Critical Conversations

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Critical Conversations present some of the best that Brandeis has to offer: leading scholars engaging thoughtfully with timely, relevant issues that affect the campus community and the world at large.

 

2019-20 Conversations

All Critical Conversations will be held at 5:30 p.m. in Sherman Function Hall, Hassenfeld Conference Center, unless otherwise indicated. All members of the Brandeis community are welcome to attend.

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Identity Matters: Academic Inquiry and Truth

October 3, 2019

Location: Shapiro Campus Center Theater

How does who we are affect what we see in the world? How does our identity (as male, female, person of color, LGBTQ, etc.) shape our view of the truth? In this conversation, professors Harleen Singh and Chad Williams will discuss how studies in literature, gender and race have reshaped the academy and how their own experiences inform the way they think and talk about the world.

Participants

  • Harleen Singh, Associate Professor of Literature and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Chad Williams, Samuel J. and Augusta Spector Chair in History 

Moderator

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Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Perspectives on Truth from Psychological Science

October 23, 2019

Is truth personal? Or cultural? What happens when your truth collides with someone else's? Is there empirical evidence for truth? Psychology faculty discuss individual and cultural perspectives on “truth,” and how current theoretical foundations in psychology define it.

Participants

Moderator

Fiddling While Rome Burns: Understanding Humankind's Response to Climate Threat

November 5, 2019

Experts were aware of the destructive consequences of human-caused climate change long before the general public was — or accepted this as fact. Even as the public has gradually come to acknowledge the effects of climate change, action to prevent large-scale loss of life and livelihoods has barely begun. How does such a collision of human knowledge and inaction arise? What individual and societal changes are necessary to reduce the impending disaster?

Participants

  • Paul Miller, Associate Professor of Biology
  • Sabine von Mering, Professor of German and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Director of the Center for German and European Studies

Moderator

Truth, or Your Truth? A Scientist and a Humanist on Facts, Data and Evidence

March 3, 2020

Does evidence make something true? Is evidence even a necessary component of truth? The way we talk about what is real and what is true depends on perspective and context. The way we are trained to think and write can change what we think is true. This conversation pairs humanities and science faculty in a debate about the relationship between facts, truth and reality, and how evidence differs widely in different disciplines.

Participants

Moderator

Getting with the Program: A Philosopher and Computer Scientist on Telling the Truth

March 17, 2020

How does telling the truth in academic reasoning compare to every day communication? Is there only one way to talk about the truth? Writing is a form of persuasion that communicates the truth, but writing itself is not necessarily true, whether we are talking about love letters, job applications, term papers, user manuals — even writing proofs, or coding software. This conversation pairs a philosopher and a programmer to help us understand why — and how— telling the truth is important.

Participants

Moderator