Ground-breaking Philosopher David Chalmers Delivers Donnellan Lectures at Trinity

Posted on: 09 May 2014

Ground-breaking philosopher David Chalmers delivered three captivating lectures on the topic of 'Structuralism, Space and Scepticism' when Trinity College Dublin's Department of Philosophy (School of Social Sciences and Philosophy) hosted the tri-annual Donnellan Lectures in association with the Trinity Long Room Hub.

The lectures series opened with an intellectual tour de force; in an admirably dialectical manner that was reflected also in his candid response to a series of incisive questions in Q&A, Chalmers took a sizeable audience through the thoroughly ambitious idea of his recent book, Constructing the World, in which he searches for the three or four fundamental sets of concepts that, as he argues, underlie all our knowledge.

David Chalmers is one of the most well-known and celebrated philosophers alive today. He is Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Centre for Consciousness, and an ARC Federation Fellow at the Australian National University. He is also Professor of Philosophy and co-director of the Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness at New York University, and, in 2013, was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Philosophy at Trinity was not only proud to have such a prominent thinker for almost an entire week, but was also grateful for the generosity of Chalmers' extensive and cordial engagement with staff and students alike. He impressed with his ability to effectively communicate such complex ideas to a diverse audience while also challenging those who had studied his work closely.

Chalmers' provocative ideas, supported by painstaking reasoning, are at the heart of current debates in philosophy and cognitive science on the nature of consciousness. He famously distinguished the 'Hard Problem of Consciousness' from the (relatively) easy problems. He has also argued that the possibility of philosophical zombies – physical and functional duplicates of us, who lack conscious experience – shows that conscious experiences are non-physical.

Chalmers' fame beyond philosophy rests chiefly on his writings on consciousness, but his work in the philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology and other fields within philosophy encompasses a number of landmark contributions. Most significant perhaps is his contribution to the development of two-dimensional semantics, which underpins his arguments against physicalist accounts of consciousness.

His publications include the ground-breaking work 'The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (1996)', described by The Sunday Times as "one of the best science books of the year," and The Character of Consciousness (2010).  His most recent book, Constructing The World (2012), attempts to show that 'the world is in a certain sense comprehensible, at least given a certain class of basic truths about the world.'

The Donnellan Lecture series was set up more than two centuries ago through the initiative and generosity of Anne Donnellan. The series has recently featured distinguished thinkers such as Jerry Fodor, Martha Nussbaum, Richard Sorabji, Richard Rorty, Stanley Cavell, Jonathan Lear, and Robert Pippin.

Media Coverage:

The Irish Times, Zombie blues and the hard problem of consciousness, Friday, May 9th, 2014


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