The Weber Seminar: Confronting Uncomfortable Moral, Political, and Social Ideas (Part 1: June 2021)
“Any effective teacher will have to try first of all to get his [sic] students to recognize uncomfortable facts [unbequeme Tatsachen]–facts, I mean, that go against their own partisan opinions.” Max Weber’s Lectures On Vocation
The great social theorist Max Weber (1864-1920) offered these words above during the first of two lectures he delivered to a group of students in Munich on January 28, 1919. For Weber, an untrammeled investigation of truth required openness to entertaining propositions, proposals, theories, ideas that might be inconvenient, unpleasant or unpopular. This seminar, led by Morrison Family Director of the Institute for Freedom and Community, is designed to acquaint students with moral, political and social ideas that challenge comfortable partisan opinions or reigning orthodoxies in the academy.
The seminar invites students into a bold free-thinking project but also offers a supportive environment for expressing and considering views out of the academic mainstream. What counts as “out of the mainstream” is, of course, contextual, and will depend on circumstances at a particular point in time. In addition to several smaller readings, the following primary works have been selected for the 2021 seminar:
Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, Cynical Theories
Ilana Redstone and John Villasenor, Unassailable Ideas
Michael Sandel, The Tyranny of Merit
Virgil Henry Storr and Ginny Seung Choi, Do Markets Corrupt Our Morals?
Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race
Kenneth S. Stern, The Conflict over the Conflict
Max Weber, Charisma and Disenchantment: The Vocation Lectures
Peter W. Wood, 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project
The Weber Research Colloquium: Confronting Uncomfortable Moral, Political, and Social Ideas (Part 2: July 2021)
Building on the discussions, dialogue, and discourse of The Weber Seminar, participants will pursue their own individualized research projects that reflect in a substantial and concentrated way a strong critical engagement with the content of the seminar. The individual research component of the Weber Summer Scholars Program will thus allow students to develop their research practices, writing skills, and creative energies around a singular and specialized area of study that intersects with the moral, political and social ideas presented during the seminar. Immersing oneself in a research project full-time will not only result in more learning about the subject of study, but it will also develop critical thinking skills and competencies. Students will have the opportunity to present their work in a virtual conference-style format while also sharing insights with one another.