How to Know Things (Lecture)

Wednesday 29 March 2017, 17:10 – 18:50, Solbjerg Plads, SP213

 Almost a century ago, the poet Ezra Pound had defined literature simply as “news that STAYS news”. Today, we seem starved for facts that stay facts. Indeed, our age has been called “the post-truth era”. We are awash, it is said, in “fake news” and “alternative facts”. How are we to know anything at all?


The library has always been there to help us sort the true from the false, the truly new from the fake innovation. Knowing something requires you to find your footing in “the literature”, the push and pull of discourse. Being knowledge-able (able-to-know), means being able to make up your mind, speak your mind, and write it down. This lecture will show you how a university education can help you get good at these things.

I will offer a number of practical strategies for informing yourself about the current state of the world. Some of these simply involve building a certain habit of mind–cultivating a healthy skepticism and adopting a critical posture. But some of them also require an understanding of the sources of information and developing a technical facility with databases. These days, perhaps more than ever, you will not regret knowing how to use your library.

This lecture is open to all CBS students and faculty. Sign up by clicking here.