2018 Wallace Wurth Lecture: Introducing Daniel Dennett

Colleagues, special guests, students, staff, alumni, members of the public, friends of UNSW.

My name is Professor Ian Jacobs, I am the President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW Sydney, and I am delighted to welcome you all here tonight for the 2018 Wallace Wurth Lecture.

I’d like to add my thanks to Uncle Lloyd Walker for their welcome to country, and I too would like to pay my respects to the Bedegal Elders both past and present, and extend that respect to other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders present here today.

The Wallace Wurth Lecture series is named after Wallace Charles Wurth, UNSW’s first Chancellor.

It means a lot that we have members of the Wurth family here tonight. It’s wonderful to have you in the room as we honour such a great man’s legacy.

It was due to Wallace Wurth’s vision 70 years ago that UNSW takes the form that it does today—as a centre for world-class education, cutting-edge research, and the free exchange of ideas.

It is in recognition of that vision that we invite an eminent speaker to deliver a Lecture, every year, in his name.

Our guest tonight will not only give us a great deal to think about, he’ll also make us question how and why we think at all.

A graduate of Harvard and Oxford, our speaker has spent his life teaching and studying the human mind, concerning himself with the types of questions most people would, quite ironically, find too difficult to even comprehend—the relationships between free will, consciousness, mind, and meaning.

He is the author of more than a dozen books explaining the ‘magic’ of consciousness, among them Breaking the Spell, Freedom Evolves, and Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

His most recent book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, brings age-old questions about selfhood into the modern day, building on computer science, artificial intelligence and biology to explore how to distinguish the mind from the brain.

To borrow a quote from a Nature journal review last year, our speaker continues to ‘earn his reputation as one of today’s most readable, intellectually nimble, and scientifically literate philosophers.’

Indeed, to followers and critics alike, he is considered one of the most influential philosophers, and cognitive scientists, of our time.

He has also been described as a ‘philosophical troublemaker,’ a ‘Diehard Darwinian,’ and one quarter of the ‘Four Horsemen of Atheism’.

He has been outspoken on politics, and while he’s described our current era as, and I quote, ‘entering a period of epistemological murk and uncertainty that we’ve not experienced since the middle ages,’ our speaker tonight remains, overall, an optimist.

He is, of course, Daniel Dennett.

He is Professor of Philosophy and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

On top of his books, Daniel has published more than 400 journal articles, received a host of prestigious fellowships, and presented important lectures at universities all over the world.

We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Daniel’s esteem here to inform, excite, and challenge us tonight.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming, Daniel Dennett.

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