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9th Van Eeden Lecture: Prof Markus Gabriel (Cancelled)

The Van Eeden Lecture on the 1st of November 2020 has unfortunately been cancelled. Due to circumstances beyond our control, Prof Markus Gabriel is not able to travel from Germany to the Netherlands. Of course, we intend to host the event in the foreseeable future. Circumstances however do not allow us to reschedule the event as of yet. As soon as we reschedule, the website will be updated. Did you sign up for this event? We will notify you on further proceedings via email as soon as possible.

Language of communication: English

How to be human in a digital age

In modernity, the very concept of a human being is under pressure. Most recently, philosophers, scientists and post-humanist thinkers from different traditions claim that AI and other digital systems profoundly change us to such an extent that human being might not be equally recognizable as unitary phenomenon at all. In my reading, I will look at some of the scientific claims about AI and its relation to human thought and intelligence and present a neo-existentialist account of the human being and social identity that counter-acts a dangerous trend in contemporary intellectual and socio -political climate to underestimate the unity of the human being. Specifically, I will argue that we are nowhere near replacing humans with digital counterparts and that we will never merge with AI in the way required by the idea or uploading or a full-blown brain-computer interface. There are serious limits on what digital technology can achieve which are hidden under various layers of fallacious metaphysical reasoning spread by tech companies and other interested agencies.

Markus Gabriel is truly a wunderkind or contemporary philosophy. He is fluent in ten languages, became the youngest professor in Germany at the age of 29, and co-founded a new school of philosophy: New Realism.

The latter is quite remarkable, considering his major breakthrough with a book titled Why the World Does Not Exist . The argument that everything conceivable exists, including unicorns, as they exist in fairytales. However, the world does not. This is because the world is all-encompassing and requires no greater context. In order for something to exist, it requires context – thus the world does not exist. As a result it is impossible to express the world in a fixed formula; the theory of everything is an illusion.

Our perspective shows how objects appear to us. According to Gabriel perception and thought equally exist as objects, and thus he calls his philosophy ‘New Realism’. In I am Not a Brain: Philosophy of Mind for the 21st Century (2017) he argues that thoughts cannot be reduced to biological and neurological processes, which means we are as free as we think we are.

Gabriel compares the human mind to the internet: it cannot be contained, yet it is everywhere simultaneously. How do we maintain our freedom in a digital age?