digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:

Agriculture

Applied sciences

Arts

Belief

Business

Chronology

Culture

Education

Environment

Geography

Health

History

Humanities

Language

Law

Life

Mathematics

Nature

People

Politics

Science

Society

Technology

Jennifer Michael Hecht
Jennifer Michael Hecht.jpg
Born (1965-11-23) November 23, 1965 (age 48)
Glen Cove, New York, USA
Residence Brooklyn, New York, USA
Nationality American
Education BA in history from Adelphi University
PhD in the History of Science from Columbia University
Occupation College professor
Religion Jewish Atheist
Spouse(s) John Chaneski
(2 children)
Website
www.jennifermichaelhecht.com

Jennifer Michael Hecht (born November 23, 1965) is a teacher, author, poet, historian, and philosopher.

Hecht has seven published books, her scholarly articles have been published in many journals and magazines, and her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Ms. Magazine, and Poetry Magazine, among others. She has also written essays and book reviews for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The American Scholar, The Boston Globe and other publications. She has written several columns for The New York Times online "Times Select."

Hecht is a longtime blogger for The Best American Poetry series web site and maintains a personal blog on her website. She currently teaches at The New School in New York City, and resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Background[edit]

Born in Glen Cove, New York on Long Island, Hecht attended Adelphi University where she earned a BA in history, for a time studying at the Université de Caen, and the Université d’Angers. She earned her PhD in the History of Science from Columbia University in 1995. Hecht has taught in the MFA programs at The New School and Columbia University, and is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities.

Hecht is married and has two children.

She has appeared on television on the Discovery Channel, The Morning Show[disambiguation needed], Road to Reason and MSNBC’s Hardball,[1] and on radio on The Brian Lehrer Show,[2] The Leonard Lopate Show, On Being (formerly known as Speaking of Faith),[3][4] All Things Considered,[5] The Joy Cardin Show,[6] and others.

Intellectual Interests and Writings[edit]

Of her three major intellectual interests, she ranks them, "Poetry came first, then historical scholarship, then public atheism, and they probably remain in that order in my dedication to them."[7]

Originally intending to be a poet, she was drawn to the history of science. Her first book, The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology in France, 1876-1936, grew out of her dissertation on some late 19th-century anthropologists who formed the Society of Mutual Autopsy. The members would dissect each other's brains after death, and Hecht, having noticed their atheism, came to understand that this was being done not only for the sake of scientific finds, but perhaps to prove to the Catholic Church that the soul does not exist.

While researching her first book, she came to realize that there was no sufficient history of atheism, and that led to her second book, Doubt: A History.

While writing Doubt, she found that many atheists went beyond simply stating that there are no gods and also made profound suggestions about how people should think of life and how we should live. That led to her third book, The Happiness Myth, which starts there and goes on to look at present-day attitudes about how to be happy. She calls it "a work of Skepticism in the modern sense of debunking."[7]

Philosophy[edit]

"A culture that invents
escalators and Stairmasters
is a culture that needs to
assess what it’s actually
talking about."

Jennifer Michael Hecht
from an
interview by D.J. Grothe
on Point of Inquiry podcast[8]

Hecht believes that, "the basic modern assumptions about how to be happy are nonsense." In a review of her book, The Happiness Myth for The New York Times, Alison McCulloch summed it up, "What you think you should do to be happy, like getting fitter and thinner, is part of a 'cultural code' — 'an unscientific web of symbolic cultural fantasies' — and once you realize this, you will perhaps feel a little more free to be a lot more happy.".[9] Similarly, in an interview on the Point of Inquiry podcast in 2007,[8] she said "I'm not trying really to get somebody out of depression, but I sure am trying to get people to not be so worried, so anxious over things that really don't matter."

She has written against agnosticism, calling "philosophically silly" the argument that because you can't prove a negative we have to allow for the possibility of God. "Either you doubt everything to the point where you can’t speak, or you make reasoned decisions."[7]

Hecht is an anti-suicide advocate, writing an entire book (Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It) arguing against it. She believes not only that "Suicide is delayed homicide", but also "that you owe it to your future self to live".[10] She does not believe in life-after-death, urging that we should remember death and remember that it's the end. "I think this world is extraordinary and I also think it’s a pain in the ass. And I’m happy to be here and I’m ok with not being here forever."[8]

She believes that morality is not magical, it is the attempt to do right. And rather than either being handed to us by God or just made up by each person, is inherent in human groups. "There are deep rules of morality that we as human beings, in human groups, 'invented' on biological and social and intellectual lines."

