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Truth?  Memory? Morals?  Ethics? Justice?   These philosophical topics inspire lively Spirit of the Senses conversations about the Courts, law, and the Constitution.   These discussions often take place in Biltmore area living rooms.   Judges and justices from the state and federal courts, law scholars from the universities, historians, and philosophers, each add their voices to the evolving conversation.

 

One evening after the recent presidential election members of Spirit of the Senses gathered to have a salon conversation with Paul Bender about the future of the U.S. Supreme Court.  There were many questions to be asked.  What impact did the Election have on the Court?     Was the Court motivated by politics?  Would the Justices change their philosophies with time?  Who were the influential thinkers on the Court?  Which Justices wanted to change past Court rulings?  How do we interpret the Constitution?  And what is the Court’s history?

 

Professor Bender, a former ASU law dean, was Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States from 1993-1997. He had responsibility for Supreme Court and federal appellate litigation in the areas of civil rights, race and sex discrimination, freedom of speech and religion, and tort claims against the federal government.   Paul gives a  great insider’s view of the Court.  His personal insights into the personalities of the Court, the history of past Court decisions, and his understanding of the Constitution, paint clarity on the unfolding process of the Justices decisions.  Not to mention Paul’s wit and humor that adds color to these conversations.

 

Spirit of the Senses is a Phoenix area arts, science, and cultural salon group that for almost thirty years has developed intellectual parties for meaningful conversations.  The vast diversity of topics the salons group explores include the arts, architecture, science, medicine, law, food, philosophy, psychology, cultural geography, history, popular culture, and more.

 

Several times each year members of the group enjoy conversations with Professor Bender about the US Supreme Court.   Among the other salon topics this past year, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, Justice Scott Bales, and Justice Ann Timmer, who serve at the Arizona Supreme Court, have discussed the process of judicial decisions and efforts to be fair.

 

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch

 

Through a selection of diverse topics the group explores what the future issues of the Courts may be.  There have been salon conversations about the use of new scientific understandings and technological tools for investigating the truth.  In recent years new research in neuroscience has raised additional questions regarding memory in court cases.  This puts into question the role of Eye Witness Testimony, which has been debated at the salons with judges, attorneys and psychologists.

 

One evening recently at a private home, the arts, science and cultural salon group Spirit of the Senses hosted a discussion with two internationally known thinkers to discuss the relationship of science fiction and the future.  Ed Finn, director of the new ASU Center for Science and Imagination, collaborated with Spirit of the Senses to create this salon discussion.

 

Ed moderated a conversation between two of today’s great thinkers in science.  Paul Davies, an internationally known theoretical physicist, author of ‘The Eerie Silence’ and ‘The Goldilocks Enigma’, and director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at ASU, joined science fiction writer Neal Stephenson, known as the author of the 1990’s novel ‘Snow Crash’ that has been instrumental in defining concepts and lingo of virtual reality.

 

Paul Davies and Neal Stephenson commented at this salon discussion on how fiction can inform and stretch scientific understanding and open doors for research and inquiry.  They discussed how science fiction has inspired experimental thinking on ideas that may not have been considered previously.

 

Paul Davies has researched the origins and cosmology of the universe, quantum field theory, and astrobiology.  He currently is collaborating at The Biodesign Institute, ASU to explore how physics might inform the battle against cancer.   At previous salons of Spirit of the Senses, Dr. Davies has discussed such diverse topics as extra terrestrial life, time travel, a tribal wedding in Papua New Guinea, and Winston Churchill.  In a November   salon Paul and his wife journalist Pauline Davies will discuss there recent trip to the desert of Chile looking for clues to life on Mars and cancer research.   Also Paul and Pauline will be part of a future salon panel discussion about ‘consciousness, quantum physics, and the singularity’ in December.

 

Neal Stephenson was appearing for the first time at a Spirit of the Senses salon.  Neal was in the Phoenix area to collaborate on projects with the Center for Science and Imagination.  Neal is somewhat of a cult hero for his book ‘Snow Crash’ that was written in the 1990’s.  The book appeared on Time Magazine’s list of 100 all-time best English-language novels written since 1923.  A recent novel ‘Anathem’ explores the themes of philosophy and science.   His newest book ‘Some Remarks’ reveals his thinking on a wealth of subjects such as technology, history, economics, science, pop culture and philosophy.  The book includes an article he wrote for Wired Magazine about the laying of the Trans Atlantic Cables.  Neal spoke about this fascinating story at the salon.  Coincidentally Paul Davies, who grew up in Britain, had his own interesting story related to the Trans Atlantic Cable from a different geographical perspective.

