Hubert L. Dreyfus, PhD
Professor, Department of Philosophy,
University of California, Berkeley
Hubert Dreyfus is Professor of Philosophy in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. After receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University, he taught at MIT, before coming to Berkeley in l968. He is best known for his book, What Computers Can't Do (1972), translated into twelve languages, which grew out of his encounters with the computer scientists working on Artificial Intelligence at MIT.
Using arguments drawn from the existential phenomenologists, Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Dreyfus predicted that attempts to make computers behave intelligently like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, by giving them facts and rules for making inferences from those facts, would fail by the end of the 20th century, and they have, indeed, failed.
In l987 he and his brother, Stuart, explained the already degenerating AI research program in Mind over Machine, arguing that what computers using symbolic information processing lack is the ability of human experts to respond intuitively to patterns without following rules.
Dreyfus' other influential book is Being-in-the-World: A Commentary on Division I of Heidegger's Being and Time (1991). In it he explains Heidegger's ideas in a language accessible to Anglo-American analytic philosophers, and is credited with having, thereby, made Heidegger a part of the curriculum in many major American Universities. In On the Internet (2001), he draws on the work of Merleau-Ponty to show how relevance, a sense of reality, and the possibility of serious commitments are lost when one gives up one's body to enter cyberspace.
With his co-author Prof. Sean D. Kelly, he has recently published All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular World. The book traces the way our culture gradually moved from polytheism to monotheism, and how that wiped out a sense of the sacred until we arrived at a culture in which the sacred was lost along with intensity, joy, and meaning. It concludes with a proposal of how we can bring back meaning by developing the skill of being sensitive to what is left of the meaningful world around us and nurturing this meaning so as to bring things and people out at their best.
Dreyfus has received a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of California at Berkeley. He was Berkeley Emeriti Association's Dickson Professor for 2009-2010. He has received both a Guggenheim and a Rockefeller Fellowships, as well as research grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He holds a Doctorate Honoris Causa from Erasmus University, Rotterdam, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.