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, will be shared soon.

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.

 

A surrealist’s guide to reality

Posted on: May 25th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Surrealism: the 20th century art movement where dreams and waking reality combined into a new strange ‘super-reality’.

The most cerebral of the surrealists – the man who painted philosophy – was René Magritte, a magician who conjured up a weird and wonderful world of images.

Look at his paintings, seemingly so elegant and simple at first, and you are soon sucked into a vortex of deep symbols and wry jokes about the human condition.  Magritte’s pipe painting, which paradoxically states that it is not a pipe, is one of the most famous images of all time.  But if it is not a pipe, what is it?

The focus paper A surrealist’s guide to reality is your travel guide to the representational ‘hall of mirrors’ you have just entered by asking that question. Can we decode the beautiful strangeness of Magritte’s work?  We can try…but prepare to be discombobulated!  Some of the paper is an easy read and some a bit harder.  But don’t worry if all is not clear; this is tricky stuff … just the way René liked it!

 

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 Christopher Burke, is for reading before the event, 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.

Lessons from Medieval Science, and Science-Theology Today

Posted on: May 15th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Although governments claim to ‘follow the science’, the activity we call ‘science’ and the community of ‘scientists’ can still seem cut-off, strange and remote to most people. And there is also a commonly-repeated idea that science is fundamentally opposed to religious faith.

We could arguably learn better ways of thinking about science by studying scientific thinking, and its context, from a time when it was much more integrated into learning and thought, in both these senses.

In this talk – part of the Catherdal Lecture series (2021) – Tom McLeish reported on a remarkable project involving scientists, medieval scholars, and theologians. These unusual collaborators are exploring the fascinating, perceptive, and surprisingly mathematical, work on light, colour and cosmology by Oxford master Robert Grosseteste, in the 1220s.

The project has stimulated new scientific research today, and helped explore new ways of thinking about the relationship between science and Christian faith.

What is science?

Posted on: April 26th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Everyone knows what science is … or, at least, they think they do.  Try to define it and things get a bit less clear.

The word comes from the Latin ‘scientia’, which just means ‘knowledge’. So, is science knowledge about how nature really is? How can that be true when scientific theories themselves change over time, when the reality they address surely doesn’t?  Is science just a way of thinking about the world to build a body of theories – hypotheses based on observations?  Or is it a process, a way of acquiring facts?  And what makes a scientific fact true?

Considering the importance of science in our lives, we should arguably have a clearer picture about what it is.  So, the Lit & Phil Philosophy Forum is seeking clarification from three major philosophers of science of the 20th century: Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos.

The seminar will be presented by Richard Remelie

 

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!

Richard Remelie’s focus paper What is Science?  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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