Past Events

May 2024

Thomas More and David Hume and their Best Systems of Government – 13/05/2024 (Monday):

A Presentation by Gareth Harper:

More’s Utopia describes a system of government very different from that in place in England in the early sixteenth century; Hume’s essay Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth proposes less revolutionary changes to the system in place in the mid eighteenth century. How different/similar were the two sets of proposals? What features of those proposals subsequently became part of our present system? Do other features provide any basis for criticising our present system (is any system perfect?), or are they still too Utopian?


Apr 2024

Altruism – 15/04/2024 (Monday):

A new format will be tried. In the first forty minutes we shall listen to the discussion on altruism by Melvyn Bragg, Richard Dawkins, John Dupre, and Miranda Fricker in the 2005 edition of BBC’s In Our Time. We shall then discuss how persuasively they sorted it out. Those who would like more than one hearing can access the program on BBC’s iplayer, accessible via this link: In Our Time – Altruism – BBC Sounds


Mar 2024

What is it to be Good - and What is the Good Life? – 18/03/2024 (Monday):

 A Presentation by Stuart Devall:

What we mean by ‘Good’ – and what constitutes a good person and a good life – are vital questions that affect us all. The session will explore and consider important questions and answers provided by philosophers over many years.


Feb 2024

Minds and Brains – 19/02/2024 (Monday):

Presented by Roger Jennings

What is the relationship between our minds and our brains? Can consciousness be reduced to neurobiological processing within the brain? Can it be equated with exhibited forms of behaviour or functioning? Do our brains work much like computers and, if so, might computers think and feel? Can we reject the reduction of consciousness to physical processes without having to accept dualism i.e. belief in the existence of two fundamentally different kinds of substance, namely mind and matter? If we reject the notion of the human mind as a ‘ghost in a machine’, can we retain any meaningful notion of the human self. What is the relationship between ourselves as conscious beings and the physical reality we observe? Can we, in any meaningful sense, be said to create it? Is there any other type of reality we might be said to create? A paper examining these and related issues can be accessed via the following link:

 

https://e-voice.org.uk/kingstonphilosophycafe/files/view/philosophy-cafe-briefings/paers-by-roger-jennings/Minds_and_Brains.pdf

 


Jan 2024

Teilhard de Chardin – 15/01/2024 (Monday):

Martin Birdseye will introduce us to the thought of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Science and religion generally get along well together, each in their separate roles; but what comes out of a confluence in one individual of deep spirituality and a lifetime of analytical research into human origins? – an extensively complete philosophy, covering all of time and space, faith, humanity, metaphysics and theology.  How did this happen and what are the outcomes so far?


Dec 2023

An Open Discussion on “Following the Science” – 04/12/2023 (Monday):

 

What is meant by “Following the Science”, the phrase used by the Government to describe its response to COVID, which is now under scrutiny at the COVID public inquiry. Together we will consider the implications, for governments and for individuals, of imperfect knowledge in a fast moving world.

As preparation you might like to refer to this article:

Do we really need a scientific study for everything? (msn.com)


Nov 2023

Is there Philosophical Truth? – 06/11/2023 (Monday):

Presented by Jim Grant

I will consider the problem posed by the perennially controversial character of philosophy: the fact that, on any philosophical question you choose, philosophers have always disagreed and continue to disagree, so that on any question, there are a range of tenable positions, each of which has its defenders. The situation now is still what it was when Descartes bemoaned it in Part I of his Discourse on the Method:

I shall say nothing about philosophy, except that, seeing that it has been cultivated by the very best minds which have ever existed over several centuries, and that, nevertheless, not one of its problems is not subject to disagreement, and consequently is uncertain, I was not presumptuous enough to hope to succeed in it any better than others; and seeing how many different opinions are sustained by learned men about one item, without its being possible for more than one ever to be true, I took to be tantamount to false everything which was merely probable.

