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This article originally appeared on Public Seminar and has been republished here with their kind permission.

deste gosto (Credit: Ponto e virgula | Flickr)

deste gosto (Credit: Ponto e virgula | Flickr)

Earlier this week, and in advance of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, Andrew Sullivan produced a video for BBC Newsnight, detailing how the election campaign and Trump’s success reminded him of Socrates’ account of the rise of a tyrannical regime in the eighth book of Plato’s Republic. The video has made it into pretty heavy circulation, and as someone who has taught this particular text in part or whole just about every year since the inauguration of President Bush (43, not 41 — I’m not that old yet) I’ve been asked by a more than a few people “How accurate is Sullivan’s presentation?” and “Can we or ought we derive a different lesson from Socrates’s analysis?” This post is my reply to those questions.

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► Monday: Medieval Christmas Market

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Imagine a gate opening in the art, culture and clubs hub of Friedrichshain to transport you to the medieval ages. In this historical Christmas market, you won’t find the usual kitsch; you’ll find everything from live medieval performances in music, acrobatics, and a fire-show, to unique handicrafts, and a tavern serving hot mead. Everyone will be dressed in costume and all the masterfully crafted decorations make the experience truly memorable.

  • When: 14:00-22:00
  • Where:  RAW Gelände – Revaler Straße 99, 10245 Berlin
  • Admission: 2€
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From left to right: Michael Weinman, David Hayes, Andy German, Stuart Patterson. Credit: Gaia Bethel-Birch (AY 2016)

I am surprised that it took me this long to figure out just who exactly this “Plato” guy was. Growing up, I heard the names “Plato”, “Socrates”, and “Aristotle” often, usually in relation to one another, but did not understand what these names contributed to Western philosophy and science. Until recently, the mention of one of these three conjured up only imaginings of bearded faces and wise, earnest discourse in my mind. My knowledge went so far as to connect the names to Greek philosophy. Happily, my first semester of a liberal arts education has brought me further in my understanding.

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Falling Man by Richard Drew

I think I must have been holding some brightly colored toy. I remember the flash of color falling from my hands to the ground as my mother’s bloodcurdling scream reached my ears. I ran into the house to see what had happened. My aunt, uncles, grandmother and mother stood crowding around the TV screen. They had closed faces of general disbelief while my mother stood crying hysterically in the middle. I remember a hand coming to cover a mouth, eyes bulging, a limp cigarette dropping ashes on the living room floor. I knew something big, bigger than us, was happening from they way they could not hear me as I shouted “what’s wrong?” from the fact that they didn’t feel me yanking at their sleeves. So I tried to understand what the television was showing us, but it was a blur of strange sounds and incomprehensible images. Flames and something familiar, something I had seen on countless postcards my whole life. The live stream from CNN was dubbed by an Italian newscaster. The volumes of their voices were equal, like two people shouting over one another. Their words tangled around each other so I couldn’t understand either of them. All I knew was that the place on the TV was New York.  “Una delle le due torri. Colpita. We do not yet know che cosa sia accaduto.” Then the second tower was hit and my family began yelling.

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Kafranbel is a liberated town in Syria, i.e not under the influence of the regime. The town became famous for making banners and sharing them on Facebook in support of the revolution.

In our liberal age, the notion of freedom is sacred. Arguing the opposite amounts to liberal heresy. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’ as depicted by the media affirms the universal sanctity of freedom. Didn’t “Arabs” sacrifice their lives for freedom’s sake after all? Maybe. The media did not depict the illiberal version of the story. In Syria––as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter remind me everyday – part of the population hates freedom.

Is it possible for ‘rational’ human beings to hate freedom?

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I am Charlie… you are… we are Charlie. Photo: L’association “THE YOUNGZ” at sxminfor.fr

I am Charlie… you are… we are Charlie. Photo: L’association “THE YOUNGZ” at sxminfor.fr

This week, we ask faculty member Jan Völker who currently teaches «Ideology: a thing from the past?» about the event of Charlie Hebdo, the symptomatic slogan « Je suis Charlie » and finally, his specialty––ideology.

Read more if you want to find out if ideology is dead or still alive and kicking
Prof. Dr. Ewa Atanassow

Prof. Dr. Ewa Atanassow

The blog team continues the series of discussions with members of the Bard College Berlin faculty. Our guest today is Prof. Dr. Ewa Atanassow, who will be teaching a course on “Equality“ in the Spring Semester 2014.

Prof. Dr. Ewa Atanassow has received a PhD from the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, an MA in psychology from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Government at Harvard University. Her research and teaching interests focus on questions of nationhood and democratic citizenship, and more broadly on the intersection of ethics and psychology in the liberal tradition of political thought, with emphasis on Tocqueville. Her articles and reviews have appeared in Journal of Democracy, Kronos, Nations and Nationalism, Perspectives on Political Science, Przeglad Polityczny. She is the co-editor of Tocqueville and the Frontiers of Democracy, published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.

Previous faculty podcasts: Michael Weinman

Talk With Thomas Hasel

On May 15th, ECLA of Bard had the pleasure and privilege to host a talk on post-revolutionary Egypt with Thomas Hasel, co-producer of the Deutsche Welle documentary After the Storm: A New Beginning for Egypt’s Economy, which deals with Egypt’s economy after Mubarak’s fall. The event was organized by ECLA of Bard’s Politics and Ethics concentration seminar Democracy: Ancient and Modern, taught by Professor Ewa Atanassow. The discussion was moderated by our BA2 student from Egypt Aya Ibrahim, who actively contributed to its course with her firsthand knowledge.

The screening of the documentary preceded an insightful talk with Thomas Hasel. Mr. Hasel is a German journalist and political scientist. Since 1994 he has specialized in political and economic systems in the Arab world and published a number of press articles on the Arab states in North Africa. His evident expertise and interest in the Egyptian situation made the discussion very lively and fruitful from the very beginning. Mr. Hasel was patient enough to answer our every question, and his answers were informative at all times.

The documentary After the Storm: A New Beginning for Egypt’s Economy deals with the development of Egypt’s economy after Mubarak’s fall, arguing that the revolution in early 2011 was a protest not only against an authoritarian ruler, but also against the country’s economic misery, corruption and unemployment rate. The film gave the audience enough background information on the current situation and helped us to better understand its practical underpinnings, which later inspired some very thought-provoking questions addressed to Mr. Hasel.

One of the main points highlighted by the documentary and raised by the students is the division between lower and upper social classes in contemporary Egypt.

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