NYU Philosopher Examines the “Immaterial Soul” in Two Lawrence University Talks

Noted contemporary philosopher and New York University professor Peter Unger will discuss the concept of the immaterial soul in a pair of addresses during a two-day visit to Lawrence University.

Unger presents “Why We Really May Be Immaterial Souls” Wednesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. Lawrence’s Wriston Art Center auditorium. On Thursday, April 6 Unger will deliver the address “How Immaterial Souls Can Have Free Will” at 4:30 p.m. in Main Hall, Room 201. Both events are free and open to the public.

In his first address, Unger will challenge the position held by most contemporary philosophers who believe the concept of a soul is incoherent. He will present the argument that people are more than “just our bodies” and are, in fact, immaterial souls.

Unger’s second talk will address the question of whether people are really free to make choices in their daily lives or if outside forces such as genetic inheritance or environmental factors determine who they are. Building on his first address, Unger will make the case that as immaterial souls, people do have their own free will.

A scholar whose research interests encompass metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and philosophy of mind, Unger has written five books, including “Identity, Consciousness and Value” and “Living High and Letting Die: Our Illusion of Innocence.” His latest tome, “All the Power in the World,” published in December, 2005 by Oxford University Press, is a 670-page “philosophical journey into the nature of reality” that attempts to answer difficult human questions about people and the world.

Unger began his teaching career at the University of Wisconsin in 1965 and has taught in the philosophy department at NYU since 1971. He earned bachelor’s degree at Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. at Oxford University. He was named the recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1973.

His appearances are sponsored by the Stevens Lectureship in the Humanities. Established in 1967 by 1906 Lawrence graduates David H. Stevens and his wife, Ruth Davis Stevens, the lectureship brings prominent speakers to campus for public talks in the humanities.