Jan Zwicky gives 4th annual Alex Fountain Memorial Lecture

Jan Zwicky gives a lecture titled “What Meaning is and Why it Matters” for the fourth annual Alex Fountain Memorial Lecture held at the University of King’s College.

Jan Zwicky says that sometimes aspects of our lives that should have meaning, such as arts and education, often become meaningless or lose their worth because the arts are disregarded as merely entertainment and education is simply used as a means to get a job.

That was the central theme of Zwicky’s talk at the Alex Fountain Memorial Lecture. A philosopher and musician by nature, Zwicky attempts to convince her audience of the importance of these things so that they do not lose meaning in our everyday lives. Things like the arts and education should not be disregarded. The fourth annual lecture took place at the University of King’s College in Halifax this past Thursday.

Her lecture, titled What Meaning is and Why it Matters, urges her audience to realize that they have been neglecting things that should be meaningful.

Jan Zwicky gives a lecture about meaning at the University of King's College. (Photo taken by Katie Preeper)
The Alumni lecture hall at the University of King’s College. (Photo taken by Katie Preeper)

“Our experience of meaning shows that it is not fundamentally linguistic, either in structure or in content. More surprising yet, the intellectual capacity has evolved and the experience of meaning can be disrupted if we try to analyze or try to describe them,” she said.

Zwicky acknowledged that the topic of meaning and why it matters is a big topic to tackle. This confession brought about laughter from the audience.

During her lecture she got people to hum along to the song Yesterday by the Beatles. Zwicky used this as a way to show how easy it is to overlook things in our daily lives. Although we cannot name the actual notes, Zwicky points out that we are still able to hum along with the song accurately.

Using Rubin’s Vase as an example, Zwicky explains that if you focus on the white vase-like shape in the middle, the silhouettes of the two faces on either side disappear into the black background, but if you focus on the two silhouettes, the white vase disappears. However, you can never see both at the same time. Zwicky uses Rubin’s Vase as a way to prove to the audience that there is more than one way to see the world.

The lecture is named after Alex Fountain, a King’s student who passed away in 2009 after battling depression.

Zwicky was nominated by students to give the lecture this year.

“We know that it is Dr. Zwicky’s diverse accomplishments that inform her work in a manner that is fundamentally interdisciplinary and that is why we are so lucky to have her at King’s,” said Michaela Sam, executive president of the King’s student union.

Jan Zwicky signs a copy of one of her books for a fan. (Photo taken by Katie Preeper)
Jan Zwicky signs a copy of one of her books for a fan. (Photo: Katie Preeper)