Academic Year Seminars


Technology and Responsibility 
R. J. Snell, The Witherspoon Institute

This seminar examines the philosophy of technology through the lens of responsibility. In the contemporary debates on technology, one tends to find examples of obvious boosters and obvious detractors, but generally such conversations are conducted with reference to the external state of affairs brought about by technological developments (employment, products, communications). This for quite good reasons, and yet from the myth of Icarus onward reflections on technology have also noted that, in addition to the external states of affairs, technology brought about changes in the technologist, the technician, the maker. Given the remarkable power of our technology, and what awaits, some, such as Hans Jonas, have argued that a new ethical framework is called for, what he terms “the ethics of responsibility.” In this unique sector of human action, where we have the ability not only to alter the world but ourselves and world-evolutionary process, the implications of our free actions are profound. Rather than critiquing or defending the social consequences of the new technology, this part of the course, using Jonas as a primary resource, examines the meaning of freedom as we make ourselves through our technical apparatus.

Open to all Princeton undergraduates, the seminar will meet twice per month on Fridays, 12:45-2:45pm, lunch provided. Dates: 2/9; 2/23; 4/6; 4/20; 4/27; 5/4 

For more information, contact at R. J. Snell at rsnell@winst.org.

 

 

Word and Truth
R. J. Snell, The Witherspoon Institute

Continuing our study on how the manipulation of language by ideology violates the integrity of the human, this seminar examines the sophistic tendency to flatten language into that which can be manipulated and coerced as opposed to the richness of full human knowing and speaking. Texts include readings from Plato, Aquinas, Arendt, Roger Scruton, and Catherine Picktock.

Open to all Princeton undergraduates, the seminar will meet twice per month on Fridays, 12:45-2:45pm, lunch provided. Dates: 2/16; 3/2; 4/13. 

For more information, contact at R. J. Snell at rsnell@winst.org.

 

dante-beatific-visionPoetry: The Wonder Wounded Word
José Pérez-Benzo, The Witherspoon Institute

Starting with Chaucer and ending with the current poet laureate of California, Dana Gioia, with some slight detours into the non-Anglophone epic tradition of Homer, Virgil, and Dante, this seminar will go on a pilgrimage through the great poems of the English language, taking as our guiding star the theme of wonder. Thanks to its inexhaustible capacity to render the familiar—whether it be a lost man making his way home, or a falcon swooping through the air—strange, poetry of the highest kind begets a sort of wonder in us, the same sort of wonder which Plato and Aristotle claimed is the beginning of philosophy. Reciting Dryden in the Princeton Art Museum, Emerson on the battlefield, and Hopkins in the Chapel, this seminar will seek to re-enchant Princeton students, reorienting them towards wonder by taking advantage of the beauty both natural and artistic that surrounds them and guides them ever upwards towards transcendence.

Open to all Princeton undergraduates, this seminar will meet twice per month on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, dinner provided. Dates: 2/14; 2/28; 3/28; 4/11; 4/25.

For more information, contact José Pérez-Benzo at jperezb@winst.org.

 

A Reason Open To God
José Pérez-Benzo, The Witherspoon Institute

What accounts for the restriction of reason to mechanistic, utilitarian questions of science and the refusal to allow reason to address unironically questions of ultimate meaning, purpose, destiny, and transcendence? In this seminar we will examine the thought of Joseph Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, with particular emphasis on his view of a reason open to God. In the Spring semester, now that we have inquired into Ratzinger’s views on reason, we will examine his theological commitments, which ultimately form the foundation of his views on secular topics. Using selections from Behold the Pierced One, the Jesus of Nazareth Trilogy, and The Spirit of the Liturgy among other works, we will examine the various aspects of Ratzinger’s theology which inform his view of reason, which include Sacred Scripture, the sacraments, the liturgy, ecclesiology, and ultimately Christology. We will take as the unifying theme of Ratzinger’s theology the concept which he termed the ‘hermeneutic of continuity,’ examining its implications for the study of theology, namely the incorporation of the entirety of the Catholic Church’s rich intellectual tradition without rupture, as well as its ultimate roots in the person of Jesus Christ, who is, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us “the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Open to all Princeton undergraduates, this seminar will meet twice per month on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, dinner provided. Dates: 2/8; 2/21; 3/7; 4/4; 4/18.

For more information, contact José Pérez-Benzo at jperezb@winst.org.