Upcoming Programs for the 2016-2017 Academic Year

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Dinner, The Casino

Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law
Sex and the Constitution


Online registration is available here.
Members may access a shareable PDF for their guests here.

With changes in the makeup of the Supreme Court, serious issues may well arise in the coming years about the future of Roe v. Wade.

Drawing on his new book Sex and the Constitution, which focuses on the history of sex, religion, and constitutional law from the ancient world to the 21st century, Geoffrey Stone will explore the realities of abortion in the past.

To what extent is our contemporary understanding of abortion and of Roe v. Wade reflective of historical experience? How did Roe become a central flashpoint of American politics that today plays such a pivotal role in American elections and in judicial nominations? In this inquiry, Stone sheds new light on what was once common practice and in doing so illuminates the challenges we face going forward.

Thursday, May 11, 2017
Luncheon, The University Club

Adrian Johns, Allan Grant Maclear Professor of History, the Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, and the College Chair, Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science
Information Police: How the Renaissance Gave Us Our Intellectual Property System

We all live, work, and create in a system of information structured by intellectual property. Central to that system is the practice of patenting, by which inventors are given exclusive rights to their inventions for limited periods of time. Patenting has always been controversial, and it remains so to this day. It is typically justified by invoking the need to encourage innovation and by pointing to the equity of a bargain by which inventors gain monopoly rights in return for abjuring secrecy.

But even if that justification makes sense today, it certainly did not at the time when the patenting of inventions was first defined, in England’s Statute of Monopolies of 1624. Indeed, the point of that statute was not to create the practice of patenting but to destroy it; and it was inspired not by any desire to defend inventors but by anger at the overweening actions of patentees and their agents.

Those agents—badgers, broggers, sealers, and other strange beasts—forced lawmakers to ask a quite different question: not why inventions should be patented, but why everything else should not be. The world’s information infrastructure rests, to this day, on the answer they produced.

Join historian Adrian Johns as he takes on a voyage into the fascinating world of intellectual property.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Luncheon, The Chicago Club

Robert Pippin, Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor of Social Thought, Philosophy, and in the College at the University of Chicago
The Philosophical Hitchcock: Vertigo and the Anxieties of Unknowingness

In almost all of Hitchcock's films, people have a great deal of trouble understanding each other. The human condition, as he seems to understand it, is one where self-knowledge and reliable understanding of others seem extremely difficult because of deceit, self-deceit, wishful thinking and simple ignorance.
The most famous manifestations of this are the many films in which the wrong person is blamed for or suspected of something. In his masterpiece, Vertigo, this situation of general unknowingness is extreme and the consequences more catastrophic than in any of his other films.

Join Professor Robert Pippin as he explores the philosophical presuppositions and implications of this deciption, showing several scenes as a way of exploring why Hitchcock seems to think we in such a situation and why the famed director thinks it becomes ever more difficult in late modern, advanced societies.