Petrus Hispanus Lectures 2004 – Daniel Dennett

July 9, 2004 12:00am

8-9 July 

Daniel Dennett

B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University

Daniel Dennett is arguably the leading philosopher of our technological and scientific era. With wit, clarity and breathtaking reach, he confronts deep questions concerning the nature of consciousness and free will, and he does so through bold explorations of evolutionary theory, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. Author of such acclaimed books as Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Freedom Evolves, Consciousness Explained, and Kinds of Minds, Dennett is, according to the Wall Street Journal, “a philosopher of rare originality” who “does one of the things philosophers are supposed to be good at: clearing up conceptual muddles in the sciences”. Famous for challenging popular orthodoxies, Dennett’s quest has been nothing less than to bridge the apparently wide chasm dividing the natural sciences – including the spectacular new developments in understanding made possible by computer technology, neuroscience – from the humanities and traditional social sciences  He is known as the leading proponent of the computational model of the mind and has become, for that reason, the philosopher of choice for many of the leading thinkers on the cutting edge.
Dennett is University Professor at Tufts University and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He received his B.A. in philosophy from Harvard and earned his D.Phil. in philosophy from Oxford. He has given the John Locke Lectures at Oxford, the Gavin David Young Lectures at Adelaide, Australia, and the Tanner Lecture at Michigan, 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.


Lecture 1: Rational Avoidance in a Deterministic World
Expanding on arguments in my recent book, Freedom Evolves, I show that the standard assumption that determinism entails inevitability is a confusion. In deterministic worlds some events are inevitable and others are not. Rational agents in deterministic worlds are designed (by evolution, or by ‘hackers’) to be able to avoid foreseeable harms and seek foreseeable goods. Once the mistaken link between determinism and inevitability is broken, the motivation for many traditional theories of free will lapses.


Lecture 2: Philosophers, Zombies, and Feelings: The Illusions of ‘First-Person’ Approaches to Consciousness  
In the rush to devise a neuroscientific theory of consciousness, interdisciplinary miscommunication is causing problems. A misleading series of thought experiments by philosophers has provoked some researchers on a forlorn search for the “neural correlates” of “qualia” and a distorted vision of what the task ahead of them involves.


Organizing institutions:
Centro de Filosofia da Universidade de Lisboa
Centro de Psicometria e Psicologia da Educação da Universidade de Lisboa
Laboratório de Modelação de Agentes da Universidade de Lisboa
Disputatio – International Journal of Philosophy


Reitoria da Universidade de Lisboa
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
Faculdade de Psicologia e Ciências da Educação da Universidade de Lisboa
Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa