Tue, 10 Jan 2012
Mark FieldingCreationism vs Darwinism: The Historical Story
The clash between Darwinists and Creationists is one of the most compelling public debates of recent times. This talk suggests that the origins of both positions lies in the general decline in religious faith since the Enlightenment.

 Tue, Feb 7th 2012
Ben BasingMusical Platonism: Is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony a Platonic Form ?

If Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is a series of pitches in a given order, then it is almost conceivable that some cosmic coincidence might have produced a sound sequence that really was Beethoven’s symphony before Ludwig himself was born. In which case the symphony was discovered not invented – does this make any sense ? I will be talking about Plato,
Beethoven, Pink Floyd and Popper in that order (more or less) offering another argument against Descartes.

Sat, Feb 11th 2012
Prof. John Clarke – The Philosophy of Isaiah Berlin

We will begin by outlining Berlin’s background in Russia, his education, his connection with European Romantic thought, his exile to England in 1921, and then his career as a leading Oxford philosopher. We will then examine his important contributions to moral
and political philosophy, focusing mainly on his original ideas about freedom, and on his claim that plurality and conflict are integral to our identities as human

Tue, Mar 6th 2012
Jim McCluskeyNuclear Energy – an idea whose time has gone ?
In his introduction to a discussion Jim will explain why nuclear power is too dangerous, too expensive and too disempowering for us citizens to accept instead of the ample resources for renewable and benign energy

Sat, March 24th 2012
Jane O’Grady – The Philosophy of Romantic Love on

Falling in love – is it something we do, or something that happens to us? How far is it ‘natural’ and instinctive, how far is it just constructed — by culture and by individuals? Philosophising about love, we look not only at Plato, Schopenhauer and Sartre but at evolutionary biology, neuroscience, anthropology, literature, and the history of Courtly 

Tue, Apr 10th 2012
Bob Clarke – ‘Denigrating Reason’

Some people think that ‘The West’ is too wedded to Reason. But if you look back through history you will see just how keenly, inventively and frequently Western thinkers and the purveyors of popular Western culture have attacked the application of Reason. I will be looking at many of the different ways in which we in the West have disparaged and caricatured the application of our human rational capacities, and will be suggesting that
this has not been good for our culture!

Tue, May 8th  2012
Peter BowmanIs Life a Struggle ? “Mutual Aid” – an Alternative View of Nature to the Struggle for Life

In 1888 Thomas Huxley published  “Struggle for Life Manifesto” which was  strongly influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution and portrayed the way nature works and therefore how men were compelled to behave through the metaphor of gladiatorial combat. In response Peter Kropotkin, the anarchist Prince, wrote “Mutual Aid – A factor of
Evolution” which emphasized co-operative aspect of nature. How important is this
alternative view of nature and how well has is stood up to developments in biology over the last century ?

Sat, May 26th 2012
Mark FieldingPragmatism, Humanism, and Social Hope

Pragmatism is the uniquely American contribution to the History of Philosophy. It’s origins are strongly humanistic, and we first discuss the way in which this is developed in the work of William James and John Dewey. We next consider the challenges raised for the
progressive nature of contemporary pragmatism, particularly in the wake of the War on Terror.

Tue, June 12th 2012.
Jim McCluskey & Martin Birdseye – Review Two Recently Published Books
 Two recently-publis​hed books with related philosophical implications will be reviewed. In the first hour Jim McCluskey will talk about Rupert Sheldrake’s book The Science Delusion. This is in answer to Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion. Sheldrake explains that in the minds of many, Science itself has been elevated to Godhood, Supported by a religion with its own dogmas; ten of which He explores in ten chapters.. 

In the second hour, Martin Birdseye will review Absence of Mind: The Dispelling of 
Inwardness from the Modern myth of the Self
by Marilynne Robinson, who argues
that scientific reasoning should not denote a sense of logical infallibility, but a search for answers, and critically that contrary to
the prevailing “parascientific​” culture, we know that we have minds that are capable of altruism and can experience compassion and conscience.

Saturday, July 7th 2012
Simon CorbinI Think Therefore…?

Is there a ‘ghost in the machine’? Are we just brains in a vat? Can we ever really ‘know’ our true ourselves? Are ‘thinking’ and ‘being’ the same thing?

All of these questions derive directly from the work of
‘the father of Modern Philosophy’ –Rene Descartes. Since Descartes defined
‘the cogito’ (the famous declaration “I think therefore I am”) academic philosophers have studied these questions in Descartes’ shadow – and the popular imagination has been endlessly inspired.

In this talk on the theme of ‘The Cogito – from Descartes to The Matrix and beyond’, 
Simon Corbin examines how the work of Descartes has affected our sense of the self and influenced popular culture.

Saturday, Sep 29th 2012
Christopher Hamilton‘Philosophy and Tragedy’
Tragedy can be thought of in three ways: as a form of theatre; as a comment on misfortune and suffering in the world; and as a perspective on life. We shall explore the last of these, that is, the idea of a tragic view of life, though we shall also draw on the other notions mentioned. How are we to understand from a philosophical point of view the idea that life is tragic? Is ours a tragic age? And if it is, what resources do we need to respond to the nature of existence in the modern world?

Tuesday, Oct 9th 2012
Bernard Miller – ‘Freedom from the Known’ 

Krishnamurti spent his life examining the roots of psychological disorder derived from the artificial division between the thinker and the thought, the observer and the observed. 

He questions whether the brain can ever be free from the conditioning of knowledge as the source of personal and inter-personal conflict.  Freedom is synonymous with “choiceless awareness”.

A short video will be shown.

Thursday, Nov 15th 2012
Heward Wilkinson – Do Roots in Bardic Poetic Inspiration turn the Philosopher into a Theologian ? The Case of Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Some quite readable links are:


If anyone wants to dip into Biographia Literaria, it is at:


I shall also be drawing from Vol 5. of the Notebooks:

and from John Livingstone Lowes on Coleridge and the creative process:

Saturday, Nov 24th 2012
Jane O’Grady – The Philosophy of Romantic) Love (Part 2) 

In The Philosophy of (Romantic) Love Part 1 in March, we looked at Plato, the Stoics, Augustine and Courtly Love in the attempt to make sense of the paradoxes of romantic love, and to examine how our ideas of it are affected by changing ideas about the self, and what it is to be a human being and to be a man or woman. In Part 2, we’ll apply the same enquiry to Shakespeare, Hume, Schopenhauer, the Romantics, Sartre and others. 

Tuesday, Dec 11th 2012
Bob Clarke – What can We do with Kantian Ethics ?

Can we or should we make use of Kant’s ethical theories when trying to formulate our  moral principles? Are they viable in ‘the real world’ for guiding our day-to-day moral
decisions? What was Kant aiming to do when he formulated them?  Can Kant’s premises be acceptable in the Twenty-First Century? Why Kant? Why not Utilitarianism or Virtue Ethics? These questions will be critically assessed from a number of perspectives and some tentative answers will be offered. This will necessarily be a rapid and superficial survey, but further reading will be suggested.