Descartes thought he could overcome this problem and establish a single body of philosophical truth on a foundation of absolute certainty, and subsequent philosophers – Kant in the 18th century, Husserl in the early 20th century, the Logical Positivists in the 1920’s and ‘30’s – have likewise attempted to establish a single agreed framework of philosophical science, but still the controversy continues.

What are we to make of this situation? Should we conclude that there is no objective philosophical truth – that, to put the matter in Platonic terms, philosophy is simply a domain of opinion and counter-opinion – there is no genuine truth to be had? And, if this is the case, what is the point of philosophical enquiry?


Oct 2023

An Open Discussion on Morality – 16/10/2023 (Monday):

All questions considered – including what Moral Relativism is; can we each adopt our own subjective opinions on morality or are there objective standards that we should follow? If so, how do these principles affect society and whose authority are we to follow when deciding what moral norms should be shaped like?  Is deciding what is right (“moral”) or wrong (“immoral” and even “amoral”) an illusionary endeavour given a deterministic world or do these terms have real meaning?  Come along on October 16th and join in the debate. After a short introduction to the topic, we are all invited to have our say on the topic. The paper ‘Who’s To Say?’ by Michael-John Turp airs some of the arguments here – see: Who’s To Say? | Issue 156 | Philosophy Now. Do have a look at it and join in with the debate with your own thoughts.


Sep 2023

On Nature – 11/09/2023 (Monday):

To be presented by Bob Clarke

We use the words ‘Nature’ and ‘Natural’ in so many contradictory ways that their meaning is obscure and their use is obfuscatory! Words like ‘Natural’ and ‘Unnatural’ reveal our attitudes towards aspects of our world, but they are so ill-defined that it is best to avoid them when we need to make policy decisions, especially those relating to Ecological Sustainability, The Biosphere and Biodiversity.

Technology permitting, this will be an illustrated talk.

References and Weblinks for this talk can be found here:

Nature Handout – Teddington 2023


Jun 2023

The Enlightenment: Did Russia get it? – 10/06/2023 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with John Clarke

The Enlightenment: did Russia get it? The historical and philosophical background to the ongoing catastrophe in Ukraine

PLEASE NOTE: This Saturday School, previously planned for 3rd June, has been postponed by one week to 10th June becasue a Train Strike is planned for 3rd June.


May 2023

Is consciousness useless? – 22/05/2023 (Monday):

An evening discussion led by Kieran Quill

The phenomenon of consciousness has always posed a severe problem for philosophical materialism (also called physicalism or naturalism in modern philosophy). Arguably highly problematic by the very definition of materialism, as consciousness seems to be an entirely, radically, unphysical “thing” . The materialist metaphysics that underlies standard versions of the biological theory of evolution is a case in point. It has therefore been proposed that consciousness is merely an “epiphenomenon” (causally useless or inert), or a “spandrel” biologically speaking, functionally inert. Or even an illusion, with no existence whatsoever. Philosophical Idealism (paradigmatic example: George Berkeley) will be briefly discussed as an alternative metaphysics to materialism


Apr 2023

Freewill, Determinism, and the Question of our Place in Time – 24/04/2023 (Monday):

A Talk by Jim Grant

Causal determinism implies (a) that everything we decide and everything we do is determined by our total state prior to the decision or action, and also (b) that that prior state is determined by our total state before that, and so on back ad infinitum. Therefore, it is argued, there is no room in our lives for genuinely free, undetermined choice or action.
However, at the level of linguistic meaning, it seems that what we say later can determine the meaning of what we said earlier. It also seems that something similar applies to thought and feeling – that what we do or say at a later point can clarify, determine what we thought or felt earlier.
I will examine this phenomenon, consider whether it involves the deeply problematic claim that the future can change the past, and also explore the possibility that it poses a challenge to the determinist assumption that a person is always in a definite, determinate state prior to choice or action.
Finally, I want to ask what all this might imply about the way we conceive ourselves in relation to time and the causal order.


