Past Events

Oct 2018

Justice: a Compassion-Based Theory – 27/10/2018 (Saturday):

A Saturday School presented by Fauzia Rahman-Greasley

Justice is a central concept in ethics, law, and politics. We generally think of justice as good and desirable; whereas injustice is considered bad and undesirable: no one would choose to be treated unjustly. Yet defining justice is notoriously difficult and the subject of on-going philosophical debate.

This day school starts by exploring some of the ways in which justice has been understood by philosophers, past and present. It will be shown that theories of justice based on utilitarianism, contractarianism and egalitarianism fail to explain widely-held beliefs about what justice requires us to do in a wide and varied range of circumstances. Recent findings from developmental psychology and psychotherapy will be drawn upon in order to support a compassion-based theory of justice. The theory will be defended against a series of objections. Finally, some practical implications of the theory will be discussed, especially regarding education, medical ethics, and criminal law.


Sep 2018

The Core Imagination – 27/09/2018 (Thursday):

Imagination Part 1 – A Talk by Bob Clarke

An examination of the proposition, formulated by Enlightenment Empiricist philosophers and by Immanuel Kant, that our Imagination is central to our very way of being in the world. How does this proposition fare when seen from the perspectives of contemporary neurological and cognitive sciences? It may be that the ‘Creative Imagination’, which is so important for the Arts and Sciences, arises from an ‘overflowing’ of our Core Imagination, which is essential for us to be able to make any sense of the world at all! The talk will fall into three sections: (1) The Productive Imagination, (2) “If”, (3) Causality.

 


Jun 2018

The Simple-Minded Metaphor – 16/06/2018 (Saturday):

A Saturday School led by Yasemin Erden

In this talk I’ll argue that the brain is not a digital computer. I’ll suggest that claims to the contrary misunderstand the power of this kind of metaphor. Likewise for models that present the brain in purely mechanistic terms. To defend this position, I’ll present Searle’s argument that computation is observer relative. I’ll also bring in Kant on the necessary unity of consciousness in relation to objects and concepts. Finally we will also consider Wittgenstein’s ideas on metaphor (simile) and how language can seduce us.


May 2018

The Irrestisible Rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – 29/05/2018 (Tuesday):

The Irresistible Rise of Artificial Intelligence: “Utopia or Dystopia”?

A number of short presentations, proceeding from a summary of what artificial inteligence is and how it is developing, to a consideration of the implications of AI for human beings.

 


Apr 2018

Karl Marx, Alive or Dead? A Philosophical Investigation – 14/04/2018 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with John Clarke

This talk will focus, not on the later Marx of Das Kapital, but on his early philosophical writings, influenced by Kant, Hegelian Idealism, and Romanticism. These writings, many of which were only rediscovered long after his death, were a powerful protest against humanity’s sense of alienation and the loss of inner as well as external freedom, and against the systemic dehumanisation of the working conditions of his time. The talk will also speculate about the relevance of these writings to our own time where the question of our humanity and its future is once again a spectre haunting us. 

 


Mar 2018

Deepak Chopra and What Happens After We Die – 15/03/2018 (Thursday):

Presented by Jim McCluskey

Further details will be posted here


Feb 2018

Hegel and Progress – 24/02/2018 (Saturday):

A Saturday School presented by Phil Walden

What does Hegel mean by the increasing instantiation of rational principles as history unfolds?  Surely, history is characterised by good and bad in equal measure (or good and evil if you prefer)?  Not according to Hegel.  The Swabian philosopher has been subject to various charges of arrogance or the like by such illustrious figures as Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper (and many more).  Whilst acknowledging that Hegel made mistakes, the speaker will try to show that his philosophical system and philosophical method represented a high point in philosophy which we have yet to recover, let alone surpass. This is not a hagiography, but I hope to show how Hegel might help us with the problems of today such as entrenched neoliberalism and postmodernism.


Jan 2018

Nuances of Language – 18/01/2018 (Thursday):

Presenter: Monica Booth

Taken as a system of communication between members of multifarious social groups for cooperating, whether spoken, written, or in sign, language between human beings differentiates itself from language between non-human beings by its nature of having infinite productivity and creativity. Yet, at the same time it depends on the unequivocal acceptance of certain notions, standardized in convention by cooperative individuals and members of social groups, especially if progress is to occur.

If progress is taken to mean either positivism or intuitionism, then the nature of relationship between “language” and “thinking” becomes important. “Thinking” itself has a number of linguistic and philosophical presuppositions.

This talk will give examples beginning with an overview of the general functions of language in Western traditions and finishing with the work of J L Austin, a philosopher of language and mind, who pioneered linguistic phenomenology.

