Philosophy, History and Politics chair Jeff McLaughlin is headed to Austria to speak at Geist & Gegenwart—a conference that looks at the problems and possibilities facing Europe today and in the future—in the city of Leibnitz. In a castle no less.
The Geist & Gegenwart dialogues were launched in 2005 to create a formal platform for in-depth intellectual discourse on important questions of our time.
The two-day conference happens every two years, stemming from the implementation of the Marshall Plan.
Speakers include the former Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of Austria, the Austrian ambassador to the US, the senior Vatican correspondent for CNN, and various renowned personalities from the worlds of education and business.
He will be engaged in a discussion of the political, social and educational relations between the USA and the EU.
McLaughlin’s extensive background teaching in Austria, along with the experience of being Canadian—living north of the USA—are assisting the philosopher in his presentation preparations.
“I note that progress for one sometimes comes at a cost of the other, sometimes they work together, sometimes against each other, sometimes one helps the other when they are down…and sometimes they kick them when they are down,” said McLaughlin.
“Protectionism, nationalism, faux and real populism are all backwards steps especially in light of the power and significance, not to mention the original aim of the border-less Internet where so much of the world ‘lives’ now.”
He hopes that those attending his talks will have a sense of his positive experiences in a diverse classroom, whether it’s the students who are international, or their instructor.
“A sense of what we all share in common and what some of our significant cultural differences are and how other countries can benefit from those differences.”
McLaughlin is also launching two books this year.
Graphic Novels as Philosophy is the sequel to his 2005 book, Comics as Philosophy and comes out at the end of the summer. In February, his earlier book was the focus of a 12th anniversary celebration panel at the Southwest American Popular Culture Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. McLaughlin had the Emmy nominated artist David mack do original art for the new covers of both books.
“Using comics and graphic novels you can dig a little deeper and learn something new, and your images and words work together in new and interesting ways,” he explained.
“This new book contributes to the idea that comics and graphic novels are a way of doing philosophy, and using entertainment to make your point. When I’m teaching philosophy this approach makes introducing big ideas less threatening. We are able to access really weighty subjects in a non-intimidating way.”
Early in April Bound for Theresienstadt: Love, Loss and Resistance in a Nazi Concentration Camp was released. Co-authored by Holocaust survivor Vera Schiff, it features biographies and philosophical discussions regarding Schiff’s friends and family who were transported to Theresienstadt.