there is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in*
–from Anthem by Leonard Cohen
As part of its commitment to develop the ethos of Case Western Reserve University and its relationship to its larger community, the Beamer-Schneider Professorship will present every two years an event by edgy public intellectuals, ethicists, or thinkers of politics on a matter concerning the intersection of ethics and civics. The idea is to advance our thinking in these domains, to push us to deal with a difficult area of our lives theoretically or philosophically, to make us uncomfortable, albeit excited.
The inaugural lecture was given in April of 2011 by Simon Critchley of the New School University in New York City. His lecture was called “The Powerless Power of the Call of Conscience” and ranged between anarchic politics, social conscience, and the capacity of schools to problematize authority. His workshop, given the day before, was on Apollinaire’s great poem “Zone” and examined the intersection of the personal and the political in Apollinaire’s apparent autobiography of a despondent city-dweller of Paris in the first decades of the 20th century. Professor Critchley also worked with the SAGES class vocation & Life which had read his 2006 book Infinitely Demanding.
Susan Neiman, director of the Einstein Forum in Berlin, gave the second biennial Beamer-Schneider Lecture in Ethics and Civics in April, 2013. Her lecture, “Learning from the Germans: Tarantino, Spielberg, and American Crimes,” examined how 60 years of German attempts to deal with its Nazi past produced a template for confronting national evils. In American culture, such confrontations are rare. Neiman reflected on how Americans can begin to think about forging an identity in the face of our own torturous past. Her workshop the following day was on her novel, Time Heals, tracing the lives of nine people – including writers and barkeepers, bureaucrats and punks, Germans and Jews – as they were affected by the consequences of World War II in postwar Berlin. Neiman also participated in an upper level ethics seminar on Kant and the banality of evil which had read her Evil in Modern Thought.