How Can I be a Logician Before I'm a Human Being? The Role of Biography in the Understanding of Intellectuals



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How Can I Be a Logician Before I'm a Human Being? The Role of Biography in the Understanding of Intellectuals

Date: 19/09/2014

Location: National Library of Australia

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich

On behalf of the Council of the National Library and all of my colleagues welcome to the National Library of Australia and to the Seymour Biography Lecture for 2014. I’m Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and I’m the Director-General of the National Library.

As we begin I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, I thank their Elders past and present for caring for this land that we are now privileged to call home.

The Seymour Biography Lecture is a celebration of the tradition of telling stories, particularly of telling true stories about people’s lives. It is also an opportunity to explore the craft of life writing in all its forms and how biography can play an important role in helping us to understand a person and his or her work.

It is a pleasure to have your company for this year’s Seymour Biography Lecture. The lecture is named in honour of John and Heather Seymour, who are both with us this evening, and without whose support the lecture would not be possible.

John and Heather are devoted and discerning readers of the literary forms that we call biography, autobiography and memoire, of course many of us share that passion. But John and Heather have chosen to express their interest in life writing through their support for the lecture and also for an annual scholarship. They support a summer scholarship in biography as part of the Library’s summer program for young scholars, and in so doing they are helping to develop the life writers of the future.

Heather and John you are wonderful and loved friends of the National Library and we thank you for your generosity and support. It is a rare treat and it is a privilege this evening to have Professor Ray Monk with us to deliver the 2014 Seymour Biography Lecture.

Ray Monk is Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Hampton in the United Kingdom, and as of today it is still United, where he has taught since 1992. His interests lie in the philosophy of mathematics, the history of analytic philosophy and philosophical aspects of biographical writing. He is an acclaimed biographer of the award winning – having written the award winning Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, a two volume biography of Bertrand Russell and the more recent and universally lorded Inside the Centre, the Life of J Robert Oppenheimer.

Ray we note from your Twitter page that you are also an unashamed Dr Who fan, and a ukulele player and we are all going to be alert to see if you can weave the new Dr Who or the ukulele into your lecture tonight.

In 2012, in the Guardian, Stewart Jefferies wrote “Monk is surely one of the heroes of the golden age of British biographical writing”. His lecture is titled “How can I be a logician before I am a human being the role of biography in the understanding of intellectuals”. Please welcome Professor Ray Monk to present the 2014 Seymour Biography Lecture.




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