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Last weekend, members of the junior core course Berlin: Experiment in Modernity, and City for Citizens, took a trip to the historic town of Weimar. Though Weimar was small enough to wander and easily find our way back to the hostel, it was rich with more than 15 museums, with special attention paid to former residents Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. The trip was packed with tours and paid-for meals, but there was plenty of room to eat ice cream and be playful on top of that.

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Students on a guided tour of the Bauhaus University, where Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus movement in 1919. The buildings on campus were specially constructed to maximize the potential of student-art; indirect light sprinkles into the classrooms of painters, as direct light fills the classrooms of sculptors to promote more dynamic pieces. 

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Night sky of the Milky Way over the Namibian desert near "Southern Cross"

Night sky of the Milky Way over the Namibian desert near “Southern Cross”

On May 8, Bard College Berlin had the opportunity to welcome Noam Libeskind, a researcher from the “Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam,” for a guest lecture titled “From Chaos to Cosmos: the history of the Universe as we know it.” Invited by Professor Michael Weinman for the Early Modern Science core course, Noam introduced some basic concepts regarding the physical properties of our universe, loosely basing his methodology on historical progress in scientific discoveries. In a series of PowerPoint slides, he showed how classical astronomy developed via Newton, Hershel, and Kant, and reached its peak in the modern research of Hubble, Eddington and Einstein.

Although I found almost every slide that Noam Libeskind presented to us quite fascinating and worthy of its own story, I would like to share my reflections on the first photograph he exposed us to––the sky at night. The scientific progress in astronomy started with sky observations, and looking at a relatively clear sky without light pollution inclined me to think about the first sky observers––all in my attempt to understand their fascination with the cosmos better.

Even as a city resident, I frequently look at the sky at night. I often find much peace in it. When I saw how the same sky looks in its pure form, it left me simply breathless. The same image made me realize that there is still so much to learn about the sky above us too––for example, I thought I saw Venus instead of Saturn in one of the images, (due to the invisibility of the rings), and definitely did not know what to make out of the magnetic clouds of the sun’s wind, whose collision with the thermosphere we can see as the aurora borealis in the northern latitudes.

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Display case with a 16th century sundial. (Photo by Inasa Bibić)

Display case with a 16th century sundial. (Photo by Inasa Bibić)

The BA2 students of Bard College Berlin ventured on quite the field trip for their core class History and Philosophy of Science: Early Modern Science on March 8. Led by Professor Michael Weinman, we visited the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in Dresden – home of some of Europe’s first scientific and astronomical instruments.

Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in the Zwinger (Photo by Inasa Bibić)

Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon in the Zwinger (Photo by Inasa Bibić)

The Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments) in Dresden is a museum whose collections include a variety of historical clocks, scientific instruments for terrestrial and celestial measurements, as well as devices for calculating temperature, air pressure and mass. All of these instruments – in addition to their scientific value – are moreover considered to be veritable works of art. It is therefore not surprising that the Salon is a part of the larger “Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden” (“State Art Collections”) located in the Zwinger – a beautiful palace built in Rococo style that served as an exhibition gallery, festival arena and orangery for the Dresden Court.

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Glenn Most guest lecturing at ECLA

Glenn Most

Evening guest academic lectures are always special for the ECLA of Bard community. Apart from presenting the students with the possibility to sleep longer and prepare better, they give a chance to hear some fresh thoughts on the familiar texts and participate in a vivid discussion with experts from the “outside”.

On the 16th of October ECLA of Bard welcomed Glenn Most – an American classicist and comparatist, well-known in Italy and Germany, who works as a Visiting Professor of Social Thought and Classics at the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought (University of Chicago, US) and also teaches Greek philology in the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa (Italy).

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Students of the Property Core Course had the good fortune to have Professor Andreas Blank conduct a seminar about Samuel Pufendorf’s theory of necessity on May 30th.

