Phronesis Luncheon Series

An ongoing series of discussions with Yale faculty and visiting speakers on timely and timeless questions.

Lunch is provided. Those wishing to attend should RSVP to Patrick Hough.

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The Return of Political Religion?

Philip Gorski / 12pm, January 18, 2019

A growing number of commentators have argued that the secularization of Western democracies has led to politics taking on an increasingly religious role. How illuminating is this analysis, what can we learn from historical precedents, and what is a religion anyway?

Philip Gorski is Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies at Yale University and Senior Fellow of the Elm Institute.


Jonathan Swift’s “Immortals”: Intergenerational Confrontation and Politics Today

Gene Dattel ‘66 / 12pm, January 25, 2019

The intersection of culture, society and finance was presciently revealed by Jonathan Swift in his treatment of “The Immortals” in Gulliver’s Travels. How will the younger generation/millennials react when the economic burden of older people competes with their livelihood, needs, and desires? What are political implications in the not-to-distant battle for economic resources in seemingly mundane budgetary squabbles? Every nation has to grapple with these issues which will become more and more concrete and less and less abstract. Competition among nations will necessarily depend on a culturally derivative structure – the financial system. How do we better understand the role of finance in society? What are the principles and values that allow a society to adapt?  

Gene Dattel ‘66 is a cultural and economic historian. More…

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Literature and Philosophy: Reflections on Tolkien and Wagner

Raymond Hain / 12pm, February 1, 2019

Since at least the time of Plato, contemplation and artistic creativity (or, we might say, philosophy and literature) have been presented as rival lovers, each claiming a place in our lives above the other, but must philosophy and literature always be rivals? Aristotle and Shakespeare’s portrayals of the “magnanimous man” illustrate a more complex relationship. Closer to our own time, J.R.R. Tolkien suggests a way of reconciling the contemplative and the creative in his short story “A Leaf by Niggle” and his essay “On Fairy-Stories” in contrast to Richard Wagner’s seductive suggestion that creative life must be supreme.

Raymond Hain is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Providence College and Director of the Providence College Humanities Forum.


Newman and Liberalism

Edward Short / 12pm, February 8, 2019

Upon being made a cardinal, John Henry Newman (1801-90) said that he had devoted his life to opposing liberalism. Some commentators deny the accuracy of this claim.  Are they right?  What did Newman mean by liberalism?  And what can we learn from his efforts to anatomize and combat it?

Edward Short is an independent author and renowned scholar on the thought and life of John Henry Newman.

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A Humanities for the Future

Mark Bauerlein / 12pm, February 15, 2019

The humanities are increasingly marginalized within American higher education, but what is the real explanation for the sharp decline in humanistic study in the past decade? And what are the prospects for a revival of humanistic learning? 

Mark Bauerlein is Professor of English at Emory University and Senior Editor at First Things magazine.

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Multifaith Spaces and the Public Face of Religion

Kyle Dugdale / 12pm, March 1, 2019

Multifaith spaces where people of different faiths can pray and meditate have become increasingly common in a variety of public places from airports and hospitals to prisons, schools, and police stations. From an architectural perspective, these spaces are often bland since it is hard to incorporate significant architectural design without appearing to favor one tradition over others. Must multifaith spaces inevitably be architecturally insipid? And how has the rapid emergence of multifaith spaces in the last two decades affected the public’s experience of religion and the sacred?

Kyle Dugdale is Critic in Architecture at the Yale School of Architecture.


Cicero and the Republican Tradition

Gregory B. Smith / 12pm, March 8, 2019

In the face of postnationalism and globalism, does the republican political tradition have a future? Gregory Smith argues that restoring the vitality of this tradition requires a return to its phenomenological roots and offers Cicero as an exemplar of the phenomenological approach to thinking about politics.

Gregory B. Smith is Professor of Political Science at Trinity College.


The Empire and the Refuge: Augustine on Politics and the Two Cities

Veronica Roberts Ogle / 12pm, March 29, 2019

In The City of God Augustine seeks to overturn the reader’s tendency to see the city God through the lens of the earthly city, subverting the ancient narrative in which God's power is made manifest in victory. Instead Augustine tells the story of the sack of Rome in such a way that God's power is revealed through the provision of a refuge.

Veronica Roberts Ogle is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Assumption College.


Tolkien on Fairy-Stories

David Mahan / 12pm, April 5, 2019

In his classic essay "On Fairy-Stories" J.R.R. Tolkien provides insight into the creative imagination as it is deployed in fantasy or ‘fairy’ stories, developing an account of these imaginative works that sheds light on Tolkien’s own creative achievements and their relationship to his faith.

David Mahan is is Lecturer in Religion and Literature at Yale University and Executive Director of the Rivendell Institute.

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What is an Ordinary Life?

Noël Valis / 12pm, April 12, 2019

In an age obsessed with celebrity, shortcuts to success and self-realization, nobody wants to be perceived as ordinary. What can artists like Vermeer and poets like Walt Whitman tell us about the value of ordinary lives?

Noël Valis is is Professor of Spanish at Yale University and Senior Fellow of the Elm Institute.