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Inaugural lecture of Professor Barbara Taylor: Philosophical solitude

26 February 2019

Time: 6:30 - 9:00pm
Speaker: Professor Barbara Taylor
Venue: ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre, ArtsTwo, Mile End campus

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Speaker: Professor Barbara Taylor

Chair: Professor Cora Kaplan 

The philosopher mediating alone in his study is a cliché of western culture. But behind the hackneyed image lies a long history of controversy. Was solitude the ‘school of genius’, as Edward Gibbon claimed, or did it breed irrationalism, dogmatism and melancholy, as Dr Johnson and others insisted? In the 1730s, David Hume suffered a breakdown which he attributed to his solitary philosophising; three decades later, in a much-publicised quarrel with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hume attacked Rousseau’s reclusiveness as ‘savage’, ‘bestial’, the mark of an ‘arrant madman’. A life of lone thought was pathological: a judgement that still finds echoes in present-day concerns about social isolation and loneliness.

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