Is there knowledge that we pursue at our peril? Are there questions that we simply should not ask? From the secrets of nature to secrets of state, and from the mystery of the other to mysteries of the self, we ceaselessly probe the boundaries of our knowledge, ever aware that to push them yet further can empower us or even destroy us.
The dangers—and the allure— of our inquiries into the hidden and the forbidden remain an enduring theme in drama and in novels, in philosophy and in science, in religious thought and in poetry, in music and in film. Should there be constraints on our knowledge, or limits to the power it brings us?
These questions haunt our aspirations to know and to control, overshadowing the seeker of knowledge—whether Eve or Frankenstein, the philosopher who challenges our deepest convictions, or the scientist whose discoveries cannot be ignored or outrun. Through both story and sustained argument, and from The Odyssey to The Road, we will examine how the moral, social, and psychological costs of our pursuit of knowledge are assessed and engaged, and just how boldly we might dare to know.
Homer, The Odyssey
Plato, Apology, Gorgias
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things
Machiavelli, The Prince, Discourses on Livy
Galileo, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina”
Brecht, Life of Galileo
Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality
King, The Inconvenient Indian
Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morality
Chopin, The Awakening
Freud, Group Psychology, “Thoughts for the
Times on War and Death”
Hemingway, In Our Time
Plath, The Bell Jar
Kipphardt, In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer
Else, The Day After Trinity
Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Coates, Between the World and Me
Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Laurence, The Bird in the House
McCarthy, The Road
Hertwig, Slow War
[update: May 31, 2018]
Lecture Schedule for ‘Dangerous Questions, Forbidden Knowledge’.
Timetable for ‘Dangerous Questions, Forbidden Knowledge’.