2008-2009 Faculty Research Seminars

Contending Truths: The Sites, Forms, and Functions of Polemical Discourse

Seminar Leader: William North, Associate Professor of History

It is the aim of this faculty seminar to investigate the problem of contending truths as it emerges in different historical periods and disciplines, employing a variety of approaches to questions of evidence, cognition, reason, argument, institutional culture, and socio-cultural dynamics to refine our own abilities to grapple with controversy as it emerges in our own work. In addition to participating in the Seminar, each participant is pursuing an individual project.

Faculty Fellows

Wiliam North, Associate Professor of History: “Institutional Diversity and Anxiety in the Early Twelfth Century: Responses to Innovation and Change in the Religious Life in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.” This study examines both the criticisms of innovation and the strategies used to defend difference in pursuit of a deeper understanding of how religious institutions cope with and respond to change.

Barbara Allen, Professor of Political Science: The political thought of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as federalism and the possibility for mutually productive discourses on contending truth.

Peter Brandon, Broom Professor of Social Demography: "A Chimera In Our Minds?:  The Quest to Quantify Human Time Allocation," which examines the quantification of time among humans and its validity for making inferences about gender relations, work and family balance, health status, children's outcomes, and social cohesiveness.

Angela Curran, Assistant Professor of Philosophy: Aristotle’s theory of knowledge as it is discussed in Posterior Analytics, Metaphysics and Parts of Animals, and the fruitful tension between “foundationalist” and “coherentist”approaches.

Clara Hardy, Professor of Classical Languages: A study of the year 415 BCE in Athens, with particular emphasis on the assembly, the law courts, and the theater as sites for contending truths in Athenian democracy.

Beth Kisileff, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion (Ph.D. in Comparative Literature): work on a novel-in-progress that concerns the lies of a professor of Jewish history about his service in the Israeli Army to a class and the extensive repercussions of those lies.

Asuka Sango, Assistant Professor of Religion: Buddhist debate as a unique polemical site for producing religious knowledge and authority in premodern Japan.