 

 

 


Dec 2017

Narrative and Post-Truth Reality - Should we be worried about 'Alternative Facts'? – 02/12/2017 (Saturday):

Presented by Filiz Peach

The reason I chose this topic is due to the fact that ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth era’ seem to be all around us, particularly during the past couple of years. There is a noticeable decline of the principles regarding what is discussed and narrated in the Public Sphere. It seems that honesty and accuracy are no longer considered to be the highest priority. Does truth not matter to us any more? Can there be different versions of truth? At the moment, individual private views (political, social or cultural) are universally accessible to the whole world. How does this state of affairs affect public opinion? Does it have an effect on democracy? Is it a new phenomenon or have we always had it in different forms in the past? Some argue that the global network has become a dangerous structure. To what extent can it be true? In order to address all these questions we shall discuss some significant concepts, such as narrative, time and post-modernity which are closely connected with ‘post truth trend’.


Nov 2017

German Idealism and English Poetry: Wordsworth and Schelling – 13/11/2017 (Monday):

 

A talk presented by Barrie Selwyn

This is the talk that was postponed from 7/11/17


Oct 2017

Wittgenstein - Why is he so Important? – 07/10/2017 (Saturday):

Speaker: Jim Grant 

Wittgenstein once said he felt he was writing ‘for people who would think in a different way, breathe a different air of life’ from that of his contemporaries. In the session we will examine the impact of Wittgenstein on modern philosophy, explore some of the main themes of his thought, and ask whether his very radical and distinctive conception of philosophy and philosophical method might point us towards new ways of thinking.


Sep 2017

The Nature of Mind – 21/09/2017 (Thursday):

A talk presented by Michael Southgate

The nature of the mind has long eluded a philosophical or scientific definition. We shall discuss observable functions of ‘Mind’ and consider various ‘maps’ of the mind.


Jun 2017

Has Science Stolen Philosophy's Script? – 03/06/2017 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with Professor John Clarke

A discussion of Stephen Hawking’s view that philosophy has been displaced by science in the investigation of the ultimate questions of life.


May 2017

What is Aesthetic Pleasure? – 18/05/2017 (Thursday):

A general discussion with mini-presentations on different aspects of the question.


Apr 2017

Samuel Taylor Coleridge - Poor Poet and Great Philosopher? – 11/04/2017 (Tuesday):

Peter Bulmer will be discussing Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he says:

If you thought my fact-packed session last year on the philosopher Boethius was an egregiously amusing way of passing a couple of hours, then come along to my latest extravaganza on the philosopher-poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
“In England,” STC wrote, “I am a poor poet. But in America I am judged a great philosopher.”
But just how important was he? Why isn’t his philosophical writing more widely known? Is he due a revival? Come along to the Adelaide Pub in Teddington on 11th April and find out!


Mar 2017

The Philosophy of William James – 25/03/2017 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with Jane O’Grady, London School of Philosophy

Any philosophy that leaves out subjectivity and our sense of the divine, said William James, is ‘ridiculous’. Pragmatist and psychologist, idealist and materialist, ‘systematically erratic’ – he is closer to the Continentals than to Anglo-American philosophers in tackling lived experience, both immediate and transcendent.


Feb 2017

Recent Philosophy and the Meaning of Life. – 11/02/2017 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with Chris Hamilton, Kings College London

Many philosophers in the analytic tradition have recently sought to explore the question of the meaning of life. In this class we shall discuss one or two important approaches from this tradition and see how plausible they are. We shall then think about the general approach they adopt and seek to explore an alternative approach indebted to the writings of Hannah Arendt in particular.


Jan 2017

Coining, Context, Contingency: Philosophy as History? – 19/01/2017 (Thursday):

Bob Clarke

An Exploration of the Perennial and the Historically Contingent in Philosophy.

What is the most fruitful way for philosophy and history to interact?


Dec 2016

Philosophy and Romanticism – 03/12/2016 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with Barrie Selwyn.

In the so called Romantic era, 1800 – 1850, there was an unprecedented reciprocity between Poetry and Philosophy.   Both Wordsworth and Coleridge had a well documented interest in Locke and Kant/Schelling and there were many philosophical themes running through their poems.

