Prof. Donald D. Hoffman: Mill, Mind and Monad. Leibniz and the Problem of Consciousness

Lebniz Campus Lecture am 24.04.2017, 18 Uhr im Lichthof

Der Vortrag ist in englischer Sprache. | The lecture will be held in English.

If I have a visual experience that I describe as a red tomato a meter away, then I am inclined to believe that there is, in fact, a red tomato a meter away, even if I close my eyes. I believe that my perceptions of spacetime and objects are, in the normal case, veridical-that they accurately depict aspects of the real world. But is my belief supported by our best science? In particular: Does evolution by natural selection favor veridical perceptions? Many scientists and philosophers claim that it does. But this claim, though plausible, has not been properly tested. In this talk I present a new theorem: Veridical perceptions are never more fit than non-veridical perceptions which are simply tuned to the relevant fitness functions. This entails that perception is not a window on reality; it is more like a desktop interface on your laptop. I discuss this interface theory of perception and its implications for one of the most puzzling unsolved problems in science: the relationship between brain activity and conscious experiences. Leibniz anticipated this work by two centuries, with his famous gap, mill and monadology.

Donald Hoffman is a cognitive scientist and author of more than 100 scientific papers and three books, including Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See (W.W. Norton, 2000). He received his BA from UCLA in Quantitative Psychology and his Ph.D. from MIT in Computational Psychology. He joined the faculty of UC Irvine in 1983, where he is now a full professor in the departments of cognitive science, computer science and philosophy. He received a Distinguished Scientific Award of the American Psychological Association for early career research into visual perception, the Rustum Roy Award of the Chopra Foundation, and the Troland Research Award of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has a TED Talk entitled "Do we see reality as it is?"

Donald Hoffman Donald Hoffman Donald Hoffman

The Leibniz Campus Lecture is a new lecture series aimed at an interested general public in Hannover and Region, as well as the students and staff of Leibniz Universität.  

The lecture recording is available at