Allen tells what matters to her

By Conor Gaffney

Danielle Allen, dean of the Humanities Division and professor in the Classics Department and the Committee on Social Thought, continued Rockefeller Chapel’s “What Matters to Me and Why” conversation yesterday in the Reynolds Club.

Explaining that integrity matters to her, Allen said “acting for the sake of who you are” can be a means of living and of creating a good society. Her conception of integrity includes many cardinal virtues—wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice—but is also a dangerous principle to live by, as it can lead to self-righteousness.

Allen explained that self-righteousness should be avoided through the virtues of loyalty and compassion.

“The world has to be encountered with flexibility from the points of view of many ideas,” she said, adding that a human being of integrity is a well rounded human being.

To describe her ideas about society, Allen quoted Abraham Lincoln, saying, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.”

She explained that Lincoln, who had paraphrased Herodotus, saw equality and freedom as harmonious notions. Given this, Allen said one “must act to one’s idea of a free person.”

“I guess this is fairly Aristotelian,” she said.

Allen said the projects on her desk involve her ideas about integrity and democracy. In particular, she discussed a Chicago-wide archive of black cultural resources.

“In thinking about the future, any group of people needs to preserve its past,” she said.