By Lisa Cox/Staff writer

Ron Messerich, the chair of the department of philosophy andreligion, will be the first to do a lecture for the Chautauqua

Series, tonight at 7:30 in room 116 of the Moore Building. The topic this year is “Standing on Rights: Moral Ideas and Human Realities.”

The yearlong series will begin tonight and continue until April 25, 2002. It will consist of 15 lectures, featuring professors from other departments and universities. The lecture series is funded by the EKU Foundation.

Bruce Maclaren, Chautauqua Series organizer, is excited about Messerich.

“He has had a long interest with the problem or the idea of human rights. I have known him a long time. He is a bright fellow, a witty speaker,” said Maclaren.

Messerich will begin the human rights theme with his lecture titled “Nonsense Upon Stilts.” Messerich got the idea for his title from a quote by Jeremy Bentham. Bentham was an 18th century British philosopher who argued against the claim of the French Revolutionary Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.

According to Bentham’s Anarchical Fallacies, the claim stated everyone had ‘natural and imprescriptible’ rights. Bentham called this claim ‘simple nonsense.’ Imprescriptible rights meant ‘unrevisable’ rights, and this is what Bentham considered “nonsense upon stilts.”

“I want to discuss in my lecture Jeremy Bentham’s criticism of the concepts of human rights. My current interest is in moral philosophy,” Messerich said.

Messerich received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Syracuse in 1979. He began teaching at Syracuse and LeMoyne College not long after graduation. He taught at both schools until 1981, when he left to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. In 1982, Messerich made his way to Eastern.

Maclaren wants the chief purpose of the series to be a way for students to come to an event and be impressed by the ideas being confronted. Maclaren, along with other faculty, discuss ideas about topics they would like to include in the series. Maclaren said he tries to do a balancing act between a theme and finding particular speakers.

“I wanted to look at singularly important ideas. Last year we came up with evolution and this year I thought about human rights. I tried to select ideas that would create a variety of responses from people,” Maclaren said.

A dinner will be held at 6 p.m. in the Regents room in the Powell Building. The cost for the dinner is $5.75. The dinner is open to everyone. Following the dinner will be the lecture by Messerich, “Nonsense Upon Stilts.”