About Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is a novelist, philosopher, and professor whose career bridges the cultural divides between the humanities, the arts, and the sciences. Equally comfortable discussing physics or fiction, she is also an important voice in the current active debates between religion and science, and has been called one of the “new New Atheists”—a class that discusses religion with greater respect than some other contemporary atheists. Goldstein lectures all over the world and has spoken most recently at the World Science Festival in New York, the London School of Economics, the Bath Literature Festival, and Cambridge University.
Goldstein grew up in White Plains, New York, and graduated summa cum laude from Barnard College, receiving the Montague Prize for Excellence in Philosophy, and immediately went on to graduate work at Princeton University, receiving her Ph.D. in philosophy, having specialized in philosophy of science. After earning her Ph.D. she returned to Barnard, where she taught courses in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, as well as on the seventeenth-century rationalists, which is when she developed her interest in Baruch Spinoza. It was some time during her tenure at Barnard that, quite to her own surprise, she used a summer vacation to write her first novel, The Mind-Body Problem, which was a critical and commercial success. Nine more book have followed, seven of them fiction and two of them philosophical biographies, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, and Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity. Goldstein’s most recent novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, was published by Pantheon in January 2010 and has been a critical success.
Goldstein has won prestigious awards and posts in recognition of her many achievements, both literary and scholarly. In 1996, she was named a MacArthur Fellow, the prize popularly known as the “Genius” award. In 2005 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2006 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Fellowship. In 2008, she was designated a Humanist Laureate by the International Academy of Humanism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Emerson College, where she gave the commencement address.
In awarding her the MacArthur Fellowship, the MacArthur Foundation singled out the unique role that her writing plays in today’s culture, writing, ” Rebecca Goldstein is a writer whose novels and short stories dramatize the concerns of philosophy without sacrificing the demands of imaginative storytelling. Her books tell a compelling story as they describe with wit, compassion and originality the interaction of mind and heart. In her fiction her characters confront problems of faith: religious faith and faith in an ability to comprehend the mysteries of the physical world as complementary to moral and emotional states of being. Goldstein’s writings emerge as brilliant arguments for the belief that fiction in our time may be the best vehicle for involving readers in questions of morality and existence.”
Goldstein lives in Boston and in Truro, Massachusetts, with her husband, the renowned cognitive scientist Steven Pinker.