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Inaugural Lecture - Professor Barbara Taylor - Philosophical Solitude

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ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre

Queen Mary University of London

Mile End Road

E1 4NS

United Kingdom

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Inaugural Lecture

Professor Barbara Taylor - Philosophical Solitude

Chaired by Professor Cora Kaplan

The philosopher mediating alone in his study is a cliché of western culture. But behind the hackneyed image lies a long history of controversy. Was solitude the ‘school of genius’, as Edward Gibbon claimed, or did it breed irrationalism, dogmatism and melancholy, as Dr Johnson and others insisted? In the 1730s David Hume suffered a breakdown which he attributed to his solitary philosophising; three decades later, in a much-publicised quarrel with Jean-Jacques Rousseau,Hume attacked Rousseau’s reclusiveness as ‘savage’, ‘bestial’,the mark of an ‘arrant madman’. A life of lone thought was pathological: a judgement that still finds echoes in present-day concerns about social isolation and loneliness.

Barbara Taylor is Professor of Humanities at Queen Mary, based in the Schools of History and English andDrama. She is currently leading a 4-year project, ‘Pathologies of Solitude,18th – 21st C’, funded by the Wellcome Trust.






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ArtsTwo Lecture Theatre

Queen Mary University of London

Mile End Road

E1 4NS

United Kingdom

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