The University of Chicago News Office
March 30, 2004 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Philosopher Pippin to ask: Has modern life made us free?

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Robert Pippin
Lecture Text:
“Bourgeois Philosophy? On the Problem of Leading a Free Life.”

Streaming Audio:
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On Thursday, April 8 at 5:30 p.m., Robert Pippin will ask why, in a world that offers so many alternatives, we’re still so unsure of what we want. Pippin, the Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, the Department of Philosophy and the College, will deliver the Nora and Edward Ryerson Lecture, entitled “Bourgeois Philosophy? On the Problem of Leading a Free Life.” The lecture will be held in the Max Palevsky Cinema, Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.

Pippin, who has applied the classic German philosophy of Kant and Nietzsche to the question of what is most problematic about modern life, will ask why neither the modern American Dream nor its critics seem to be able to answer certain fundamental questions. “It’s ironic,” he said, “that we don’t have a settled consensus on what we regularly insist is most important: Freedom is what we fight wars for, worry about when it comes to our kids, enact complex foreign policies to ensure... But it’s not clear to me that we have the faintest idea of what it is to live a free life. Once the hold of tradition is broken, how do we get back to a form of life, not just a free-floating skepticism?” Pippin will explore Hegel’s answer: that “true freedom is never individual, but social, only possible as part of a community and a culture.”

Pippin, who was honored with a $1.5 million Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award in 2001 for his work on modern German philosophy, has been a professor at Chicago since 1992. His scholarship is concerned with “how to understand what’s happened to us since the 16th century,” drawing on philosophers whose works “reflect an anxiety about the nature of the modern tradition and the attempt to create a secular foundation for modern ethical life.”

The University of Chicago’s Board of Trustees established the Ryerson Lecture in 1972 to give distinguished members of the faculty an opportunity to speak to the university community about their research and study. A presidentially appointed faculty committee nominates the Ryerson Lecturer. The lecture is free and open to the public. Disabled persons who wish to attend the lecture may request assistance by contacting Jen Horslev at 773-702-8369.

 

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