Mar 2023

Fragments of a Philosophy of Rapture – 25/03/2023 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with Chris Hamilton

Philosophy has had little to say about the experience of rapture. Why is this? And what is rapture anyway? What is its place in life? This Saturday afternoon discussion will explore the notion of rapture, its relation to philosophy and its place in life. We shall draw on a number of examples from philosophy and elsewhere – those offered by e.g., Virginia Woolf, Hannah Arendt, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Werner Herzog – to try to offer a few suggestions for a philosophy of rapture.


Feb 2023

Time, Timekeeping and History – 20/02/2023 (Monday):

A talk by Roger Jennings that will outline key issues relating to: the nature and measurement of time; the implications of relativity theory and the concept of spacetime; the coherence of Presentism; Growing Block and Block Universe models of reality; the feasibility of time travel; attitudes towards time and their expression in the arts and religion; the nature of history and progress.

The talk will cover highlights of Roger’s paper on Time, Timekeeping and History, which can be found here: Time,_Timekeeping_and_History.pdf (e-voice.org.uk)

 


Jan 2023

Bias in History – 16/01/2023 (Monday):

A talk by Gareth Harper

Everyone and everything has its history, long or short. The history of philosophy, for example, is the study of successive philosophers and schools of philosophy from the Ancient Greeks to the present day. Within this broad field can be found the philosophy of history, which concerns itself with two very different questions: (a) how sound is the methodology by which history (not just philosophical history) is studied; and (b) whether history – History – is going anywhere and/or has any meaning. The talk will focus on the inescapable problem of bias in methodology; how that bias filters from both academic publications and the imaginative arts through to influence the world of international affairs, domestic politics, and social cohesion; and whether bias is countered or promoted by history’s many cliches (e.g. “bunk”).


Dec 2022

The Problematic Self – 03/12/2022 (Saturday):

For this Saturday School we are very pleased to welcome back Jane O’Grady

To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

What sense can we make of Polonius’s platitude?

What can ‘being true to yourself’ actually mean?

Jane is a tutor with The London School of Philosophy

Please Note: this Saturday School will run from 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm.

There will be a charge of £10 (cash) to cover expenses.

 


Oct 2022

Justice, Fairness and Altruism – 17/10/2022 (Monday):

Just before the first Coronavirus lock-down we were scheduled to have a meeting with a number of mini-presentations on the theme of ‘What is Justice?’. We are now expanding that to ‘Justice, Fairness, and Altruism‘, on the grounds that what is just may not be fair (and vice versa); and that if we have a society that is just and fair, would there be any need or room for altruism (but think of the prodigal son parable)? We will be considering justice, fairness and altruism in their broadest senses (political, social, economic), not just at law.

We have three speakers already preparing mini-talks, and would be happy to add a fourth …


Jun 2020

CANCELLED – 27/06/2020 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with John Clarke

Alternative arrangements will be made for this event


May 2020

CANCELLED - postponed until a later date – 21/05/2020 (Thursday):

 

Chinese Philosophy

With Iain Orr.

Iain will resent an overview of Chinese Philosophy.

Details will be posted here.


Apr 2020

CANCELLED - postponed until a later date – 23/04/2020 (Thursday):

 

Justice

A discussion evening, during which 3 or 4 members of the WLP will give short presentations upon our concepts of Justice. There will be plenty of time for everyone to respond to the ideas that are canvassed.


Mar 2020

CANCELLED - postponed until a later date – 28/03/2020 (Saturday):

 

The Problematic Self

A Saturday School with Jane O’Grady

To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.

What sense can we make of Polonius’s platitude?

What can ‘being true to yourself’ actually mean?


Feb 2020

Philosophy and Mysticism – 18/02/2020 (Tuesday):

with Peter Clark

Although often thought of as in opposition, philosophy and mysticism do share areas of common ground. This talk explores the history of this.


