Truth Justice and the American Way

UC Arts & Sciences and Rhinegeist Team Up to Host Panel on the Value of Arts and Sciences in a  "Post-Truth" America

Two keynote scholars and two discussion panels will explore the questions: "What’s the price of truth in America today? What is truth worth in a well-functioning democracy, or in a profitable company?"

Date: 10/18/2017 12:00:00 PM

By: Jonathan Goolsby
Contact: Julie Campbell-Holmes
Phone: (513) 509 - 1114
Images: University of Connecticut, University of Cincinnati

CINCINNATI, Oh. — What’s the price of truth in America today? What is truth worth in a well-functioning democracy, or in a profitable company?

Those are the central questions that Dr. Thomas Polger, Head of Philosophy in the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Arts & Sciences, hopes his department’s upcoming Truth, Justice and the American Way? symposium will answer.

“Defending truth is one of the most important societal challenges that our college, and other Arts and Sciences colleges, is facing,“ Ken Petren, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explains.

“My hope is that the conversations we have at this event will help the public understand the value of an Arts and Sciences education, and the care with which we prepare students to solve complex problems in local and global communities.”

The event is free, open to the public, and will take place Monday, November 13, 2017, 1:00 – 7:00 p.m., in the Main Street Cinema of UC’s Tangeman University Center. A reception, “Truth for Truth,” will follow at Rhinegeist Brewery in Over-the-Rhine. Seminar registrants aged 21 and over will receive one complimentary drink at the reception. Those who wish to attend panel discussions and the reception after 4:00pm need to register for these free events.

Large questions require wide expertise.

Photograph of Professor Michael Lynch

Michael Lynch

Truth, Justice and the American Way? will feature a series of lectures on the nature of truth, the modern value of the arts and sciences, and their broader tie-ins with good citizenship, career readiness and human fulfillment.

The first keynote will be author Michael Lynch, Director of the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute and TED Talk lecturer, who will speak about “Humility in Public Discourse.”

He will be followed by UC Professor of Education Sarah Stitzlein, who will discuss “Hope and Democracy.”

Photograph of Prof. Sarah Stitzlein

Sarah Stiltzlein

Their lectures will lead into two panel discussions.

“Why Care About Arts & Sciences Education?” will be moderated by WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition host Mark Heyne, and feature Mount St. Joseph University president H. James Williams, novelist and UC English department head Leah Stewart, and Rhinegeist Brewery’s Director of Culture, Dennis Kramer-Wine, who is himself a UC College of Arts and Sciences Philosophy alumnus.

“As part of the leadership at Rhinegeist Brewery, there is very little question that my formal education has prepared me very well for my responsibilities in our quickly growing company,” Director of Culture Dennis Kramer-Wine said. “I'm honored to be a part of this discussion as part of realigning my career with my education.

The second panel, “Is ‘Liberal Arts’ Education a Luxury?” — will feature Lynch, Stitzlein and UC College of Arts & Sciences Dean Ken Petren — will be moderated by Cincinnati Enquirer journalist Amber Hunt.

Building better citizens and business leaders through liberal arts education.

Polger explained that the impetus for Truth, Justice and the American Way? was a two-decade economic and political trend — arguably now the prevailing zeitgeist — of devaluing humanities inquiry and favoring technical training.

“There are plenty of people who think that [regardless of] high-minded ideals people might have had in 1819, when UC was founded, right now the highest priority is job training,” he said.

“The corresponding view in the political sphere,” Polger asserted, “is ’we’re gonna say what it takes to get things done.’ This is a conception of truth as power, or replacing truth with power.”

“I wanted to get philosophers involved in this conversation,” he said, noting that the history of philosophy has long engaged in, “discussions of ‘truth’ – of pragmatic conceptions of truth, of power conceptions of truth, or relativistic conceptions of truth.”

It seemed to him a natural fit to invite Lynch to be a keynote speaker.

“His technical work in philosophy is on what truth is, but the role he’s taken on publicly is to emphasize the importance of truth for democracy, for self-fulfillment, and to remind people why truth is valuable,” Polger emphasized.

The symposium, he said, will remind current and prospective students, parents, and community leaders “why you might want to take up the kind of study that emphasizes truth, knowledge and understanding.”

Training students not for their first jobs, but for their last jobs, too.

Although many Americans today harbor misconceptions that studying abstract topics like philosophy, psychology, literature, and the arts yield no profitable results, Polger argued those views are — and should — being challenged with increasing frequency by corporate leaders.

“You see article after article of CEOs saying, ‘We need people with broad skills, who can communicate, think critically and write,’ — all things that Arts and Sciences students do really well,” he observed.

At their core, the applied sciences rely on agreed-upon truths, in the form of experimentally-derived data. But experiments are only designed after initial, abstract inquiries into the nature of something have been made.

Students pursuing technical majors need what Polger called “foundational” arts and sciences-derived knowledge to advance in their careers.

“If you’re an engineer, and you’re really good at it, the next thing you know, you’re a manager and not an engineer anymore,” he reasoned. “There’s a different skill set that you’d need to draw upon.”

Indeed, hybrid degrees are becoming less the exception and more the norm as public universities respond to the labor demand.

Those who emerge with them are not only more “robot-proof,” Polger said, they’re prepared to fill jobs that none of us have even dreamed of yet.

For example, he cited, “The World Wide Web came into existence when I was in college. Now there’s a massive industry built on a technology that no one I went to college with was trained to work with.”

“Oftentimes students and parents are unduly focused on that first job and forget that the odds that their last job will be their first job are very low,” he argued.

“That’s what distinguishes a university education from a trade school education. We’re not just teaching you how to do something now — we’re preparing you for a lifetime of career possibilities.”
Appreciation for truth is imperative not only for success in business, but also for the continued function of democratic societies.

Democracy pre-supposes certain concepts, including the existence and attainability of truth of some common ground, Polger said. For good governance, citizens must be able to work together to find it.

And that, he intimated, is the truth, yet another value of the arts and sciences: they instill empathy, compassion and reason.

“What’s required is not just that each of us be able to [find truth] ourselves, but that each of us respect others’ ability to do that, and recognize that we need to treat our fellow citizens as people who are intelligent and able to make decisions,” Polger concluded.

Poster for Truth, Justice and the American Way symposium

WHAT: Truth, Justice and the American Way? The Need for Arts & Sciences in a Post-Truth World symposium and panel discussion

WHO: UC College of Arts & Sciences, UC Department of Philosophy, Rhinegeist Brewery

WHEN: Monday, November 13, 2017, 1:00-7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Main Street Cinema, Tangeman University Center, University of Cincinnati (Main Campus - West), 2701 Bearcat Way, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221

Reception to follow at Rhinegeist Brewery, 1910 Elm St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

COST: Free and open to the public. Click here to register.

MORE INFO: Truth Justice and the American Way


Dr. Michael Lynch, Director, University of Connecticut Humanities Institute

Dr. Sarah Stitzlein, Professor of Education, University of Cincinnati