I am home after a quick, very busy, exhausting, but quite rewarding visit to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I gave two talks, both of which were videotaped and recorded. I have been told that they will be posted on a Marist server, and that I will be given links to them. If that in fact happens, I shall review them, and if they are not totally appalling, I will post the links.
The first talk was a great success and a total failure. It was supposed to be a very high level technical discussion of a paper I have written on Kant's ethical, legal, and political theory. I sent the paper ahead to the Philosophy Department, and they discussed it in anticipation of the session. But when I showed up Tuesday evening, I discovered that the audience was utterly different from what I had expected, and that almost none of them even knew about the paper. A large group were students taking an on-line philosophy course and using my textbook, ABOUT PHILOSOPHY. They were there to meet their Instructor for the first time, as well as to meet the author of their textbook. It was wonderful and rather comic to see the Instructor say, "Hello, I am your Instructor, and here is the author of your textbook." In the thirty-five years that the textbook has been in existence, I have never met a group of students using it! So it was wonderful for me. Another group of people simply came to hear me because my talk was announced locally. And then there were the handful of people who really expected a serious discussion about Kant.
How on earthy was I going to speak to this heterogeneous group in such a way as not totally to mystify and alienate most of them? I decided to wing it. The first question got me started. A man sitting near the back of the group [there were maybe thirty or more people in the audience] asked, "Are you an atheist?"
That gave me an opening to deliver a long monologue on the nature of religious faith. A student taking a course on Marx, among other authors, asked me what people meant when they said Marx had stood Hegel on his head. Well, I could handle that one! By the end of the evening, I think everyone had had a pretty good time, even though the philosophers never did get the serious Kant discussion they came for.
The second talk, on Wednesday, was much more straightforward. I gave a formal lecture on "What Good is a Liberal Education?" that draws on ideas in the writings of Freud, Marx, and Marcuse to answer the question. I hope I can post that one. It really might provoke an interesting discussion on this blog.
Many, many thanks to Ann Davis for arranging all of this.
Oh, by the way, it was no colder in Poughkeepsie than it was when I left in Chapel Hill!