Have you got time?

Posted on: December 1st, 2022 by mlpEditor

Tempus fugit (time flies).  And a new year seems an appropriate time to think about time.  But have you got time?  If you are reading this, then the answer is probably ’yes’.  But have you got time, meaning have you understood it?  Then the answer is probably ‘no’.  Time has been a persistent philosophical conundrum for a very long time (!).  Perplexing, paradoxical and problematic … but a concept we couldn’t manage without.

Our friendly and respectful discussion will focus upon seven possible explorations of time covering the aesthetic, scientific, historical, literary and semiotic.  Is time the only reason everything doesn’t happen at once, as Albert Einstein quipped?  Is it merely a comparison of spatial changes or is it an independent aspect of existence?  What is the relationship between subjective time and chronological time as measured by clocks?

Recommended for background reading are two articles from ‘Philosophy Now’ magazine:

‘Time & Change’ by Raymond Tallis

‘Calling Time’ by Anthony Proctor

Good to know: These two articles are included in the focus material, which will be shared with event registrants.

“Time’s wingèd chariot [is] hurrying near” … so book a place now. It will be time well spent!

A gathering to discuss one of the oldest questions

Posted on: November 21st, 2022 by mlpEditor

By Liam MacGregor-Hastie

They say that “all energy used for brain metabolism is finally transformed into heat”. If so, this cold November night was no match for the neural activity that took place at the Friend’s Meeting House. 

Here, many budding philosophers gathered to carry on a discussion as old as time itself. One that has spanned over 3,000 years and which has gifted us many of our most cherished intellects. From Anselm to Avicenna, from Descartes to Leibniz, from Spinoza to Hume and onwards. Many great philosophers have found fame in their attempts to answer this question:  

“Does God exist?”

We have long been familiar with the ideas that God could either exist or not exist at all. But life isn’t black or white, the Philosophy Forum attendees know this very well. We gathered to discuss the potential alternatives to this dichotomy.

The previous month’s debate, between Philip Goff and Jack Symes, set the tone for this discussion. At Bridge 5 Mill, Manchester, they unpicked different ways of making sense of God.

Finding a rational explanation for God’s existence is no walk in the park. In doing so, we follow in the footsteps of the Enlightenment thinkers.

Those revolutionary thinkers risked their lives in the name of reason itself. Because of them, many years later, we can enjoy such civil and open-minded discussions as we did at the Forum. Here people from all walks of life, atheist and religious, young and old, gladly had their beliefs challenged. 

Between Theism and Atheism stands a chasm of possibility. Could a solution come from ‘depersonalising’ God? By not thinking about ‘it’ as having a human form, can we begin to make sense of God rationally? Can we think of it as a natural process or as a substance that pervades all things?

The aim is not to reach a conclusion but to question our beliefs. ‘Absolute knowledge’ is the antithesis of Philosophy. As one attendee put it: 

…knowledge can only be relative, not absolute. Wisdom comes from accepting this.

All in attendance left the event in good spirits, a little wiser and a little more agnostic than they walked in. 

For a more detailed understanding of what we discussed, click here to read the Focus Paper ‘Is belief beyond the natural beyond belief?’, written by Christopher Burke.

Our next Philosophy Forum meeting will take place on the 12th of December 2022. We will be discussing Utilitarianism, the belief that we should make decisions based on how much pleasure they will give us. Is ‘happiness’ a valid metric for decision making, especially on a large scale?

Utilitarianism: Can maximal happiness in society be the basis of ethics?

Posted on: November 17th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Utilitarianism is the theory that morality need only be understood in terms of its utility to society. So, what is morality? Is it, as Utilitarianism implies, adaptable to the moods of time? Or is there an impersonal ethical anchor governing us all?

In this friendly and inclusive forum, we will examine Utilitarianism through a short introduction by Pierre Waugh, followed by discussions in small groups.

Utilitarianism seems intuitive in explaining why morality should exist in the first place: bringing about the happiness and fulfilment of the greatest number of people in a world that requires coexistence with others. If we call happiness good and unhappiness bad, then our very social language ascribes the same qualities to morality as it does to feeling. So why not maximise the good?

But can the aggregation of people’s personal happiness be a sufficient reason to govern all our decisions? Or is it more complex than that when different people’s interests conflict with one another? As with any theory, the nature of what it represents must be questioned.

Good to know: All you need to attend this relaxed discussion group is an enquiring mind.  We accommodate different levels of philosophical experience. You may find it useful to watch this 15 minute video published on the Royal Institute of Philosophy’s website beforehand.

Is belief ‘beyond the natural’ beyond belief?

Posted on: October 25th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Why do humans tend to reach for something ‘beyond the natural’ for insight or comfort? Is it justified?

This group discussion will continue to explore the ideas debated by Philip Goff and Jack Symes in our event Between God and Atheism (18th October).

Richard Dawkins made the point that every theist is an atheist of one sort or another. Even devout believers deny the existence of gods other than their own. But gods come in many forms. From the capricious personalities of Greek and Roman mythology and Abrahamic traditions to the god-soaked ‘atheism’ of Spinoza.

However, the supernatural need not be god-like. Some traditions, particularly in Eastern thought, have a less individualistic ‘spiritual’ conception of the transcendental, including pantheism. These days, Western intelligentsia normally contend that the natural is sufficient and other beliefs are unjustified. So why do humans continue to look for something (not necessarily a god) beyond the natural for either intellectual or emotional reasons.

We will explore whether there is a dichotomy between theism and atheism or intermediate stages of belief.

Is there such a thing as physicalism?

Posted on: August 15th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Physicalism is the theory that all phenomena are fundamentally physical in origin.

It argues that anything, from thoughts and feelings to the Aurora Borealis, has a natural and physical explanation whether we as humans understand it yet or not.

During this meeting of the Lit & Phil’s Philosophy Forum, we will explore this theory and its implications, in an accessible and friendly way. Attendees will then be encouraged to investigate and share their thoughts with the group.

Between God and Atheism: a live debate

Posted on: July 13th, 2022 by mlpAdmin

If you don’t believe in the God of the Bible or the Quran, then you must think we live in a meaningless universe, right?

People get stuck in dichotomies of thought. If you don’t like Soviet Communism, then you must be in favour of US-style capitalism. Well, not if there are political opinions other than those two (which of course there are).

Another dichotomy is between traditional religion and atheism. Whose team are you on, Richard Dawkins’ or the Pope’s?

In reality, a significant number of people consider themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’. These people find themselves somewhere between Dawkins and the Pope. Somewhere between God and atheism.

Philosopher Philip Goff is currently working on a book which argues for a surprising combination of views: God does not exist and yet there is a purpose to the universe. In this live discussion, Philip Goff and Jack Symes will debate the credibility and implications of such a view. Is it reasonable to claim that “God does not exist” and can we make use of cosmic purpose in the absence of God?

The event will be in the form of a debate, and contributions from the audience will be encouraged.