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Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College Hosts Conference: “Truth Telling: Democracy in an Age without Facts,” October 28–29



Mark Primoff
845-758-7412
primoff@bard.edu
10-28-2011

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities at Bard College will host its fourth annual conference from Friday, October 28 to Saturday, October 29. The two-day conference, “Truth Telling: Democracy in an Age without Facts,” will explore how truth is told in an age of de-factualization. Writing in the New York Review of Books 40 years ago, Hannah Arendt noticed that unwelcome facts are tolerated only to the extent that they are consciously or unconsciously transformed into opinions. Our tendency to blur the dividing line between fact and opinion has led to the now widely observed de-factualization of our world. The Arendt Center’s conference aims to honestly address the contemporary predicaments of truth-telling and to think creatively and deeply about what place, if any, the role of common truths must have in our future.

Keynote speakers include: Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham’s Quarterly, former editor of Harper’s magazine, author of many books including Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration and Money and Class in America: Notes on Our Civil Religion, and host of “The World in Time,” radio discussions with scholars and historians on Bloomberg Radio; Zadie Smith, author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, and On Beauty (which won the Orange Prize for Fiction), and a collection of essays, Changing My Mind, editor of an anthology of short stories entitled The Book of Other People, book critic for Harpers, professor of creative writing at New York University, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego, and coauthor of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming; and Sam Tannenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review; author of The Death of Conservatism and Whittaker Chambers: A Biography; and coeditor of McCarthyism in America. Lapham’s address will be followed by a discussion led by Francine Prose, writer and visiting professor of literature at Bard. Other featured speakers include: Benjamin Kunkel (co-founding editor, n+1; author, Indecision); Walter Russell Mead (author, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World; and blogger for The American Interest); Leon Botstein (president of Bard College); Wyatt Mason (contributing writer, New York Times Magazine); and many others.

“What Arendt sees,” says Roger Berkowitz, academic director of the Arendt Center at Bard College, “is that factual truths are absolutely necessary in order for our world to survive. Without a shared factual world, we cannot talk, argue, or debate with others with whom we disagree. The great danger facing our world today is that at a time when all truths are reduced to opinions—when no one can tell the truth in a way that is believed and that establishes a common reality—the very ground and foundation of our ability to live together in a shared world will crumble. In a world without facts, we risk undermining the venture of politics: to create together a common world, one as unruly, disorderly, and argumentative as such togetherness demands.”

Against these dangers of de-factualization and the loss of our common world stands the truth-teller. The truth-teller, Arendt writes, takes her stand outside the realm of politics. The artist, the scholar, the scientist, the fool: the truth-teller shares their allergy to all political causes. What politics needs, in Arendtian terms, are institutions and persons dedicated to truth outside the scramble for power. In a time when everything is political, the demand for truth only grows more urgent. It is to respond to this demand that the Arendt Center Conference is convened.

To the end of facing the loss of basic facts in our world, and in the interest of figuring a way to move forward together, The Hannah Arendt Center will host “Truth-telling: Democracy in an Age Without Facts,” the fourth of the Arendt Center’s international conferences devoted to the issues that matter most to the age. Speakers will seek confront the difficulties of our present predicament and also blaze a path forward. Above all, the conference asks: “How can we tell the truth in an age without facts?” Past conferences include “Human Being in an Inhuman Age,” “The Burden of Our Times: The Intellectual Origins of the Financial Crisis,” and “Hannah Arendt and the Banality of Evil.”

Registration and attendance is free. Lunches are available for registered guests on both Friday and Saturday. To register, please send an e-mail to Sarah Paden at arendt@bard.edu. For more information, please visit www.bard.edu/hannaharendtcenter/conference10-11/ or call 845-758-7413.


CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

“Truth-telling: Democracy in an Age Without Facts”

Friday, October 28 to Saturday, October 29

Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

All events will be held in Olin Auditorium.

 

Friday, October 28

10:30 am—Welcoming Remarks: Leon Botstein, President, Bard College

11:00 am—Introductory Lecture: Roger Berkowitz, Academic Director of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities

11:30 am—Keynote Address: Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham’s Quarterly and former editor of Harpers Magazine; author of many books including Pretensions to Empire: Notes on the Criminal Folly of the Bush Administration and Money and Class in America: Notes on Our Civil Religion; currently host of “The World in Time,” radio discussions with scholars and historians on Bloomberg Radio

Discussant: Francine Prose


1:00 pm—Lunch

2:30 pm—Keynote Address: Zadie Smith, author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, and On Beauty, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and a collection of essays Changing My Mind; editor of The Book of Other People, an anthology of short stories; book critic for Harpers; professor of creative writing at New York University; and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

3:15 pm—Lecture: Jonathan Kay, author of Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground; managing editor, op-ed columnist, and regular blogger for Canada’s National Post newspaper; contributor to the New Yorker, Salon.com and New York Times

4:15 pm—Break (Olin Atrium)

4:30 pm—Keynote Address: Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego and coauthor of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming

6:00 pm—Lecture: Daniel Rose, chairman of Rose Associates, Inc., a New York–based, 85-year-old real estate organization; winner of four national Cicero Speechwriting Awards; and recipient of honorary doctorates in Engineering at Polytechnic University and in Humane Letters at Long Island University

7:00 pm—Dinner for speakers. Nonparticipants should avail themselves of the Hudson Valley’s fantastic culinary culture. Reservations recommended.


Saturday, October 29

10:30 am—Introductory Lecture: Wyatt Mason, senior fellow at the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities; contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine; contributing editor at Harper’s; regular contributor to The New Yorker, New York Review of Books; recipient of a National Book Critics Circle Citation for criticism; and translator of the works of Arthur Rimbaud for The Modern Library.

11:00 am—Lecture: Wolfgang Heuer, editor of Hannaharendt.net; author of books including Couragiertes Handeln (Courageous Action) and Citizen: Personal Integrity and Political Responsibility; Privatdozent at Otto-Suhr-Institut für Politikwissenschaft at the Freien Universität in Berlin

11:45 am—Lecture: Peg Birmingham, author of Hannah Arendt and Human Rights, and currently at work on a manuscript tentatively titled “A Lying World Order: Deception as a Philosophical and Political Problem”; chair of the philosophy department at DePaul University

Discussant: Matthias Bormuth


12:30 pm—Lunch

1:00 pm—TBA

2:00 pm—Keynote Address: Sam Tannenhaus, editor of New York Times Book Review; author of The Death of Conservatism and Whittaker Chambers: A Biography; and coeditor of McCarthyism in America

3:15 pm—Lecture: Benjamin Kunkel, cofounder and coeditor of the journal n+1 and author of the novel Indecision

4:15 pm—Break (Olin Atrium)

4:30 pm—Lecture: Idith Zertal, author of many books and articles published in many languages on Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli history, including Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood and Lords of the Land: The War over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967–2007; translator into Hebrew of an annotated edition of Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, published in 2010; professor of contemporary history at the Institute for Jewish Studies, the University of Basel; has written extensively on Hannah Arendt’s political thought

Discussant: Norman Manea


5:30 pm
—Break (Olin Atrium)

5:45 pm—Lecture: Walter Russell Mead, James Clark Chase Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College; editor-at-large of The American Interest, where he writes the blog Via Meadia; author of many books including God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, and Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World

6:30 pm—Concluding Lecture: Jerome Kohn, trustee of the Hannah Arendt Bluecher Literary Trust; editor of many volumes of Arendt’s unpublished and uncollected writings, including The Promise of Politics, Essays on Understanding 1930–1954, Responsibility and Judgment, and The Jewish Writings (with Ron Feldman)

7:15 pm—Wrap-up

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(09/20/11)

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This event was last updated on 09-26-2011