David Schmidtz, one of the nation’s foremost experts on political philosophy, will be the keynote speaker at the Scholars’ Convocation at noon Wednesday, April 29, 2015, in the Joe Rosenfield ‘25 Center, Room 101. Schmidtz has been named the National Phi Beta Kappa Scholar in Philosophy for 2014-15.
His address, “On the Pretense of Consent,” is part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars program. The event is free and open to the public with a free pizza lunch provided.
Newly elected members of Grinnell’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Beta of Iowa, will be recognized at the Convocation, as well as the winners of the annual Joseph F. Wall ’41 Phi Beta Kappa Scholar’s Award and the Neal Klausner Sophomore Book Awards.
In his address Schmidtz will explore how many political theories that represent justified political authority are grounded in the consent of the people. But if we start from there, according to Schmidtz, we end up spending our time defining consent in abstract ways in service of a lame pretense that we live under justified consent-based authority.
In contrast, Schmidtz will contend that, “If we start with actual politics, that is, from the idea that disagreement is an inevitably central feature of our lives together, then the objective becomes to make it safe to disagree, and at very least not ensure that politics is war by other means.
“The point of politics,” he will conclude, “is to create realms where the operative virtue is nonthreatening diplomacy — realms in which people are not a threat to each other. In practice, seeking consent is our most important way of keeping the peace and of treating each other with respect, but it is not the moral foundation of keeping the peace or of mutual respect. Its importance is derivative, not foundational. When we do not acknowledge the actual role of consent, we fail to take it seriously.”
Currently the Kendrick Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona, Schmidtz is founding director of Arizona’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. He has published extensively on ethics, environmental philosophy, and rational choice. He is author of Person, Polis, Planet and editor-in-chief of the journal Social Philosophy and Policy, which has the largest circulation among philosophy journals in the English-speaking world.
Phi Beta Kappa is an academic honor society with more than a half million members in chapters at nearly 300 American colleges and universities.
Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. The Joe Rosenfield ‘25 Center has accessible parking in the lot on the east side of the building. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations.