Upcoming Events: Humanities

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 Sarah Granger, Author; Digital Media Entrepreneur

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.

Tue 10/18

Image - Elaine Kamarck

Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again

Date: Tue, October 18, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Success and failure in the White House

Elaine Kamarck, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School; Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; Author, Why Presidents Fail and How They Can Succeed Again

Elaine Kamarck argues that for most of their lives, Americans have experienced government failure. The idea that government can and will produce results, implement policy, and efficiently govern the nation is met with rolled eyes. Kamarck explores the failings of presidents Carter, Bush and Obama with a bipartisan analysis of how and why each fiasco occurred.

Her insider’s perspective provides accessible explanations into the inner-workings and political bureaucracy that can cause a governmental meltdown. One big problem she sees is that we reward communicators over managers, rhetoric over governing skills. But persuasive speeches and tweets need to be balanced with a grasp of policy and how to implement it.

Mon 10/24

Humanities West Book Discussion: The World of Yesterday, by Stefan Zweig

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 5:00 PM
Portrait of an era

Join us to discuss Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday. Written as both a recollection of the past and a warning for future generations, it recalls the golden age of literary Vienna—its seeming permanence, its promise and its devastating fall. Surrounded by the leading literary lights of the epoch, Zweig draws a vivid and intimate account of his life and travels through Vienna, Paris, Berlin and London, touching on the very heart of European culture. His passionate, evocative prose paints a stunning portrait of an era that danced brilliantly on the edge of extinction. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Image - David Bodanis

Einstein's Greatest Mistake

Date: Mon, October 24, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Just how great could Einstein have been?

David Bodanis, Author, Einstein's Greatest Mistake

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

David Bodanis, best-selling author of E=mc2, has written a brisk, accessible biography of Albert Einstein that reveals his genius and his hubris. Einstein revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos with his general theory of relativity. Yet in the final decades of his life he was also ignored by most scientists. Bodanis explains how Einstein’s imagination and self-confidence led to his early successes, but when it came to newer revelations in quantum mechanics, those same traits undermined his quest for the ultimate truth. Einstein’s conviction in his own intuition proved to be his ultimate undoing.

An intimate and enlightening biography of the celebrated physicist, Einstein’s Greatest Mistake reveals how much we owe Einstein today—and how much more he might have achieved.

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. 

Tue 10/25

Image - Candice Shy Hooper

Lincoln’s Generals’ Wives: Four Women Who Influenced the Civil War, for Better and for Worse

Date: Tue, October 25, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Influencing history

Candice Shy Hooper, Author, Lincoln's Generals' Wives

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

The story of the American Civil War isn’t complete without examining the extraordinary lives of Jessie Fremont, Nelly McClellan, Ellen Sherman, and Julia Grant, who were their husbands’ closest confidantes and had a profound impact on their ambitions and actions. Once shots were fired on Fort Sumter, the women were launched into a new world, where their relationships with their husbands and their personal opinions of the president of the United States had national and historical consequences. Using letters, memoirs, and photographs—and for the first time, maps of the women’s wartime travels—Hooper reveals how these four generals’ wives powerfully influenced our history.

Wed 11/2

Image - Ben Franklin Circles

Ben Franklin Circles

Date: Wed, November 02, 2016
Time: 6:30 PM
Bringing people together to discuss pressing philosophical & ethical issues

Join us monthly, every first Wednesday, for a 21st-century version of Ben Franklin’s mutual improvement club. One evening a week, for more than 40 years, the founding father discussed and debated with his friends the 13 virtues that he felt formed the basis for personal and civic improvement, a list he created when he was 20 years old. The virtues to which he aspired included justice, resolution and humility (but don't misunderstand Ben on that one—his explanation of humility was "imitate Jesus and Socrates").

Ben Franklin Circles bring people together to discuss the most pressing philosophical and ethical issues of our time with the goal of improving ourselves and our world.

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 artist 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.

