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W&L Introduces Living Philosopher Series with Andy Clark

Senior philosophy majors at Washington and Lee University will have the opportunity next month to meet and interact on campus with a major contemporary philosopher whose work they are studying.

Andy Clark, whose research includes philosophy of mind and artificial intelligence — including robotics, artificial life, embodied cognition, and mind, technology and culture — will be at W&L from March 5 to March 9. He is currently a professor at the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, in the United Kingdom.

Clark’s lecture, titled “Messy Minds: Embodiment, Action and Explanation in 21st Century Cognitive Science,” is on March 7 at 5:30 p.m. in the Northen Auditorium of the Leyburn Library and is open to the public.

The “Living Philosopher Series” is a new initiative by W&L’s department of philosophy through which a different prominent philosopher will be invited to W&L each year to provide a public lecture, eat meals with the students, sit in on classes and take part in informal discussions with students.

“The seniors will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with and critique the ideas of someone at the forefront of his or her field,” said Paul Gregory, associate professor of philosophy and department head. Describing Clark’s views as cutting edge and controversial, Gregory explained that, prior to Clark’s arrival, the students will have studied not only Clark’s extensive publications but also those of his collaborators and critics.

“Philosophy is an amazingly lively and active area of current research,” said Gregory, “and is best pursued in face-to-face discussions. This visit gives students the chance to do just that. They will go beyond reading texts guided by a professor to being able to interact directly with, question and challenge, and get to know the personality of someone who actually works in and is prominent in the field. And it’s always exciting to meet someone famous.

“The Living Philosopher Series is basically in place of the senior thesis, and we wanted to come up with a seminar that brought all the seniors together in one class,” said Gregory. “And we realized we had the funding to do this through the Pollack Lecture Fund.”

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