Sunday, April 13, 2008

Chalmers on "The Matrix:" April 2008

Speaking to over 200 at the Douglass Student Center, Australian philosopher David Chalmers -- a leading figure in philosophy of mind -- argued that there are Kantian themes in the movie "The Matrix." More broadly, Chalmers argued for the applicability of deep philosophical thinking to many elements of ordinary life. An entertaining, energetic speaker, Chalmers delighted in interplay with the audience.

A curiosity is that Chalmers did his doctorate at Indiana, working under Douglas Hofstadter, the second Class of 1970 philosophy speaker.

Joyce Carol Oates -- 11/2007

Turnout for the November 12th event was around 300 (probably the highest in the current Writers at Rutgers series, English Dept chair Richard Miller said), with some Class of 1970 alums -- Rich Levao, Jeff Rubin (Prof, Economics at Rutgers), Donald Katz, Robert McGarvey, and Ron Levao (English prof at Rutgers), who introduced Joyce Carol Oates. JCO read from a short story that will be published in 2008; the story dealt with art, our expectations for it and for ourselves, and an Emily Dickinson robot. She also signed books for around an hour afterwards. Before the reading -- this was billed as a Writers at Rutgers event, with sponsorship from the Class of 1970 -- there was a dinner at the Rutgers Club for Class of 1970 invitees, Joyce Carol Oates, some English department faculty and students, and administrators (Barry Qualls, vice president for undergraduate education attended the dinner and the reading). Earlier in the day, Joyce Carol Oates led a small undergraduate seminar (this was sponsored by the English Dept).

Hofstadter at RU

Pulitzer Prize winner Douglas Hofstadter (author of Godel, Escher and Bach) gave the Class of 1970 Philosophy Lecture on Thursday, April 26h at 8:00pm in Winants Hall on the College Avenue Campus. A SRO crowd estimated around 300 filled the lecture hall to hear this pioneer in cognitive science talk about consciousness (what has it, what doesn't).

On the faculty of Indiana University, Hofstadter is College Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science; Adjunct Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, Philosophy, Psychological & Brain Sciences and Comparative Literature.

In keeping with the groundrules of the Class of 1970 Philosophy Lecture, Prof. Hofstadter was selected by a group of undergraduate philosophy majors.

The Dennett Lecture

The first Class of 1970 Lecture took place on March 30, 2006. The featured speaker was philosopher Daniel Dennett. The selection of a group of philosophy undergraduate majors, Dennett is an extremely respected philosopher whose work differs, in many key respects, from the work done at Rutgers. That is good. An underlying hope of this lecture series is to expose undergraduates to experiences they wouldn't otherwise have. Dennett's talk occurred in Winants, before a standing room only crowd that philosophy dept chair Peter Klein estimated at around 300. Dennett is a lively talker, engaging, and with a sense of humor; he held the crowd in his palm. After the talk, Klein said he received many emails saying this event was one of the best nights in the department's history.

The Class' Commitment

A major funding commitment for the Class of 1970 is: The Class of 1970 Speaks Up, a five part lecture program that will run for the period 2005-2010. At the Class's 35th Reunion, Class President Charlie Carroll announced that the Class would put $20,000 towards this program ($4000 per year).

What's unique about it is that undergraduate majors in selected departments will invite speakers and coordinate the events, which will be open to the public (especially members of the Class of 1970). Majors will work with a faculty advisor and, as needed, members of the Class of 1970 will get involved in the planning too.

The belief is that this program will enrich the quality of the educational experience on several levels. Obviously, top-notch speakers will be brought in and their thoughts will be exciting. But, on a more subtle level, undergraduates will be empowered ro make decisions that rarely are put in their hands. They aren't working without safety nets -- the faculty advisors will play roles -- but they will be negotiating, coordinating, staging events that may see hundreds of guests come to campus to be entertained and educated.