- Newyork Event -
Our speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Minnich, Distinguished Fellow, Association of American Colleges and Universities will take us on a tour of her life and work, and how “thinking” is needed so essentially by a world seeking to find a sane way forward.
Her maternal grandmother came from English-German stock and grew up in Luray, Virginia. Her mother took in boarders when her father disappeared. Dr. Minnich’s Southern, small town, Protestant grandmother married a Russian Jewish immigrant with a Ph.D. in Economics and went with him to Washington D.C. where he helped create the Federal Reserve’s research standards.
Her paternal grandparents were Polish Catholic peasants who fled the poverty and strife of the Old World, only to eke out a living as factory workers through the Depression. They had five children. The sons on both sides of the family became highly educated with the help of public schools and, in the case of the immigrants, scholarships. The two daughters were given no such chance; their own daughters though, in due course, proudly were.
When Dr. Minnich’s father retired, he was Director of the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank, having earned a Harvard Ph.D. in Economics, helped design the Marshall Plan, and authored many books about “Economics and The Real World” (the title of one of them). Her mother raised her family, became an artist, and did civil rights and fair housing work to de-segregate our neighborhood. Many lessons have flowed from this familial crucible.
Think for yourself, not only of yourself. Dr. Minnich learned early that we live in an interconnecting world, for good and for ill, and whatever gifts and strengths we have, we also need supports beyond ourselves and, as her father, who otherwise stressed “self-mastery,” made a point of saying, “sheer good luck.” Had that one public school teacher not decided he should go to college… For her whole family, education was key; for most, public schools and scholarships in addition to resilient determination were essential. We have to ensure our struggles for ourselves never make us selfish.
Philosophy in the real world. It is not surprising that she became a philosopher whose philosophical fieldwork, as she has come to call it, takes her where educational, moral, and political issues intersect. Early in her Ph.D. program, she studied with Hannah Arendt (herself a refugee from Germany). After her first course — “Political Experiences of the 20th Century” — Ms. Arendt asked Elizabeth to be her teaching assistant. This was in the late 1960’s when she was still defending her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on The Banality of Evil. She took Elizabeth with her to public discussions at which she was often attacked. How could she call the evil of the Holocaust and of Eichmann, a man often called “The Engineer of The Final Solution,” banal?
Dr. Minnich writes, “I found myself thinking that if she had spoken of the evil of banality instead, it might have helped. I began studying perpetrators and enablers of horrific harm, from genocide to serial killings. Arendt had asked, “Do an inability to think and a radical failure of conscience coincide?” I needed to know if and/or how the thoughtlessness of banality, as in group-think, auto-pilot application of ‘trainings,’ clichés, habits, conventions actually do have something to do with failures of conscience as well as creativity.
Extensive and intensive evil and good. It became clear that to understand failures of conscience on the level of say genocides, we had to stop confusing these large-scale evils with outbreaks such as gruesome murders that do not last long and take only a few people (appalling and heart-breaking as they are).
She calls the former extensive evils, and the latter, intensive evils. For extensive evils, the doing of enormous harm has to be normalized: people have to be reliable workers, effective as Eichmann was, not shocked or shocking (in their distorted times) by what they are in reality doing. Intensive evils, on the contrary, shock and mobilize communities of any sort. They are precisely not understood to be normal.
It is similar for extensive and intensive good. We cannot rely on the few saints to make, lead, and sustain a good community, or company, or country. We need reliably decent people to do basically good work daily, unexceptionally, over time, as, for example, Doctors Without Borders is organized to do. At home, colleges and universities have in the last decade or so begun working closely with the communities in which they are located so that, instead of “town and gown” problems -- more security guards and fences building more resentment and fear -- both become better, safer, more democratic environments. Students learn early on how knowledge, thinking well, and effective responsible citizenship require each other, reinforce and magnify each other.
The evil of banality, of not thinking what we are doing, staying on auto-pilot is that we are then dangerously not paying attention. In decent enough times and organizations and communities, that may just mean that our lives, loves, work, citizenship are less interesting, rewarding, enlivening. Banal. Boring. When there are real challenges and it is necessary to face up to them, make decisions, act appropriately and in time, being out of touch becomes a lot worse for us and potentially many others whom what we do, and fail to do, affects. In our discussion, we will explore what we as citizens, leaders, parents, agents of history, are called on to do.
