Lecturer says don't confuse moral clarity with moral simplicity

Visiting German academic Dr Susan Neiman told an audience at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne last night that President George W. Bush's insistence on moral clarity was in fact a call for moral simplicity.

Professor Neiman, a member of the Berlin-Brandenberg Academy of Sciences, was delivering the annual Simone Weil Lecture on Human Values at ACU's Fitzroy campus. This is the sixth year the lecture has been presented by the university's School of Philosophy.

"George W. Bush has repeatedly insisted that people long for moral clarity," said Professor Neiman in a statement ahead of last night's lecture. "What his administration has offered, however, is moral simplicity instead, while most exercises in academic ethics offer neither."

"This lecture explores how stories and examples, rather than abstract arguments, can be used to show that moral action is possible," she continued. "Such examples underline the need for dignity which is the basis for uniting many secular and religious concerns. Rather than dividing us along religious and non-religious lines, I argue, a reinvigorated Enlightenment can challenge both fundamentalism and nihilism."

The School of Philosophy, directed by Professor Riamond Gaita, has continued to attract internationally renowned philosophers and writers who explore important philosophical and moral issues of interest to the thinking public.

Applauded for her intellectual fearlessness, Professor Neiman is currently director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, an institution dedicated to giving the general public the opportunity to engage with major thinkers at work, and to overcome traditional academic boundaries. She is the author of Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin, and The Unity of Reason: Rereading Kant. Her most recent book is Evil in Modern Thought.

Free lecture on Moral Clarity, at ACU National (Australian Catholic University 4/8/05)

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Australian Catholic University
Einstein Forum

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5 Aug 2005