Philosophy Day Talk Explores Values of Frederick Douglass

October 25, 2023

St. John Fisher University’s annual celebration of Philosophy Day will feature the talk, “The Dread of Tyrants: Frederick Douglass on the Right to Speak, Listen, and Learn.”

Ronald Sundstrom

A moderated discussion between Dr. Ronald Sundstrom, professor of philosophy at the University of San Francisco, and Dr. Ann Marie Fallon, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, explores the value Frederick Douglass placed on open inquiry, dialogue, and debate.

The talk will take place at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, in Basil 135.

Philosophy Day is sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Culture Organization (UNESCO), and held on the purported birthday of Socrates.  It is an occasion for people to reflect upon the importance of critical thinking, world peace, international cooperation, and the love of wisdom. St. John Fisher University is the only institution in the United States to continuously participate in Philosophy Day since UNESCO first inaugurated it in 2003.

Sundstrom notes that “Frederick Douglass defended the freedom of speech and equally valued the right to listen and discuss … and the high point of his life and the primary purpose of his work, from 1841 through his last days in 1895, was to declaim and argue against slavery and the subjugation of Black Americans.” In his presentation, Sundstrom will offer evidence for this by tracing those values in Douglass’ work. He adds that while “Douglass did pour out scorching irony on the renunciates of human equality and equal liberty” he argues that “it was not his primary register or message. Among the values at the heart of Frederick Douglass’s life and works were open inquiry, dialogue, and debate in the pursuit of ‘justice, liberty, and perfect human equality.’”

Philosophy Day is supported by Fisher’s Department of Philosophy and Classical Studies, the Department of Religious Studies, the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the William and Helen Cavanaugh Chair of Catholic Studies, and The National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy Demands Wisdom.

For more information about Philosophy Day, email Dr. Tim Madigan at