On this date in 1966, philosopher David John Chalmers was born in Australia. Chalmers earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science from the University of Adelaide in 1986. He was briefly a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, but transferred to Indiana University at Bloomington, where he obtained a Ph.D. in 1993 in philosophy and cognitive science. He worked at Washington University in St. Louis from 1993 to 1995, and at the University of California – Santa Cruz from 1995 to 1998. He worked in the Department of Philosophy and the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona from 1999 to 2004. Since 2004, Chalmers is professor of philosophy and director of the Centre for Consciousness at Australian National University. As of 2009, he is also a part-time professor of philosophy at New York University. His 1996 book, The Conscious Mind, is considered a seminal work on consciousness. His numerous papers and books have had great influence in the realms of cognitive science, philosophy of the mind and philosophy of language.
“Now I have to say I’m a complete atheist. I have no religious views myself and no spiritual views, except very watered down humanistic spiritual views. And consciousness is just a fact of life. It’s a natural fact of life.” ~ David Chalmers in an interview on “Encounter” with Margaret Coffey for Australian ABC National Radio, April 10, 2011
On this date in 1858, one of the most significant founders of sociology, David Emile Durkheim, was born in Epinal in Lorraine, France. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather were prominent rabbis. Durkheim spent time in rabbinical school but broke with Judaism early in life (Emile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works by Robert Alun Jones, 1986). Durkheim excelled in school, earning his bachelor in letters and sciences in 1875, two years earlier than normal, from College d’Epinal. He was admitted to the prestigious École normale supérieure in 1879 and passed examinations to become a philosophy lecturer in 1882. He was appointed to the Faculty of Letters at Bordeaux to lecture on the “Science Sociale,” marking the first time sociology officially entered the French university system.
Durkheim founded the Année Sociologique in 1898, the first French social science journal, still in existence. In 1902, Durkheim was appointed chair of education at the Sorbonne in Paris. For a time, his courses were the only lectures required at the Sorbonne. Durkheim believed religion served a unique role in human life, and indeed shaped many social structures, but that its origins were in human society, not from a divine source (“Reasons people choose atheism,” BBC, Oct. 22, 2009). “Frequently described as a ‘secular pope,’ Durkheim was viewed by critics as an agent of government anti-clericalism” (Jones, 1986). Some of his greatest contributions to sociology include: The Division of Labour in Society (1893), Rules of the Sociological Method (1895), On the Normality of Crime (1895), Suicide (1897), Sociology and Its Scientific Domain (1900) and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912). Published posthumously were other important works including Education and Sociology (1922), Sociology and Philosophy (1924) and Pragmatism and Sociology (1955). Overwork and the death of a beloved son in war (in 1916) had severe repercussions on Durkheim’s health. He suffered a stroke and died at the age of 59. He is buried in Paris. D. 1917.
“Religious force is nothing other than the collective and anonymous force of the clan.” ~ Emile Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912.