Incoming NYU professor receives the National Humanities Award

Lingyi Hou

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, an award-winning philosopher and novelist, received the 2014 National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony on Sept. 10. She will join NYU as a visiting professor for the Spring 2016 semester.

This award honors individuals and groups who have deepened Americans’ understanding of humanities and broaden their cultural experience. Goldstein, one of 10 recipients of the award, is best known for her talents to discuss philosophy in an imaginative yet intellectual way.

The National Endowment for the Humanities commented on the prize in a citation.

“Rebecca Newberger Goldstein for bringing philosophy into conversation with culture. In scholarship, Goldstein has elucidated the ideas of Spinoza and Gödel, while in fiction, she deploys wit and drama to help us understand the great human conflict between thought and feeling.”

Goldstein attributes this recognition mainly to her continuous passion for philosophy, science and literature.

“I’ve been very lucky because I love three things, three intellectual passions — philosophy, literature and science,” Goldstein said. “And I find a way to combine these three things. ”

Goldstein believes that philosophy belongs to everybody, so she has developed various writing styles including fiction, short stories and nonfiction. In doing so, Goldstein hopes to increase both the accessibility and understanding of philosophy to readers.

Her latest book, “Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away,” places Plato into modern-day dialogue to confront the issues of 21st century.

In her book, Goldstein explains why philosophy isn’t obsolete and even more relevant today than ever before.

“There is both continuity and progress about the problems we faced since Plato,” Goldstein said. “To deal with it, we have to know how to make a distinction between information and knowledge, and between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom is a broad question that what life is all about and what we are going to do with it.”

Unlike most people in literature who are unfamiliar with science and mathematics, Goldstein explored these subjects and found a fascination for them.

“My love for science goes to all of my writing,” Goldstein said. “I love to write about people who are doing science, math. Because I did so much science and math, and I know how their minds work. Their ideas are so beautiful.”

NYU President John Sexton praised Goldstein in a Sept. 3 press release.

“Professor Goldstein is one of my favorite authors, and I’m delighted that she will be joining the NYU faculty this academic year,” said Sexton. “My anticipation of her joining our community is made all the greater by the announcement today of her recognition by the White House — a testament to her extraordinary talents and profound insights, and a well-deserved honor.”

Goldstein has been teaching courses in philosophy for many years and is expected to begin her NYU journey this coming spring. She loves to inspire students, especially undergraduates, to fall in love with the philosophy and carry it forward over generations.

“I love NYU, and I love New York,” Goldstein said. “I taught in Columbia for a long time. And I have a daughter who is a poet and got her MFA from NYU. She also taught at NYU. She said they were the best students she had ever had. She loves her NYU students. I am pretty excited about it.”

Email Lingyi Hou at [email protected]yunews.com.

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