Upcoming Events: Humanities

Wed 7/13

Image - The Brazen Age

The Brazen Age

Date: Wed, July 13, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

David Reid, Author, The Brazen Age

The Brazen Age is a sweeping look at the rich culture and turbulent politics of New York City between 1945 and 1950. But David Reid also reaches back to the early 1900s to explore the city’s progressive politics, radical artistic experimentation and burgeoning bohemian culture, to the quickly growing media, movie and radio businesses in the 1920s, and to the influx of talented Europeans in the 1930s, vastly enriching the sciences and the arts. Reid also delves into the city's influence on the Dewey-Truman election, as he captures a complex and powerful moment in the post-war history of New York City.

Mon 7/18

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, July 18, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

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 8/3

Image - Lawrence Schonbrun

Why Are Class Action Attorneys' Fees so High and Judicial Oversight so Low?

Date: Wed, August 03, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special August series Big Solutions to Big Problems  

Lawrence Schonbrun, Attorney Representing the Petitioning Class Member in Laffitte vs. Robert Half International

Big Solutions to Big Problems, the 2016 August Forum series at the Club, investigates whether excessive legal fees in class action lawsuits can be reined in without eliminating the incentives needed to prosecute such actions. Schonbrun’s talk will discuss the recent California Supreme Court case, Laffitte v. Robert Half Int'l., Inc., which establishes the rules that courts must follow in awarding reasonable attorneys' fees from class action settlements.

Mon 8/8

Image - George Hammond

Ending Slavery

Date: Mon, August 08, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions for Big Problems

George Hammond, Author, Rational Idealism and Conversations with Socrates

Monday Night Philosophy contributes to our special August series with a close look at the resilience of slavery in the 21st century. Ending slavery was a 19th century obsession that appeared quite successful, as did the attempt to end intemperance. But was slavery, like drunkenness, just pushed underground when it was criminalized? The intense psychological desire for hierarchical status, and the economic desires that reinforce that, explain why slavery is as hard to eliminate as other social ills, as is evidenced by the continuing mass incarceration of African-Americans and the endurance of various forms of female slavery.

The big solution to this big problem is an easily understood and almost as easily adopted perspective that effectively undermines the psychological need for hierarchy. There are also legal incentives, and technical half-solutions, which could help minimize the demand for enslaving each other in the meantime.

Tue 8/9

Image - George Hammond

Understanding Evil

Date: Tue, August 09, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions to Big Problems

George Hammond, Author, Rational Idealism and Conversations with Socrates

The dichotomy between good and evil was popular long before Zoroaster was born, and it will probably continue to be long after Manichaeism's last influences subside. But is evil a useful concept? Or an obfuscating one? The big solution to this big problem in understanding reality comes from comparing the concepts of good and evil to the less emotionally fraught concepts of hot and cold. They appear to be opposites at first, but are actually relative labels we apply to our experiences that depend both on an objective reality and on the relative perspective of the perceiver.

Understanding evil this way vastly reduces the fears that have scared us silly for centuries, and provides a tremendous boost to the effectiveness of our pursuit of happiness—a big solution indeed.

Wed 8/10

Image - Lorraine Bannai

Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice

Date: Wed, August 10, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions to Big Problems

Lorraine Bannai, Professor of Lawyering Skills and Director, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, Seattle University School of Law; Author, Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and His Quest for Justice

The vulnerability of minority communities has always been a big problem, but it is particularly so when fear exacerbates ignorance. Not long ago, it was Japanese Americans; now it is Muslims. Professor Bannai illuminates this theme through the story of Fred Korematsu, a 22-year-old Oakland welder who refused to comply with orders that led to the incarceration of more than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. In Korematsu v. United States­, the wartime Supreme Court rejected his challenge to the government in one of its most infamous cases. More than 40 years later, Professor Bannai was part of the legal team that successfully challenged Korematsu's conviction based on proof that the government had falsified the record.

