What’s True?


Today I’m speaking with Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, a historian from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. It would be hard to find a scholar better equipped to enhance our historical perspective on how we decide what’s true.

Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen specializes is U.S. intellectual and cultural history. Her research and teaching interests include the history of philosophy, political and social theory, religion, literature, and the visual arts; the transatlantic flow of intellectual and cultural movements; print culture; and cultural studies. She teaches a range of courses on U.S. thought and culture, and intellectual and cultural history from a transnational perspective.

Jennifer and I challenge each other’s thinking on several questions, including:

Were Enlightenment ideas about natural rights discovered or created?

Does the distinction between objective truth and pragmatic truth really matter?

What is the legacy of postmodernism on intellectual progress?

How do we reconcile timeless values with scientific disruption?

Should professors make value judgements in their teaching?

To explore these ideas further, I recommend two of Jennifer’s books: The Ideas That Made America and American Nietzsche.

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