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Mailing Address

Political Theory Colloquium Lecture Series

The Washington, D.C., Political Theory Colloquium, founded by Alan Levine in 1995, brings noted speakers to campus each semester. Its central purpose is to provide a focal point for the community and provide a real sense of intellectual excitement. We hope to engage the community and classrooms in a common conversation.

Upcoming 2014-2015 Lectures

February 26, 2015: "Muslim Travelers in a Christian Land: Montesquieu's Labyrinthine Persian Letters"

Dr. Stuart D. Warner, Roosevelt University
5:30 PM, MGC 247

Stuart D. Warner is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Roosevelt University and the director of its Montesquieu Forum for the Study of Civic Life. Professor Warner previously served as Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago's Committee of Social Thought in 2005 and at the University of Chicago's Center for Study of the Principles of the American Founding in 2007. He has published essays on Locke, Spinoza, Burke, Bentham, Hegel, Hume, Adam Smith, and Montesquieu, and edited editions of the writings of Hume, Michael Polanyi, and James Fitzjames, Stephen. He has edited and translated a bilingual edition of La Rochefoucauld's Maxims, and is currently putting the final touches on a translation of Montesquieu's Persian Letters, forthcoming from St. Augustine Press. In addition to his current work on Montesquieu, he is working on a translation and interpretation of Descartes' Discourse on Method as well as an interpretive essay on Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. He received his BA from Queens College in New York and his PhD from Michigan State University.


April 10, 2015: "Leo Strauss and the Meaning of Modernity"

Dr. Nathan Tarcov, University of Chicago
5:30 PM, Hughes Formal Lounge

Nathan Tarcov is Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, the Department of Political Science, the Committee on International Relations, and the College at the University of Chicago. He was previously on the faculty at Harvard, on the Policy Planning Staff of the U.S. State Department, a Secretary of the Navy Senior Research Fellow at the Naval War College, and a Fellow at the Siemens Foundation. He has had fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the Earhart Foundation. He is the author of Locke's Education for Liberty (Chicago, 1984), translator of Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy (Chicago, 1996, with Harvey C. Mansfield), and editor of Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education and On the Conduct of Understanding (Hackett, 1996, with Ruth Grant) and The Legacy of Rousseau (Chicago, 1996, with Clifford Orwin). He has published 53 articles for scholarly journals and anthologies on a wide array of topics, including Locke, Machiavelli, the hermeneutics of Leo Strauss and Quentin Skinner, the American founding, and prudence and principle in foreign policy. Tarcov received the University of Chicago's Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He is also the founder and director of the Leo Strauss Center at the University of Chicago. He received his BA from Cornell and his PhD from Harvard.


Previous 2014-2015 Lectures

September 30, 2014: "Philosophy and Secrecy: On The Forgotten Practice of Esoteric Writing"

Dr. Arthur Melzer, Michigan State University
5:30 PM, Hughes Formal Lounge

For the first two millennia of Western intellectual history, philosophers routinely wrote "esoterically," communicating their most unorthodox thoughts only between the lines. But over the last two centuries this practice gradually declined and then was altogether forgotten. Today the whole idea is indignantly denied. This lecture seeks to recover the lost history of esoteric writing, demonstrating its reality and explaining its purpose.

Arthur Melzer is Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University. He is also the co-founder and co-director of the Symposium on Science, Reason, and Modern Democracy, an independent research center housed at Michigan State University. Professor. Melzer received his BA from Cornell University and his PhD from Harvard University. He has been awarded research fellowships by the Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Educational Affairs, the Earhart Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is a winner of the MSU Social Science Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award. His writings include: The Natural Goodness of Man: On the System of Rousseau's Thought (University of Chicago Press, 1990), and most recently Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

November 6, 2014: "Human Ends and the End of Humanity"

Dr. Charles Rubin, Duquesne University
5:30 PM, MGC 203-205

In The Green Crusade: Rethinking the roots of Environmentalism, Dr. Rubin analyzed environmentalism with a critical eye which exposed the totalitarian political assumptions at work in the reasoning of mainstream thinkers like Barry Commoner and Paul Ehrlich. It also critiqued the more radical Deep Ecologists, some of whom argue that the only way to save the Earth is for human beings to "devolve" into a more animal-like state of existence. Contrasting with their hope for human extinction based on a rejection of human reason is the technical hyper-rationality of Carnegie-Mellon University roboticist Hans Moravec, who thinks humanity should seek to make itself obsolete by uploading its minds into robots of one form or another. The insight that human extinction was a point where two very different kinds of radicalism met led to his recent work, Eclipse of Man: Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress, which forms the basis for his lecture.

