Making sense of ourselves and others: narratives not theories
Daniel D. Hutto (University of Hertfordshire)

November 14, 2012, 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Departments of Computing and Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London

Ben Pimlott Lecture Theatre
Ben Pimlott Building, New Cross
London SE14 6NW
United Kingdom

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Making sense of each other's reasons is a cornerstone of human social life. It involves attributing beliefs, desires and hopes - in complex ways. Our capacity to do this is unique: we do not share it with animals or very young children. It is so deeply ingrained in our daily existence that we tend only to notice it, and its critical importance, when it is damaged or absent altogether - as it is for severely autistic individuals. What is the basis of this competence? How do we come by it?

In this lecture Professor Hutto introduces the idea that this remarkable ability is essentially a skill in producing and consuming a special sort of narrative, acquired by engaging in storytelling practices. As Waterhouse’s A Tale from the Decameron (1916) reminds us beautifully, narrative practices have been at the heart of human society throughout our history. Dan defended the stronger claim that they might be absolutely central for stimulating important aspects of our social understanding and noted that, if true, it excludes the prospect that this crucial ability is one which is built-in to members of our species. Knowing the answer matters, fundamentally, when it comes to deciding which therapies are the most promising and appropriate for treating certain mental health disorders and which sorts of educational opportunities should be provided for younger children. Equally, it matters when thinking about whether and how we, as adults, might improve abilities to understand ourselves and others.

FORMAT: Whitehead lectures take the form of a 1 hour session including the talk and questions from the audience. A small drinks reception follows allowing more informal discussion with the speaker, organisers and other attendees. Then everyone is invited to join the organisers and speaker for further drinks and discussion at the nearby New Cross House.

BRIEF-BIO:  Daniel D Hutto was born and schooled in New York but finished his undergraduate degree as a study abroad student in St Andrews, Scotland where his maternal roots lie. He returned to New York to teach fourth grade in the Bronx for a year in order to fund his MPhil in Logic and Metaphysics, after which he carried on his doctoral work in York. He is currently the Professor of Philosophical Psychology and Research Leader in Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire. He has authored and edited many books, including Narrative and Understanding Persons (2007), Folk Psychological Narratives (2008) and Narrative and Folk Psychology (2009) and is co-author of Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content (forthcoming with MIT Press in 2013). He is currently He is a chief co-investigator for the Australian Research Council ‘Embodied Virtues and Expertise’ project (2010-2013), the Marie Curie Action ‘Towards an Embodied Science of Intersubjectivity’ initial training network (2011-2015) and the 'Agency, Normativity and Identity' project (2012-2015) funded by the Spanish Ministry of Innovation and Research. He regularly speaks at conferences and expert meetings for clinical psychiatrists, educationalists, narratologists, neuroscientists and psychologists.

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