Fathoming the Mind: A Closer Look at the Formation of Self

Panel Discussion January 17, 2023

Recent research in animal behavior and culture shows that the mental capacities of animals have been largely undervalued. And yet it is hard to resist the impression of a gap—a difference in nature rather than degree—between humans and non-humans when it comes to certain tasks involving abstraction, planning, sustained attention, or the transmission of culture over generations. How different is the human mind from the minds of non-human animals? The key to these issues may lie in the capacity of the mind to relate to itself as a “self” that bears desires and intentions, along with agency and purpose. But how is this compatible with the recognition that much of our mental activity occurs at an unconscious or subconscious level, below the threshold of awareness and reflection? Is our perceived unity of self or mind an illusion we entertain for practical purposes?

Philosopher Tamar Szabó Gendler, ecologist Carl Safina, and biologist Kenneth R. Miller explore what separates humans from other animals in relation to the construct of “self.”


  • Steve Paulson Journalist and Executive Producer, TTBOOK
  • Tamar Szabó Gendler Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Yale University
  • Carl Safina Ecologist and Author, Stony Brook University
  • Kenneth R. Miller Professor of Biology, Brown University


  • Tuesday, January 17, 2023
  • 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
  • The New York Academy of Medicine
    1216 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029

About This Series

This event is part of the three-part series The Enduring Enigma of the Mind, which brings together leading scientists and thinkers from an array of disciplines to help ponder and unravel the complexities of the human mind, from its origins and functions to its cultivation and development, with a view toward ultimately acquiring greater insight into ourselves and the nature of our existence.



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