Upcoming Events: Humanities

Wed 3/4

Image - Humanities West Book Discussion: The Song of Roland

Humanities West Book Discussion: The Song of Roland

Date: Wed, March 04, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM
A classical epic that glorifies the heroism of Charlemagne.

Join us to discuss The Song of Roland, the anonymous classical epic that glorifies the heroism of Charlemagne in the 778 battle between the Franks and the Moors. Lynn Harris will lead the discussion.

Fri 3/6

Image - Reality Check: Russia, Ukraine, and the West in Crisis and Conflict

Reality Check: Russia, Ukraine, and the West in Crisis and Conflict

Date: Fri, March 06, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
Is confrontation the new normal for Europe and Eurasia?

Matthew Rojansky, Director, Kennan Institute, Wilson Center

The death toll from the war in Ukraine's southeast is in the thousands, the government in Kiev is on the edge of bankruptcy, and mutual hostility between Russia and the West is more intense than it has been for more than a quarter century. This ongoing crisis threatens not only to upend the precarious security balance of the post-Soviet era, but also to fragment the foundation of the very political and economic system that hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians embraced by supporting the so-called Euromaidan last fall and winter. With poor prospects for a comprehensive diplomatic settlement, and political pressure for escalation from all sides, can anything be done to contain the conflict? Is crisis and confrontation the new normal for Europe and Eurasia? If so, will these problems come home to roost in the West? 

Mon 3/9

Image - Minimizing Fear

Minimizing Fear

Date: Mon, March 09, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM

George Hammond, Author, Rational Idealism and Conversations With Socrates

Monday Night Philosophy understands that we have explained life to ourselves in ways that have scared us silly for so long that it has become an engrained habit. Ironically, it's a habit we rather enjoy because fear often keeps us more alert than we'd otherwise be. But there are other ways to remain intellectually alert to the nuances of life that are not so debilitating. So tonight we'll sort through those fears with the goal of understanding how unlikely it is that these fears are justified, eliminating those that are highly irrational, and minimizing those that are merely ridiculous.

Mon 3/16

Image - The Amazons

The Amazons

Date: Mon, March 16, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Were these ancient warrior women fact or fiction?

Adrienne Mayor, Research Scholar, Classics and History and Philosophy of Science, Stanford University

Amazons – fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world – were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles dueled Amazon queens, and Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great and Pompey each tangled with them. But who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback? Were Amazons real? Mayor's is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, including new archaeological discoveries of battle-scarred female skeletons buried with their weapons. Mayor argues that a timeless search for a balance between the sexes explains the allure of the Amazons and reminds us that there were as many Amazon love stories as there were war stories.

Tue 3/17

Image - The Allure of Irish Dancing

The Allure of Irish Dancing

Date: Tue, March 17, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Michael Dillon of the Dillon Magh Adhair Academy of Irish Dance

Michael Dillon, ADCRG, Dillon Magh Adhair Academy of Irish Dance

Come celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a demonstration of Irish dancing by championship-level dancers from a renowned Bay Area dance school. Dillon, an Ard Diploma Coimisiuin le Rinci Gaelacha (a teacher certified by the worldwide governing body of Irish dance), will also explain the history that permeates this detailed and disciplined dance culture. This will be the perfect pre-pub experience, as you are sure to leave with your feet tapping out a jig — or maybe even a reel.

Wed 3/18

Image - Socrates Café
This event is Sold Out

Socrates Café

Date: Wed, March 18, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Discussion of philosophical issues.

The Humanities Forum brings Socrates Café to The Commonwealth Club. It will be held every third Wednesday evening for the discussion of philosophical issues. At each monthly meeting the group's facilitator, Bob Enteen, will invite participants to suggest topics, which are then voted on. The person who proposed the most popular topic will briefly explain why she or he considers the subject interesting and important. An open discussion will follow, ending with a summary. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Thu 3/19

Image - The Streets of San Francisco: Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolita

The Streets of San Francisco: Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950-1972

Date: Thu, March 19, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
Christopher Agee, Assistant Professor

Christopher Agee, Assistant Professor, History Department, University of Colorado, Denver

During the Sixties, the nation turned its eyes to San Francisco as the city's police force clashed with the free speech, civil rights and sexual liberation movements. More than just one-time flare-ups, these street-level conflicts forced Americans (and San Franciscans) to reconsider the role of the police officer in democratic society. Historian Christopher Agee explores the influential ways in which San Francisco liberals provided a solution that championed both broad diversity and strong policing by turning to the police as partners and granting them a powerful tool: the use of discretion.

Wed 4/1

Image - Humanities West Book Discussion: To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and

Humanities West Book Discussion: To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

Date: Wed, April 01, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM

Join us to discuss To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918, by Adam Hochschild. It has been a century since the start of the Great War, whose cultural aftermath is still influencing us. Yet it remains relevant to ask if the solutions to the illusions that led to trench warfare are still eluding us a century later. Discussion led by Lynn Harris.

Mon 4/13

Image - Overcoming the Fear of Death

Overcoming the Fear of Death

Date: Mon, April 13, 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
With Kelvin Chin, consultant and public speaker

Kelvin Chin, Consultant; Public Speaker

Why are we so afraid of death? After all, death is inevitable. But what is death? Is it the end, the beginning or a transition? Kelvin Chin will help people rethink how they respond to the death of a loved one and how they think about their own deaths. His new approach is sensitive, insightful and non-religious.

Image - Evolutionary UpWising

Evolutionary UpWising

Date: Mon, April 13, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With Swami Beyondananda

Swami Beyondananda, Humorist; Satirist; FUNdamentalist

Once in many lifetimes there comes a being so enlightened, so evolved and so pure that the whole world is transformed. Unfortunately, Monday Night Philosophy couldn't find anyone like that. But we did find Swami Beyondananda, whose favorite yoga pose is tongue-in-cheek. A spiritual and political pundit (if anyone punned it, Swami probably punned it first), Swami will offer a healthier alternative to a revolutionary uprising to overthrow the system – an evolutionary upwising to overgrow the system. At a time when politics is laughable yet not all that funny, Swami will give you reason to laugh and reason to think. And if you have an answerable question for Swami, Swami will have a questionable answer for you.

Wed 5/6

Image - Humanities West Book Discussion: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Humanities West Book Discussion: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Date: Wed, May 06, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM
The classic novel about World War I.

Join us to discuss the classic novel about World War I, All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. The discussion will be led by Lynn Harris.

Mon 5/11

Image - The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice

The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice

Date: Mon, May 11, 2015
Time: 6:00 PM
With author William Damon

William Damon, Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Education; Co-author, The Power of Ideals: The Real Story of Moral Choice

The Power of Ideals thoroughly examines the full range of available research on moral choice and presents a compelling new theory. It takes into account current scientific claims and explores our undeniable capacity to act on noble ideals, to make principled moral choices, and to live lives of generosity, integrity and genuine human connection.

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, Georges 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.

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.