Her poetry and philosophy often intersect, and she has taught a course called "Poets and Philosophy" at the New School for many years. Her own taste is for poets who are concerned with philosophical or religious questions. "Leopardi’s misery makes me as happy as Schopenhauer’s does, though I am ever aware of the equal cacophony of birth and pleasure that shadow their admittedly much more deafening symphony of death and suffering. Dickinson I treasure beyond measure and think she’s mostly on my side of the nonbeliever line; anyway, she’s my number-one poet. Hopkins has a few rhyming hunks of pure passion, frustrated but wild, which I love with a love that is more than a love, but which only go so far. Donne is deep and great company, but he leans too much into comforting delusions for me, often when he is at his best in poetic chops and pyrotechnics. Rilke is a lifesaving self-help writer and a bit of a brilliant con artist."[7]

Atheism[edit]

Hecht was raised Jewish and believed in God until she was twelve when she had what she describes as a "Talking Heads headshift", standing in her parent's house saying, "This is not my beautiful couch, I am not your beautiful daughter." In the days that followed she came to see that "we are one species among great nature, and as the trees very slowly rot, so do our pampered haunches."[7] Eventually, she replaced faith in God with faith in humanity.

Hecht has been an outspoken member of the secular community since 2003, accepting the label "atheist" somewhat reluctantly. "Initially after writing my book Doubt, I avoided the atheist label, saying only that I did not believe in God. After some reflection, I realized I needed to defend what I truly believe. I now call myself an 'atheist,' and proudly."[11]

An honorary board member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. In 2009, she told the FFRF convention audience: “If there is no God — and there isn't — then we [humans] made up morality. And I'm very impressed.”

In her 2007 interview for the Point of Inquiry podcast,[8] when asked, "Do you think religion might actually be harmful for one’s happiness?", she said, "Yes . . . when I wrote Doubt it was very much to show people who felt that doubting religion or getting away from religion was painful. I find the world in which the natural world that we see is the world, in which we make up no other, I find that world to be the best one. I’m glad there’s no afterlife. I like the world as it is. And I think that religion does add a tremendous amount of guilt and pain and trouble." Hecht does not, however, believe that religion is all bad. In that same interview, she went on to say, "The beautiful building and coming together and reminding oneself of community, of how we must each take the role that is given us, know yourself, remember death, control your desires, these are the big messages of wisdom. And religion got it right that you have to meditate on them for them to work."[8]

In a December 2013 article for Politico Magazine, Hecht examined "The Last Taboo" in American politics, atheism. Referencing newly retired Rep. Barney Frank's lack of religious belief she wrote, "Was it really harder to come out as an atheist politician in 2013 than as a gay one 25 years ago?"[11]

Published works[edit]

Her debut poetry collection, The Next Ancient World, artfully mixes contemporary and ancient world views, histories, and myths. In 2002 it received the Tupelo Press Judge’s Prize in Poetry, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, as well as ForeWord Magazine's award for Poetry Book of the Year.[12] Her second collection, Funny, explores the implications of the human love of humor and jokes. It won the 2005 Felix Pollak Prize from the University of Wisconsin Press. Her most recent collection, Who Said (Copper Canyon Press, 2013),[13] playfully asks the title question of some of the most iconic English language poems.

In 2003 Hecht published two books of history and philosophy with two different publishers. The first, Doubt: A History, is an epic, worldwide study of religious doubt throughout history. The other, The End of the Soul, is a profile of an unusual group of nineteenth-century French anthropologists who formed the Society of Mutual Autopsy to discover links between personality, ability and brain morphology. It received the prestigious Ralph Waldo Emerson Award for 2004 from the Phi Beta Kappa Society [14] “for scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.” [15]

In 2007 Hecht published The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong in which she attempts to examine happiness through historical perspective. Hecht maintains that our current perception of happiness is affected by culture, and that future generations may well mock our view of happiness as we make fun of earlier generations.