Charles Rubin has taught in the Political Science Department and the Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy at Duquesne University since 1987. He is also the current Garwood Visiting Professor and Visiting Fellow, James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University and previously held a visiting appointment at Kenyon College. Rubin earned his BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Case-Western Reserve University and his PhD in Political Philosophy from Boston College. He is the editor of Conservation Reconsidered: Nature, Virtue and American Liberal Democracy (2000) and The Quest for Justice (with Leslie Rbuin, 3rd edition, 1992). He is the author of over twenty-five articles, chapters, and essays, as well as two books: The Green Crusade: Rethinking the Roots of Environmentalism (1998) and Eclipse of Man: Human Extinction and the Meaning of Progress (2014).

November 19, 2014: "Why Not Capitalism?"

Dr. Jason Brennan, Georgetown University
5:30 PM, Kay Spiritual Life Center Lounge

Jason Brennan is an Assistant Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at Georgetown University and previously an Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Research at Brown University. He earned his BA in Philosophy from the University of New Hampshire and his PhD from the University of Arizona. His research focuses on democratic theory, the ethics of voting, competence and power, freedom, and the moral foundations of commercial society. He is the author of A Brief History of Liberty (2010, with David Schmidz), The Ethics of Voting (2011), Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know (2012), Compulsory Voting: For and Against (2014, with Lisa Hill), and Why Not Capitalism? (2014).

December 5, 2014: "Wealth, Birth, and Beauty in the Writings of John Adams"

Dr. Luke Mayville, American University
5:30 PM, MGC 203-205 

Luke Mayville is the 2014-2015 Postdoctoral Fellow at the Political Theory Institute at American University. He holds a Phd from Yale University and a BA suma cum laude from the University of Oregon. His dissertation, entitled "The Oligarchic Mind: Wealth and Power in the Political Thought of John Adams," draws upon John Adams's treatises, essays, and letters to uncover an unfamiliar theory of the political power of wealth. His article, "Fear of the Few: John Adams and the Power Elite," is forthcoming in Polity. He will teach "American Political Thought in Fall 2014 and a seminar entitled "Democracy and Inequality" in Spring 2015.

February 5, 2015: "Tocqueville on America's Two Foundings: Natural Rights and History"

Dr. James W. Ceaser, University of Virginia
5:30 PM, MGC 203-205

James W. Ceaser is the Harry F. Byrd Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the author of over a dozen books on American politics and political thought, including Presidential Selection (Princeton, 1979), Liberal Democracy and Political Science (Johns Hopkins, 1992), Reconstructing American (Yale, 1997), Nature and History in American Political Development (Harvard, 2006), and Designing a Polity (Rowman and Littlefield, 2010). He has published 66 scholarly articles in journals and anthologies, including essays on Tocqueville and Montesquieu published in the top outlets such as American Political Science Review and the Review of Politics. Professor Ceaser has also co-authored a series on American Presidential elections that began in 1992. He has held visiting positions at Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, the University of Basel, and the University of Bordeaux. Professor Ceaser is the Chairman of the Academic Council of the Jack Miller Center, a frequent contributor to the popular press, and a frequent commentator on American politics for the Voice of America for French West Africa. He received his BA from Kenyon College and his PhD from Harvard.

Speakers for Fall 2014

See the list of speakers from the Fall 2014 academic semester

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Speakers for 2013-2014

See the list of speakers from the 2013-2014 academic year

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Speakers for 2012-2013

See the list of speakers from the 2012-2013 academic year 

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Speakers for 2011-2012

See the list of speakers from the 2011-2012 academic year

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Speakers 2011 and Prior

Please see Political Theory Colloquium Lecture Series from 2011 and prior

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