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Albert Wolters public lecture 2019

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Professor Daniel Dennett has been awarded the Albert Wolters Visiting Distinguished Professorship by the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences. He will deliver the 2019 Albert Wolters public lecture on 9 May.

In his lecture, Professor Dennett will discuss the concept of autonomy as self-control. While some varieties can be largely the achievement of unconscious control — for instance, the abilities to stand, walk, run and avoid obstacles — he will argue that the morally important varieties require consciousness: you can’t make a promise or be “moved by reasons” without the ability to entertain alternatives, think about both the past and the future, and make informed decisions under uncertainty. We are not born with these abilities and achieving the level of autonomy of a morally responsible agent takes years of experience and maturation.  

Professor Dennett argues that this self-control is the only variety of free will worth wanting, and it has nothing to do with whether physics is deterministic or not. Centred around these ideas, he will outline the role of language and consciousness in making us the sorts of things that can be trusted to keep a promise. 

This prestigious honorary title is awarded annually to internationally distinguished scholars in recognition of their world-class contribution to psychology, language sciences or neuroscience. The professorship is named after Professor Albert Wolters who was the first Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Reading (1908) and its first Head of Department for Psychology (1921). 

Attendance is free but please book your place here.

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