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Date & Time

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
6:00 PM


Seminary Co-op Bookstore



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Seminary Co-op Bookstore

(773) 752-4381


Larissa MacFarquhar will discuss her book, "Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help." Adam Etinson will moderate.

At the Co-op

Co-sponsored by Pozen Family Center for Human Rights

About the book: What does it mean to devote yourself wholly to helping others? In "Strangers Drowning," Larissa MacFarquhar seeks out people living lives of extreme ethical commitment and tells their deeply intimate stories; their stubborn integrity and their compromises; their bravery and their recklessness; their joys and defeats and wrenching dilemmas.

A couple adopts two children in distress. But then they think: If they can change two lives, why not four? Or ten? They adopt twenty. But how do they weigh the needs of unknown children in distress against the needs of the children they already have?

Another couple founds a leprosy colony in the wilderness in India, living in huts with no walls, knowing that their two small children may contract leprosy or be eaten by panthers. The children survive. But what if they hadn’t? How would their parents’ risk have been judged?

A woman believes that if she spends money on herself, rather than donate it to buy life-saving medicine, then she’s responsible for the deaths that result. She lives on a fraction of her income, but wonders: when is compromise self-indulgence and when is it essential?

Through its sympathetic and beautifully vivid storytelling, "Strangers Drowning" confronts us with fundamental questions about what it means to be human. In a world of strangers drowning in need, how much should we help, and how much can we help? Is it right to care for strangers even at the expense of those we are closest to? Moving and provocative, Strangers Drowning challenges us to think about what we value most, and why.

About the author: Larissa MacFarquhar is the author of "Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help." She is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where her profile subjects have included Barack Obama, the poet John Ashbery, the philosopher Derek Parfit, Judge Richard Posner, and the literary theorist Stanley Fish.

About the moderator: Adam Etinson is a Lecturer in Human Rights at the University of Chicago's Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. His research explores the philosophical dimensions of human rights and other key concepts in global justice. His work has appeared in The Journal of Moral Philosophy, Human Rights Quarterly, Utilitas, Dissent, and The New York Times.

About the co-sponsor: The Pozen Center offers a broad range of innovative interdisciplinary teaching and research initiatives that critically explore the theory and practice of human rights.