Bibliography[edit]

History and philosophy[edit]

Selected Journal Articles[edit]

Poetry[edit]

Collections[edit]

Translations[edit]

Portuguese[edit]

  • "Dúvida: uma História" (Ediouro, 2005)
  • "O Mito de Felicidade" (Larousse, 2011)

Italian[edit]

  • "Dubbio: una storia" (Ariele, 2010)

Korean[edit]

  • "의심의 역사" (Imago, 2011)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fidalgo, Paul. "Jennifer Michael Hecht and Ron Reagan Talk Atheism in Politics on ‘Hardball’". Friendly Atheist. Patheos. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Brian, Lehrer. "Reasons to Live". The Brian Lehrer Show. New York Public Radio. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Tippett, Krista. "Jennifer Michael Hecht - A History of Doubt". On Being. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Tippett, Krista. "Jennifer Michael Hecht - Suicide, and Hope for Our Future Selves". On Being. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Conan, Neal. "Doubt: A History". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Cardin, Joy. "Against Suicide". The Joy Cardin Show. Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Jennifer Michael Hecht Interview". TheBestSchools. TheBestSchools.org. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Jennifer Michael Hecht - The Happiness Myth". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  9. ^ McCulloch, Alison. "Get Happy". The New York Times Sunday Book Review. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  10. ^ Brooks, David. "The Irony of Despair". The Opinion Pages. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  11. ^ a b Hecht, Jennifer Michael. "The Last Taboo". POLITICO Magazine. POLITICO LLC. Retrieved 26 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Jennifer Michael Hecht". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Who Said". Copper Canyon Press. Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Ralph Waldo Emerson Award — List of Previous Winners". The Phi Beta Kappa Society. Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Faculty - Jennifer Michael Hecht". The New School. Retrieved February 6, 2014. 

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_Michael_Hecht — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
2810 videos foundNext > 

Jennifer Michael Hecht: The History of Atheism, Feminism and the Science of Brains | CFI's WIS2 2013

Jennifer Michael Hecht: "The History of Atheism, Feminism and the Science of Brains" Recorded at the Center for Inquiry "Women in Secularism 2" conference, S...

Jennifer Michael Hecht - "Future of Skepticism: New Adventures in Critical Thinking" - TAM 2012

Author and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht argues in favor of understanding the history of skepticism to build a foundation for skepticism of the future. Li...

The taboo of atheism

Ron Reagan and Jennifer Hecht discuss why atheism is the biggest "taboo" for politicians—perhaps even more so than homosexuality. The Last Taboo It's harder ...

Humanist Author/Poet Jennifer Michael Hecht Chapter 1

Jennifer suggests that humanists are too often tied to science and that the arts might be a better way of understanding our place in nature. April 24th, 2011.

Poet Jennifer Michael Hecht @ Big Apple BAP: NYC's Best American Poetry Poets

http://inspiredwordnyc.blogspot.com/ Poet Jennifer Michael Hecht @ The Inspired Word's Big Apple BAP: NYC's Best American Poetry Poets, Thursday, June 16, 20...

Jennifer Michael Hecht - The Poetry of Skepticism | For Good Reason

Jennifer Michael Hecht discusses art, poetry and literature as an entree into skepticism and critical thinking. As an historian of science, she contrasts the...

Jennifer Michael Hecht. interviewed on Point of Inquiry 1/4

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/ Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of award-winning books of philosophy, history, and poetry, including The End of the Soul:...

The happiness myth: Jennifer Hecht at TEDxNYU

About Jennifer Jennifer Michael Hecht is the author of seven books of history, philosophy, and poetry, including The Happiness Myth and Doubt: A History. Her...

Road To Reason (#64) 3-2-2014 Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht Interview

Recorded on 5/30/2014 - Captured Live on Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/american-radio.

2810 videos foundNext > 

2 news items

The New Yorker

The New Yorker
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:56:15 -0700

This month on the Poetry Podcast, Jennifer Michael Hecht reads “Noctuary,” by Lucie Brock-Broido. As its title indicates, the poem is a kind of journal of the speaker's nighttime musings: 3 December,. Unspeakable anxiety about locked-in syndrome, about ...

PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:03:45 -0700

In her new collection, “Who Said,” Jennifer Michael Hecht “comments on,” “ventriloquizes,” or “meaningfully transliterates” iconic poems throughout history. She has many terms for her work based off some of her favorite verse. “The poems that I chose ...
Loading

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Jennifer Michael Hecht

You can talk about Jennifer Michael Hecht with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!