Postponed - Imagining the End: Thoughts on Mourning, Happiness, and Radical Hope | Newberry

Postponed - Imagining the End: Thoughts on Mourning, Happiness, and Radical Hope

Part III: And the Pursuit of Happiness
Tuesday, April 14, 2020

6 to 7 pm

Ruggles Hall

Delivered by Jonathan Lear
Open to the Public

The Newberry has been closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19. To enable our community to follow the standards of social distancing mandated by public health officials, we are postponing this program. Please visit for more information and for regular updates regarding Newberry operations.

About the Series:

Inaugurating the new David L. Wagner Distinguished Lectureship for Humanistic Inquiry Series, Jonathan Lear of the University of Chicago delivers three lectures on how our fears of catastrophe—from climate crisis to political collapse—shape the ways we imagine the ends and purposes of human life.

Part III: And the Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence tells us that we each have an inalienable right to pursue happiness. But what does this mean—or, rather, what should it mean? The Declaration does not say we have a right to pursue any idea of happiness we happen to have, no matter how greedy, unjust, or corrupt. It would seem that the right to pursue happiness demands that we get right what happiness is. But how are we to figure that out in contemporary conditions of democratic political society?

The challenge is this: if happiness is to be a true “end” in the sense of a vibrant political ideal in which our happiness depends on living in the company of fellow citizens who are also pursuing happiness, we shall have to work out what we mean in active debates, conversations, and contesting visions. Yet we live in times of widespread anxiety that our democratic institutions are coming to an “end”—in the sense of failing to provide the conditions we need to have these very conversations.

In his final lecture, Lear will explore this challenge while considering the vital importance of spaces of public imagination—such as the Newberry Library, museums, universities, parks, and open spaces—in providing us opportunities to better understand ourselves as creatures who have a right to pursue our happiness.

About the Speaker:

Jonathan Lear is the John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. His work focuses on the philosophical understanding of the human psyche—and the ethical implications that flow from our being the kind of creatures we are.

The David L. Wagner Distinguished Lectureship for Humanistic Inquiry Series is funded by David L. Wagner and Renie B. Adams.

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Cost and Registration Information 

This program has been postponed. We hope to reschedule at a later date.