UMC Links

Exploring the Passionate Mind

Utah Symposium in Science & Literature: Oct. 9-11, 2003

September 23, 2003 — How does the human mind make sense of itself? What is self? Is it me, or is it my brain? How are emotion and cognition – the process of knowing, of having perception, memory and judgment – tied to our notions of ourselves?

Those and other questions will be addressed Thursday Oct. 9 through Saturday Oct. 11 when the University of Utah holds its second annual Symposium in Science & Literature, this year titled “The Passionate Mind: Emotion, Cognition, and the Construction of Self.”

Keynote lectures will be delivered in the Gould Auditorium at the university’s Marriott Library:

–“The Body in Question” by poet Jorie Graham at 7 p.m. MDT Thursday Oct. 9.

–“Emotion, Feeling, and Identity: The Brain View” by neurologist Antonio Damasio at 7 p.m. MDT Friday Oct. 10.

–“Being No One: Consciousness and the First-Person Perspective” by philosopher Thomas Metzinger at 9:30 a.m. MDT Saturday Oct. 11.

The keynote speakers also will assemble at Gould Auditorium when they appear on a live broadcast of National Public Radio’s “Science Friday” at 1 p.m. MDT Friday Oct. 10. “Science Friday” host Ira Flatow will moderate from New York City. Those attending the broadcast must arrive by 12:30 p.m. MDT

Admission is free for the keynote lectures, the “Science Friday” broadcast, panel discussions and other events, but space is limited. So those who wish to attend should register by contacting JoAnn Murray at (801) 581-7236, fax (801) 585-6212 or More information and a registration form also may be obtained online at

The symposium aims to “open lines of communication among thinkers in various fields [the sciences, arts and humanities] around scientific issues influencing all the fields,” according to the symposium web site.

Katharine Coles, symposium co-organizer and associate professor of English at the University of Utah, says this year’s symposium focuses to a large extent on “the role biology plays in the creation of feeling and therefore in our idea of what ‘self’ is and, perhaps, of what ‘soul’ is.”

“For example, is there really a difference between ‘body’ and ‘mind?'” she asks. “If not, what does that mean? Does it mean that we have no souls? That to act ethically has no meaning? What has to happen in our bodies and our minds for us to have a sense of self? And is this ‘sense’ rooted in biology or in something else?”

The symposium keynoters are highly qualified to address such questions.

Jorie Graham, a MacArthur-winning poet and professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard University, won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for her book “The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994.” Her other books include “Never,” “Swarm” and “The Errancy.”

Antonio Damasio is a distinguished professor and head of neurology at the University of Iowa. His books include “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain,” “The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion, and the Making of Consciousness,” and “Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain.”

Thomas Metzinger is a professor of philosophy and director of theoretical philosophy at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. His books include “Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity.”

In addition to the keynote lectures, the following concurrent panel discussions have been scheduled:

— From 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. MDT Friday Oct. 10 in Dumke Room of Marriott Library, “Why are Poetry and Fiction and Mathematics Moving,” with four University of Utah faculty members: Peggy Battin, professor of philosophy; Gale Dick, professor emeritus of physics; Peter Trapa, assistant professor of mathematics; and Karen Brennan, associate professor of English.

— From 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. MDT Friday Oct. 10 in Parlor A of the Olpin Union Bldg., “What Happens to Ethics If It’s Just Neurotransmitters?” with University of Utah faculty members Chrisoula Andreou, assistant professor of philosophy; Jon Seger, professor of biology; Armand Antommaria, clinical instructor in pediatrics; and Crystal Parikh, assistant professor of English.

— From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. MDT Friday Oct. 10 in the Dumke Room of Marriott Library, “Did Shakespeare Already Understand All of This Gray Matter?” with Utah playwright Aden Ross; and University of Utah faculty members Brooke Hopkins, professor of English; Richard Price, professor of physics; and actress Anne Decker, adjunct professor emerita of theater.

— From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. MDT Friday Oct. 10 in Parlor A of the Olpin Union Bldg., “Where Freud Meets Modern Neuroscience: Vindication or Vilification?” with University of Utah faculty members Lisa Aspinwall, associate professor of psychology; Matthew Potolsky, assistant professor of English; and Richard Chapman, professor of anesthesiology and director of the Pain Research Center.

— 10:30 a.m. MDT Saturday Oct. 11 in Gould Auditorium of Marriott Library, a closing roundtable discussion following Metzinger’s 9:30 a.m. MDT keynote address.

From 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. MDT Friday Oct. 10, symposium participants may attend various demonstration sessions, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrations of brain activity and a live, multimedia, multi-artist performance.

That performance, titled “InterPlay: Intransitive Senses,” will begin at 4 p.m. MDT in Room 110 of the Intermountain Network and Scientific Computation Center (INSCC) the building directly north of the Park Building off of Presidents Circle. From 2:30 to 4 p.m. MDT, visitors may hear a brief introduction to the performance, a demonstration of the technology and a walk-through of four rooms where four artists will perform simultaneously, with their performances melded together and transmitted over Internet2 to Room 110 and beyond. For details, see

Meanwhile, the Kings English Bookshop in Salt Lake City will help to assist and arrange book groups for community members who would like to read and discuss books by symposium participants. Call Anne Holman at (801) 484-9100.

For those attending the symposium, the Marriott Library is about a two-block walk from the TRAX light rail system’s Stadium Station.

For those who drive, parking marked for symposium attendees will be available in the “A” lot north of South Campus Drive and west of the library Thursday evening, Friday and Friday evening. Those attending Saturday morning’s events should park in lots south of the School of Business, and may be competing for space with fans attending a football game later in the day.

The symposium is sponsored by the University of Utah’s Office of the Vice President for Research, College of Humanities, Department of English, Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute and Utah Museum of Natural History. Co-sponsors include National Public Radio’s “Science Friday,” KUER-FM 90.1 in Salt Lake City, the Utah Humanities Council and the King’s English Bookshop.