On the Freedom of Thought and Nature: Freeman Dyson and Stephen Blackwoo‪d‬

Podcast 18th December 2020

  • F Dyson Freeman Dyson
F Dyson
Our Guest Freeman Dyson

Freeman John Dyson FRS was a British-American theoretical and mathematical physicist, mathematician, and statistician known for his works in quantum field theory, astrophysics, random matrices, mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics, condensed matter physics, nuclear physics, and engineering. Dyson was a Visitor of Ralston College. SIT EI TERRA LEVIS.

Stephen Blackwood speaks with Freeman Dyson, the late mathematical-physicist and renowned free thinker. They begin with a discussion of education and of the formative experiences that inspired Dyson's intellectual curiosity and courage. The conversation then ranges from evolution to particle physics to consciousness as they discuss the free and non-reductive character of both thought and nature. Along the way, Dyson shares many stories from his long and adventuresome life; this interview was one of his last. One can only be astounded by the depth and breadth and fearlessness of his intellect and the power of his insight and example.

Requiescat in pace.

Image credit: Photo by Verena Huber-Dyson, 1951, courtesy of George Dyson


  • 0:00​ - Introduction
  • 17:33​ - Perversities of the PhD System
  • 23:13​ - Time at Winchester College; Education; Necessity of Boredom
  • 28:58​ - The Napoleonic and Tolstoyan Worldviews
  • 33:46​ - Role of Imagination in Discovery and Artistic Expression
  • 43:22​ - Independence of Mind; the Non-Coercive Nature of Truth
  • 55:35​ - The Non-Reductive Quality of Reality in its Richness
  • 1:00:38​ - And its Relation to Thought as a Bottom-Up Activity
  • 1:10:39​ - Coherence and Purpose in the World
  • 1:15:29​ - Consciousness as Free; The Limits of Reductivist Materialism
  • 1:23:47​ - Science as Subversion


Education and conversation free from censorship, cynicism, and corruption matter. Ralston College is a place for them to happen, for human flourishing and building anew.

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