Hearing Room 2: 3:30—4:45pm

What does it mean to devote yourself radically and completely to helping others, even at the expense of those you are closest to? And why do the rest of us often harbor suspicion for and even hostility toward extreme “do-gooders?” Using Larissa MacFarquhar’s Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help (2015) as its starting point, this panel will explore the unsettling, uncanny nature of altruism and the responses it provokes in others, from medieval Italy to contemporary San Francisco.

MARY DOYNO is an assistant professor in the Humanities and Religious Studies department at Sacramento State. Her research focuses on the religious and cultural history of medieval Europe. She is currently writing a study of lay sanctity in the communes of late medieval Italy. 

GARY KAMIYA is the author of the bestselling book Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, which was awarded the 2013 Northern California Book Award in creative nonfiction, and Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler. He was a cofounder and longtime executive editor of He is currently the executive editor of San Francisco Magazine and writes a history column, "Portals of the Past," that appears every other week in the San Francisco Chronicle.

LARISSA MACFARQUHAR is the author of Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help. She has been a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine since 1998, where her profile subjects have included Barack Obama, Paul Krugman, Noam Chomsky, the novelist Hilary Mantel, and the philosopher Derek Parfit. 

MORGAN MEIS is a contributor to Page Turner at The New Yorker magazine. He has a PhD in Philosophy and has written for The Smart Set, n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won the Whiting Award in 2013. Morgan is also an editor at 3 Quarks Daily, and a winner of a Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers grant.