2011 Rostrum videos

ROSTRUM: The Language and Thinking Lecture Series at Bard College, August 2011


“Morality Before Religion: Empathy, Fairness and Prosocial Primates”

—Frans De Waal, C. H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior, Emory University; Director, Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center
August 10, 2011
Co-sponsored by Citizen Science and the Distinguished Scientist Lectures and the Bard Biology Program

In this lecture, the acclaimed author of Primates and Philosophers (2006) and The Age of Empathy (2009) shows how empathy comes naturally to a great variety of animals, including humans. By studying social behaviors in animals, such as bonding, the herd instinct, the forming of trusting alliances, expressions of consolation, and conflict resolution, de Waal demonstrates that animals ­and humans ­are preprogrammed to reach out, questioning the assumption that humans are inherently selfish. He argues that understanding empathy’s survival value in evolution can help to build a more just society based on a more accurate view of human nature.

Only the Question and Answer section of Professor de Waal’s lecture at Bard was recorded, which can be viewed here>>. Professor de Waal gave a similar lecture, albeit shorter, in 2011 at a TedX conference.


“Liberal Education and Freedom”

—Max Kenner, Executive Director, Bard Prison Initiative, and Nancy Leonard, Professor of English
August 11, 2011

A discussion about the Bard Prison Initiative and its engagement with both incarceration and liberal arts education in the United States.
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“Jean Sibelius: National Symbol, International Iconoclast”

—Leon Botstein, President of the College and Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities
This lecture preceded an open rehearsal of the American Symphony Orchestra (not included in video)
Friday, August 12, 2011

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“Truthtelling in an Age Without Facts”

—Roger Berkowitz, Academic Director, Hannah Arendt Center for Ethical and Political Thinking, Associate Professor of Political Studies and Human Rights
August 15, 2011

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“The Impact of the Concept of Culture”

—Michèle Dominy, Dean of the College and Professor of Anthropology
August 16, 2011
An anthropological close reading of Clifford Geertz’s “The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man.”

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“Mathematics vs. Common Sense”

—Greg Landweber, Associate Professor and Chair of Mathematics
August 16, 2011

Mark Twain popularized the saying, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”. If mathematics is, as most people see it, a search for the right answer or an absolute truth, how can it be used to misrepresent the truth? And why are we so gullible? This lecture will discuss several cases where mathematics is at odds with common sense, ranging from discussions in the media to classic mathematical puzzles.

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“On Making Computers More Human”

—Becky Thomas, Associate Professor of Computer Science
August 17, 2011

In his new book, “The Most Human Human,” Brian Christian describes strategies for making a computer converse, human-style, and ways for human conversationalists to distinguish themselves from computer chatbots. In this talk, we’ll take a broader view of the project of making computers behave more like humans, and we’ll explore the questions: Is there any reason to make computers more like us? If so, what about us would we like our machines to emulate, and what about us do we explicitly NOT want our machines to emulate? How realistic is it to think that computers can be made more human? And should we be worried?


“Eating from the Place Where You Are: A Discussion with Local Farmers”

—Ben Shute of Hearty Roots Farm, Derrick Mead of Mead Orchards, Ken Kleinpeter of Glynwood Farm, Paul Marienthal, Associate Dean for Civic Engagement and Director of the Trustee Leader Scholar Program
August 17, 2011

A discussion among farmers about farming in the contemporary world, and specifically in the Hudson Valley. There will be a special emphasis on sustainability.

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“Chocolate Makes You Fit and Preschool Keeps You Out of Jail: Why You Should Care About the Nature of Science”

—Felicia Keesing, Associate Professor of Biology
August 18, 2011

Keesing will argue that knowing the three ways that scientific questions get answered is one of the most important skills you can learn in college. This knowledge has the potential to transform your understanding of politics, health care, economics, education, and, of course, science.

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“Seeing and Knowing: Projects, 2006-present”

—Tanya Marcuse, Photographer, Simon’s Rock
August 18, 2011

Tanya Marcuse will discuss her three most recent photography projects, Wax Bodies, Bountiful and Fallen in the context of the overarching concerns of her work. While the subjects in these projects differ, ranging from photographs of Italian wax anatomical models made at the height of the Enlightenment to her new allegorical series of fallen fruit, she continues to explore ideas of ephemerality and perception.


“Art as a Way of Knowing”

—Lawrence Weschler, Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities
August 19, 2011

Nowadays, artists and scientists tend to think of their ways of probing the world as distinctly different. But such was not always the case (in fact the divide is only a few centuries old; think of Leonardo, think of the wonder cabinets of the seventeenth century). Nor may the differences be all that distinct or even real.

In a lecture originally developed for a conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation, longtime New Yorker writer Lawrence Weschler–director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU (where the sciences are emphatically included as part of and central to the humanities) and author, among others, of Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder and Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences–will extrapolate on such themes, with side-meanders into the thinking of artists Robert Irwin and David Hockney (subjects of his two most recent books) and a whole new interpretation of Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson.

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“How Generation Hot Could Still Save the World… And Itself”

—Mark Hertsgaard, Independent Journalist and Author, with Eban Goodstein, Director of Bard Center for Environmental Policy (discussant)
August 22, 2011