McCormick Chair Lecture and Colloquium with Prof. Robin Lovin
""How Politics Became Impossible and Ethics Became Unnecessary: MThe Shrinking Moral Vocabulary of Modern Public Life"
One of the problems of contemporary politics is the shrinking of its moral vocabulary. Religious aspirations, prophetic indictments, and even the concept of the common good have been pushed to the margins of public reason. Of course, these moral and religious ideas have not disappeared from public consciousness or public speech; but we no longer have a shared understanding of their place in politics as a whole. Likewise, the institutions that shape lives and connect persons to the wider society tend to disappear from political consideration. They are viewed simply as actors in a market economy, producers and consumers of a somewhat different sort, but not as the centers of moral formation and evaluation that they actually are in the lives of most citizens in a free society. Drawing on the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, Robert Bellah, and other scholars of contemporary religion and public life, Robin Lovin will discuss how this shrinking of our moral vocabulary came about, what its unintended consequences have been, and how renewed attention to the role of these mediating institutions-schools, museums, symphony orchestras, congregations, hospitals, community organizations, and the like-might help us to expand our ways of thinking about ethics in politics.
Robin Lovin is Director of Research at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey, and Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics emeritus at SMU, where he taught moral theology across different disciplines from 2001-2012. Previously he served eight years as dean of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. He is the author of numerous books and papers, including most recently An Introduction to Christian Ethics: Goals, Duties, and Virtues (2011), Christian Realism and the New Realities (2008) and Christian Ethics: An Essential Guide (1999).
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