Philosophy prof to warn against totalitarianism in talk

MIDDLEBURY — “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies” will be the subject of a lecture given by Ryszard Legutko. Legutko is a member of the European Parliament and Professor of Philosophy at Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. He will give the lecture on Wednesday, April 17, at 4:30 p.m. in room 216 at Middlebury College’s McCardell Bicentennial Hall.
Legutko lived and suffered under communism for decades — and he fought with the Polish anti-communist movement to abolish it. But having now lived for three decades under a liberal democracy, he argues that western democracy has over time crept towards the same goals as communism, albeit without Soviet-style brutality.
Both systems, says Legutko, reduce human nature to that of common man, who is led to believe himself liberated from the obligations of the past. Both the communist man and the liberal democratic man refuse to admit that there exists anything of value outside the political systems to which they pledged their loyalty. And both systems refuse to undertake any critical examination of their ideological prejudices.
Legutko has served as the Republic of Poland’s Minister of Education, Secretary of State, and Deputy Speaker of the Senate. As a Member of the European Parliament, he chairs the Parliamentary Group of European Conservatives and Reformists and serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee. He has been an active participant in recent debates over Brexit in the European Parliament.
Under communist rule, Legutko served as editor of the illegal samizdat publication, Arka. After the collapse of the communist regime, he co-founded the Centre for Political Thought in Kraków. One of Poland’s foremost public intellectuals, Legutko is a specialist in ancient philosophy and political theory. He has translated and written commentaries to Plato’s “Phaedo,” “Euthyphro,” and “Apology.” He is the author of several books, including “Plato’s Critique of Democracy,” “Toleration,” “A Treatise on Liberty,” “An Essay on the Polish Soul” and “Socrates.” This lecture draws on Legutko’s most recent book.
The lecture is co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science and the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs.

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