Monday, March 16, 2009

Great Lectures on Great Ideas and Great Deeds

Harvey C. Mansfield lecturing

One of the rich benefits of my graduate education at Boston College twenty years ago was the monthly lecture series organized by Ernest Fortin and sponsored by the Bradley Foundation. So in addition to the outstanding faculty at the college itself, I was able to sit under the teaching of Allan Bloom, Werner Dannhauser, Nathan Tarcov, Ralph Lerner, and Walter Berns.

But now the internet allows access to similar privileges no matter where you are and whatever your circumstances (but without the dinner and discussion following).

A treasure trove of such fine lectures may be found through iTunes.

The best of these comes from the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, a lecture series organized by Princeton's Robert George. (From the iTunes program, go to iTunes Store >podcasts > education > higher education > the Princeton University podcasts icon.)

You should also set some time aside for these lectures in video format.

Clifford Orwin (Univ. of Toronto), "The First Democracy at War: Athens in the Pages of Herodotus." Professor Orwin is distinguished by his work on Rousseau and Thucydides. He is introduced by Prof. Susan Shell for this lecture at Boston College.

Robert Bartlett (Emory Univ.), "Aristotle's Inquiry Into Happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics." Prof. Bartlett is the Arthur Blank/National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professor at Emory University.

Harry Jaffa (Claremont McKenna College), "Natural Law and the American Founding." Professor Jaffa, like professor Mansfield, has been the teacher of great teachers, and most distinguished by his work on Lincoln's political thought.

Charles R. Kesler (Claremont McKenna College), "The Declaration of Independence and American Democracy." Professor Kesler edited the Federalist Papers for Signet Classics, and contributes regularly to the Claremont Review of Books.

Thomas L. Pangle (Univ. of Texas, Austin), "The Great Debate: the Federalist Response to the Anti-Federalist Challenge." Professor Pangle, formerly at University of Toronto, has translated Plato's Laws and written extensively in political philosophy and on the American Founding.

Harvey C. Mansfield (Harvard), three lectures on "Tocqueville's New Liberalism." Professor Mansfield is the translator of Machiavelli and Alexis de Tocqueville, and most recently the author of Manliness.

After all of this, you should end with Harvey Mansfield's 2007 Jefferson Lecture, "How To Understand Politics: What the Humanities Can Say to Science." The print version appeared in First Things. You may select and view the lecture on the Lehrman American Studies Center website as Mansfield delivered it at the Lehrman Summer Institute.

As a "chaser," and a suitable one to follow Mansfield's lecture on thumos, here is the always judicious Robert Faulkner (Boston College), reading from his book, "The Case for Greatness: Honorable Ambition and Its Critics." His other outstanding works cover John Marshall, Richard Hooker, and Francis Bacon.

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