Monday, February 19, 2018

Summer 2018 Lecture Topics

May 1, Tues (7:30 pm):  Philosophy Before Socrates. Socrates, his student Plato, and Plato's student Aristotle are often credited with founding Western philosophy. Nevertheless, even great thinkers do not emerge ex nihilo, but rather are born into an existing context and paradigm that the build from, respond to, and react against.  We'll look at the Pre-Socratic philosophers and how their ideas created the ground from which Socrates' own thought emerged.

May 8, Tues (7:30 pm):  Paganism in the Bible. We will look at indications in the Old Testament that the dominant religion of the elites and commoners was predominantly pagan during the First Temple Period.

May 15, Tues (7:30 pm):  Revelatory Performance: The Gold Plates an Otherworldly Relic". Brent Metcalfe, editor of New Approaches to the Book of Mormonwill discuss the historical accounts of those who encountered the golden plates, the putative source of Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon dictation. Scholars have long grappled with the materiality of the record, generally concluding along the lines of belief that Joseph Smith possessed either an authentic ancient artifact or a forged modern prop. Metcalfe critiques these arguments within the collective magical worldview of Joseph Smith (revelatory performance) and his cadre of believers (revelatory audience).

May 22, Tues (7:30 pm): Reanimating Soul:  Discovering Aristotle's Brain. Aristotle is the most influential philosopher in the Western intellectual tradition. Our guest lecturer, Dr. Michael Adam Ferguson of Harvard Medical School unfolds the prescience of Aristotle's genius as illuminated by contemporary neural imaging. Attendees are invited to consider seriously the reanimation of soul by science.

May 29, Tues (7:30 pm):  The Great Schism: Greek East vs. Latin West. We'll look at the breakdown in the relationship between the churches of Rome and Constantinople, which included petty personality conflicts, diverging political interests, and a few fundamental disagreements.  We'll also look at how and why the rift has never been healed despite repeated attempts for the past 1,000 years.  

June 5, Tues (7:30 pm): Movie Night: "Defending Your Life". Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks star in a philosophical comedy about the meaning of life.  We'll watch the movie together and share thoughts on this topic.

June 12, Tues (7:30 pm):  Ptolemaic Cosmology. For 2,000 years prior to Copernicus, astronomers believed that the Earth was at the center of a cosmos, surrounded by a series of celestial spheres.  We'll consider how the Ptolemaic system worked (and didn't work), why it proved so durable, and why the Catholic Church remained invested in the system even after scientists like Galileo began to argue in favor of heliocentrism. 

June 19, Tues (7:30 pm):  Homosexuality and the Bible. In honor of Toronto Pride, we will take a look of what the Bible does and doesn't have to say about homosexuality.  In contrast to the claims of many Evangelical Christians, the component texts of the Bible do not condemn same-sex orientation.  We'll look at how verses from Sodom and Gomorrah to Leviticus to Paul are routinely misread.

June 26, Tues (7:30 pm):  The Avesta and Zarathustra. Zoroastrianism is often cited as the first world religion, whose ideas heavily influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  We'll take a close look at Zoroastrianism's earliest book of scripture, the Gathas — 17 hymns in the Avesta attributed to Zarathustra (also known as Zoroaster).  We'll consider how the Gathas differed from the earlier Persian paganism and how they influenced the Bible.

July 3, Tues (7:30 pm):  Was Machiavelli Machiavellian?  Humanist politician and philosopher Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli has been called the first modern man and the father of political science.  His book The Prince, is among the most influential books in the Western canon and has given rise to our adjective "Machiavellian" to describe unscrupulous politicians. We'll look closely at The Prince and Machiavelli's other writings to consider his political philosophy and to ask whether the author himself was "Machiavellian". 

July 17, Tues (7:30 pm):  Revisiting the Apocrypha. During the Reformation, Martin Luther and Protestant Christians argued that everyone should be able to read the Bible in his or her own language, instead of keeping the texts the responsibility of clergy trained in Latin.  When they went back to the Hebrew texts of the Old Testament, they realized that the Latin Christian Bible included a number of books that Jews did not consider scripture.  The Reformers stripped these books from the canon, calling them the "Apocrypha" or hidden books.  We'll take a look at these books that the Reformers hid away and consider why they made it into the early Christian canon and not the Jewish canon.

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