We need to teach thinking as well as knowledge, skills, techniques because all those depend on active attention and reflection to be used well. Tacking on a course on “critical thinking” will not suffice: every course, every “training,” every consultation should awaken and practice critical but also responsive, reflective, imaginative thinking. Over time, information and technique lose relevance if we are not daily paying attention and thinking about the nature, implications, and perhaps even significance of what we are doing. Mindlessness over time, becomes deadly, and we will discuss both personal and organizational antidotes and how we might build better reflexes, habits and capabilities.
Our Speaker: Dr. Elizabeth Minnich
Elizabeth K. Minnich is senior scholar for the Association of American Colleges and Universities and a professor of moral philosophy at Queens University.
She has served higher education in different roles at a variety of liberal arts institutions as well as through her writing, speaking, special projects, board memberships, and consulting.
Dr. Minnich’s book, Transforming Knowledge (Temple, 1990), received the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Frederick W. Ness Award for “best book in liberal learning” of its year. Her essays appear in 16 anthologies and 3 textbooks, and she was "scribe" for the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ report, "Liberal Learning And The Arts of Connection for The New Academy," issued by The National Panel on "American Commitments: Diversity, Democracy, and Liberal Learning.”
She serves on 6 academic journals’ editorial boards. She is Series Editor for “The New Academy” (a series of anthologies focused on contemporary critical, creative scholarship and teaching) from Temple University Press.
Her consulting work has taken her to over one hundred colleges, universities, and independent schools, and she has worked with the Ford Foundation, FIPSE, The Kettering Foundation, NEH, the Spencer Foundation, Carnegie, among other philanthropic organizations.
Her volunteer work includes serving as Chair of the North Carolina Humanities Council (1999-2001), and the board of The Humans & Nature Center.
As an academic administrator, she has been a dean and/or director at The New School (now Lang) College; Sarah Lawrence College; Hollins College; and Barnard College on the undergraduate level. She has also been a dean at the Union Institute & University’s Graduate College for Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. She has taught at all of these institutions.
Dr. Minnich earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Graduate Faculty for Political and Social Science of The New School University in New York, where she was teaching assistant for Hannah Arendt. She wrote her dissertation on John Dewey, and has continued to work on issues of democracy and education, with particular focus on inclusive scholarship, curricula, teaching, and institutional practices.
She holds a PhD in philosophy from the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science of the New School for Social Research, New York, where she was teaching assistant for Hannah Arendt. She wrote her dissertation on John Dewey and has continued to work on issues of justice, equality, democracy, and education with particular focus on inclusive and engaged scholarship, curricula, teaching, and institutional practices. Her books include Transforming Knowledge (winner of the national Ness Award) and The Fox in The Henhouse: How Privatization Threatens Democracy, with coauthor Si Kahn.
THE TASTING: CANON AND RAUZAN
We have the privilege of welcoming Nicolas Audebert, who returned from Argentina to run two famed properties in Bordeaux. His philosophy? “Let the terroir do the talking.”
Chateau Rauzan-Segla and Chateau Canon are both owned by Chanel, and Chanel was highly astute to bring Nicolas on board. Nicolas made his mark first at Krug’s Clos du Mesnil and then Cheval des Andes in Argentina.
It is rare to oversee two famed properties, one on the Right Bank, the other on the Left Bank, and the aspiration remains in both instances, to be a conduit for wine that can transmit its history through the glass.
In our tasting, we will also experience Chateau Berliquet (recently acquired), as well some seminal vintages of Canon and Rauzan-Segla.
During dinner we will dive deeper, into mature expressions of Canon and Rauzan-Segla, going back to the 90’s and 80’s. These are wines of unostentatious class and composure, but of eminent appeal and gracious seduction. And as they remain “icons” more than “trophies” we will not only revel in them, but also properly discover their wiles and charms.
Join us as Nicolas shares his passion, his vision, and his deep affinity for the terroir and patrimony of these exceptional properties.
We are back at Jungsik, exclusively reserved for us, with its Two Michelin Stars in proud display. As ever, Chef and team will create a remarkable culinary experience that showcases not only the genius and imagination of the kitchen, but also in terms of aligning with the wines, highlights the delightful nuances and excitement of these vinous treasures.
Each year, this is one of our most sought-after evenings, and it will be a particular thrill to be back there once more on this multi-faceted occasion.