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Philosopher Dennett to lecture on Darwinism


January 30, 2009

“Darwin’s Strange Inversion of Reasoning” is the topic of this year’s signature lecture presented by the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at ASU. The lecture will be given by philosopher and author Daniel Dennett at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Galvin Playhouse on ASU's Tempe campus.

Dennett was propelled to international fame with his ground-breaking book “Consciousness Explained,” widely cited as the most important contribution in modern times to the ancient mystery of consciousness, free will and the concept of self. Dennett’s incisive account of how consciousness could arise from the interaction of physical processes in the brain singled him out as a champion of scientific reduction. His follow-up book, “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life,” continued in the same vein, and fueled a debate concerning not only the power of Darwinian processes to explain biological complexity, but to “corrode” through an entire world view. The book was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award in nonfiction.

His other titles include “Content and Consciousness,” “Brainstorms,” “Elbow Room,” “The Intentional Stance,” “Kinds of Minds,” and his most recent book “Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.” He is author of more than 300 scholarly articles on various aspects of the mind and has published in journals including Artificial Intelligence, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Poetics Today, Journal of Aesthetics, and Art Criticism.

“Daniel Dennett is in high demand as one of the world’s most respected and eloquent philosophers. He has a reputation for selecting provocative themes that stir discussion and thought, and presenting them with elegance and lucidity,” says Paul Davies, ASU professor and founding director of the BEYOND Center in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The BEYOND annual lecture challenges one of the world’s leading intellectuals to think beyond the confines of their specialism, and to offer new insights into science, philosophy or futurology,” says Davies. “We’re in for a treat with Dennett’s lecture.”

The year’s BEYOND lecture coincides with ASU’s Darwinfest – a celebration of Darwin’s 200th birthday and 150th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species.” More details about Darwinfest at http://darwin.asu.edu.

Dennett is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University as well as the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies. He received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Harvard University and a doctorate of philosophy from Oxford University.

He taught at the University of California, Irvine, from 1965 to 1971, and has since taught at Tufts University.

Dennett 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.

The BEYOND lecture is free and open to the public. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. C.A.R.T. services will be available. More information at 480.965.3240 or http://beyond.asu.edu. Online maps of the Tempe campus and parking facilities are at: www.asu.edu/map.

The BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science is a pioneering international research center established in 2006 at ASU. This “cosmic think tank” is specifically dedicated to confronting the big questions raised by advances in fundamental science, and facilitating new research initiatives that transcend traditional subject categories.