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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - Duckweed and Fish; Or What Do Socrates, W.B. Yeats and Holly Golightly Have in Common?

28th October 2013, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Cosin's Hall, Palace Green, Professor Michael Levine (University of Western Australia)

Abstract: I am part of a new interdisciplinary research project (researchers from Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.) on The academic virtues: an enquiry into moral and intellectual excellence in the modern university. What are these virtues? How are they being threatened? Are they worth preserving, and if so can they be preserved? The topic of this seminar is a precursor to this project.

The seminar focuses on the following two questions: 

  1. What Do Socrates, W.B. Yeats and Holly Golightly Have in Common? 
  2. What is it that Yeats thinks “of all things known” “is the most difficult?” What is the “triumph” that he is talking about? 

I try always to keep my philosophy within such classifications of thought as will keep it to such experience as seems a natural life. I prefer to include in my definition of water a little duckweed or a few fish. I have never met that poor naked creature H2O. —W.B. Yeats 

Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore; I’d rather have cancer than a dishonest heart. Which isn’t being pious. Just practical. Cancer may cool you, but the other’s sure to. Oh, screw it, cookie—hand me my guitar and I’ll sing you a fada in the most perfect Portuguese. — Holly Golightly 


Now all the truth is out,

Be secret and take defeat

From any brazen throat,

For how can you compete,

Being honour bred, with one

Who, were it proved he lies,

Were neither shamed in his own

Nor in his neighbours' eyes?

Bred to a harder thing

Than Triumph, turn away

And like a laughing string

Whereon mad fingers play

Amid a place of stone,

Be secret and exult,

Because of all things known

That is most difficult.

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact for more information about this event.