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Philosopher Graham Harman to lecture in Campus Theme series

SOU’s 2021 Campus Theme takes on “Thinking Uncertainty” and “Justified Untrue Belief”

SOU’s Campus Theme lecture series – which has focused each academic year since 2009-10 on a specific concept – is taking on the idea of “Thinking Uncertainty” this year and continue on Wednesday, Feb. 10, with an online lecture on “Justified Untrue Belief” by prominent philosopher Graham Harman of the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

Knowledge has been defined since the days of Plato as justified true belief – that the conditions of truth, belief and justification equate to knowledge. Harman’s lecture will put a contemporary twist on that description by examining justified untrue beliefs.

Harman maintains that knowledge cannot be “justified true belief” because – according to his philosophical concept of “object-oriented ontology” – a thing cannot be simultaneously justified and true. His concept of object-oriented ontology, or the nature of being, holds that no two entities – including human thought – can make contact without mediation from a third. He suggests there can be “justified untrue belief,” including science; and there can be “unjustified true belief,” including both philosophy and art.

Harman’s lecture will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday on a Zoom webinar at https://sou.zoom.us/j/81549473609.

Other events on the schedule for this year’s Campus Theme series include:

  • “Uncertainty and the Buddhist Perspective” on Thursday, Feb. 25, with Dan Le, a full-time volunteer with the Compassionate Service Society in Anaheim, California; Le is a practitioner in both the Zen and Huayan traditions of Buddhism. “
  • A Pathway to Peace: Making Friends with Uncertainty,” on Thursday, March 4, with Fred Grewe, an ordained minister who has companioned with almost 3,000 dying patients over the past 13 years at Providence Hospice in Medford.

Each year’s Campus Theme series aims to create opportunities for students, faculty, staff and community members to engage in intellectually stimulating conversations. The Campus Themes address big questions, enable deep understanding and broaden the intellectual horizons of participants.

This year’s theme of “Thinking Uncertainty” picks up where last year’s theme of “Uncertainty” left off. Campus Themes in previous years have ranged from “Civility” to “Race” to “Truth.”

Harman, Wednesday’s speaker, holds the titles of distinguished professor of philosophy and Liberal Arts Program coordinator at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles. He is the author of 18 books, most recently “Art and Objects” (Polity, September 2019).

He received his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s College, his master’s degree from Penn State University and his doctorate from DePaul University. He has taught at American University in Cairo and the European Graduate School, and has been a visiting faculty member at the University of Amsterdam, University of Turin and Yale University.