Poverty, the Spirit, and the History of Art

The Freedom Center Spring 2020 Colloquium Series presents Robert Gordon, Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Arizona.

Robert Gordon is an Assistant Professor at the Fred Fox School of Music here at the U of A, and a Fellow at the University’s Center for Buddhist Studies. He is also the Program Manager of the American Culture & Ideas Initiative, which promotes academic and public engagement with the aesthetic, philosophical, economic, and historical foundations of American society. Professor Gordon’s research focuses, among other things, on Eastern art and philosophy, art and economics, and freedom and its relationship to the fine arts.

The problem of poverty continues to be a perennial one for civil societies around the globe. It has been addressed by sociologists, political scientists, philosophers, theologians and spiritual leaders, artists, economists, and many others. The issue is both a material and spiritual one, impacting one’s financial and psychological well-being. Yet, can aesthetic considerations play any role in better understanding the challenge of poverty in the world? This talk considers the extent to which the history of art can contribute to the ongoing dialogue. It explores various areas where art historical ideas intersect with current notions surrounding the topic of poverty. It maintains that the history of art can provide valuable insights into the subject, even as its goal is not to seek a final solution to the problem. Is it pretentious or vain for the realm of high culture to think that it can say anything of value to those experiencing the lowest strata of material subsistence, in all its hopelessness and despair? You may decide.

We welcome faculty, students, and staff of the Philosophy and Moral Science Departments as well as members of the wider University community. RSVP to Lucy Schwarz at luciaschwarz@email.arizona.edu (link sends e-mail).