MACON – Mercer University's Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles will host its third annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, March 25-26, focusing on the theme “Republics Ancient and Modern.” All events are free and open to the public.
“This year's conference will explore the various models of republicanism that were available to the American founders as they went about designing our institutions,” said Dr. Will R. Jordan, associate professor of political science and co-director of the McDonald Center. “From the ancient histories of Plutarch to the modern enlightenment influence of Locke and Montesquieu, the founders drew upon a wide variety of sources. How these diverse ideas were synthesized and applied makes the accomplishment of the founding all the more remarkable.”
The conference's opening lecture will be delivered by Dr. Stuart D. Warner, associate professor of philosophy at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
Dr. Warner's talk, titled “A Stranger in a Strange Land: Montesquieu on Republics Ancient and Modern,” will take place on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Room 110 of the Science and Engineering Building on Mercer's Macon campus.
“We are so pleased to welcome back to Mercer Professor Stuart Warner, who is a great friend of the McDonald Center,” said Dr. Charlotte Thomas, professor of philosophy and co-director of the McDonald Center. “Professor Warner has published, edited and translated extensively in early modern philosophy. His talk is sure to be as entertaining as it is thoughtful, as always.”
Dr. Warner also serves as director of The Montesquieu Forum for the Study of Civic Life, which was founded at Roosevelt in 2008 with a grant from the Jack Miller Center. The forum seeks to advance the study of the classical and European heritage that informed the American founding through coursework on political philosophy, visiting scholars, public lectures and conferences, and other activities.
In addition to his teaching, Dr. Warner has published essays on Locke, Spinoza, Burke, Bentham, Hegel, Hume, Adam Smith and Montesquieu, and has 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 working on a translation of Montesquieu's Persian Letters.
He has served as visiting professor at the University of Chicago's Committee of Social Thought and at the University of Chicago's Center for Study of the Principles of the American Founding. Besides his current work on Montesquieu, he is working on a translation and interpretation of Descartes' Discourse on Method and an interpretive essay on Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.
The conference's closing lecture will be delivered by Dr. David Wootton, Anniversary Professor of History at the University of York in England.
Dr. Wootton's talk, titled “Shakespeare, James I, and the Dutch Republic,” will take place on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Presidents Dining Room of the University Center on the Macon campus.
“It is a great honor to be able to bring Professor David Wootton to Mercer,” said Dr. Thomas. “In several books and articles, he has advanced the argument that one cannot fully understand 18th century constitutional theory or the American Constitution without taking seriously the metaphors of machinery they employ, for example, 'checks and balances.' We are sure to benefit from his deep knowledge of the early modern period and its direct influences on the American founding.”
Dr. Wootton has published widely on the intellectual and cultural history of England, France and Italy from the 16th to 19th centuries. His most recent books are Galileo: Watcher of the Skies and Bad Medicine: Doctors Doing Harm Since Hippocrates, and he is currently writing a book on the scientific revolution.
He was educated at Oxford and Cambridge, and has held positions in history and politics at four British and four Canadian universities, as well as visiting positions in the United States.
Additionally, as part of the conference, five Mercer students and eight visiting scholars will present their original research. The student panel will take place at 9 a.m., and faculty panels will follow at 10:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. These will take place in the Presidents Dining Room of the University Center.
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
The McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles supplements Mercer's liberal arts program with a redoubled commitment to the foundational texts and ideas that have shaped Western Civilization and the American political order.
The 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.