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Richard Burke Lecture Series

Richard J. Burke was the first faculty member hired by Oakland University. He taught in the department for 46 years (1959-2005). Professor Burke shared his love of philosophy with thousands of students and he left an indelible mark upon the Philosophy Department and the entire university. Sadly, Professor Burke died on February 14, 2012, at age 79. Read his obituary.

Among his many gifts to Oakland University was an endowment for the Richard J. Burke Lecture Series in Philosophy, Religion, and Society. This annual event has since brought major social philosophers to the Oakland campus, including Daniel Dennett, Peter Singer, and Richard Falk. Because of Professor Burke's generosity, this lecture series will continue for many decades into the future.


Professor Michael Walzer
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Ideas of Peace in the Hebrew Bible

Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 7 p.m.
Temple Israel
5725 Walnut Lake Road
West Bloomfield, MI  48323

Professor Walzer will look at six biblical passages, from Deuteronomy, Kings, and Isaiah, which present very different ideas of what peace means what a peaceful world would look like. His aim is a critical analysis of these texts and finally an endorsement of the argument of the last of them.

Michael Walzer is one of America’s foremost political thinkers.  He has written about a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy, including political obligation, just and unjust war, nationalism and ethnicity, economic justice, and the welfare state. He has played a critical role in the revival of a practical, issue-focused ethics and in the development of a pluralist approach to political and moral life. Walzer’s books include Just and Unjust Wars (1977), On Toleration (1997), and Arguing About War (2004); he has served as editor of the political journal Dissent for more than three decades. Currently, he is working on issues having to do with international justice and the new forms of welfare and also on a collaborative project focused on the history of Jewish political thought.

Previous lecturers:

2013: The 2013 Burke Lecturer was Professor Jonathan Lear of the University of Chicago. His lecture was entitled "Wisdom Won from Illness: The Psychoanalytic Grasp of Human Being." Dr. Lear is an expert on Aristotle and on Freud; and he is one of the preeminent philosophers working on psychoanalysis. In his Burke Lecture, Lear argued that psychoanalysis is not simply a means to an end — a cure for mental illness — but is itself a significant manifestation of human flourishing A flier for the event can be found here. A video of the event can be found here.

2012: The 2012 Burke Lecturer was Professor Ronald Aronson, a distinguished professor of the History of Ideas at Wayne State University. His talk, entitled, "Reconstructing Hope Today," took place on Wednesday, April 4, 2012, at 7pm in Banquet Room A of the Oakland Center. The talk began with the question, "Is there reason to hope today?" Aronson argued that, while a cynical mood has come to pervade our society as the products of collective hope -- unions, social programs, public schools and government -- are increasingly attacked, recent events may give us reason to hope for a world of greater collective belonging and action.

2011: The 2011 Burke Lecturer was Dr. Susan Haack, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Cooper Senior Scholar in the Arts and Sciences, Professor of Philosophy, and Professor of Law at Miami University. Professor Haack presented a lecture entitled, "Cracks in the Wall, a Bulge Under the Carpet: The Singular Story of Religion, Evolution, and the U.S. Constitution," Thursday, February 10, 2011, at 7p.m. in Banquet Room B of the Oakland Center. Her talk explored "the history of the evolution of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and specifically its role in cases involving the teaching of evolution in public high schools. This legal history will be informed by the conjecture that over many years, a relatively modest understanding of the Establishment Clause due to James Madison has been largely, though not completely, displaced by a more ambitious understanding due to Thomas Jefferson; and punctuated by philosophical asides on questions about the (in)compatibility of the theory of evolution with religious beliefs, the meaning of 'theory,' and the demarcation of science."

2010: The 2010 Burke Lecturer was Shadia Drury, who was on campus April 15-16, 2010. Dr. Drury is Canada Research Chair in Social Justice and Professor in the Departments of Political Science and Philosophy at Regina University. In addition to time spent in informal discussions in the department lounge and over lunches and dinners, Drury's busy schedule included the following: A discussion of the question "Is Morality the Imitation of the Gods?" in Elysa White's PHL/REL 325 on Thursday the 15th; the fifth annual public Burke Lecture on "American Exceptionalism" in the evening of the 15th in the OC Gold Rooms; and a talk on "Philosophical Assumptions of American Foreign Policy" the following morning in the Oakland Room. It was a great pleasure to hold many engaging discussions with Dr. Drury on a wide array of interesting topics. We're grateful to her for coming, and grateful to Dr. Richard Burke for making her visit possible. Thanks to you both!

2009: The 2009 Burke Lecturer was Daniel C. Dennett of Tufts University. His public lecture, “Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” took place Monday, April 6, in the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms, before a packed house of over 600 audience members from on campus and from the surrounding community. “Dennett holds that many aspects of humanity, including social matters like religion, can be understood in terms of evolution, Darwinian or cultural,” said John Halpin, associate professor and chair of philosophy. “Dennett argues that fundamental questions about humanity, from those about the mind. Dr. Dennett was on campus for a variety of stimulating and enjoyable philosophical discussions over the course of two days. Many thanks to Dr. Dennett for his intellectual generosity. And many thanks to Dr. Richard Burke for making it all possible!

2008: The 2008 Burke Lecturer was Peter Singer. Singer spoke on Thursday, October 4 on the topic of "Changing Attitudes Toward the Sacredness of Human Life".

2007: The 2007 Burke Lecturer was Richard Falk, the Emeritus Albert G. Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice, and the Emeritus Professor of Politics and International Affairs, at Princeton University. Falk's lecture on "The Moral Architecture of the Planet" examined the moral dimensions of globalization with emphasis on such themes as human rights, the accountability of leaders, and the future of citizenship. This free lecture was open to the public and attended by a standing-only crowd of 500+. Falk also served as discussant for a Global Security Forum organized by Mark Rigstad.

2006: The 2006 Burke Lecture was Holmes Rolston III, the University Distinguished Professor of philosophy at Colorado State University. Rolston is considered the "Father of Environmental Ethics" and was a winner of the 2003 Templeton Prize.

Copies of Professor Burke's book, Philosophical Bagatelles, are available for download onto Kindle readers.

See remembrances from Professor Paul Graves and former student Alex Cherup.