Lectures to explore ‘Body & Soul in the 21st Century’

“Body & Soul in the 21st Century” is the theme of the 2013 Dwight H. Terry Lectures being presented early in October by Ian Hacking, a Canadian philosopher and professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and the Collège de France.

Hacking will present three talks. All are free and open to the public, and will take place at 4 p.m. at the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. His topics will be:

Tuesday, Oct. 1: “PRESENT: What is biotechnology doing to the ways we think about our minds and our bodies?” Hacking says he will discuss distinctions between mind and body now considered extinct among intellectuals, the ways in which societies view the mind-body connection, and how biotechnologies “are, paradoxically, driving mind and body apart.”

Thursday, Oct. 3: “PAST: Where did our distinctions come from?” After a discussion of Descartes, “often invoked by highbrows as the root of all mind/body evil,” Hacking notes, he will turn to anthropology, “to the great fears of death that take very different forms at various times and places.

Tuesday, Oct. 8: “FUTURE: What straws are in the wind?” Hacking will explore concepts ranging from the belief that humans are “biosocial” animals to the “transhumanism” movement to improve humans’ physical, intellectual, psychological capacities. “At this point,” he says, “I hope to engage the audience to make their own guesses as to what is coming soon.”

Although often described as a “philosopher of science,” Hacking instead calls himself a philosopher “of the analytic stripe … who makes use of the past … who thinks about the sciences in detail.” His work addresses a wide range of topics and is widely read outside academic philosophy. At its core is an attempt to understand human beings and their interactions with nature. He has taught at numerous universities, including Stanford and Cambridge. In 2009 he received the Norwegian Holberg International Memorial Prize for his scholarly work and his contributions to the understanding of probability.

About the lectureship

The Dwight H. Terry Lectureship was established in 1905 by a gift from Dwight Harrington Terry of Bridgeport, Connecticut, to endow a series of lectures on religion and its application to human welfare in the light of scientific knowledge and philosophical insights. The lectures are published in book form by Yale University Press. Previous Terry lecturers have included Carl Jung, Margaret Mead, Rebecca West, Peter Singer, Marilynne Robinson, and Terry Eagleto