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Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations to Hold Lecture Series

September 17, 2009

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Media Contact:
Mark Vanderhoek
(478) 301-4037

MACON — Mercer’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations will hold its second annual lecture series on the Macon campus, including three lectures in the fall and two lectures and a conference in the spring, all built around the theme, “Republics Ancient and Modern.”  The series will feature some of the nation’s most renowned scholars in the history of political thought, organizers say. The first lecture in the series is Oct. 1 at 6:30 p.m.
“We are very excited about bringing some important scholars in the history of political thought to campus this semester,” said Dr. Will Jordan, associate professor of political science and co-director of the Center. “This diverse trio should really get a conversation started about the ideas that underlie contemporary practice, as well as about the past, present and future course of modern democracies.”

The first fall lecture will take place in the Fickling Recital Hall in the McCorkle Music Building on Oct. 1 at 6:30 p.m. and features Dr. James Otteson, professor of philosophy at Yeshiva University.  His presentation, titled “The Scottish Enlightenment on the Promise and Peril of Commercial Society,” will examine the rise of “Commercial Republics,” regimes committed to encouraging trade, economic freedom and prosperity. Dr. Otteson will consider the questions Adam Smith raised about the moral and ethical foundations of commercial societies. The event is co-sponsored by Mercer’s Center for Undergraduate Research in Public Policy and Capitalism.

The second fall lecture will be at 5 p.m. on Oct. 26. Dr. Patrick Deneen, professor of political science at Georgetown University, will give a lecture, titled “The Sustainable Republic and the Alternative Tradition in America,” taking a darker view of the political, moral and environmental costs of modern commercial republics. Dr. Deneen’s alternative tradition leads to a vision for a “Sustainable Republic,” a vision shared with contemporary thinkers such as Wendell Berry. A location for the lecture will be announced.

“Deneen’s talk will bring to light a competing tradition in modern thought that emphasizes the goodness of citizenship and community over and above the unlimited pursuit of wealth and is intended to serve as a lead-in to Mercer’s ‘Caring for Creation Conference,’” Dr. Jordan said. 

The third and final lecture this fall will focus on the ideas of earlier theorists of modern politics, Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes, and will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 in Newton Chapel.  A leading scholar in the field, Dr. Paul Rahe, professor of history at Hillsdale College, will give a presentation, titled “Machiavelli and the Anti-Political Foundations of Politics in the Modern Republic.”

There are two lectures under development in the spring, and the series will culminate with a conference, March 24-25, on classical Greek political thought that will feature research presentations by Mercer students, as well as lectures by Dr. Jacob Howland, professor of philosophy at the University of Tulsa and Dr. Mary Nichols, professor of political science at Baylor University.

“This backward movement affords us the chance to examine features characteristic of the American political order that are rooted in modern republicanism and trace them back to both their early-modern beginnings and their ancient inspirations,” said Dr Matthew Oberrieder, assistant professor of philosophy and Center co-director. “From this, we can consider their development and their deviations, for better or for worse, from their sources to their incorporation in the American Constitutional regime.”

The differences between modern and ancient republics, and the advantages and disadvantages of both, will become even clearer as the lecture series progresses, Dr. Jordan said. The conference series, which will emphasize ancient political thought and features scholarship on the ancient Athenian polis, will focus on the political and ethical thought of Plato and Aristotle.

“The intent of these lectures is to highlight some of the important foundational differences between the democratic regimes of the ancient world and their more modern descendants,” Dr. Jordan said.

For more information on the series, or Mercer Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations, visit

About the Mercer Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations
Mercer’s Center for the Teaching of America’s Western Foundations seeks to provide a new generation of citizens with knowledge of, and appreciation for, the founding principles, values and history of our nation. The Great Books of the West were the education of the American Founders and America’s freedom and prosperity fundamentally come from the ideas, values, and principles that the Founders’ Great Books explore. To that end, the Center seeks to promote the study and teaching of these foundational works and strengthen the knowledge and understanding of the cultural-intellectual inheritance of America. Mercer is one of a select few colleges or universities in the country and the only one in Georgia that has a Great Books of Western Civilization program as part of its general education curriculum. The Center complements this curriculum with programs including lecture series and campus conferences, and seeks to reinforce the importance of traditional liberal-arts education. 

About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,000 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit
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