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Michelangelo's Finger; a talk by Raymond Tallis

Professor Raymond Tallis discusses his new book, and is afterwards joined in conversation with Dr Brendan Larvor, followed by a Q and A with the audience.

The human ability to use the index finger to point is unique. In his new book, Michelangelo’s Finger, Raymond Tallis shows just how important this seemingly insignificant difference has been in determining humanity’s radically different evolutionary pathway.

Tallis examines how pointing the index finger has made such a significant contribution to hominid development and to the emergence of a human world set apart from nature. Starting with Michelangelo’s famous fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where the index fingers of God and Man are central to the representation of the Creation of Adam, Tallis explores the role the index finger plays in the development of our humanity. His inquiry examines the background to pointing, false claims that animals point, the significance of the failure of pointing in people with autism, the interaction between pointing and language, the relationship between pointing and power, and the ingenuity of artificial pointers. He concludes by showing how pointing casts a light on the way humans, unique among living creatures, transcend their organic condition, and lead their lives rather than merely living them.

RAYMOND TALLIS was Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester until 2006. A poet, novelist and philosopher, he was listed by the Independent in 2007 as one of fifty ‘Brains of Britain’; in 2005 Prospect magazine named him as one of Britain’s top 100 Public Intellectuals. Tallis was also elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences for his research in clinical neuroscience, and holds honorary degrees from Manchester and Hull universities for his work in philosophy. The Raymond Tallis Reader was published in 2000 by Palgrave Macmillan; Hippocratic Oaths and The Kingdom of Infinite Space were published in 2004 and 2008 by Atlantic Books.

DR BRENDAN LARVOR lectures in the department of Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire. He specialises in the history and philosophy of science and mathematics, with special reference to the forms of argument specific to each discipline

Dr Larvor also has interests in ethics and in the shortcomings of formal rationality theories. He wrote Relativism Explained for teachers and students. He was one of the signatories to a letter supporting a holiday on Charles’ Darwin’s birthday, published in The Times on February 12, 2003, and also sent to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. In March 2004 he wrote a response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech on atheism and RE, and he co-edited Thinking About Death.


Prof Raymond Tallis | talks | www
Dr Brendan Larvor | talks | www


Date and Time:

17 February 2010 at 6:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



Conway Hall
Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
0207 242 8034

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