For Korematsu’s courage and for his work warning of the dangers of prejudice, President Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998.

Mon 8/15

Image - Bobby Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon

Date: Mon, August 15, 2016
Time: 12:00 PM
Part of our special series Big Solutions to Big Problems

Larry Tye, Author, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Nobody was better, half a century ago, at thinking about the biggest solutions for the problems of his age than Bobby, whether that be race riots roiling in cities across America, and especially in California; the war raging in Vietnam; or the general issue of inequality that was dividing people along lines of class, race, gender and generation.

Those issues, of course, are a mirror of those facing the country today, when RFK's message is more resonant than ever. He predicted we'd have a black president almost to the day, when no white politician dreamed of it. He talked about how our problems made us ripe for demagogues, though he'd never met Donald P. Trump but did know George Wallace better than anyone. And he offered ways out of all of that, in compelling enough terms to win the California primary and seem poised for the presidency.

Mon 8/29

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, August 29, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

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 9/12

Image - Karen Paget

Patriotic Betrayal: Inside a Secret CIA Campaign

Date: Mon, September 12, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Karen Paget, Author, Patriotic Betrayal: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism

Monday Night Philosophy considers the social ramifications of a democratic society allowing internal spying. In 1967, Ramparts magazine exposed a CIA secret: a decades-old project to enroll American students in the crusade against communism by suborning the National Student Association. Patriotic Betrayal tells a story filled with self-serving rationalizations, layers of duplicity, and bureaucratic double-talk. Author Karen Paget, herself a former member of the NSA, mined hundreds of archival sources and declassified documents, and interviewed more than 150 people, to uncover precisely how the CIA turned the NSA into an intelligence asset during the Cold War. Her answer throws a sharp light on the persistent argument about whether America’s national security interests can be secured by skullduggery and deception.

Mon 9/19

Image - Don George

The Way of Wanderlust

Date: Mon, September 19, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Don George, Travel Writer; Author, The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George

A professional travel writer and editor for the past four decades, Don George has explored the furthest corners of the world. In his book, The Way of Wanderlust, George includes many of his adventurous tales from the last 40 years—climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, ascending Yosemite’s Half Dome, a moving homestay experience in Cambodia. The former travel editor for the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle, George founded the Wanderlust section of Salon.com and was recently the global travel editor for Lonely Planet Publications.

Hear George reflect upon his global expeditions and reignite your own wanderlust.

Wed 9/21

Image - Ross King

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

Date: Wed, September 21, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Claude Monet—the man, the times, and the art

Ross King, Author, Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

We have all seen—whether live, in photographs or on postcards—Claude Monet's legendary water lily paintings. They are in museums all over the world and are among the most beloved works of art of the past century. Yet these soothing images were created amid terrible personal turmoil and sadness. As World War I exploded within hearing distance of his house at Giverny, Monet's personal losses piled up and formed the tragic backdrop of his last and largest creations. Using letters, memoirs and other sources, Ross King reveals a more complex, more human, more intimate Claude Monet than has ever been portrayed, and firmly places his water lily project among the greatest achievements in the history of art.

Mon 9/26

Humanities West Book Discussion: A Nervous Splendor, by Frederic Morton

Date: Mon, September 26, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM

Join us to discuss A Nervous Splendor. Frederic Morton deftly tells the haunting story of the Crown Prince Rudolf and his city, where, in the span of only 10 months, "the Western dream started to go wrong." Morton's story studies other young men just as frustrated as the prince, including young Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Theodor Herzl, Gustav Klimt, and the playwright Arthur Schnitzler, whose La Ronde was the great erotic drama of the fin de siecle. Morton interweaves their fates with that of the doomed prince and the entire city. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, September 26, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

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. 

