Every semester, the Philosophy Department at Colby College sponsors an informal faculty-student reading group for philosophers and friends to meet, eat, and philosophize. Although the Robert E. Reuman Reading Group was officially established in 1998, its roots go much further back in the Department’s history to Professor Reuman who regularly organized and hosted similar groups.Bob Reuman was an extraordinary professor of philosophy, combining intellectual profundity and moral integrity with intellectual integrity and moral profundity. The Reuman Reading Group was established by his colleagues, students, prison-mates*, and friends as fitting and lasting reminder of what can be so special about philosophy at a residential liberal arts college.In recent years, typical Reuman Groups have included between 12 and 18 students, and between 3 and 7 faculty members – including faculty from other academic departments, philosophers from other colleges, and even faculty on sabbatical! But perhaps that shouldn’t be much of a surprise because our once a week dinners feature the compelling attractions of jovial camaraderie and lively, free-wheeling philosophical conversation (sometimes even staying on topic).* Bob Reuman was sentenced to a year and a day (making him officially a felon) in a federal penitentiary for refusing to register for the peace-time draft. The draft board could not understand how the captain of a college football team and the president of his fraternity could be, on purely philosophical grounds, a genuine conscientious objector. For full memorial minutes for Bob Reuman, a eulogy can be read here.

What We’re Reading Now:

Justice for Hedgehogs“Justice for Hedgehogs” – Ronald DworkinThe fox knows many things, the Greeks said, but the hedgehog knows one big thing. In his most comprehensive work, Ronald Dworkin argues that value in all its forms is one big thing: that what truth is, life means, morality requires, and justice demands are different aspects of the same large question. He develops original theories on a great variety of issues very rarely considered in the same book: moral skepticism, literary, artistic, and historical interpretation, free will, ancient moral theory, being good and living well, liberty, equality, and law among many other topics. What we think about any one of these must stand up, eventually, to any argument we find compelling about the rest.Skepticism in all its forms-philosophical, cynical, or post-modern-threatens that unity. The Galilean revolution once made the theological world of value safe for science. But the new republic gradually became a new empire: the modern philosophers inflated the methods of physics into a totalitarian theory of everything. They invaded and occupied all the honorifics-reality, truth, fact, ground, meaning, knowledge, and being-and dictated the terms on which other bodies of thought might aspire to them, and skepticism has been the inevitable result. We need a new revolution. We must make the world of science safe for value.

What We’ve Read in the Past: