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John Dreher, Lee Claflin-Robert S. Ingraham Professor of Philosophy at Lawrence University, discusses the motivation of modern day spin doctors in the college’s annual Honors Convocation.

Dreher presents “21st Century Merchants of Doubt: Where Is Plato When We Need Him?” Tuesday, May 24 at 11:10 a.m in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

The Honors Convocation publicly recognizes students and faculty recipients of awards and prizes for excellence in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, languages and music as well as demonstrated excellence in athletics and service to others.

Dreher was chosen as the 2016 speaker as the recipient of Lawrence’s annual Faculty Convocation Award, which honors a faculty member for distinguished professional work. He is the seventh faculty member so honored.

In their 2010 book “Merchants of Doubt,” historians Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway detail how a group of high-level scientists with extensive political connections, effectively organized campaigns designed to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific truths on issues ranging from the connections between smoking and lung cancer to links tying coal emissions to acid rain.

Dreher will discuss how Plato challenged similar “doubt merchants” of his day nearly 2,500 years ago and how the same factors that drove those ancient sellers of doubts motivate today’s spin doctors, the motivation of modern day spin doctors in the college’s annual Honors Convocation.namely their view of the place of individuals within society.

A member of the Lawrence faculty since 1963, Dreher is a two-time recipient of the college’s Babcock Award “for outstanding service to students,” the University Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Freshman Studies Teaching award. He served as the chair of Lawrence’s philosophy department most years from 1968- 2011 and directed the college’s signature Freshman Studies program on three occasions (1982–83; 1986–87; 1993–95).

A native of New Jersey, Dreher’s scholarship interests include environmental ethics, applied ethics and the history of philosophy.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Peter’s College, a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago.




John Dreher's convocation speech begins at 35:18 in the video.

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Honors Day Booklet 2016.pdf (251 kB)
Honors Day Booklet 2016