Jan 2020

Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil – 25/01/2020 (Saturday):

A Saturday School presented by Hannah Marije Altorf, Reader in Philosophy at St. Mary’s University

The Eichmann-trial (1961) was one of the most significant trials of the twentieth century. It attracted journalists, writers and thinkers from around the world. One of them was Hannah Arendt and it is her ‘report’, Eichmann in Jerusalem, that in the end overshadowed the trial. Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963/65) was controversial when it was published and it is controversial still, though not necessarily for the exact same reasons. It has been considered one of the most important books of moral philosophy of the twentieth century, but it has also been criticised for being sloppy history.

This Saturday afternoon offers the opportunity to reconsider the book. Participants are encouraged to read the work in advance, but this is not necessary as excerpts will be provided. We will consider the historical background, its place in Arendt’s oeuvre and some of the controversies. First and foremost we will ask whether the book is a work of moral philosophy. Important concepts to be discussed are the notion of evil, the relevance of duty, imagination and judgment, the significance of facts and of storytelling, of thinking and of consciousness.


Dec 2019

Pascal - His Wager not his Theorem! – 10/12/2019 (Tuesday):

Speaker: Gareth Harper

Anthony Kenny commented that Pascal’s wager resembles Anselm’s ontological argument in that most people who learn of it, whether theist or atheist, smell something wrong with it, without being able to agree exactly what. We shall consider the wager in its original context; and ask whether thereby it smells any better!


Nov 2019

Mental Health and Illness: a Science of Mind – 30/11/2019 (Saturday):

A Saturday School presented by Yasemin J Erden.

Have you ever wondered what the connection is between your mind and your brain? And whether your mind is a physical part of you? Say, as a manifestation of brain behaviour, or something else entirely. In this session we will explore some of these questions, and some central problems in philosophy of mind, as well as some contemporary responses to to those problems.

Philosophy of mind is increasingly interdisciplinary. Research from fields like psychology and neuroscience both challenge and support well established philosophical theories. We’ll start our session by exploring some of those theories, including dualism and materialism, and then we’ll use these as a springboard to consider topics of mental health and illness. In this way we will examine philosophical methods on the one hand, and ask whether a science of mind is possible on the other, as well as asking how the two relate.

And if you think you already know your own mind, you might be surprised by what you learn in this session. For example, did you spot the double ‘to’ somewhere in the opening paragraph of this abstract? If not, do you know why not? And if you did spot it, do you know why? I can offer some answers to these questions when we meet. So come with an open mind, and consider in the meantime what it would mean to ‘open’ a mind anyway.

 


Oct 2019

The Problem of Consciousness and the Value of the Humanities – 24/10/2019 (Thursday):

Presented by Jim Grant

Attempts to justify study in the Humanities – in, say, History, or Philosophy, or Literature – face the question: – What use does such inquiry serve? How does it benefit us? The natural sciences enable us to understand things by coming to know the laws which govern them, and this enables us to predict and control the behaviour of those things for our own benefit. What comparable benefit flows from the kinds of understanding sought in the humanities? What does such inquiry enable us to do, which we could not do otherwise?


However, it’s interesting to note that similar kinds of question are now asked about consciousness itself. The traditional problem of consciousness is: how can blooming, buzzing conscious experience arise from electro-chemical processes in the porridge-like grey matter of the brain? But, in view of our increasing success in simulating the cognitive achievements of the human mind in artificial systems which no-one supposes possess subjective consciousness, another question is coming to prominence: what essential role does consciousness play in our intelligent activity? What does it achieve, which can’t be achieved just as well without it?


The aim of my talk will be to relate questions about the ‘use’ or ‘function’ of the kinds of understanding pursued within the humanities, to this general question of the function of consciousness.


