Daniel C. Dennett
Prof. Daniel C. Dennett
University Professor, professor of philosophy and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University


Meaning and Morality: Darwin's 'strange inversion of reasoning'
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
8:00 p.m in Webb Auditorium (James E. Booth Memorial Building - 7A)

Powerpoint (available after the talk)

Before Darwin, the only "explanation" of the wonderful design in the world-the functions of organs, the meaningfulness of words and of life itself, the ideal of morality, however imperfectly we lived up to it-was "top-down": basically a gift from God. Darwin's theory of natural selection showed the possibility of another kind of explanation, a "bottom-up" process that started with meaningless matter in motion, and built, by small, non-miraculous steps, up to life, function, purpose, meaning and even morality. Is Mind a recent evolved effect of this process or the original source of all meaning? No compromise seems possible, but if we free up our imaginations, we may be able to dissolve the conflict.

Daniel C. Dennett, the author of Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (Viking, 2006), Freedom Evolves (Viking Penguin, 2003) and Darwin's Dangerous Idea (Simon &Schuster, 1995, finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize), is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He lives with his wife in North Andover, Massachusetts, and has a daughter, a son, and a grandson. He was born in Boston in 1942, the son of a historian by the same name, and received his B.A. in philosophy from Harvard in 1963. He then went to Oxford to work with Gilbert Ryle, under whose supervision he completed the D.Phil. in philosophy in 1965. He taught at U.C. Irvine from 1965 to 1971, when he moved to Tufts, where he has taught ever since, aside from periods visiting at Harvard, Pittsburgh, Oxford, and the Ecole Normal Superieure in Paris.

His first book, Content and Consciousness, appeared in 1969, followed by Brainstorms (1978), Elbow Room (1984), The Intentional Stance (1987), Consciousness Explained (1991), Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), Kinds of Minds (1996), and Brainchildren: A Collection of Essays 1984-1996 (MIT Press and Penguin, 1998). He co-edited The Mind's I with Douglas Hofstadter in 1981. He is the author of over two hundred scholarly articles on various aspects on the mind, published in journals ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral and Brain Sciences to Poetics Today and the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

He gave the John Locke Lectures at Oxford in 1983, the Gavin David Young Lectures at Adelaide, Australia, in 1985, and the Tanner Lecture at Michigan in 1986, among many others. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Science. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1987.He was the Co-founder (in 1985) and Co-director of the Curricular Software Studio at Tufts, and has helped to design museum exhibits on computers for the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Science in Boston, and the Computer Museum in Boston.

Please see the suggested reading list
and other speakers:
Eugenie Scott Randolph Nesse Martin Daly  Margo Wilson
Eugenie Scott Randolph Nesse Martin Daly
Margo Wilson

Rudy Rucker D. S. Wilson David M. Buss
Rudy Rucker D. S. Wilson David M. Buss

Daniel C. Dennett  Capstone Speaker
Daniel C. Dennett
Capstone Speaker
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