Hubert Dreyfus (1929-2017)

dreyfus_car.jpgI heard the news yesterday that Hubert Dreyfus had died at the age of 87. While it was shared on social media, it took a while for an official notification. Dreyfus’s Twitter account simply said ‘Reports of my demise are not exaggerated’.

Dreyfus was a Professor of Philosophy at University of California, Berkeley, and was still teaching a class a semester. He is known for his work on Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger and Foucault, and on artificial intelligence, among other themes. His lectures on Heidegger were very influential, and led to the book Being-in-the-World, and his co-authored book on Foucault with Paul Rabinow was very important. Neither of these books were uncontroversial, of course, but his role in introducing continental theorists to the US and Anglophone world was considerable.

I met him only once, almost twenty years ago, at a conference at the University of Essex when I was a PhD student. I gave a talk on Heidegger and Hölderlin, which became my first journal publication (read it here). I don’t think he was in the audience for that session, but we had a talk about Heidegger, Foucault and space in one of the breaks, and he was very generous with his time. In particular he suggested that I talk more to Béatrice Han-Pile, whom I met at that conference, and to get in contact with Jeff Malpas. Both were excellent people to talk to, and I am still in touch with both, and I’m extremely grateful for that. He kindly answered some questions by email following this event. I’d hoped to speak to him when I visited Berkeley in 2015 to do work on the Foucault papers archived there, but it didn’t work out. I did spot his beautiful car parked on campus though – immortalised in the covers of the collections on Dreyfus’s work edited by Malpas and Mark Wrathall.

The interview below gives a sense of the breadth of his interests.

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