Sep 2019

Religion Through the Looking Glass of Ethics – 28/09/2019 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with John Holroyd who will speak about his newly published book ‘Judging Religion: A Dialogue for Our Time’:

There is good reason why some people don’t want to talk about religion in polite company. Like conversations about politics, discussions about religion all too often set people at odds with each other in ways that are hard to predict and difficult to control. For all the controversy involved with such debate this book invites the reader to engage with an ethical appraisal of religion(s) as they are practised today. It is written in the belief that this is an important dialogue for our time. It claims, despite the emotive character of the subject, that the free exchange of ideas and experience between people of differing views and commitments can with practice generate more light than heat. Particular effort is made to answer the question; how can we fairly evaluate the ethical character of religion(s)? It focuses especially but not at all exclusively on the religions of Christianity and Islam, being critical of them in many respects; but it also offers sharp rebuke to some of the perspectives of Richard Dawkins and others among the new atheists.


Jun 2019

Friedrich Nietzsche: the uses and abuses of philosophy – 15/06/2019 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with John Clarke

Friedrich Nietzsche: the uses and abuses of philosophy.

An investigation into the serial exploitation of his ideas.

I will be talking about his influence (deserved or otherwise) on the Nazis and more recently on the Alt-right in the US, as well as briefly about his influence on existentialism and postmodern thinking. I will be also be talking about Nietzsche’s own misuse of philosophy.

 


May 2019

Chinese Philosophy - CANCELLED – 28/05/2019 (Tuesday):

Unfortunately the presentation on Chinese Philosophy by Iain Orr has had to be cancelled due to illness.

The meeting at the Adelaide will go ahead with a discussion on philosophical matters instead.

 


Apr 2019

Causality and physical history – 16/04/2019 (Tuesday):

Björn Patricks will present the book Ubiquity.

Narratives of history are always problematic, as they are made after the event, and can offer a very limited number of causal chains. But focusing on the underlying structures and forces at work can help to make sense of historical developments. Mark Buchanan’s book Ubiquity use examples from the physical world to compare with social events to maybe shine some light on their nature.

http://mark.buchanan.pagesperso-orange.fr/books.html

Handout


Mar 2019

Has The Enlightenment been a ‘Good Thing'? – 23/03/2019 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with Jane O’Grady

Once so loved by the liberal left, and abhorred by the right, now those positions on the Enlightenment are reversed. In any case, ‘liberal’ is a dirty word. I want to look at some of the Enlightenment thinkers in the light of current Identity Politics and cultural relativism.


Feb 2019

Adorno and Negative Dialectics – 28/02/2019 (Thursday):

A talk by Monica Booth.

Adorno argues that philosophically academia breaks everything down into parts, thus doing violence to the whole. Adorno is concerned with how philosophy can recover the whole. Critical Theory / Negative Dialectics is his approach.


Jan 2019

‘No one is the author of his life’: Philosophy, Biography and Autobiography – 19/01/2019 (Saturday):

A Saturday School with Chris Hamilton

How are we to understand the kind of truth telling that is peculiar to autobiographical and biographical writing? We shall explore a number of philosophical reflections on this issue that suggest that there is no such thing as the telling of the truth of one’s own life or that of the other – though there can be, perhaps, truthful tellings. We shall develop this further by exploring Hannah Arendt’s claim that ‘no one is the author of his life’. We shall end by suggesting that the real interest of (auto)biographical writing lies in revealing what Montaigne called a person’s ‘master form’ – something like the quality of spirit revealed by the writing.


Dec 2018

Free Speech in a Democracy - too much or too little? – 15/12/2018 (Saturday):

A series of mini-presentations from WLP regulars, interspersed with discussion.


Nov 2018

Ethics and Emotions in Artificial Intelligence – 22/11/2018 (Thursday):

 A Talk by Peter Bulmer

The future of Artificial Intelligence seems to be the hot topic of 2018. Whether we like it or not, AI is set to penetrate every area of our lives. But whilst it has clear benefits for mankind, it also presents us with a set of knotty ethical problems in fields such as medicine, state surveillance, policing and sex. Do we perhaps need a Philosopher in every boardroom?

 


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.