lunes, 22 de junio de 2015

New York City: a memorable weekend of thought-provoking seminars and lectures on the concept of freedom.

The Paradox of Freedom: 
Happiness, Human Nature, Politics, and Religion
The First Things Intellectual Retreat will be held from Friday evening, August 7 to Sunday morning August 9, 2015 at New York University’s Kimmel Center for University Life, overlooking historic Washington Square Park in downtown Manhattan (Map).

First Things is pleased to invite our readers to come to New York City for a memorable weekend of thought-provoking seminars and lectures on the concept of freedom. Join us as we study preassigned readings from classic Western Civilization texts in small-group seminars limited to 15 participants per group, with discussion facilitated by faculty members from Northeast Catholic College.

Who should attend? 

There are no prerequisites or expertise required to participate; there are no grades or exams (although you will receive a certificate of attendance from First Things). If you enjoy reading First Things, or discussing the kind of ideas found in its pages—print or web—then this event is for you. Each seminar section is limited to 15 participants per section and is led by a faculty member. Participants will explore substantial texts and questions of great significance through a dialogue that is animated by a spirit of friendship and a common purpose.

This will be a rare opportunity to get together with like-minded individuals to talk about big, timeless ideas and how they inform our understanding of the issues that have occupied our culture in recent years.

The reading curriculum, drawn from classic texts in the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish traditions, will touch on major themes according to the classical understanding of freedom and its relationship with truth, religion, the public interest, and other important concepts (see syllabus below). Participants will:

  • Develop a strong understanding of the classical view of freedom—particularly the classical relationship between freedom and truth—as an alternative to the modern understanding of freedom as license. 
  • Examine the question of freedom from literary, theological and political perspectives with attention to the relationship between freedom and human happiness (informed by understandings of law, sin, and grace) and the relationship between freedom and tradition.
  • Develop the ideas necessary to speak confidently about freedom in the contemporary public square, using concrete examples and respected sources from the Western tradition.


Friday, August 7, 2015
6:00 pm Cocktail Reception
7:00 pm Dinner & Lecture, Speaker TBD

Saturday, August 8, 2015
8:15 am Breakfast
9:00 am - 5:00 pm Seminar discussions - 15 participants per group
Lunch buffet & scheduled breaks throughout the day
6:00 pm Cocktail Reception
7:00 pm Dinner & Lecture, Speaker TBD

Sunday, August 9, 2015
Coda: Musical breakfast and seminar led by Dr. George Harne, President of NCC and PhD in Musicology, Princeton University

Syllabus - All Participants

The Paradox of Freedom: Happiness, Human Nature, Politics, and Religion

1st Seminar: “The Paradox of Freedom and Human Happiness”

Dostoevsky, “The Grand Inquisitor” excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov

In the first seminar, devoted Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” (from The Brothers Karamazov), participants will take up the Inquisitor’s claim that human freedom was a divine error and that human happiness requires that the burden of freedom be transferred to the few.

2nd Seminar: “Human Nature at the Intersection of Freedom, Law, Sin, and Grace”

Saint Augustine, Book 8 of The Confessions

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Ia q. 83, a. 1

Martin Luther, First Disputation Against the Antinomians, pp. 33-39

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man, pp. 99-109

(Participants are also encouraged to read R.R. Reno’s “Loving the Law,” First Things, January 2012 available here)

In the second seminar, participants will discuss texts by Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Soloveitchik as they explore the relation between law, grace, and free will. In addition to considering these topics as theological concepts, participants will also consider how they intersect existentially within the human hearts of Christians and Jews animated by their respective traditions.

3rd Seminar: “Freedom, Democracy, and Determinism”

Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Part IV, chapters 6-8

Reinhold Niebuhr, Faith and History, “The Extravagant Estimates of Freedom in the Progressive View of History” (V. II. pp. 79-85)

Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom, “Religion in a Free Society” (I.3, pp. 14-23)

Tocqueville, Niebuhr, and Heschel join the conversation in the third seminar as participants shift their focus to the political realm. If Dostoevsky’s Inquisitor believed that freedom must be traded for happiness, does the logic of democracy require that freedom be traded for equality? Furthermore, how does the loss of a transcendent horizon, a materialist view of human nature, and an exaggerated belief in progress facilitate the loss of political freedom?

4th Seminar: “Contesting Freedom(s) in our Contemporary Context”

George Weigel, “A Better Concept of Freedom,” First Things, March 2002

In the fourth and final seminar, participants will conclude their conversation by considering both the reigning concepts of freedom in our own age and George Weigel’s account of their origins in his “Tale of Two Monks.” By bringing into focus the fundamental relationship between freedom and truth (and when this bond was broken), participants will be better prepared to articulate the foundational principles that can provide the basis for cultural, political, and religious renewal.

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