Fall Faculty Colloquia Series: Between Justice and Mercy

Should our society be just or merciful? Should we forgive debts, pardon criminals, and offer private charity to the poor? Today, we often pit the two against each other, and question whether mercy is a virtue: we fear that mercy undercuts justice, which we understand in terms of rights and equal, impartial treatment. But mercy was long understood as a virtue that complements justice rather than contradicting it. This fall, Collegium Institute invites faculty members from the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, and other area universities to take part in a reading group spanning the history of justice and mercy, exploring the tension between the two and the values of justice and mercy in today’s world.

Our five-session survey may include:

1): The Ancient World: Selections from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Rhetoric and Seneca, De Clementia (On Mercy)

2): Christianity: Selections from Augustine’s City of God and Political Writings (Letters) and Aquinas’s Summa Theologica

3) The Renaissance: Dante’s Inferno (very brief selections) and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

4) The Enlightenment: Beccaria’s On Crime and Punishment and Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals (selections from book 6)

5) The Modern Era: C.S. Lewis’s The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, Melville’s Billy Budd, Samuel Beckett, “Dante & the Lobster”

For more information or to participate, contact program coordinator Elizabeth Feeney: elife@sas.upenn.edu

Coffee With The Classics Module I:

Can Politics Be Redeemed?

When: 09/07 | 09/14 | 09/21 | 09/28

Time: Wednesdays, 6:30-8pm

Where: Harrison House

Description:

Conflict and animosity seem to have reached unprecedented levels in the current election season.  The most disturbing aspect of this phenomenon, however, may not be its shocking proportions, but on the contrary, its increasing inability to shock us.  We are no longer surprised. Verbal attacks, corruption, negative integration: these “scandals” now seem routine, if not banal.  Behind any compromise or agreement, we tend to assume not so much goodwill as an affinity of interests.  Is it sensible to be so jaded?  What is the end of politics anyway? How much or what kind of unity is necessary in a pluralistic society to be able to pursue a truly common good?  Is there hope for politics, or is that just another self-serving slogan?

This September, the Coffee with the Classics seminar will join students together with faculty facilitators in community to explore these timely yet perennial questions by sifting salient, classical responses to them.  We will consider brief selections from the great conversation of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Marx, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Winthrop, and Aquinas, none of whom were of one mind, and discuss them over dinner freely, uncompelled by requirements or grades, for our own sakes and, perhaps, for the sake of the polis.

To join this four-part weekly dinner series in September, directed by the Collegium Institute Student Association at Penn, please fill up this form with your contact information and a brief letter of interest (50-250 wds).

Admitted students will receive all dinners free of charge.