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Edward Fernandez

Professor Nathan Tarcov, from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, gave a Hannibal Lecture on "Machiavelli and the Founders".

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Elizabeth Wagner, Staff Reporter
March 6, 2012
Filed under A&E

On Tuesday, March 2, Carthage College had the immense honor of hosting Nathan Tarcov as a guest speaker for the college’s Hannibal lecture series.

Tarcov spoke on Niccolo Machiavelli and the American Founders, showing parallels between Machiavelli’s philosophies on constitutions and law with the thoughts laid down within the Federalist papers.

It was stated at the beginning of the lecture by Chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies Division Chris Lynch that Tarcov has taught more of Carthage’s professors than any other singular individual, having served in the role of teacher for Director of the Honors Program Paul Ulrich, Director of the Social Science Program Thomas Powers and Lynch himself.

Past the honor of having Carthage “intellectual grandfather” of sorts speak, Tarcov himself is an incredibly impressive individual. He belongs to University of Chicago’s world renowned Committee of Social Thought.

Tarcov has also published numerous books on John Locke (“Locke’s Education for Liberty” and “John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education and Conduct of the Understanding,” the latter written in tangent with Ruth Grant), on Jean Jacques Rousseau (“The Legacy of Rousseau” with Clifford Orwin) and translated Machiavelli’s “Discourses on Livy” with Harvey Mansfield (this translation is the version most commonly used at Carthage College).

As is indicated by his work, Tarcov’s areas of interest include political theory, particularly in regards to education and the family, as well as having an interest in U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, he is the Director of the Political Theory Workshop and the Leo Strauss Center.

With such an honored guest, Carthage students jumped at the opportunity to get to converse with Tarcov. The usual structure of a Hannibal lecture is that the lecture lasts for the first hour, followed by a short break and questions from the crowd beginning with student questions.

During the lecture on Thursday, student questions were so numerous that there was not an opportunity for Tarcov to answer questions from professors, a very rare happening in the realm of the lecture series.

Questions ranged from inquires about political theory such as whether the founders felt a president should be shrewd and in the vision of Machiavelli’s proposed Prince or moral figure, to questions involving the problems of translation.

Tarcov greeted each question with respect and deep consideration while still managing a jovial air, causing uproarious laughter from the audience on multiple occasions.

Directly after the lecture Carthage student Anthony Maratea, ‘13, remarked, “I was very impressed with the parallels that Dr. Tarcov was able to illuminate through his inhumanly careful analysis of the ‘Federalist Papers,’ ‘The Discourses on Livy’ and ‘The Prince,’ which together with his infinite other virtues made for a truly enjoyable Hannibal Lecture.”

Having Tarcov speak here on campus is symbolic of a quite exciting shift happening within Carthage College. Being so many of our teachers’ teacher, he represents the high caliber of professors we all have the honor to learn under.

Furthermore, as he spoke to a room overflowing with students all eager for the opportunity to pick his brain, the lecture helped to expose a certain passion for education not always found on college campuses. As the Niemann Theater emptied and the students continued to converse with each other about the lecture, the general consensus that each of us was grateful to be going to a college that supplied such opportunities.

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