McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles to Host Seventh Annual Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas

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Elliott Conference

MACON – Mercer University’s Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles will host its seventh annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, March 18-19, focusing on the theme “Liberty and Tyranny in Plato.”

This year’s conference includes 11 scholars from across the United States presenting their work as lecturers or panelists. All events are free and open to the public. The opening and closing lectures and student panel will take place in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center, and the three faculty panels will take place in Connell Student Center Conference Room I.

“Plato’s interest in liberty and tyranny was well known to the classically educated founders of the American republic,” said Dr. Charlotte Thomas, professor of philosophy and co-director of the McDonald Center. “In this year’s conference, 11 well-known scholars from several different academic disciplines will present their attempts to understand Plato’s core concerns regarding political liberty and the threat of tyranny, and we will think together about the lessons we can find there for our contemporary situation.”

The opening lecture will be delivered by Dr. Nicholas Smith, James F. Miller Professor of Humanities and professor of philosophy at Lewis & Clark College. He will present “Pity the Tyrant” on Monday at 6 p.m.

Dr. Smith specializes in the areas of Ancient Greek philosophy and literature, Aristophanic comedy, and ethics. He is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of more than 15 books, including Plato’s Socrates, co-authored with Dr. T.C. Brickhouse, which was named Outstanding Academic Book for 1994 by Choice.

The conference’s closing lecture will be delivered by Dr. Catherine Heldt Zuckert, Nancy Reeves Dreux Professor of Political Science Emerita at the University of Notre Dame. She will present “Plato on Liberty – Public and Private” on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Dr. Zuckert specializes in political theory, with particular research and teaching interests in the history of political philosophy, the search for self-knowledge, and politics and literature. She has authored or co-authored six books and edited three others, including award-winning titles Understanding the Political Spirit: Philosophical Reflections from Socrates to Nietzsche, Natural Right and the American Imagination: Political Philosophy in Novel Form and Plato’s Philosophers.

Additionally, as part of the conference, four Mercer students will present their original research. The student panel, featuring Holly Cooper, Preston Earle, Devyn Mode and Cody Moran, will take place on Monday at 4 p.m.

Faculty panels will take place on Tuesday at 9 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. Panelists include Mercer’s Dr. Kevin Honeycutt, as well as Dr. Peter Ahrensdorf of Davidson College, Dr. Jennifer Baker of the College of Charleston, Dr. Khalil Habib of Hillsdale College, Dr. Alex Priou of Long Island University, Dr. Richard Ruderman of the University of North Texas, Dr. Devin Stauffer of the University of Texas, Dr. Mary Townsend of St. John’s University and Dr. Jeffrey Dirk Wilson of The Catholic University of America.

The conference’s full schedule is available online.

The McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles has held an annual Conference on Great Books and Ideas since 2008. That conference was endowed with a $1 million gift from alumnus and trustee A.V. Elliott in November 2012. Elliott, a 1956 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts who majored in history and Christianity, went on to found Elliott Machine Shop, a 100-employee company in Macon. His success, he said, was in part due to his ability to think critically at important moments, a skill he honed in his humanities courses at Mercer.

About the Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles

The Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America’s Founding Principles exists to supplement Mercer University’s excellent liberal arts program with a redoubled commitment to the foundational texts and ideas that have shaped Western Civilization and the American political order. This focus on the core texts of the Western tradition helps to revitalize a cross-centuries dialogue about citizenship, human rights, and political, economic and religious freedom, thereby deepening the moral imagination and fostering civic and cultural literacy.

The McDonald Center’s programming includes the annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, faculty-student reading groups, a general education course on America’s Founding Principles, summer Great Books programs for high school teachers and students, and undergraduate research fellowships. All programming is designed to enhance Mercer’s longstanding role as a distinctive home of liberal learning, a place where serious students come to live the life of the mind and emerge more thoughtful and engaged citizens.

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Kyle Sears