The University of Texas at Austin - Civitas Institute

Ancient Truth, Modern Controversy with Joshua Katz

February 28
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM William C. Powers Student Activity Center (WCP), 1.106

Though historical linguists can be loath to admit it, the scholarly practice of etymology—literally Greek etymos “true” + logos “word”—is often not a great way to discover “truth.”  In a recent essay (“Prattle of the Sexes,” The New Criterion, September 2023), Dr. Joshua Katz used Plato’s Cratylus, an underappreciated dialogue about etymology and the nature of language, as a way into considering the definitions of the newly contested words manwomanmale, and female, concluding that the mid-first-millennium B.C. Greek philosopher is an inappropriate (albeit fascinating) guide.  In this talk, Dr. Katz will expand these thoughts into a quite different text: the Hebrew Bible. His goal is to look closely at the rhetoric at the start of Genesis—what is said about words like manwomanAdam, and Eve—and advocate two things that some may find contradictory: the importance of literally reading fundamental texts but also the importance of not always reading literally. Dr. Katz’s comments will act as a springboard for a wide-ranging discussion of language, reality, and truth and be of interest to people both inside and outside of Middle Eastern Studies.

Joshua T. Katz is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on higher education, language and culture, the classical tradition, and the humanities broadly defined.

A linguist by training, a classicist by profession, and a comparative philologist at heart, Dr. Katz has written widely on the languages, literatures, and cultures of the ancient, medieval, and modern world. The coeditor of two books, he is the author of many dozens of articles and reviews on classics, linguistics, and Indo-European studies.

Dr. Katz previously taught at Princeton University where he was Cotsen Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics, and a faculty associate of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He has held visiting professorships in France (École Pratique des Hautes Études and Université Paris Diderot) and Germany (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), as well as fellowships at All Souls College (Oxford), the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Institute of Classical Studies in London. On three occasions, he was senior scholar-in-residence at Phillips Exeter Academy.

This event is part of the Ancient Near East lecture series.

Sponsored by: Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies; The Huehnergard Family Program in Ancient Near Eastern Studies; Civitas Institute

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