AMHERST, Mass. – Daniel Gordon, professor of History and associate dean of Commonwealth Honors College, will speak on “The Fatal Truth: The Cult of Violence in Western Political Thought” on Tuesday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
After the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, the status of violence continues to be widely discussed and examined. Some disavow “an eye for an eye” and all forms of violence completely, while others accept violence as a necessary means to be kept in proportion to its ends. The history of ideas about violence shows a tradition that idealizes violence as a good in itself. Gordon’s talk will identify continuities in the cult of violence from medieval dreams of avenging the death of martyrs to modern dreams of social revolution.
Students enrolled in Commonwealth Honors College participate in the course “Ideas that Changed the World,” which Gordon helped to design. In it, students study Gandhi’s writings, including his statement, “It is an ever growing belief with me that truth cannot be found by violent means.” Gordon’s lecture will provide a vital context for assessing the originality of Gandhi’s statement.
Gordon received a doctorate in history from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in law from Yale Law School. He is the co-editor of the journal Historical Reflections and has published extensively on the history of political and legal ideas, from the Enlightenment to the present. He has taught the courses “Western Thought to 1600,” “Western Thought from 1600,” “U.S. Constitutional History Since 1865” and “Comparative Law.” From 2008-11, he was director of the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration program and co-director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative, both at UMass Amherst.
Commonwealth Honors College introduced its Faculty Lecture Series in 2011 in recognition of university faculty who have made significant contributions to research or creative activity. Through lectures that highlight academic excellence and scholarship, faculty share their ideas and insight with honors students in sessions open to the campus community.
The series continues on April 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Campus Center Auditorium with the lecture “Rachel Carson and the Gift of Good Land,” presented by Craig Nicolson, director of academic sustainability programs in the College of Natural Sciences.