UC Berkeley News


April features three Graduate Council Lectures

08 April 2004


Three Graduate Council Lectures take place on campus this month, featuring (from left) Carlo Ginzburg, David Kaplan, and Linda Gordon.

Among Dean Mary Ann Mason’s responsibilities is oversight of each year’s Graduate Council Lectures. Seven lectures, each with its own endowment, bring an array of academics to campus to speak on a wide range of topics.

Three free, public lectures take place in April this year. The first, on Tuesday, April 13, is the Howison Lecture in Philosophy, named for George Holmes Howison, a professor of that subject who arrived at Berkeley in 1884. His tenure here was long and influential, and, following his death in 1916, endowments he provided for created and sustained support for scholarships, fellowships, and lectureships in English and philosophy. The lectureship that bears his name was founded three years later.

Since 1922, only a handful of years have gone by without a Howison Lecture. John Dewey came in 1931 to speak on “Thought and Context”; 29 years later, the thinker who occupied the John Dewey endowed chair at Columbia University, Ernest Nagel, spoke on “The Cognitive Status of Theories.” Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky have likewise accepted the invitation to speak, two brilliant stars among a long list of lecturers less universally recognized but just as well regarded in the field.

This year’s Howison Lecturer is David Kaplan, a professor of philosophy at UCLA since 1970; his talk is entitled “The Meaning of ‘Ouch’ and ‘Oops.’” A specialist in logic and semantics, Kaplan’s “startlingly original and finely nuanced writings on the general nature of meaning and reference in natural languages have fundamentally altered the terms in which many of the traditional problems of philosophy of language are now framed and discussed,” says Alan Code, who chairs both Berkeley’s philosophy department and the Howison Lecture Committee.

Just two days later, on Thursday, April 15, the annual Jefferson Memorial Lecture will be given. Not quite half a century old, this series, funded by an endowment created by Cutler and Elizabeth Bonestell, is dedicated to exploring the values inherent in American democracy. Lecturers have included not only academics but journalists, jurists, and politicians, including such luminaries as E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, former House speaker Thomas Foley, former Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox, and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick (whose lecture, in 1983, was canceled due to demonstrations). Academic invitees since 1958 have included Richard Hofstadter, Peter Gay, Raymond Aron, and Sidney Hook.

This year’s Jefferson Lecturer is Linda Gordon, the Florence Kelley Professor of History at New York University. A specialist in exploring the historical roots of contemporary social policy debates, with particular reference to gender and family issues, she has been called “a pioneering contributor to the social history of gender and family” by Law Professor Harry Scheiber, chair of the Jefferson Memorial Lectures Committee. Gordon’s topic, focusing on the work of a well-known member of the Berkeley community in the mid-20th century (and the influence of that work on American political ethics), is “Visual Democracy: Dorothea Lange and the Political Culture of the New Deal.” The lecture will be illustrated with selections from Lange’s photographs.

Finally, on Wednesday, April 21, the Foerster Lecture on the Immortality of the Soul will be presented. The series, which has flourished for more than seven decades, was created by Edith Zweybruck, a San Francisco public school teacher with a deep interest in spirituality, and named for her brother-in-law, Constantine E.A. Foerster, a prominent attorney. Though at least two clerics have presented Foerster Lectures since the series began in 1933, the vast majority of invitees have been academics in a notably wide range of specialties, among them neurology, Egyptology, Assyriology, ethnopsychiatry, communications physiology, the history of science, the psychology of art, and mathematics.

This year’s Foerster Lecturer, Carlo Ginzburg, is professor of Italian Renaissance studies at UCLA. His interests range from cultural and intellectual history to art history and methodology, though his special expertise is in the Inquisition. Ginzburg “is not only one of the world’s leading social historians,” says Foerster Lecture Committee Chair Anthony Long, professor of classics, but “a riveting author and lecturer, with a special gift for reminding us how much we have still to learn about the peculiarities of our species.” Ginzburg’s lecture is entitled “The Soul of Brutes” A 16th Century Debate.”

Howison Lecture on Philosophy (David Kaplan), Tuesday, April 13, 4:10 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House.

Jefferson Memorial Lecture (Linda Gordon), Thursday, April 15, 4:10 p.m., Lipman Room, 8th floor of Barrows Hall.

Foerster Lecture on the Immortality of the Soul (Carlo Ginzburg), Wednesday, April 21, 4:10 p.m., Toll Room, Alumni House.

For information on the Graduate Council Lectures series, visit www.grad.berkeley.edu/lectures or e-mail lectures@berkeley.edu.