Einstein Lectures

Einstein Lectures 2021: Philosopher Philip Pettit

This year's Einstein Lectures were devoted to the question of the preconditions and development of human thought and social action. The renowned Irish-Australian philosopher Philip Pettit dealt with the social nature of our intellectual life on three October evenings.

Philip Pettit, born and raised in Ireland in 1945, is Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University, USA, and Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University.

Philip Pettit works in the area of moral and political theory and on questions of philosophy of mind and metaphysics. He is the author of numerous books that have been translated into many languages. He also served as an advisor to the Spanish government under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

© Universität Bern / Bild: Vera Knöpfel
Philosopher Philip Pettit delivered the Einstein Lectures 2021 at the University of Bern. © University of Bern / Photo: Vera Knöpfel

At the invitation of the Albert Einstein Society and the University of Bern, Philip Pettit gave three lectures in the main building of the University of Bern:

Video Lecture 1: A Social Genealogy of Human Mind

 

Abstract: Imagine creatures otherwise like us—the humanoids, we may call them—who come to develop language of a basic, communicative kind. Before having language, they will form beliefs and related attitudes but not be able to make judgments; rationally develop their thoughts but not be able to reason about what to think. Yet they may have capacities sufficient to give them access to language. It is plausible, for example, that in learning language they will learn to make assertions and only develop the mental capacity to make judgments as a precipitate of that social skill.

Video Lecture 2: Consciousness and the Capacity to Reason

Abstract: As judgment may depend on language for its appearance, so the same is true of reasoning. The humanoids will be positioned by language, not just to form attitudes that rationally update within them, as they update in other animals, but to reason about what follows from what and about what attitudes to form in response to this or that evidence. They will be able, moreover, to bring this reasoning capacity to bear on perception, articulating how things seem to them and recognizing, in light of interpersonal differences, that appearance may come apart from reality yet figure autonomously in conscious experience.

Video Lecture 3: Responsibility and the Capacity to Commit

Abstract: As judgment may depend on language for its appearance, so the same is true of reasoning. The humanoids will be positioned by language, not just to form attitudes that rationally update within them, as they update in other animals, but to reason about what follows from what and about what attitudes to form in response to this or that evidence. They will be able, moreover, to bring this reasoning capacity to bear on perception, articulating how things seem to them and recognizing, in light of interpersonal differences, that appearance may come apart from reality yet figure autonomously in conscious experience.

Article in the online magazine "uniaktuell" (in German)

Eine (schöne) Geschichte des menschlichen Geistes

Was macht den Mensch zum Menschen? Wohl ganz einfach: dass er fähig ist, sich diese Frage zu stellen. Aber wie kam es dazu, dass er zu so einem mit Geist ausgestatteten Wesen wurde? Philip Pettit, der dieses Jahr die Einstein Lectures hält, versucht als Philosoph darauf eine Antwort zu geben, mit den Mitteln eines – von Einstein ja auch sehr geliebten – Gedankenexperiments.