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Arif Ahmed on David Hume’s Disturbing Conception of the Self

  • Past Event
  • Dates
  • Past Event
    May 19 at 12pm EDT | 5pm BST
  • Location
  • Zoom Webinar

Alan Charles Kors on Voltaire's 'Philosophical Letters'

This event took place on March 17th, 2022. The podcast version will be available shortly.


Alan Charles Kors on Voltaire: A Two-Part Lecture

Part 1: Bringing English Thought to France (April 21)

What is the self?

The historian of ideas, Isaiah Berlin, once said of the famous Scottish philosopher, David Hume: “No man has influenced the history of philosophy to a deeper or more disturbing degree.” Perhaps the most disturbing chapter in Hume’s work is the discussion of the self in Book I of his Treatise of Human Nature. The idea of “the self” or “soul” as an enduring subject of experience seems very natural, indeed almost inevitable. Hume, however, argues that it is a mistake; and he gives a novel account of what it means for you or me to exist at any one time or across different times. In his lecture, Dr Ahmed will assess Hume's central argument and discuss whether it sheds any light on related questions concerning responsibility, the morality of life and death, and the nature and rationality of 'self-interest.'

Suggested reading:
David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part 4, section 6
Daniel Dennett, 'The Self as a Center of Narrative Gravity', in Kessel, F. S. et al. (ed.) Self and Consciousness: Multiple Perspectives
John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, ch. xxvii

About the Speaker

Arif Ahmed is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. He has written on rational choice, Wittgenstein, and religion and has held visiting positions at Sydney University, the Australian National University, the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, and MIT. In 2020 he and Prof. Ross Anderson led a successful campaign to liberalize the University of Cambridge's free speech policy. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in June 2021 and in September 2021 he received Index on Censorship's Trustees Award for defending Freedom of Expression.



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