Universally Manchester Festival: Lit & Phil Salon

Posted on: June 3rd, 2024 by mlpEditor

We’re hosting an absorbing afternoon as part of the Universally Manchester Festival, with three speakers set to challenge your mind and really get you thinking – about artificial intelligence (AI), enzyme engineering and 3D printing.

Lit & Phil speaker Dr Emily Collins, expert on AI, robotics, psychology, ethics and more will delve into the ethical parameters of AI – the reliability, trustworthiness and transparency of it. She’ll be framing her talk around the social history of The University of Manchester, and how it was founded in part as a response to the Industrial Revolution.

Dr Richard Obexer will speak on the amazing world of enzyme engineering, and its future use. And Brian Derby will provide insights into the wonders of 3D printing.

There’ll be time for questions and discussion will be encouraged – so get involved, learn some unexpected facts and come away with a deeper understanding of these compelling, important subjects.

Visit the Universally Manchester website to book tickets

Reducing your Carbon Footprint – Effective Carbon Offset

Posted on: May 21st, 2024 by mlpEditor

This online seminar will introduce how you can offset your own personal carbon footprint, both ineffectively and effectively.

We’ll begin with an introduction to the carbon offset methods available to the public and their efficacy.

After this introduction, Dr Jan Huckfeldt, will be joining us online from Switzerland as the Chief Commercial Officer of Climeworks, the largest Direct Air Capture (DAC) organisation on the planet. Jan will describe the role that atmospheric CO2 (the largest greenhouse gas contributor to anthropogenic climate change) plays in climate change. He will explain the reality of what this really means, and the science and practice of DAC on the journey to scale the operation to gigatonne capability.  There will also be a discussion on the economic challenges that have to be overcome.

Following Jan’s presentation, there will be a Q&A session where you will have the opportunity to ask that burning question you always wanted to know the answer to.  Maybe you want to know more about ‘greenwash’? Or better understand the relative scale of the challenge we face to restore atmospheric levels of CO2 to what is considered a safe level.  Whatever your interest, you will leave this seminar with an understanding of what you can do in reality to correct excess levels of CO2 that is already present in the atmosphere.

The sad truth about truth

Posted on: April 15th, 2024 by mlpEditor

Truth is a hot topic because it has never been as threatened as it is now.

We are living in the deeply unsettling floating world of the information revolution.  Like all major cultural upheavals, it brings wonders and benefits, but it also brings danger.  The tools and opportunities for disinformation are everywhere to see.  Ideas such as ‘post-truth’, ‘deep fake’ and ‘alternative facts’ point to the perils of mass dissemblance.

So now is the perfect time to consider what we actually mean by truth … such an innocent and simple concept … until, that is, you try to grasp it!  It is then we become aware just how slippery truth is.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? You’d better believe it!  Are you kidding?  Welcome to the branch of philosophy called epistemology.

 

The seminar will be presented by John Pickersgill

Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

The focus paper for reading in advance of the session, can be downloaded here.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

From Earth to Earth via Heaven? A history of human hubris

Posted on: December 4th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Ancient humans seemed to see themselves as deeply embedded in nature and this was reflected later in widespread Paganism.  But humanity subsequently lost its humility.  In their human origin myths, monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) granted a divine spark to our lowly formation from dust, supposedly giving us ‘dominion’ over the rest of creation.

Our exalted status carried over into the early Renaissance. But the growth of modern science, especially medicine, while reinforcing that control over nature, also demanded a much more down-to-Earth physical view of ourselves.  Darwin’s demonstration of our true genealogical origins decidedly pulled us off our spiritual pedestal.

Professor Çiğdem Balim takes us through this historical arc of human hubris from Earth via Heaven and back down to Earth again.  How do we see ourselves today?  Are we just animals crawling over the Earth?  Or are we still special in some way?

 

Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

The focus paper, written by Çiğdem and for reading in advance of the session, can be downloaded here.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

Phenomenology and Female Philosophers

Posted on: November 8th, 2023 by mlpEditor

In the prestigious 1000-page Oxford Companion to Philosophy, of all the pantheon of the greats listed in its chronological table of philosophy, the number who are female is … one!  Is this because women just can’t do philosophy as well as men?  Or is it the normal misogyny of cultural historiography, of which the history of Philosophy is alas no exception?

Sue Johnson aims to correct that gross imbalance in this March session of the Lit & Phil’s Philosophy Forum.

As a philosophy student in the 1960s, Sue despaired of the sole focus on the unworldly, arguably fussy linguistic analysis which so dominated philosophy in the Anglophone world of the 20th century.  But later she discovered Phenomenology, that wonderful philosophical tradition about ‘being in the world’ with all its messy contradictions.

That revelation subsequently enriched all her work in education research, prison reform, therapy and latterly in her intriguing book, The Prison Psychiatrist’s Wife, imbued as it is by deep philosophical questions rooted in the nature of experience.

 

Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

The focus paper written by Sue and for reading in advance of the session, can be downloaded here.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

The Darkness at the Heart of the Enlightenment: Kant’s Racism

Posted on: October 16th, 2023 by mlpEditor

We like to think of the Enlightenment as a glorious period where ideas were driven by rationality and evidence.  But, of course, it’s not as easy as that.

