Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi: Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.
Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.
Real Talk, Green Shoots
The Hannah Arendt Center had a spectacular Conference this week “Real Talk.” Amazing lectures and talks and conversations with Mary Gaitskill, Janet Halley, Alexandra Brodsky, Greg Lukianoff, Angus Johnston, Erica Hunt, Chris Lebron, Deroy Murdock, Jennifer Doyle, Annie Seaton, Goran Adamson, Judith Shulevitz, Claudia Rankine, Ariana Stokas, Carolyn Lazard, Robert Boyers, Uday Mehta, Bill Deresiewiecz, Wyatt Mason, Dina Toubasi, Mark Williams Jr., Sam Reed, Ken Marcus, Ken Stern, Dima Khalidi, Peter Rosenblum, Leon Botstein and our incredible members and audience. Thank you all.
Here is a transcript of Roger Berkowitz’s Introductory Talk. To read it in its entirety, view the piece on Medium here.
“Robert Gaudino was a professor at Williams College who developed an educational course in “uncomfortable learning.” Inspired by his experience in the Peace Corps, Gaudino would ship Williams students to live in villages and cities in India where they pursued independent projects with local communities. Above all, the students were encouraged to reflect about their work as an an experience that unsettled their worldviews. College, Gaudino argued, should “actively promote a range of experiences that have the creative potential to unsettle and disturb.”
Gaudino died in 1974 but his legacy lives on. In 2014 a group of students founded the “Club for Uncomfortable Learning” in Gaudino’s spirit. On a liberal campus, the club has a lecture series that aspires to host speakers who challenge left-wing verities. Greg Lukianoff, who calls himself a liberal defender of free speech and will be speaking later today, was one of the inaugural speakers in Williams’ Uncomfortable Learning Series. Inspired by the Uncomfortable Learning lectures, the Arendt Center has started a new lecture series at Bard, “Tough Talks,” which picks up the challenge of inviting speakers whose views are bold, challenging, and uncomfortable. Bill Deresiewiecz, who will speak tomorrow, will inaugurate Bard’s Tough Talks Lecture Series on November 7th. Camille Paglia will be speaking in the Spring.
Paradoxically, the Williams club dedicated to uncomfortable learning last year disinvited two speakers. First, the club uninvited Suzanne Venker, the author of many books including “The War on Men” and “The Two-Income Trap.”
Just months later, the “Club for Uncomfortable Learning” uninvited John Derbyshire, a mathematician and part-time columnist for The National Review. Derbyshire calls himself a “race realist,” which means he thinks statistics show the average black American to be more dangerous and less intelligent than whites. Students protested. This time, the Club held firm against protest. But when they refused to disinvite Derbyshire, William’s President Adam Falk stepped in and banned Derbyshire from campus. Falk wrote in a letter to the campus, “Today I am taking the extraordinary step of canceling a speech.” He wrote, “free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard.” But he added, there is a line that cannot be crossed, and Derbyshire had crossed it.…
How has this happened? How has the act of listening to somebody with an opinion foreign to one’s own now seen as dangerous? Is this Group Think? Political correctness? Neo-totalitarianism? Or something new?
To answer that question, we must listen carefully to the disinviters.”