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Diane Manuel, News Service (650) 725-1945; e-mail:

Stanford to host conference on humanities, law, social science

Why does the past matter? And how?

Those questions are at the heart of "Past Dependencies," a two-day conference that will look at historical constraints and future inventions from the perspectives of social science, law and the humanities.

Sponsored by the Presidential Lectures and Symposia in the Humanities and Arts, the Nov. 5-6 discussions will involve Stanford faculty members and external scholars from a wide range of disciplines.

The interdisciplinary emphasis will be highlighted by a recital performed by pianist Charles Rosen at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. Rosen will play works by Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. The recital is to serve as a musical illustration of the remarks Rosen will offer the following morning as a member of the panel discussion on "Emergence: Natural History/Human History."

Tickets for the Rosen recital are $15 for adults and $8 for students, and may be purchased at the Tresidder Ticket Office or by calling (650) 725-2787. Conference sessions will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Law School and are free and open to the public.

Rosen is renowned internationally for his performances and for recordings on major labels of a diverse repertoire, ranging from Bach to Elliott Carter. His interpretations of Beethoven and the Romantic repertoire ­ Chopin, Schumann and Liszt ­ are highly regarded.

Rosen made his New York debut in 1951, the same year he made his first recording ­ the world premiere of Debussy's Etudes ­ and the year he received his doctorate in French literature from Princeton University. His books include two volumes that are considered classics ­ The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, which won a National Book Award, and The Romantic Generation: Music 1827­1850, which was an expanded version of his Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. His most recent work is Romantic Poets, Critics and Other Madmen, published in 1998.

The symposium concludes on Nov. 6 with a talk by the Hon. Richard Posner, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a panel discussion of "Past-Dependency, Pragmatism and Critique of History in Adjudication and Legal Scholarship."

Posner will begin his prepared remarks with the following observation:

"In a university with a German motto and a German-born president, and with a German-born professor presiding over this conference on the relation of the past to the present, and given that the historical school of jurisprudence is largely a German invention, what could be more appropriate than to take as my opening text and point of reference Nietzsche's great essay on history?"

That essay, Posner notes, "ought to be regarded as one of the founding documents of pragmatism." It is also, he suggests, "an oblique challenge to conventional methods and concepts of law." At both levels, Posner says, it engages his "deepest interests."

The website that announces the conference,, notes that law "depends on and struggles with pastness." While mainstream legal scholars believe that legal rules and principles are "capable of intellectual coherence and practical utility at some general level," scholars perennially confront "the contingency of these rules and principles on specific human events at specific times."

The site also notes the differences in approaches between the humanities and social sciences, with literary historians studying internal developments and "acts of imagination," and social scientists examining human behavior as their object.

"Once we begin to see art objects, literary texts, judicial decisions or theoretical achievements as caused, we can also begin to search for the laws of that causality," the proposal continues, setting up the context for the panel discussions that will be held on Friday and Saturday.

The panels are organized around three themes, in addition to the concluding panel discussed above: "The Past as Constitution of Identity?"; "Different Areas/Different Pasts?"; and "Emergence: Natural History/Human History."

Individual papers will focus on issues addressed from widely varying perspectives, including feminist historiography; cognitive development; lessons of late medieval societies; abstraction and civilization; Brazilian anthropology; and electronic finance.

Guest speakers include the following: Ricardo Benzaquen, professor of history at the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro; Niklas Damiris, a philosopher who is studying money and finance in the age of the Internet; Robert H. Frank, professor of economics at Cornell University; Peter Goodrich, professor of law at the University of London; Wlad Godzich, professor of English at the University of Geneva; David Harvey, professor of geography at Johns Hopkins University; Gary Hatfield, a specialist in philosophy, psychology and science at Pennsylvania State University; Jochen Hörisch, professor of German literature at the University of Mannheim; Joseph Raz, professor of the philosophy of law at Oxford University; Denise Schmandt-Besserat, professor of art and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas-Austin; Elizabeth Spelke, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and R. Bin Wong, professor of history and social sciences at the University of California-Irvine.

Stanford participants include Avner Greif, professor of economics; Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, professor of comparative literature; Jack Rakove, professor of history; Richard Rorty, professor of comparative literature; Kathleen Sullivan, dean of the School of Law; Robert Weisberg, professor of law; and Hayden White, visiting professor of comparative literature.



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