Campus Event #1: Professor Quillen’s Talk


Comment/Reflection: In the talk entitled “Being Human: Disciplinary Reflections”, Professor Quillen discussed her path as an intellectual and academic. She started off the talk by giving us a few letters by the 14th-15th century humanists to explain her interest in history. In these letters, famous humanists like Niccolo Machiavelli described how they could spend hours “communicating” with people of the past. Professor Quillen was greatly interested by this fact and decided to start her journey as a historian. She then told us about her work as a historian. She discussed although liberalism and liberalist thinkers such as Emmanuel Kant and John Locke were significant in the development of democracy and human rights, liberalism is still flawed or inadequate to solve all the social problems in the society.  For instance, certain passages in Kant or Locke talked about how men without the ability to reason were “brutes”. And this is the very argument that colonists used in the past to exploit and enslave people in the new world. One thing that Professor Quillen talked about which really resonate with my own belief is that historians are storytellers who form stories based on the evidences left from the past. This claim suggests that not all historians are factually correct and, in fact, many of them might be highly opinionated by their own beliefs and values.

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