Key themes of talk will be:

  • Post-Enlightment redefinition of reason – new emphasis on feeling and emotion
  • New vocabularies for selfhood and interiority.
  • A secular conception of spirituality outside the confines of organized religion
  • The redefinition of Nature
  • Celebration of excess – anti-puritanism
  • Celebration of artistic creativity

 


Nov 2016

The Philosopher as Gadfly – 05/11/2016 (Saturday):

The Philosopher as Gadfly:
stimulating dialogue in science and technology
Yasemin J Erden, St. Mary’s University, London
 
I am the gadfly of the Athenian people, given to them by God, and they will never have another, if they kill me. For if you kill me you will not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and noble stead who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you (Plato, Apology, 30e-31c)
 
While on trial in Athens, Socrates is said to have presented the above defence of his life and manner of living. In so doing he urges his contemporaries to recognise the value of being irritated by philosophers and thereby offers a sort of template for what the role and value of philosophy and the philosopher might be. This talk examines the idea of the philosopher as gadfly, and as one who asks annoying or stirring questions. Within this a distinction between the two is considered, as well as how we might use dialogue as a method in such pursuits. As a way to ground these ideas, I’ll present some of my experiences with interdisciplinary work (specifically philosophy with science and technology) and talk about ethics, creativity, progress, and how we talk across disciplines

Sep 2016

Celebrating Utopia – 22/09/2016 (Thursday):

Gareth Harper will present:

Celebrating Utopia: Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ was first published in December 1516. The talk will consider how far the book was a typical product of Renaissance humanism; and whether Utopian communism was just a rhetorical device, or was intended as a blueprint for the radical re-organization of society.


Jun 2016

Karl Popper – 11/06/2016 (Saturday):

Professor John Clarke will present a Saturday School:

Karl Popper on Science, the Open Society and the Open Universe

Popper is best known for his influential ideas on the philosophy of science, but his importance extends much more widely. His concept of the ‘open society’, written in the dark days of fascist tyranny, helped to re-define the ideals of democracy and freedom in the post-war period, and his views on science led to controversial speculations about consciousness and its evolution, about free will and determinism, and to the view that the universe as a whole is in some sense creative.


May 2016

Extra-Terrestrial Life – 31/05/2016 (Tuesday):

 

How Astronomers Search for Planets and Life in the Universe

David Williams will describe the processes astronomers use to search the universe for planets.  We will discuss the various ways that humans perceive life on the Earth and the assumptions that are used in planetary searches in space.


The Philosophy of Economics – 10/05/2016 (Tuesday):

Peter Bowman on The Philosophy of Economics

This perhaps not so well known and undervalued discipline relates to economics as the philosophy of science relates to the physical science and jurisprudence to law. It provides the intellectual space in which to examine the underlying assumptions and methodology of economics. This talk will give a brief introduction to the discipline and reveal some of its unexpected findings.


Apr 2016

Being, Doing, Willing – 30/04/2016 (Saturday):

Jane O’Grady, London School of Philosophy will speak on:

    Being, Doing, Willing

The ancient Greeks and Romans are often said to have lacked a concept of ‘will’ in their picture of human nature. Yet for Augustine in the fourth century, throughout medieval philosophy, in Descartes and Kant, the will was the essential human faculty – ideally good and strong, and in any case free. What was, and is, the significance of ‘the will’?


Mar 2016

The Philosophy of Iris Murdoch – 19/03/2016 (Saturday):

Fauzia Rahman will present the Philosophy of Iris Murdoch (1919-1999).

Iris Murdoch’s philosophy was generally overlooked by her fellow academics during her lifetime. However, her moral philosophy and correlative metaphysics is inspiring a new generation.

Murdoch’s methodology is strikingly innovative, driven by her objections to moral theories which neglect the first-person perspective of ‘what it is like’ to engage with ethical dilemmas. According to Murdoch, moral judgement cannot be learned from a set of rules. Rather it requires careful attention to other persons in order to see and respond to them as they really are. For Murdoch, the moral task is to defeat ‘the fat relentless ego’.

Murdoch challenges the scientific conception of reality, claiming that the idea of objective reality undergoes important modifications when it is understood in relation to the progressing life of a person.

During this session we shall learn about Murdoch and the importance of her approach to both ethics and psychology.


Dec 2015

Is Morality Universal? – 08/12/2015 (Tuesday):

A debate


Nov 2015

Nuclear Power – 10/11/2015 (Tuesday):

Jim McCluskey will talk on Nuclear Power:

Nuclear power stations are the most dangerous artifacts that man has ever constructed. The Fukushima disaster is still raging out of control nearly five years after it started. The talk will describe the dangers from nuclear power and outline the benign alternatives.


Jun 2011

The Pilot of Life - Prof. Ray Billington – 04/06/2011 (Saturday):

‘Pilot of Life’ is a bold claim. In the UK, philosophy has often been assigned a back seat in people’s thinking. In fact many still consider it to be the reserve of only a (somewhat odd) few. Yet, from the time of the Greek philosopher Thales, 2.5 millennia ago, through to such recent philosophers as Russell, Sartre and Chomsky, philosophical perceptions have challenged people’s assumptions about, for instance, the meaning of morality because they compel us to think carefully about any theme under consideration. Philosophy means the love of wisdom, and a life without philosophy is surely a life without a pilot.