Unknowability: How Do We Know What Cannot Be Known?

At a time when the distinction between what is true and what is not has become increasingly problematic, focusing attention on how we know what we cannot know has become essential. From the earliest moments of humanity’s search for answers and explanations, we have grappled with the unknowable. This conference will feature scholars from different fields discussing "unknowability."

This conference is partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Number SES 1837895


Day 1: Thursday, April 4, 2019

(All sessions held at: Tishman Auditorium, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY)

Session 1, 3:00PM - 5:30PM: Humanities

  • Rebecca Goldstein, Visiting Professor of Philosophy, New College of the Humanities, London; MacArthur Fellow, philosopher, author and novelist
  • Marina Warner, British novelist, short story writer, historian, mythographer, and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London
  • Michael Scott, Professor of Classics and Ancient History, University of Warwick
  • Zoë Crossland, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University
  • Moderator: Jim Miller, Professor of Liberal Studies and Politics; Faculty Director of Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism, The New School

KEYNOTE EVENT, "Unknowable Unknowns" 6:00PM -7:30 PM

  • John D. Barrow FRS, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge; Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project
  • Keynote Interlocutor: Rebecca Goldstein, MacArthur Fellow, philosopher, author and novelist


Day 2: Friday, April 5, 2019

(All sessions held at: Room I-202, Theresa Lang Center, 55 W. 13th Street, NY, NY)

Session 2, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM: Science and Mathematics

  • Gregory Chaitin, Professor, University of Buenos Aires; and Visiting Professor, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro
  • Stuart Firestein, Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University
  • Gavin Schmidt, Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Moderator: Natalie Wolchover, Senior writer and editor, Quanta Magazine

Session 3, 1:30 PM - 3:30 PM: Psychology and Social Science

  • Nicholas Humphrey, Senior Member, Darwin College, Cambridge University
  • Alan Fiske, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Linsey McGoey, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Essex
  • Moderator: William Hirst, Malcolm B. Smith Professor and Co-Chair of Psychology, New School for Social Research

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63 Fifth Avenue

New York City , United States

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United States

New York City