by Sandy Pyer, OLLI member
Hubert Dreyfus, professor emeritus of philosophy at UC Berkeley, lights up when he engages in discussing his favorite philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty. These may not be familiar household names, but he will apply their theories to the course he will be teaching for the Winter term. Using Homer's Odyssey and Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Professor Dreyfus will take OLLI students on a journey from polytheism to monotheism. And perhaps back again.
Professor Dreyfus was born in Terre Haute, Indiana. Population of 62,000. He describes it as "the middle of nowhere." He recognized early on that all the smart kids in school were on the debating team. He amusingly recalls making a trip to Harvard and then being recused by the debating coach, who knew he was destined to go to there.
Initially intending to major in physics, it took only one class in philosophy to set him on his academic career path. Professor Dreyfus received his B.A. with highest honors in philosophy from Harvard in 1951, and stayed on to complete his Ph.D. in 1964.
He taught at Brandeis University and MIT prior to joining the faculty at UC Berkeley in 1968. Internationally, he has taught in France, Austria, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, The Netherlands, Peru, and Japan. His passion for teaching is shared by his brother, Stuart, who is a professor emeritus in the mathematics department at UC Berkeley, with whom he had the opportunity to co-teach a class titled "Mind over Machine," which related to artificial intelligence.
Professor Dreyfus is co-author of All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age with Sean Kelly, professor and chair of philosophy at Harvard, which will be released in January 2011. It is intended for a non-specialist audience, with the hope to bring a wide range of people into the discussion of philosophical and literary issues. He maintains a blog and podcasts of his lectures are available online. (Hear podcasts of his lectures for the UC Berkeley course Philosophy 189: Heidegger's Being and Time by going to http://webcast.berkeley.edu/course_details.php?seriesid=1906978537).