Monday, February 6

Harvard Book Store Presents (Past Events)Special Events Archive

Daniel C. Dennett

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Daniel C. Dennett presents From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds

in conversation with DANIEL GILBERT

This event includes a book signing.

Online pre-sales (ticket + book) on sale January 3 at this link. $5 Tickets on sale January 17 at 9am. Unable to attend? Order the book(s) or pre-order a signed copy from Harvard Book Store. No Brattle Passes.

Harvard Book Store welcomes Tufts University professor DANIEL C. DENNETT—author of Breaking the SpellDarwin’s Dangerous Idea, and Consciousness Explained—and DANIEL GILBERT, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, for a discussion of Dennett’s latest book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds.

About From Bacteria to Bach and Back

hbs-dennett-bookOne of America’s foremost philosophers offers a major new account of the origins of the conscious mind.

How did we come to have minds?

For centuries, this question has intrigued psychologists, physicists, poets, and philosophers, who have wondered how the human mind developed its unrivaled ability to create, imagine, and explain. Disciples of Darwin have long aspired to explain how consciousness, language, and culture could have appeared through natural selection, blazing promising trails that tend, however, to end in confusion and controversy. Even though our understanding of the inner workings of proteins, neurons, and DNA is deeper than ever before, the matter of how our minds came to be has largely remained a mystery.

That is now changing, says Daniel C. Dennett. In From Bacteria to Bach and Back, his most comprehensive exploration of evolutionary thinking yet, he builds on ideas from computer science and biology to show how a comprehending mind could in fact have arisen from a mindless process of natural selection. Part philosophical whodunit, part bold scientific conjecture, this landmark work enlarges themes that have sustained Dennett’s legendary career at the forefront of philosophical thought.

In his inimitable style—laced with wit and arresting thought experiments—Dennett explains that a crucial shift occurred when humans developed the ability to share memes, or ways of doing things not based in genetic instinct. Language, itself composed of memes, turbocharged this interplay. Competition among memes—a form of natural selection—produced thinking tools so well-designed that they gave us the power to design our own memes. The result, a mind that not only perceives and controls but can create and comprehend, was thus largely shaped by the process of cultural evolution.

An agenda-setting book for a new generation of philosophers, scientists, and thinkers, From Bacteria to Bach and Back will delight and entertain anyone eager to make sense of how the mind works and how it came about.


“Illuminating and insightful. . . . [Dennett] makes a convincing case, based on a rapidly growing body of experimental evidence, that a materialist theory of mind is within reach. . . . His ideas demand serious consideration.” —Publishers’ Weekly

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Featured event books will be for sale at the event for 20% off. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.

Daniel C. DennettDaniel C. Dennett is a University Professor at Tufts University and the author of numerous books including Breaking the SpellDarwin’s Dangerous Idea, and Consciousness Explained.

Photo credit: Bettina Strauss

Daniel GilbertDaniel Gilbert is the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He has won numerous awards for his research and teaching, including the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology. In 2008 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His 2007 book Stumbling on Happiness spent 6 months on the New York Times bestseller list, has being translated into 30 languages, has sold a million copies worldwide, and was awarded the Royal Society’s General Book Prize for best science book of the year.  In 2010, he hosted and co-wrote the award-winning NOVA television series This Emotional Life which was seen by more than 10 million viewers. He is a contributor to TimeThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, and NPR’s All Things Considered, and has been a guest on numerous television shows including The Today Show, Charlie Rose, 20/20, and The Colbert Report.  His TED talks have been seen by about 13 million people, and are among the most popular of all time.