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The John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy

Reflections on Love and Friendship

May 20 - May 22, 1994



Taking as our occasion the recent publication of Allan Bloom's Love and Friendship, we have chosen as our subject the themes of love and friendship. Love and friendship are things for which all men and women naturally yearn. They are tied up with all our notions of beauty and of excellence. They are phenomena that can provide the sweetest as well as the most disappointing moments in life. The experience of and the reflection on love and friendship may furnish the keys to self-knowledge. At any time the discussion of these topics might be profitable and enjoyable, and a matter of urgency for anyone wishing to understand his or her own experience. However, we agree with Allan Bloom that we live in a time that has difficulty speaking about these universal and natural phenomena in a manner that does justice to our experience of them. This very difficulty makes more necessary than ever for us today the task of calm and serious reflection on these matters.

We live in an age where our ways of talking about love and friendship impoverish our understanding of these matters and in doing so impoverish our very experience of them, making our own nature something foreign to us. One way out of the stifling categories of our time lies through the attentive and sympathetic reading of how the greatest writers have depicted these themes. In bringing together novelists, literary critics and students of philosophy to discuss how great writers have treated love and friendship, we hope to have frank conversations about the nature of these phenomena, free of the abstractions and ideologies that so dominate the way these terms are normally discussed. And, in teaching one another how some of our greatest predecessors have spoken of love and friendship, we hope to begin to find our way back to what a simple and natural understanding of these twin peaks of human life might be.

Conference Schedule

Friday, May 20

10:00 am

Session One

'With All Your Heart and With All Your Soul and With All Your Might': Love in the Hebrew Bible
Hillel Fradkin

The Christian Theology of Love: a Proposal
David Tracy

Love in Don Quixote
Henry Higuera

2:30 pm

Session Two

Friendship in Homer's Odyssey
Amy Kass

The Erotic Character of Platonic Philosophy
Mark Lutz

Saturday, May 21

10:00 am

Session Three

Flaubert and Friendship
Janis Bellow

Natty and Chingachgook: Archetypes of Love and Friendship in the American Novel
Bette Howland

How Prince Myshkin Loves Nastasia Filipovna in Dostoevski's Idiot
Donna Orwin

2:30 pm

Session Four

Love Against Revenge in Shelley's 'Prometheus'"
David Bromwich

What's Love Got to Do With It?
Jean Elshtain

Love, Friendship and Desire
Roger Scruton

Sunday, May 22

10:00 am

Session Five

All Psychology is Moral Psychology: Nietzsche, Eros and Clumsy Lovers
Robert Pippin

'What Have We to Do With Morals?' Love and Morality in Nietzsche
Tracy Strong

Eros and Unknowing
Jonathan Lear

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