Perspectives on the Self:
Conversations on Identity & Consciousness

The perdurable question, "Who am I?" points to a deeply rooted need within the human species to understand the basis for the experience of unitary consciousness known as the Self. Today, the word "Self" has come to refer to a host of intersecting ideas, questions, concerns, and problems that are central to the human condition and predicament. At the same time, our fundamental experience of selfhood has inevitably led to the pursuit of the related but equally enigmatic question of "What is the Self?" Historically, concepts and theories of what constitutes the Self abound and at times have been so disparate that the term has assumed radically different meanings across disciplines.

The aim of the Perspectives on the Self lecture series is to thus provide an objective overview of the evolving notion, construct, and experience of the Self, without losing sight of the subjective value that makes these matters so vital to each of us. By enabling an interdisciplinary discourse among prominent experts in various fields of contemporary science and the humanities, ranging from evolutionary psychology and neuroscience to philosophy and religion, this six-part lecture series seeks to analyze and foster deeper reflection and insight on the current concept and theories of the Self and their moral, ethical, and social implications.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010 | 6:00 PM - 7:15 PM
To Be or Not To Be: The Self as Illusion
Moderated by Krista Tippett, creator and host of public radio's Being.

Renowned philosophers Thomas Metzinger and Evan Thompson will join cardiologist and expert on near-death experiences, Pim van Lommel, to examine recent developments in neuroscience and philosophy that shed light on whether our conscious experience of a unified Self is reality or illusion. Learn More
Webcast Podcast Transcript

Near-death experiences by Pim van Lommel


Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 7:00 PM - 8:15 PM
Quid Pro Quo: The Ecology of The Self
Moderated by Steve Paulson, producer and interviewer for public radio's To the Best of Our Knowledge.

Philosopher and neurobiologist Owen Flanagan and psychologists Roy Baumeister and Paul Bloom will examine current biological, psychological, and anthropological research on the complex interaction between the Self and others and will consider the roots of empathy and morality. Learn More
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What do you think you are? by Christina Starmans and Paul Bloom
Self and identity: a brief overview by Roy Baumeister


Wednesday, March 23, 2011 | 7:00 PM - 8:15 PM
The Pursuit of Immortality: From the Ego to the Soul
Moderated by Lisa Miller, Newsweek.

Are we immortal? Do our souls exist beyond our bodies? What scientific evidence is there for mystical experience? These questions and others will be addressed from a cultural, historical, and scientific perspective by evolutionary biologist Kenneth Miller and theologians John Haught and Nancey Murphy. Learn More
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Science, self, and immortality by John F. Haught
Immortality versus resurrection in the Christian tradition by Nancey Murphy


Thursday, April 28, 2011 | 7:00 PM - 8:15 PM
A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Linking Belief to Behavior
Moderated by Esther Sternberg, National Institute of Mental Health.

Philosopher Simon Critchley, cognitive scientist Shaun Gallagher, and physicist V.V. Raman will survey how the Self is shaped by interactions with the environment, how free will, responsibility, and other traits emerge, and how character and virtue become targets for constructing the Self. Learn More
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A self-fulfilling prophecy: linking belief to behavior by Esther Sternberg
The self in the Cartesian brain by Shaun Gallagher
Free will and determinism in relation to the self by V. V. Raman


Thursday, May 12, 2011 | 7:00 PM - 8:15 PM
Me, Myself, and I: The Rise of the Modern Self
Moderated by Robert Hanna, University of Colorado.

Historians Gerald Izenberg and Jerrold Seigel, philosopher Raymond Martin, and sociologist Norbert Wiley will trace the evolution of the meaning of Self from antiquity to the present and will consider how the Self described by classical philosophers matches the reality of what we know about ourselves from human experience and research. Learn More
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What is the self? by Robert Hanna
The modern notion of self by Gerald Izenberg
The American self and the long march to legal equality by Norbert Wiley


Tuesday, May 24, 2011 | 7:00 PM - 8:15 PM
Who Am I?: Beyond 'I Think, Therefore I Am'
Moderated by Alex Voorhoeve, London School of Economics.

Can we ever truly answer the question, "Who am I?" Philosopher Elie During, cognitive scientist David Jopling, social psychologist Timothy Wilson, and ethicist Frances Kamm will examine the difficulty of achieving genuine self-knowledge and how the pursuit of self-knowledge plays a role in shaping the Self. Learn More
Webcast Podcast Transcript

Self-knowledge and the practice of ethics by Elie During
"Much ado to know myself" by David Jopling
Understanding, justifying, and finding oneself by Frances M. Kamm