Darwin and Human Nature

19 April 2012 - 20 April 2012

CRASSH, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DT



Dr Paul White (Darwin Correspondence Project/History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge)
Dr Sophie Defrance
(Darwin Correspondence Project, Cambridge)
Prof James Secord
(History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge)

Conference Summary

A series of intersecting boundaries have defined the human from the mid-19th century to the present: human/animal, civilized/savage, woman/man, mind/machine, and nature/culture. This conference will examine how different disciplines have constructed and contested these boundaries, and will reflect on the legacy of Darwinian frameworks of the 'human' today.



Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH), University of Cambridge, the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation.  

Accommodation for non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms

University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.


Administrative assistance: Helga Brandt (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)


Thursday 19 April


10.30 - 11.00

Registration and coffee

11.00 - 11.15

Welcome and Introduction

11.15 - 13.00

Session 1: Animal/human
(Chair: Paul White, Darwin Correspondence Project and HPS, Cambridge)

  • David Feller (HPS, Cambridge)
    Darwin and emotional effluvium:  what the dog's nose knows
  • Kathryn Tabb (Philosophy, Pittsburg)
    Darwin and medical associationism
  • Tim Crane (Philosophy, Cambridge)
    What is at issue in the debate about human uniqueness?

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.45

Session 2: Savagery/self-hood/environment
(Chair: Gillian Beer, English, Cambridge)

  • Philippa Levine (History, University of Texas, Austin)
    Darwin and the savages revisited
  • Tiffany Watt-Smith (English and Drama, Queen Mary, University of London)
    Theatricality, emotions and the self in Darwin's 'Expression'
  • Angelique Richardson (English, Exeter)
    Darwin, Galton and the environment

15.45 - 16.15

Tea/ coffee

16.15 - 17.45

Session 3: Nature/culture
(Chair: Tim Lewens, HPS, Cambridge)

  • Catherine Wilson (Philosophy, Aberdeen)
    Moral sensibility in Darwin’s notebooks
  • John Dupré (Philosophy, Exeter)
    Post-genomic biology and human freedom

17.45 – 18.45

Drinks reception


Friday 20 April


10.30 – 12.00

Session 4: Man/woman
(Chair: Carolyn Burdett, English, Birkbeck)

  • Elizabeth Wilson (Women's Studies, Emory University)
    Co-adaptations of gender: feminism, Darwin and Lamarckian habit
  • Paul White (DCP and HPS)
    Darwinian masculinities

12.00 - 13.00 


13.00 -14.15

Session 5:  Mind/body/machine
(Chair: Jim Secord, HPS and DCP, Cambridge)

  • Francis Neary (DCP and HPS, Cambridge)
    Animal and human automatism
  • Roger Smith (History of Science, Moscow)
    Evolution and mental agency

14.15 - 14.45

Tea/ coffee

14.45 - 16.15

Session 6: Roundtable and discussion

  • Panellists
    Tim Lewens
    Carolyn Burdett
    Gillian Beer
    Jim Secord