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UNKNOWABILITY: HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT CANNOT BE KNOWN? / Vol. 87, No. 1 (Spring 2020)

May 13, 2019

Arien Mack, Journal Editor

 

Ebby Abramson

Dolunay Bulut

Endangered Scholars Worldwide

 

Part 1: Humanities

 

Rebecca Goldstein, On Philosophy 

"When Feeling Out of Sight: Philosophy's Affinity for the Unknowable"

Rebecca Goldstein is an American philosopher, a visiting professor of philosophy and English at NYU, and a visiting professor of philosophy at the New College of the Humanities. She is the recipient of numerous prizes for her fiction and scholarship, including a MacArthur “Genius” prize. She is the author of 10 books, the most recent of which is Plato at the Goggleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away (2014).

 

Marina Warner, On Stories and Mythology 

"Unknowability & Pleasure: The Case of the Vanishing Referent"

Marina Warner is the president of the royal society of literature and professor of English and creative writing at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her books include Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale (2016), Stranger Magic: Charmed States & The Arabian Nights (2013), and a new essay collection, Forms of Enchantment: Writings on Art and Artists. She is currently working on a memoir of her Cairo childhood, and a study of Sanctuary and Literature.

 

Michael Scott, On History 

"The Oracle at Delphi: Unknowability at the Heart of the Ancient Greek World"

Michael Scott is a professor in classics and ancient history at the University of Warwick, a national teaching fellow and senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and president of the Lytham Saint Annes Classical Association. He is the  author of several books on the ancient Mediterranean world as well as ancient Global History and has written and presented a range of TV and Radio documentaries for National Geographic, History Channel, ITV, and the BBC.

 

Zoë Crossland, On Archaeology 

"Unknown but Not Unknowable: The Past and Its Semiotic Reality"

Zoë Crossland is an associate professor of anthropology at Columbia University. She is working on a forthcoming book, entitled The Speaking Corpse, which explores the evidence of the forensic corpse, the ways in which it is explained and delineated for popular consumption, and the history that lies behind the treatment of the dead as evidence.

 

Part 2: Science and Mathematics

 

Gregory Chaitin, On Mathematics 

"An Extreme Form of Unknowability in Pure Mathematics: The Halting Probability Omega"

Gregory Chaitin is a mathematician, the creator of algorithmic information theory, the discoverer of the remarkable Omega number, and the creator of the field of metabiology, which views evolution as a random walk in software space. Among his books are Algorithmic Information Theory (1987), Conversations with a Mathematician (2002), Meta Math! (2005), and Proving Darwin (2012).

 

Stuart Firestein, On Biological Sciences 

"Getting to the Trooth"

Stuart Firestein is the chair of Columbia University’s department of biological sciences and an advisor for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s program for the Public Understanding of Science. Most notably, Dr. Firestein’s commitment to engaging the public in science can be seen in his TED Talk entitled “The pursuit of ignorance,” which has garnered 1.5 million views and counting. He is the author of Ignorance, How it Drives Science (2012) and Failure: Why Science Is So Successful (2015).

 

Gavin Schmidt, On Climate Science 

"The Impacts of Chaos, Structural Uncertainty and Human Behavior on Unknowability in Climate Science"

Gavin Schmidt is a climate scientist, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and an adjunct researcher at the Columbia Earth Institute. He is the principal investigator on the GISS Earth System Model and is working on improving data analytics to make the optimum use of the massive amounts of output data that this model and similar projects worldwide generate. His 2014 TED talk on climate modelling has been viewed over a million times.

 

Part 3: Psychology and Social Science

 

Nicholas Humphrey, On Consciousness 

"Consciousness: The Experience of the Unknowable"

Nicholas Humphrey, emeritus professor of psychology at the London School of Economics, is a theoretical psychologist, internationally known for his work on the evolution of human intelligence and consciousness. He is currently the senior member at Darwin College at Cambridge University. His books include Consciousness Regained (2012), The Inner Eye (2013), A History of the Mind (2012), and Leaps of Faith (2012).

 

Alan Fiske, On Anthropology 

"Knowability — One Way or Another"

Alan Fiske is a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is studying how natural selection, neurobiology, ontogeny, psychology, and culture jointly shape human sociality.

 

Linsey McGoey, On Sociology 

"The Hierarchy of Ignorance"

Linsey McGoey is an associate professor in social theory and economic sociology at the University of Essex. She is author of No Such Thing as a Free Gift (2015) and The Unknowers (forthcoming, 2019). She is a founding editor, with Matthias Gross and Michael Smithson, of the Routledge Research in Ignorance Studies book series.

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