Tue 9/27

Image - Scott Allan Morrison

The Dark Side of Social Media: Privacy, Manipulation and Terms of Use

Date: Tue, September 27, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Scott Allan Morrison, Former Silicon Valley Journalist; Author, Terms of Use
In conversation with Lisen Stromberg, Independent Journalist, CEO and Founder, AcceleratingWomen

Facebook has vowed that it will not attempt to influence the outcome of an election. But as veteran Silicon Valley journalist Scott Allan Morrison shows us in his debut thriller Terms of Use, social media companies can manipulate voters, and there are no laws to prevent them from doing so. Join Scott as he discusses his novel, Internet privacy and social media’s growing influence over our personal lives and our political system.

Wed 10/5

Image - Tara Smith

Can Courts Get the Law Right? Judicial Review’s Problem with Objectivity

Date: Wed, October 05, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Judicial review and the rule of law

Tara Smith, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at Austin; Author, Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System

The best laws in the world are useless if they are misunderstood by the courts. Yet the debate over judicial review—proper interpretation of laws—tends to be a minefield of loaded concepts, straw men and false alternatives. Tara Smith explains the pillars of objective law and the essentials needed to restore objective judicial review. Hear Smith's unique perspective on the originalism vs. living constitution vs. minimalism debate.

Mon 10/10

Image - The Creative Architect

The Creative Architect

Date: Mon, October 10, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
A look inside an amazing episode of modern architecture and psychology

Pierluigi Serraino, Architect; Author, The Creative Architect: Inside the Great Midcentury Personality Study
In conversation with John King, Architecture Critic, San Francisco Chronicle

Monday Night Philosophy unearths a late 1950s "source of creativity" study whose data has finally been analyzed and published. Forty eminent architects—including Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn, Philip Johnson, George Nelson, Richard Neutra, Eliot Noyes, Pietro Belluschi, Serge Chermayeff and A. Quincy Jones—descended on UC Berkeley for three days of intensive testing in an attempt to discover the sources of their creativity. Pierluigi Serraino charts the development and implementation of this historic study, producing the first look at an amazing and matchless episode in the annals of modern architecture and psychology.

Mon 10/24

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM

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. 

Thu 11/3

Image - Kerrin Meis

Egon Schiele: A Feminist Artist Ahead of His Time

Date: Thu, November 03, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Kerrin Meis, Retired Lecturer, SFSU; Teacher, OLLI Berkeley and OLLI San Rafael

Egon Schiele, artistically active in Vienna during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, adored women, and was influenced by the fin-de-siècle preoccupation with sex. The Viennese was excited by Sigmund Freud's 1905 Theories of Sexuality, Gustav Mahler’s suggestive music, and Gustav Klimt's gorgeous images of desire. Schiele was even more audacious in his nudes and his explorations of self in his self-portraits, in his landscapes of the small village where he had retreated from Vienna (and was imprisoned for his erotic art) and in his deeply perceptive portraits. His many masterpieces explore the mysteries of love and death.

Mon 11/7

Image - Leana Wen

Public Health and Physician Activism: Lessons from Baltimore

Date: Mon, November 07, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Leana Wen, MD, Emergency Physician, Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City; TED MED Speaker; Author, When Doctors Don't Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests

The Sixth Annual Lundberg Institute lecture focuses on Dr. Wen's experiences as Baltimore's commissioner of health during times of change, as our medical institutions are under pressure from all sides. She will also draw on her personal experiences as a child immigrant, who started learning English at age 8, but by 18 had already graduated summa cum laude from college. She will explain how those experiences have influenced her interest in improving patient-physician communication.

Mon 11/14

Image - Marty Brounstein

The Courage and Compassion to Do the Right Thing

Date: Mon, November 14, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Marty Brounstein, Author, Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Come hear a true interfaith story of courage, compassion and rescue during the Holocaust. A Catholic couple in the Netherlands, despite great risk and danger, helped save the lives of at least two dozen Jews from certain death during World War II. Brounstein will also explain the meaningful personal connection that inspires him to tell and retell the story of their heroic actions.