Dr. Ronald de SousaDr. Ronald de Sousa was brought up in Switzerland, England and France, before getting his doctorate from Princeton and taking up a teaching position at the University of Toronto., where he is currently Professor Emeritus of Philosophy.  His current research bears on emotions, sex and love, and the bearing of the dual processing hypothesis on emotional rationality.  His more recent books include Why Think? Evolution and the Rational Mind (2007), Emotional Truth (2011) and Love, a Very Short Introduction (2015).

Dr. de Sousa will be giving the following keynote lecture, as well as participating in the panel on Terrorism & Heroism for the 9th Biennial International Meaning Conference, July 28-31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.

Keynote Title

Temperament and the Meaning of Life

Scheduled for Sunday, July 31, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM


Questions about the meaning of life elicit deep-seated disagreements. These are driven, I shall suggest, by temperamental polarities that define attitudes to three questions: 1. Where does meaning come from? Does it require a transcendent source, or does all meaning proceed from our own projects and those of our fellow humans?  2. How should we live in time? Can meaning be ascribed only to a life as a whole? Should we toil for an ever-receding future? Or should we live in the now? 3. Is there intrinsic value to suffering? Does true meaning require pain and sacrifice–if only to contrast with pleasure? Or should we be satisfied with utilitarian common sense, regarding all suffering as inherently meaningless? Attitudes to these questions form patterns that might predict, among other things, the likelihood of an individual’s committing to a life of extremes—as a saint, a hero, or a terrorist.

Learning Objectives

I hope that as a result of my contribution, listeners might attain:

  1. A clearer understanding of the different ways we might make sense of the word “meaning” in phrases such as “the meaning of life” or “meaningful experience”;
  2. An ability to explain how that sense of meaning relates to the more pedestrian meaning of “meaning” in the semantic sense that interests linguists;
  3. The formulation of some predictive hypotheses about the psychological conditions under which different individuals experience themselves as living a meaningful life;
  4. An understanding of how the great variety of human temperaments forms the ground in which individuals root authentic existential choices;
  5. The achievement of a critical perspective on the transition between a taxonomy of temperamental types and the elaboration of defensible values and norms.

Panel Title

Terrorism & Heroism

Scheduled for Sunday, July 31, 11:15 AM – 1:15 PM