 

A conversation about the relationship of science fiction and the future with Paul Davies, PhD, an internationally known physicist, cosmologist, author of ‘The Eerie Silence’, director of Beyond: Center for Fundamentals in Science, ASU, and Neal Stephenson, a famed science fiction author whose books include ‘Snow Crash’'. Edward Finn of the ASU Center for Imagination and Science, introducd and moderated this salon.

A conversation about the relationship of science fiction and the future with Paul Davies, PhD, an internationally known physicist, cosmologist, author of ‘The Eerie Silence’, director of Beyond: Center for Fundamentals in Science, ASU, and Neal Stephenson, a famed science fiction author whose books include ‘Snow Crash’’.
Edward Finn of the ASU Center for Imagination and Science, introducd and moderated this salon.

Artist, wood sculptor Tom Eckert who uses wood to express his view of the world through an array of amazing and annoying life like sculptures, discussed his art at his studio.

Artist, wood sculptor Tom Eckert who uses wood to express his view of the world through an array of amazing and annoying life like sculptures, discussed his art at his studio.

 

Recently members of Spirit of the Senses visited the studio of artist Tom Eckert.  It was not our first visit, nor will it be our last.  Each time we enter Tom’s studio we know that all is not what it appears to be.  We always think we will not be fooled this time.  Hanging on his studio wall was a transparent silk fabric, gracefully draped over a snow shovel.  Of course we remember from past visits with Tom that the silk fabric was not silk at all.  We had seen other pieces of Tom’s art in which he had transparent silk fabric draped over poker cards.  The silk fabric was actually a piece of wood.  The playing cards beneath the fabric had been painted on the wood.  We were astonished the first time seeing his art and prepared for the deception.  We thought we knew the trick.  Then we came to realize that the shovel the draped silk hung over was made of wood too.  Deceived again!

 

Students come from all over the world to learn woodworking art with Tom Eckert.  In our time of computers and mechanization, taking time to sculpt wood is a lost art.

 

Tom spoke of the silk drapery over the shovel as a homage to Marcel Duchamp,  the French surrealist artist who had brought questions to concepts of art, and what could be considered art.   We spoke about conceptual art, art that is more about a concept or idea than a traditional aesthetic portrayal.  It was a great conversation and visual experience.  Seeing the art that created the illusion of real objects.  Talking about why art is created.  Discussing the value of the craftsman.

 

Our experience with artist Tom Eckert was one of many diverse experiences that are part of the mix of conversations and performances offered each month with leading thinkers and talents of Arizona.   At homes in the Biltmore area and other Greater Phoenix neighborhoods, scientists, psychologists, musicians, writers, physicians, judges,  and explorers join with our salon group for evenings of stimulating conversations.

Spirit of the Senses members with John Horgan, Director of the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ on a recent trip to New York City.

Spirit of the Senses members with John Horgan, Director of the Center for Science Writings at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, NJ on a recent trip to New York City.

 

Are you curious? Curiosity is not only on Mars, you can also find it at the salons of Spirit of the Senses.  In the fun settings of Phoenix residents’ living rooms, people come together for the opportunity to have conversations with leading thinkers and talents in the arts, sciences, politics and other fields.  Curiosity is our common bond.  We enjoy a relaxed and social atmosphere as we exchange ideas in our conversations.

 

For twenty-nine years Spirit of the Senses has provided for it’s members an average of a dozen interesting salons every month in the Biltmore and nearby neighborhoods in living rooms, and private spaces.  The wide range of conversations and performances this Fall will include ‘The Election’, ‘Mars’, ‘A Wood Sculptor’s Studio’, ‘Genetics and Personal Health Care’, ‘Ignorance’, ‘Arizona and U.S. Constitutional Issues’, ‘Attunement’, ‘Pompeii’, ‘Music for Guitar’, among many others.  The topics presented are by university professors, politicians, physicians, judges, artists, musicians, scientists, explorers, and many other kinds of talents.

 

In addition to a full schedule of salons every month in the Phoenix area, we travel to other cities like New York City and Los Angeles to see what they have to offer.  Our salon trips engage a whole different group of people and inspire new questions and conversations.

 

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