Wed 11/9

Image - Erin Byrne

Wings: Gifts of Art, Life and Travel in France

Date: Wed, November 09, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

Erin Byrne, Author, Wings: Gifts of Art, Life, and Travel in France

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

France is steeped in refined traditions, with its rich history, exquisite art, robust culture and varied cuisine. Erin Byrne's essays draw upon her trips, from Cézanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence to a tiny village in the Jura Mountains, from a Left Bank neighborhood bistro to a plain high above the Normandy beaches. She collects stories, characters, tastes and secrets that act as ingredients for change, and then digs deeper to uncover meaning. Henri Cartier-Bresson issues a challenge, Sainte Geneviève offers resilience, Salvador Dalí seduces, Picasso entertains, and a wrought iron sign portends the future.

Wings, which won the Paris Book Festival award for travel genre, is about the gifts that we all glean from our travels.

Mon 11/21

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, November 21, 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 12/5

Image - James Hoggan

I'm Right and You're an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up

Date: Mon, December 05, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM

James Hoggan, President, Hoggan & Associates; Chair of the Board, David Suzuki Foundation; Author, I'm Right and You're an Idiot

James Hoggan contends that the most pressing environmental problem we face today is not climate change. It is pollution in the public square, where a smog of adversarial rhetoric and propaganda stifles discussion and creates resistance to change, thwarting our ability to solve our collective problems. In I'm Right and You're an Idiot, Hoggan grapples with this critical issue, conducting interviews with such notables as Thich Nhat Hanh, Noam Chomsky and the Dalai Lama.

Thu 12/8

Image - Steven Machtinger

Lamentation and the Limits of Philosophy

Date: Thu, December 08, 2016
Time: 6:00 PM
Mozart and grief

Steven Machtinger, Attorney; Violist; Independent Mozart Scholar

Mozart and Homer both understood that philosophical perspectives can be of limited utility in providing comfort to the bereaved. In commemoration of the 225th anniversary of Mozart’s death, we will listen to the extraordinarily moving lamentation section of his String Quintet in G minor performed by the London Quintet. After examining how Mozart uses musical devices to achieve emotional effects, we will compare his musical evocation of grief with passages in The Iliad lamenting the death of heroes.

Mon 12/19

Image - Socrates Café

Socrates Café

Date: Mon, December 19, 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 1/9

Image - Lauren Leader-Chivee

Crossing the Thinnest Line

Date: Mon, January 09, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The case for embracing greater diversity

Lauren Leader-Chivee, Founder and CEO, All In Together; Author, Crossing the Thinnest Line

Monday Night Philosophy explores the social advantages of diversity. Crossing the Thinnest Line argues passionately and persuasively for the possibility, power, purpose and payoff of embracing difference. Already 89 percent of the world’s educated population is either female or minority. In less than a generation, the U.S. will become minority majority. The world economy is global and interconnected, and Leader-Chivee says that embracing diversity has never been more imperative.

With compelling data and powerful, personal stories, Leader-Chivee looks at challenges and solutions to immigration, education, business, media and politics and inspires Americans to rise to the challenge.

Tue 2/7

Image - Lauren Leader-Chivee

Crossing the Thinnest Line

Date: Tue, February 07, 2017
Time: 6:00 PM
The new world of diversity

Lauren Leader-Chivee, Founder and CEO, All In Together; Author, Crossing the Thinnest Line

Monday Night Philosophy explores the social advantages of diversity. Crossing the Thinnest Line argues passionately and persuasively for the possibility, power, purpose and payoff of embracing difference. Already 89 percent of the world’s educated population is either female or minority. In less than a generation, the United States will become minority majority. The world economy is global and interconnected, and Leader-Chivee says that embracing diversity has never been more imperative.

With compelling data and powerful, personal stories, Leader-Chivee looks at challenges and solutions to immigration, education, business, media and politics and inspires Americans to rise to the challenge.