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Philosopher to discuss ways German history helps address legacies of slavery, segregation in U.S

An American philosopher working in Germany will discuss what the United States can learn from Germany’s struggles to address its history during a presentation on March 22 at Emory.

Susan Neiman, who runs the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany, will discuss “Learning from the Germans” in her address by examining American efforts to confront the legacies of slavery, segregation and foreign policy.

Her book, “Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy,” focuses on evil as the central question in modern philosophy, with German thinkers especially debating whether the imperative is to understand moral evil or to intentionally avoid it.

Germans have wrestled with that question, and national guilt over the Holocaust, for 70 years. Neiman has spoken about the nation’s lengthy discussions about what constitutes guilt versus responsibility and argues that that process can translate into Americans facing up to slavery.

“For good reason the Germans have spent a great deal of time and effort trying to come to terms with the atrocities committed under National Socialism, and Dr. Neiman’s current project provides a new cross-cultural and cross-historical angle on potential lessons to be learned from Germany’s struggles with the past,” says Hiram Maxim, chair of the Department of German Studies.

Neiman’s presentation is sponsored by the Emory College departments of philosophy and German studies, the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference, the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies and the Hightower Fund.

The event begins at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22, in Room 201 of the Modern Language Building. The lecture is free and open to the public. For more information call 404-727-6439.

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