Past Events

Feb 2017

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

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:


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:

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:

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:

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.