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5 world-leading academics to give public lectures in New York, Boston and Hartford, 3-6 October 2016

NCH London | September 20, 2016

Five world-leading academics – psychologist Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett, literary critic Sir Christopher Ricks, philosopher Simon Blackburn and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, will be giving a series of free public lectures this October as part of NCH London Lectures: The US Tour – a new US-focused series of public lectures organised by New College of the Humanities (NCH London).

The total of five lectures will take place from Monday, 3 October through to Thursday, 6 October, in venues including New York’s New Museum and the British Consulate General; The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford; and the Old South Meeting House in Boston.

Steven Pinker will kick off the lecture schedule on 3 October with a lecture ‘From Neurons to Consciousness’ in New York. On 4 October Daniel Dennett will then deliver a lecture on consciousness, and Sir Christopher Ricks will discuss the concept of justice in Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure, with lectures taking place in New York and Hartford respectively. The series will conclude with lectures in Boston by Simon Blackburn on 5 October about ‘what constitutes good philosophy’, and by Lawrence Krauss on 6 October on this year’s discovery of gravitational waves.

All academics will tour the East Coast in their capacity as Visiting Professors at London-based, university-level college NCH, where they support and help teach the academic curriculum at the College. Please refer to the ‘About NCH’ section to find out more about NCH.


Steven Pinker – Monday, 3 October, New Museum, New York, 6.15PM-9.45PM   


Steven Pinker will elaborate on how cognitive neuroscience explains mental life, touching on questions including:

  • How do brains work?
  • How can networks of neurons accomplish useful computations?
  • Can the wiring diagram of the brain explain our conscious experience?

The lecture will expand on his seminal 1997 book How the mind works, where Pinker discussed the mind as a system of ‘organs of computation’, allowing humans to think, feel, laugh and interact, and outsmart objects, animals, plants, and each other.

Daniel Dennett – Tuesday, 4 October, British Consulate General, New York, 6.15PM-9.45PM   


Daniel Dennett will demonstrate that human consciousness and free will are the result of physical processes in the brain. The lecture will expand on his seminal 1991 book Consciousness Explained, where Dennett discussed how consciousness arises from interaction of physical and cognitive processes in the brain, arguing that consciousness should best best understood in terms of unconscious events explaining conscious events.

Sir Christopher Ricks – Tuesday, 4 October, The Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford, 6.15PM-9.45PM  


Sir Christopher Ricks will discuss the ancient question of whether ‘a crime intended but failed is still a crime’, seeing it through the lense of Shakespeare’s 1603/1604 seminal play Measure for Measure. Using Shakespeare’s justice-themed play as the backdrop, Ricks will in particular discuss to what extent ‘Measure for Measure’ can provide answers as to whether attempting to commit a terrible crime, but failing to commit it despite intent, should be punished as severely as if one had succeeded.

Simon Blackburn – Wednesday, 5 October, Old South Meeting House, Boston, 6.15PM-9.45PM  


Simon Blackburn will discuss why it is useful to study philosophy, but that it is important to study it well if one does. He will in particular make an impassioned case on why ideas are dangerous things, and thus need careful handling.

Lawrence Krauss – Thursday, 6 October, Old South Meeting House, Boston, 6.15PM-9.45PM  


Lawrence Krauss will put into context this February 2016’s breakthrough announcement by scientists at LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) that they detected gravitational waves. Krauss will describe how these gravitational waves are everywhere around us, and the possibility that we might eventually detect a signal from the Big Bang itself, turning metaphysics into physics and revealing insights into our own origins, the nature of gravity, and the possibility of other universes.

Please note: The lectures are open to the public and free of charge. Admission is by ticket only.

Please note that tickets are strictly limited and early booking is strongly advised.