Goethe University's Forst Gives 2011 Stevens Lecture
On Friday, September 23, an enthusiastic crowd gathered in Myron Taylor Hall for the Law School's annual Stevens Lecture. This year's presentation, "Toleration and Democracy," was given by Rainer Forst, professor of political theory and philosophy at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt and one of the foremost political theorists working today. Forst, who studied under both Habermas and Rawls, was the Theodor-Heuss-Professor of Political Science and Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York in 2005-2006 and has also taught at the Free University of Berlin and the universities of Frankfurt and Giessen. His book on toleration and democracy will be available in English next year.
Introductions were given by Professor Bernadette A. Meyler who spoke on behalf of Dean Stewart J. Schwab, and by Steven H. Shiffrin, the Charles Frank Reavis Sr. Professor of Law. Forst began his exploration of toleration with examples from contemporary German law that illustrated the "profound ambivalence" that surrounds the idea. Delving not only into the concept's elements and paradoxes but also into its past, his presentation was rich with historical scholarship, with Seventeeth Century Europe serving as the backdrop and French philosopher Pierre Bayle a major presence. Reaching even further back in time as he ended his lecture, Forst observed that "tolerance is, as Aristotle said about all the virtues, painful," reiterating his characterization of this "virtue of justice" as "a weighing… a self-overcoming," a challenge.
The Stevens Lecture Series, which Professor Meyler hailed as "one of the intellectual highlights of the year," was established in 1955 in honor of Robert S. Stevens, Cornell's longest-serving dean. The series provides law students with an opportunity to expand their legal education beyond the substantive and procedural law taught in the Law School.