The Philomathean Society's 2023 Annual Oration welcomes renowned public intellectual Cornel West for a talk on community and public on civic duty and engagement moderated by Penn University Chaplain and Vice President for Social Equity & Community Rev. Charles (Chaz) Lattimore Howard. A meet and greet with Dr. West follows the conversation.
Presented by The Philomathean Society with support from SPEC Connaissance, SPEC Full Planned, SNF Paideia Program, Faith Fund, Department of English, Department of History, Department of Philosophy, Department of Sociology, The Center for Media and Inequality, ICF, New Student Orientation & Academic Initiatives, Student Committee on Undergraduate Education, Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, Ben Franklin Scholars, Civic House, GAPSA, Albert M. Greenfield Intercultural Center, Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, and Wolf Humanities Center.
Dr. Cornel West, affectionately known to many as Brother West, is the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary. Dr. West teaches on the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as well as courses in Philosophy of Religion, African American Critical Thought, and a wide range of subjects — including but by no means limited to, the classics, philosophy, politics, cultural theory, literature, and music. He has a passion to communicate to a vast variety of publics in order to keep alive the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. — a legacy of telling the truth and bearing witness to love and justice.
Dr. West is the former Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. Cornel West graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard in three years and obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy at Princeton.
He has written 20 books and has edited 13. He is best known for his classics, Race Matters and Democracy Matters, and for his memoir, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud. His most recent book, Black Prophetic Fire, offers an unflinching look at nineteenth and twentieth-century African American leaders and their visionary legacies.
The Philomathean Society of the University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1813. The Society has pursued its mission of learning outside the classroom in whatever ways struck its membership best; a common answer to the question “what is Philo?” is “whatever Philos want it to be.” Over the centuries it has maintained its student autonomy. Thus, Philos have at one time or another embarked on major works of scholarship (like producing the first English translation of the Rosetta Stone), advocated for the creation of the Comparative Literature, Religious Studies, and American Civilization departments, launched campus publications (the longest-lived of which is the Daily Pennsylvanian), and staged major dramatic productions (the Masque of the American Drama involved every undergraduate then enrolled at Penn).
Today the Society regularly organizes and hosts talks, lectures series, intimate professor teas, as well as poetry readings, film screenings, dramatic performances, art shows, debates, exhibits, and special classes. All efforts are run, planned, and organized completely by Philos. The Society’s flagship event is the Annual Oration, where Philo invites an public intellectual to speak to the public. Past Annual Orators have included Jane Goodall, Ayn Rand, the President of Haiti, Margaret Mead, Tony Auth, Hans Morgenthau, Jared Diamond, Judith Butler, Daniel Dennett, Salman Rushdie, Arthur Miller, and Richard Dawkins. Most of Philo’s events and activities take place in our historic Philomathean Hall. All events are free and open to the public.
Philo’s structure, activities, and future are determined by its undergraduate and graduate student membership. Members elect a Cabinet each semester led by a Moderator who, among other things, chairs Philo’s general meetings held on alternate Fridays at 8:30pm. Membership in Philo is eternal; it continues long past one’s time at the University.