Upcoming Events: Humanities

Wed 6/3

Image - A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light

A Passion for Paris: Romanticism and Romance in the City of Light

Date: Wed, June 03, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
With author David Downie

David Downie, Author, A Passion for Paris

Downie seeks to uncover why Paris has reigned as the world's most romantic city for over 150 years. In his combined memoir, history text and travelogue, Downie takes us through Paris' secluded parks, artists' studios, cafés and streets—many unchanged in centuries—while walking hand-in-hand with Victor Hugo, Flaubert, George Sand, Baudelaire, Balzac and many others. Downie finds hidden sources of Paris' chic, glamorous allure in its bizarre culture of heroic negativity, and in the carefree atmosphere created by its subversive literature extolling rebellion, mayhem and melancholy.

Mon 6/8

Image - A God That Could Be Real

A God That Could Be Real

Date: Mon, June 08, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
A fresh approach to an ancient topic.

Nancy Ellen Abrams, Author 

Many people find it hard to put their faith in a god that is based upon their own beliefs, without any external evidence. As a philosopher of science, lawyer, atheist, environmental activist and wife of the astrophysicist Joel Primack, Nancy Ellen Abrams was one of them – until she surprised herself by asking the question: "Could anything actually exist in our strange and counterintuitive universe that is worthy of the name God?" Shedding traditional religious conceptions, she builds on the idea of emergence, a powerful new scientific concept that cuts across many fields and hones in on the complex relations inherent in our universe. Come experience a fresh approach to an ancient topic that has intrigued scientists and theologians.

Thu 6/11

Image - The Panama Canal: The Next 100 Years

The Panama Canal: The Next 100 Years

Date: Thu, June 11, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
How did the canal shift California's fortune?

Gene Bigler, International Consultant; Former U.S. Diplomat
Michael Conniff, Professor of History, San José State University
Herman Boschken, Professor Emeritus, College of Business, San José State University

As part of the Club's celebration of the centennial of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, our panel will focus on the role the Panama Canal played in shifting California's fortunes and opportunities for Pacific Rim trade, will review its tremendous geopolitical impact on California's economy, and will imagine its continuing effects for the next century as trade across the Pacific reassumes its customary prominence in the world economy.

Although the U.S. Administration of the canal always emphasized its military-strategic concerns, the new all-water transportation that it provided also helped integrate the U.S. economy and transform global commerce. In more business-oriented Panamanian hands since 2000, with plans to double its capacity by the end of 2016, the canal could become the global logistics hub for the Western Hemisphere, raising expectations and concerns about the impact the canal will have during the Pacific Century.

Mon 6/22

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, June 22, 2015
Time: 5:00 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Mon 7/13

Image - Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve

Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve

Date: Mon, July 13, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With Professor Ian Morris

Ian Morris, Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and Professor of History, Stanford University; Author, Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve

Monday Night Philosophy explains why most people in the world today think democracy and gender equality are good, and violence and wealth inequality are bad, even though most people who lived before the 19th century thought just the opposite. Professor Morris argues that fundamental long-term changes in values are driven by the pursuit of energy, which humans have drawn from foraging, farming and fossil fuels. In forager bands, people who value equality, but are ready to settle problems violently do better. In farming societies, people who value hierarchy but are less willing to use violence do better. In fossil-fuel societies, equality is back but violence remains unacceptable. However, our ongoing revolution in energy capture could mean that our most cherished values could fundamentally change once again.

Tue 7/14

Image - San Francisco's Jewel City

San Francisco's Jewel City

Date: Tue, July 14, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

Laura Ackley, Architectural Historian; Author, San Francisco's Jewel City

San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition opened its doors to much acclaim a century ago. The fantastic goings-on in each of the 11 neoclassical palaces that transformed the Presidio found their way into many of the pages of the Commonwealth Club’s reports during that summer of 1915. The exposition, which attracted such renowned American figures as Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Edison, served as a poignant symbol for both San Francisco’s resurgence from the catastrophic 1906 earthquake and its irrepressible spirit of innovation that continues through today. Come celebrate this remarkable centennial with Laura Ackley, the author of San Francisco's Jewel City, which details the history of one of the most elaborate fairs ever held in our city.

Mon 7/20

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, July 20, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Wed 8/5

Who's Afraid of Opera? Exploring the Wonderful World of Music’s Grandest Art

Date: Wed, August 05, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With dramaturg with the SF Opera, Clifford Cranna

Clifford Cranna, Dramaturg, San Francisco Opera

This program is part of the 2015 Platforum series Music Matters, sponsored by Ernst & Young.