The history of human ideas is blemished with personal and cultural beliefs we find repulsive today.  Immanuel Kant, arguably the greatest 18th century European philosopher and source of so many ideas in modern philosophy, neuroscience and psychology, was sadly no exception.

In this January session of the Lit & Phil’s Philosophy Forum, Dr Keekok Lee – philosopher, author and Honorary Research Professor/Fellow at the University of Manchester – will guide us through the ethical minefield of how we can maturely face up to the past by looking at Kant’s racism.

You don’t need any prior knowledge of Kant’s work. The theme of this Forum is about how we deal with uncomfortable facts about our cultural past.

So, can we judge Kant and his work by present day standards?  Or can we separate the wheat from the chaff, ignoring the awkward bits?  Or must we reject all of it?

The Western world morally struggles with aspects of its history and the controversial legacy of it today.  It needs much discussion!  Here is your opportunity to take part in that.

 

Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

The focus paper by Keekok (available here) should be read before the Forum to enrich and guide our discussions. You’ll get a lot more out of attending if you read the paper beforehand. Also, for this session, there is a subsidiary focus paper containing summaries and questions for our discussions. This second paper can be used as a short introduction for pre-reading, and/or a summary for post-reading.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

Free will – reality or illusion?

Posted on: October 2nd, 2023 by mlpEditor

Are we free to make our own decisions or is everything in life pre-determined for us?

Can we exercise our free will to make choices or are our choices subconsciously limited by our genes, environment and culture?

The question of whether we have free will has challenged philosophers across the ages but recent developments in neuroscience have added additional aspects to the debate.

Each of us can choose how we answer this fundamental question … or can we?

 

Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

The focus paper Free will – reality or illusion should be read before the Forum to enrich and guide our discussions. You’ll get a lot more about of the discussions if you read the paper beforehand.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

Conscious Realism

Posted on: August 23rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

Look around you and you become conscious of different objects occupying space as time passes.  That’s the way the world is.  Or is it?  Once you start interrogating that intuition it begins to get decidedly shaky.

All you actually know about is your own consciousness of the world – not the world itself as it is when you stop observing it.  You just assume it consists of independent physical stuff.  But some philosophers don’t!

Psychists believe that reality is only consciousness.  One such is Donald Hoffman, a world-renowned professor of cognitive studies.  Wacky?  Maybe.  But remember that consciousness is all you ever know…

This is the second Forum of a double bill on metaphysics, presented by Christopher Burke.  The first session in October, Seeing is believing…but believing what?, deals with Hoffman’s related theories about perception.  But these will be covered quickly in this particular Forum so the topic of Conscious Realism can be considered independently.

 

Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

The focus paper Conscious Realism should be read before the Forum to enrich and guide our discussions. You’ll get a lot more about of the discussions if you read the paper beforehand.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

Seeing is believing…but believing what? Reality: virtual vs veridical

Posted on: August 23rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

What is reality? Is it exactly how it looks, sounds and feels to us?  In other words, is our perception veridical?  Perhaps.  But there are compelling reasons for thinking otherwise.

Perceiving the world is not like taking holiday pics.  So if our perception doesn’t tell us the way reality ‘really’ is, what does it tell us?  Many neuroscientists, psychologists and philosophers think perception is virtual: it gives us only the representations of reality we need for survival.

At this Forum, presented by Christopher Burke, we will explore a version of this theory proposed by Donald Hoffman, a world-renowned professor of cognitive studies.  Welcome to the world of fitness-payoffs and interfaces!

This is the first Forum of a double bill on metaphysics.  The second session, Conscious Realism, follows on from this one and takes place on Thursday 2nd November. It deals with Hoffman’s view of what the reality behind our perceptions actually is.  His startling conclusion is that it is not physical but just pure consciousness!   Each topic can be considered independently, but they enhance one another.

Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

The focus paper Seeing is believing should be read before the Forum to enrich and guide our discussions. You’ll get a lot more about of the discussions if you read the paper beforehand.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

I’m an absurdity – get me out of here! Absurdism and Albert Camus

Posted on: July 5th, 2023 by mlpEditor

What is the meaning of existence? The famous French-Algerian author and philosopher Albert Camus (1913-60) believed that life had no meaning. His philosophical view was called existentialist absurdism. And who has not at some point thought that life is absurd?

We each span a few decades between two oblivions on a speck of a planet in an inconceivably vast purposeless cosmos.  The omnipotent God who once granted purpose to human life is now gone from most Western people’s beliefs.  And we each get thrown into this situation … no-one asked to be born.

Is this not all an absurdity with no ultimate meaning? Albert Camus bravely faced up to this head on. Yes – existence was ultimately meaningless.  But despite this, can we still gain any meaning in our lives? Is there a possibility of hope? Let’s explore that together.

 

Good to know: We take pride in putting the fun back into serious philosophy through our friendly and respectful discussions involving different levels of experience of philosophy.  The Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is all about collectively exploring interesting and exciting ideas from different viewpoints … not winning arguments!

Bobby Mears’ focus paper I’m an absurdity – get me out of here!  should be read before the Forum to enrich and guide our discussions.

We are usually oversubscribed, so if you book but find out later that you cannot attend, please cancel your ticket to free up a place for someone else. Thank you.

 

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