Unknowability: How Do We Know What Cannot Be Known?

The Center for Public Scholarship at The New School invites you to Unknowability: How Do We Know What Cannot Be Known?, the 38th Social Research Conference.

From the earliest moments of humanity’s search for answers and explanations, we have grappled with the unknowable, that which we are unable or not permitted to know. What does the history of the unknowable look like? What are the questions once thought to be unanswerable that have been answered? Are there enduring unknowables and if so, what are they?

This conference affords a rare opportunity for scholars from different fields to engage with each other and with the general public on this issue, particularly while we are living in what some might call a post-truth world. 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.

Day 1: Thursday, April 4, 2019

Session 1: Humanities 3:00PM – 5:30PM
Tishman Auditorium, University Center
63 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
Rebecca Goldstein, On Philosophy:
“When Feeling Out of Sight: Philosophy’s Affinity for the Unknowable
Marina Warner, On Stories and Mythology:
“Unknowability & Pleasure: The Case of the Vanishing Referent”
Michael ScottOn History:
“The Oracle at Delphi: Unknowability at the Heart of the Ancient Greek World”
Zoë Crossland, On Archaeology:
“Unknown but Not Unknowable: The Past and Its Semiotic Reality”
Moderated byJim MillerProfessor of Liberal Studies and Politics; Faculty Director of Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism, The New School
KEYNOTE EVENT, “Unknowable Unknowns” (6:00PM – 7:30PM)
Keynote Speaker: John D. Barrow FRS, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge; Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project

Day 2: Friday, April 5, 2019

Session 2: Science and Mathematics 11:00AM – 1:00PM
Room I-202, Theresa Lang Center
55 W. 13th Street, New York, NY
Gregory Chaitin, On Mathematics:
“An Extreme Form of Unknowability in Pure Mathematics: The Halting Probability Omega”
Stuart Firestein, On Biological Science:
“Getting to the Trooth”
Gavin SchmidtOn Climate Science:
“The Impacts of Chaos, Structural Uncertainty and Human Behavior on Unknowability in Climate Science”

Moderated By: Natalie Wolchover, Senior Writer and Editor, Quanta Magazine


Session 3: Psychology and Social Science 1:30PM – 3:30PM
Room I-202, Theresa Lang Center
55 W. 13th Street, New York, NY
Nicholas Humphrey, On Consciousness:
“Consciousness: The Experience of the Unknowable”
Alan Fiske, On Anthropology:
“Knowability – One Way or Another”
Linsey McGoey, On Sociology:
“The Hierarchy of Ignorance”
Moderated By: William Hirst, Malcolm B. Smith Professor and Co-Chair of Psychology, The New School

*This event is free. Guests are encouraged to register.

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

For a full conference description and speaker bios, please visit the Center for Public Scholarship’s Conference website











When: Thu., April 4, 2019 - Fri., April 5, 2019 at 3:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Where: The New School
66 W. 12th St.
212-229-5108
Price: Free
Buy tickets/get more info now
See other events in these categories:

The Center for Public Scholarship at The New School invites you to Unknowability: How Do We Know What Cannot Be Known?, the 38th Social Research Conference.

From the earliest moments of humanity’s search for answers and explanations, we have grappled with the unknowable, that which we are unable or not permitted to know. What does the history of the unknowable look like? What are the questions once thought to be unanswerable that have been answered? Are there enduring unknowables and if so, what are they?

This conference affords a rare opportunity for scholars from different fields to engage with each other and with the general public on this issue, particularly while we are living in what some might call a post-truth world. 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.

Day 1: Thursday, April 4, 2019

Session 1: Humanities 3:00PM – 5:30PM
Tishman Auditorium, University Center
63 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
Rebecca Goldstein, On Philosophy:
“When Feeling Out of Sight: Philosophy’s Affinity for the Unknowable
Marina Warner, On Stories and Mythology:
“Unknowability & Pleasure: The Case of the Vanishing Referent”
Michael ScottOn History:
“The Oracle at Delphi: Unknowability at the Heart of the Ancient Greek World”
Zoë Crossland, On Archaeology:
“Unknown but Not Unknowable: The Past and Its Semiotic Reality”
Moderated byJim MillerProfessor of Liberal Studies and Politics; Faculty Director of Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism, The New School
KEYNOTE EVENT, “Unknowable Unknowns” (6:00PM – 7:30PM)
Keynote Speaker: John D. Barrow FRS, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge; Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project

Day 2: Friday, April 5, 2019

Session 2: Science and Mathematics 11:00AM – 1:00PM
Room I-202, Theresa Lang Center
55 W. 13th Street, New York, NY
Gregory Chaitin, On Mathematics:
“An Extreme Form of Unknowability in Pure Mathematics: The Halting Probability Omega”
Stuart Firestein, On Biological Science:
“Getting to the Trooth”
Gavin SchmidtOn Climate Science:
“The Impacts of Chaos, Structural Uncertainty and Human Behavior on Unknowability in Climate Science”

Moderated By: Natalie Wolchover, Senior Writer and Editor, Quanta Magazine


Session 3: Psychology and Social Science 1:30PM – 3:30PM
Room I-202, Theresa Lang Center
55 W. 13th Street, New York, NY
Nicholas Humphrey, On Consciousness:
“Consciousness: The Experience of the Unknowable”
Alan Fiske, On Anthropology:
“Knowability – One Way or Another”
Linsey McGoey, On Sociology:
“The Hierarchy of Ignorance”
Moderated By: William Hirst, Malcolm B. Smith Professor and Co-Chair of Psychology, The New School

*This event is free. Guests are encouraged to register.

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

For a full conference description and speaker bios, please visit the Center for Public Scholarship’s Conference website

Buy tickets/get more info now