2 renown philosophers discussed truth and democracy at University of Florida on Thurday

Two distinguished American philosophers who are best friends discussed politics, religion and humanity in front of a standing room only crowd Thursday at the University of Florida.

The discussion featured Cornel West and Robert George as panelists as part of an event billed as “Truth-Seeking and Democracy” that was hosted by the Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education at UF.

“It was great to have a model of a civil debate between philosophers and friends,” said David Canton, director of African American Studies at UF. “I enjoyed the discussion and hearing their thoughts on the Civil War, the constitution, Abraham Lincoln and how democracy works.”

George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. He previously served as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and as a Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States.

“Dialogues of Plato” is the book that has had the biggest influence on his scholarly thinking and work, George said.

“It’s about why we dialogue,” George said. “It shows us the real value of truth-seeking and debate. Nothing is the same. I had to rethink my morals and my values. It was exhilarating, but unnerving. Once you get on that train, you don’t know who you’re going to be or where you’re going to be when you get off.”

George also talked about the virtues that, in his opinion, are important for the livelihood of humanity.

“Honesty, beauty, integrity are virtues, but there is a particular virtue that is enabling these other virtues —courage,” George said. “The virtue of intelligence is important because of our human fallibility.”

West is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer chair at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and is known for his political activism and his critique on philosophy, religion, race, gender and class struggle. He is also campaigning to be the Green Party candidate in the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

He talked about the ills of society and shared his thoughts on what it takes to overcome them.

“We live in a society of spiritual decay and moral decadence,” West said. “Knowledge is learning how to die to learn how to live. Growing is endless and relentless. There will always be clashes. We must try in our own finite way to get ahead.”

West emphasized that humanity continues to strive for the greater good though it faces many struggles.

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“Are we courageous enough to think, feel and act to engage in dialogue to make sure we’re empowered? Humanity is wrestling with fear and anxiety, yet we fight to be decent human beings,” West said.

Andre McFadden II, a UF graduate student, attended the discussion.

A fan of West’s and his teachings, McFadden said he enjoyed the dialogue between the panelists, especially the topic of being decent human beings.

“I enjoyed hearing his (West’s) perspective,” McFadden said. “My favorite thought was about being human — that’s how I live my life, to be human during my interactions with staff and friends. We must learn from each other and have dialogue often.”

Moderator William Inboden III, left, professor and director of the Hamilton Center at the University of Florida, listens to two renowned philosophers speak during a discussion titled “Truth-Seeking and Democracy.
A standing room only crowd showed up to listen to a discussion featuring renowned philosophers Robert George and Cornel West Thursday during an event billed as

According to its website, the mission for the Hamilton Center is to help students develop the knowledge, habits of thought, analytical skills and character to be citizens and leaders in a free society. The event was co-sponsored by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service and the Department of African American Studies at UF.

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