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Midwest Philosophy Colloquium

THE WISDOM OF THE ANCIENTS

September 24, 2001, 7:00 p.m., First Lutheran Church, Morris

Stephen White (The University of Texas, Austin, TX)
“Stoic Emotions”

Professor White will outline the Stoic theory of emotions and discuss its application to personal and interpersonal “psychoanalysis” in the light of some classic examples.

Professor White will first outline the Stoic theory of emotion. Like so-called cognitive psychology today, the Stoics hold that emotions have a rational structure. Our feelings depend on what types of situations we think about, what value we assign to these situations, and our beliefs about how we should act and react in response to these situations. As such, the Stoics claim, our emotions are under our rational control, and engaging in a proper analysis of the beliefs underpinning our emotions can help up to achieve a better life. Professor White will evaluate these claims, and argue that Stoic 'psychoanalysis' offers a method for developing mental fitness and sharpening our sensibilities.

He will also present a paper, “Socratic Piety: A Constructivist Reading of Plato's Euthyphro,” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, student center of UMM, September 24. All are cordially invited to both talks.

February 11, 2002, 7:00 p.m., Federated Church, Morris

Angela Curran (Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA
“Catharsis as Cognition: Re-Examining the Legacy of Aristotle's Aesthetics of Tragedy”

Professor Curran will re-assess the prominent view that Aristotle's account of catharsis enables us to see how we can learn from tragedy, by reviving German playwright Bertolt Brecht's criticisms of Aristotle's aesthetics.

Angela Curran will focus on an ancient debate on the role of art and the emotions in moral and intellectual education. Does emotional engagement with the characters in drama help or hinder our intellectual reflections on the characters and situations represented by the work? Professor Curran will look at Aristotle's contribution to this debate. Curran reports that recent scholars have praised Aristotle's account of tragedy as an imitation that occasions a purging (or “catharsis”) of the emotions of pity and fear. These scholars argue that this account of ”catharsis,“ as a response to tragedy, enables us to see how both the emotions and the understanding play a role in enabling us to learn from art. In her talk, Curran will reassess this interpretation of Aristotle, reviving criticisms of Aristotelian “dramatic theater” offered by the German playwright, Bertolt Brecht. Brecht criticizes the Aristotelian aesthetic tradition for its preference for dramatic narratives that please but do not instruct us about the source of human suffering. Curran will suggest that Brecht's objections are correct: Critical thinking about the characters in drama, and an account of the role of the emotions in a critical approach to drama, are not adequately accounted for by Aristotle. Nevertheless, Curran will emphasize a key legacy in Aristotle's Poetics: the important role that the emotions play in our identifications with characters and situations depicted in art.

Doctor Curran will also present a paper, “Aristotelian Essentialism as Social Critique,” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, February 11. All are cordially invited.

April 15, 2002, 7:00 p.m., Newman Center, Morris

Thomas Blackson (Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ)
“Plato on Reason and the Best Life for Man”

Professor Blackson will address the wisdom of Plato on the role of reason in living a good life.

Thomas Blackson's presentation concerns wisdom in Socrates and Plato. Blackson proposes that Socrates departed from the received, traditional conception of wisdom and his student, Plato, in turn, departed from the Socratic conception. These changes are interesting in their own right. According to Blackson they provide answers to certain questions about philosophy: They help to explain how philosophy received its name and how it came to be part of education.

Doctor Blackson will also present a paper, “In Defense of an Unpopular Interpretation of Pyrrhonean Skepticism,” at 2:30 p.m., Prairie Lounge, UMM, April 15. All are cordially invited.

The evening lectures are made possible by a grant from the Minnesota Humanities Commission in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Minnesota State Legislature, the U.S West Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, University of Minnesota-Morris.