essay. It’s conceptually difficult and very long, so for that reason I’m making it optional; yet (like everything Lakatos wrote) it is written clearly, unpretentiously and elegantly -- a gem of academic prose!
1: Alasdair MacIntyre, “Epistemological Crises, dramatic narratives, and the philosophy of science.” The Monist 60.4 (1977): 453-72.
2: Thomas Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions, chapters 1, 10, and postscript. (This book costs less than $10; I’m asking participants to buy it, but I’m scanning the postscript so they can start on it).
3: Paul Feyerabend, Against Method, chapters 6-7
4: Imre Lakatos, Proofs and Refutations, 6-23, 142-44.
5: Lakatos, “History of Science and its Rational Reconstruction” (this last reading is a little dense, and I’m making it optional, further reading).