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Transience and the Difficulty of Reality

Starts 23 May 2018 - 18:00
Finishes 23 May 2018 - 20:00
Venue Birkbeck, University of London, Room MAL B34, Malet Street
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Speaker: Jonathan Lear, University of Chicago

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We are creatures who – some of the time, in different ways and up to a point  are aware of our own future deaths as well as of the transient nature of all things around us. Even the world can be destroyed: structures of meaning which had lent a sense of life's value to those who participated in them can decay and fall away.  How does this matter?  Freud thought that this one aspect of human self-awareness could function like a powerful ideology, pervasively distorting conscious experience.  It would seem then that the sense of transience is not one belief among others but a psychic force that can shape a life.  Are there better and worse ways to live with a sense of transience?  And might there be room to think about failures of imagination – as well as imagination as a human excellence – when it comes to living with transience?

Jonathan Lear is Professor at the Committee on Social Thought and in Philosophy at the University of Chicago.  He currently serves as Director of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society.  He is also a trained psychoanalyst and serves on the faculty of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis and the Western New England Institute for Psychoanalysis  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  Before returning to the US, he was a Fellow and Director of Studies in Philosophy at Clare College, Cambridge.  His book Freud was named by the Guardian as number one in its top ten list of books on psychoanalysis. He is also the author of Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devastation, and his most recent book is Wisdom Won from Illness.  

Organised by the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust funded 'Hidden Persuaders Project', Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, and the Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London

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