Professor Blank is a teacher of early modern philosophy in the University of Hamburg and his expertise was most helpful in comparing Pufendorf’s notions of ownership and necessity with English social contract theorists such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

The 2nd year BA Core Course has so far covered different theories of property and themes that arise from political implications of property such as: slavery, money and sovereignty. The reading of Pufendorf comes when the course takes a turn towards necessity which was a prominent notion in the discussions of Giorgio Agamben’s State of Exception.

Professor Blank began a discussion of Pufendorf’s theory of ownership by introducing the concept of moral entities. Moral entities, as Pufendorf describes, are not found in nature and are at the same time dependent upon and imposed on human beings and their activities. The term ‘moral’ in this case does not necessarily come with ethical allusions and instead refers to a sense that these entities direct action.

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Frank Ruda

Frank Ruda

The BA2 Core Course for the spring term, on the topic of ‘Property’, co-taught by faculty members Catherine Toal and Michael Weinman, commenced on the 16th of April with two guest seminars from Frank Ruda, Visiting Lecturer at the Institute of Philosophy, Scientific Research Centre in Ljubljana, Research Associate in Philosophy at the Free University of Berlin, and the author of the book Hegel’s Rabble.

Catherine Toal referred to the book as one of the examples of the lecturer’s successful integration of an analysis of problems of contemporary concern with a reading of classic philosophical texts. Through an interpretation of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Ruda explores the consequences of a structural impossibility besetting civil society and the state: not everyone who needs to will be able to secure the means of subsistence through labour, and so a ‘dispossessed’ group is created (which Hegel calls the “rabble”) whose duty to society’s continued orderly functioning is thus also thrown into question.

To begin the term’s discussion on property, Frank Ruda proposed a consideration of what is ‘proper’ to the process of thinking itself, and to the definition of what it means to be human.

In the first seminar, he outlined a reading of Hegel’s 1808 essay ‘Who Thinks Abstractly?’, a text which takes its point of origin from the existence, within the “beautiful” (or aristocratic) world, of an apparently dismissive attitude to those who ‘think abstractly’, implicitly, the scholarly practitioners of philosophy. Ruda affirmed that one of Hegel’s strategies is to dismantle the assumptions which lie at the heart of this attitude, by delineating evidence which contradicts its premise and exposes symptoms of inconsistency.

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Forms of Love

Along with the new term came a new core course for AY and BA1 students. Forms of Love: Eros, Agape, and Philia, coordinated by ECLA faculty member David Hayes, engages with various texts on love throughout the centuries, and makes up the core course that students have to take in Winter Term.

Brendan Boyle from the University of North Carolina, Marcela Perett, who we are glad to welcome to ECLA as a postdoctoral Fellow this term, and faculty member Geoff Lehman, make up the rest of the teaching instruction staff for this course, each one leading seminar groups and offering individual lectures.

While the autumn core, Plato’s Republic and Its Interlocutors, – was structured around the reading of various texts that were interspersed with – and usually always referred back to – the ten books of the Republic, this term’s course will be significantly different. Even though Plato— his Symposium – will come up again, there will not be a fixed text at the centre that the other texts will revolve around, but the focus of the reading will continuously change and progress through history.

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Claudia Baracchi

Photo: Yulia Babenko

On December 5, ECLA was happy to welcome Claudia Baracchi, professor at the University of Milano–Bicocca and Visiting Professor at the New School for Social Research.

Claudia’s main areas of expertise include Ancient philosophy, nineteenth- and twentieth-century Continental philosophy, philosophy of history, feminist thought, philosophy of art, political philosophy, and ethics.  Claudia was invited to give the final guest lecture on Book X of the Republic and Book XXIV of the Iliad for the core class on Plato and His Interlocutors.

This was the first time that Professor Baracchi visited ECLA, but she said that she has been and still is “very curious” about our small but unique college. In the opening minutes of the lecture she noted that we have to deal with an ending, but a “festive” one.

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