The Philodemic Society celebrated its 175th year of existence on Sunday with a reintroduction of what is believed to be the debate society’s first topic – Napoleon Bonaparte or General Washington: Which was the better man?
The debate proceeded according to the society’s protocol, with one keynote speaker addressing each side of the debate before opening the floor for anyone to present a position.
Arguments were rife with the irony, joking and allusions to “Star Trek” and “The Lord of the Rings” that have come to define the society’s discourse. The debate covered the merits and drawbacks of each man, as well as a discussion of the meaning of the word “better.”
One of the oldest student organizations on campus, the Philodemic Society was founded in 1830 as a forum for debating political, social and philosophical problems.
“We debate anything that is debatable,” Katherine cCormack, the society’s vice president, said.
In the nearly two centuries that it has been a mainstay on the Hilltop, the society has seen many of its members go on to achieve national prominence, including current Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (CAS ’57).
“I think it’s a tragedy for anyone to go through four years here without attending [a Philodemic Society debate],” David Gootzit (SFS ’99), an alumnus of the society, said.
Neil Bradley (COL ’98), policy director for interim House ajority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and another Philodemic Society alumnus, also praised the organization.
“The ability to articulate your ideas and be open to the validity of counter-ideas has been critical in my career,” Bradley said.
After the open forum ended, the keynote speakers restated their justifications for their positions during closing statements and the rest of the participants voted by moving to the side of the room of the speaker they favored.
In the end, the society ratified its decision from one hundred and seventy five years earlier and pronounced Founding Father George Washington to be the better man.