2014-15 Director’s Lectures

Quentin Skinner: How Should We Think About Religious Freedom?
April 20, 2015

This Director's Lecture by Quentin Skinner, Barber Beaumont Professor in Humanities at Queen Mary's University, London, commemorated the opening of the Neubauer Collegium's permanent home on campus. The concept of individual freedom is usually understood in negative terms as absence of interference or constraint. Skinner argued that this orthodoxy is in need of qualification and perhaps abandonment. Skinner began his lecture by noting that, because the concept of interference is such a complex one, there has been much dispute even within the liberal tradition about the conditions under which it may be legitimate to claim that freedom has been infringed. Furthermore, some writers challenge the liberal tradition by insisting that its emphasis on non-interference leaves us without any grasp of the content of human freedom. Skinner went on to suggest that both these traditions of thought arguably fail to recognise the centrality of a different element in the idea of personal liberty. His lecture concluded with an attempt to excavate this rival and largely occluded tradition of thinking, and with some reflections on its special importance in democratic societies.

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Peter Cole: The Poetry of the Influence Machine
October 21, 2014

Peter Cole, the recipient of a 2007 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, has published four books of poems and translated major works of medieval and modern Hebrew and Arabic poetry. His lecture addressed the mysteries of poetic inspiration and the challenge of "translating one self into another." The talk was preceded by a reading at the Logan Center, co-sponsored by the Program in Poetry and Poetics and the Committee on Social Thought, at which Cole read selection from his most recent book of poems, The Invention of Influence

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Emmanuel Saez: Income and Wealth Inequality: Evidence and Policy Implications
October 9, 2014

Emannuel Saez inaugurated the Roman Family Directorship with a Director's Lecture at which he summarized key empirical findings from a global database on top income and wealth shares spanning more than a century. An economist at the University of California, Berkeley, who helped compile the database. Saez focused on the role of techonology, government regulations, and tax policy as drivers of inequaity. Professors Kevin Murphy (Economics) and William Sewell (Political Science, History) joined as discussants. 

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