Public Lecture: Terrence W. Deacon

The concept of human nature has been challenged by social scientists because of its inability to clearly delineate the distinction between the biologically inherited and experientially acquired attributes of being human. Yet the very fact of being susceptible to acquired cultural influences irrelevant to other species makes clear that this is an evolutionarily constrained susceptibility. Symbolic processes are the source of the most important and distinctively human acquired influences, and include both linguistically mediated and habitually reproduced social conventions. Susceptibility to these influences arose due to the evolution of neurological adaptations that support symbolic communication and cognition. Although human brains do not include any structures that lack ape homologues, the slight reorganization that made symbolic abilities ubiquitous has also created the possibility for socially transmitted information to radically reorganize mental functions. In this lecture I re-analyze the concept of symbolic reference in order to overcome equivocal and ambiguous uses of the concept that obscure the special nature of these adaptations and thus blind research to the complex bio-cultural interactions that produce some of the most ubiquitous and unprecedented features of being human. These include modifications of
memory functions, emotional experiences, the nature of identity, and the range of mental plasticity.

Location: Marsilius-Kolleg der Universität Heidelberg (Im Neuenheimer Feld 130.1)
Date: March 29th 2019, 6:00 pm
Organized by: FEST and GERPRAGNET in cooporation with Marsilius-Kolleg and Philosophisches Seminar, Universität Heidelberg

Workshop with Prof. Terrence Deacon

Further information: please click the poster for an abstract and details about the workshop organization.
All sections are based on papers or chapters (by Terrence Deacon) that are available for interested participants in advance.

Please register in advance at:


Location: FEST Heidelberg, Schmeilweg 5, 69118 Heidelberg
Date: 30th March 2019, 10am-6pm

Conference: The Reception of American Pragmatism in Europe

The conference aims at exploring the different facets of the impact that American Pragmatism has had, has today and could still have on Europe.

There are three core inquiries:

1. First, the conference is interested in the changing cycles of the reception, from the European exorcizing of Pragmatism as a philosophy solely interested in the “cash value” of ideas to its appreciation as the paradigmatic philosophy in a plural and constantly changing world.

2. Second, it investigates how and to what extent we can speak of a unified European reaction to Pragmatism and, at the same time, expounds on episodes of a multifaceted reception that are characteristic of different regions in Europe (e.g. Southern, Central, Eastern Europe, the Nordic Countries, the British Isles, etc.).

3. Third, the conference explores the contributions that American Pragmatism can still make with regard to contemporary European challenges, from the political and economic relations between the EU and the United States, to the formation and the identity of a European community, from immigration to populism, from the crisis of democracy to new social movements, from current scientific and economic challenges to innovative and intelligent solutions for social life. In this context, the relationship between so-called American Pragmatism and Latin/South/Indigenous American philosophy can also be taken into consideration with the aim of gathering new and transformative insights for Europe.

For further information on the conference, please see here (Call for papers).

Place: Dewey-Center Switzerland, St. Gallen
Conference Date: June 6-8,2019
Contact: and