It’s glorious. It’s grand. It’s larger than life. It’s opera. San Francisco Opera’s longtime staff member Kip Cranna, a noted Bay Area music-appreciation speaker, offers an insider’s look at the world of opera and a whirlwind tour through opera’s 400-year long history, using video examples (with subtitles) to illustrate the evolution of this multi-faceted, fascinating and continuingly vital art.

Mon 8/10

Image - Pythagoras Thought Music Matters

Pythagoras Thought Music Matters

Date: Mon, August 10, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With author George Hammond

George Hammond, Author, Conversations With Socrates and Rational Idealism

This program is part of the 2015 Platforum series Music Matters, sponsored by Ernst & Young.

Monday Night Philosophy understands thoroughly that music matters. Pythagoras (whom we all know from basic geometry) thought so, too – he is well known for having uncovered the mathematical ratios underlying musical harmonies. He was so taken with his discovery that he proclaimed "all is number," and that there is a divine harmony, a music of the spheres, caused by the planets racing around a central fire in perfectly circular orbits. This first idea led directly to the development of the lush harmonies that came to define European classical music. The second, while partially obfuscating the realities of our solar system, nevertheless inspired Ptolemy, Copernicus and Newton in their search for the physical truth of our universe. Join us for a conversation of where the excitement with sound all began. 

Mon 8/17

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, August 17, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Wed 8/26

Image - Mozart and Masonic Semiotics

Mozart and Masonic Semiotics

Date: Wed, August 26, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With Mozart scholar Steven Machtinger

Steven Machtinger, Attorney; Violist; Independent Mozart Scholar

This program is part of the 2015 Platforum series Music Matters, sponsored by Ernst & Young.

Steven Machtinger and the London Quintet return to The Commonwealth Club for the Music Matters series, this time exploring how Mozart expressed Masonic attitudes toward death and immortality in the third movement of his G minor String Quintet of 1787. 

Thu 8/27

Image - Changing Times and Indian Classical Music

Changing Times and Indian Classical Music

Date: Thu, August 27, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

Mahesh Kale, Indian Classical Music Performer and Theoretician

This program is part of the 2015 Platforum series Music Matters, sponsored by Ernst & Young.

Since the time of its evolution, a few thousand years ago, Indian classical music has undergone several changes in its form. Every time there was a social impact on Indian civilization, its classical music morphed beautifully, lending itself to the changing times. Kale's talk will touch upon how the music adapted itself to major social impacts right up to the recent times of globalization, which poses a new challenge to the music and its followers, yet continues to demonstrate how much music matters.

Thu 9/10

Image - Analyzing Police Encounters with the Public: Some Methods for Reducing t

Analyzing Police Encounters with the Public: Some Methods for Reducing the Use of Force

Date: Thu, September 10, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Examining research into techniques to diffuse explosive situations

Geoffrey Raymond, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Sociology, UC Santa Barbara
Nikki Jones, Professor of African American Studies, UC Berkeley

Police encounters with suspects and protesters ripped straight from the headlines of 2015 give the impression of an unavoidable descent into violence and chaos. However, the timely research of Professors Raymond and Jones show a way forward. Their results make it clear that various methods have been developed and successfully implemented that both reduce police overreaction during dangerous situations and diminish the tendency for such situations to get out of hand to begin with.

Mon 9/14

Image - Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment

Date: Mon, September 14, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With author and former SFPD and FBI agent John Mindermann

John Mindermann, Author, In Pursuit

Monday Night Philosophy arrests your attention with John Mindermann’s insights from his book In Pursuit (co-authored with Brian Solon). Gathered from nearly a decade on the SFPD and his career as an FBI agent, the book details his riveting experiences, including June 17, 1972, when Mindermann just happened to be called in to investigate a burglary at the Watergate complex. You cannot get any closer to history than this.

Mon 9/28

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, September 28, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Mon 10/26

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, October 26, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.
On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Mon 11/16

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, November 16, 2015
Time: 5:00 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.

On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Mon 12/21

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, December 21, 2015
Time: 6:30 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.
On one Monday evening of every month the Humanities Forum sponsors Socrates Café at The Commonwealth Club. Each meeting is devoted to the discussion of a philosophical topic chosen at that meeting. The group's facilitator, John Nyquist, invites participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic is asked to briefly explain why she or he considers that topic interesting and important. An open discussion follows, and the meeting ends with a summary of the various perspectives participants expressed. Everyone is welcome to attend.