Robert to speak on strengthening communities



Keeping a healthy community may be something Chautauquans don’t have a problem with while on the grounds, but  keeping one in their home communities might be more difficult.

Jason Robert will deliver the season’s last Lincoln Series of Applied Ethics lecture, titled “Building Healthy Communities is a Wicked Problem,” at 12:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy.

Robert, director of the Arizona State University Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, will discuss the challenges in identifying a community’s health level and promoting higher standards of well-being.

“There’s no definitive way to answer the question of how we build one, and so it ends up being a very difficult political, ethical, social, economic and civic challenge,” Robert said. “But I think it’s one that we can meet if we recognize that it is, in fact, a rather wicked problem rather than one that is straightforward and easy to address.”

The term “wicked” doesn’t mean “evil.” Rather, it suggests the problem is “untamed,” or otherwise difficult to control through conventional or scientific means, Robert said.

The United States struggles with building healthier communities on a cultural level, Robert said. The way individuals treat themselves in society has a great impact on how they treat others.

“Nobody wants an unhealthy community,” Robert said. “Nobody wants to live in an unhealthy community, but in the kind of atmosphere in the U.S. — which is so ruggedly individualistic — sometimes the idea of community is seen as a little bit foreign. And the idea that health is something to be achieved on a community level rather than individuals is also somewhat foreign.”

Robert will use Chautauqua as an example of a livable community, even though in many ways it only exists for nine weeks. He plans to teach attendees “how to bring Chautauqua with us” as most people will return to their homes after this week.

As the last lecture in the series this season, Robert said he looked back on the new approach the series took as a success. The series has split into lectures spread throughout the season, unlike the previous approach of a week’s programming. Each Applied Ethics speaker this year has also led a master class through Special Studies on the week’s topic.

The ASU Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics and the Chautauqua Institution Department of Education decided to change the series’ schedule to “try to integrate ethics a little more broadly throughout the entire season,” Robert said.