Meetings in 2014

21 January



Maria Taylor on "Discussion of Rupert Sheldrake's Book The Science Delusion"

Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and a controversial thinker who in this recent book challenges orthodox beliefs about the nature and scope of scientific knowledge. He argues that science is unnecessarily limited by assumptions that have hardened into dogmas, for example that reality is purely physical, that nature is a kind of machine, that consciousness is a brain process, that free will is an illusion.

18 February



Herbert Girardet on  "Whatever happened to 'Small is Beautiful'?"

In the late 70s E.F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful was an unexpected international bestseller. The book highlighted the excessive scale of political and economic systems, and questioned the feasibility of unlimited economic growth in a finite world. Schumacher was part of a wider movement exploring alternatives to globalisation. For the last 30 years many people have tried to protect smallness, like local ecosystems and economies, and village and family life, but globalisation has remained the dominant paradigm. The talk will explore whether in a crisis-ridden world 'smallness' is gaining a new relevance at last.  

18 March



John Clarke on  "The Self-Creating Universe: The Making of a Worldview"

The universe seems to have an irresistible urge to create. From the Big Bang to the smallest flower that blooms, the world shows at all levels a tendency to produce new self-ordering systems of ever increasing complexity. The talk will elaborate this emerging view of the natural world, examining its scientific and philosophical background, and its implications for our human values and beliefs?

15 April



Claire Hamilton and Steve Eddy on "Myth, metaphor and reality"

This joint talk focuses on the ways in which myths make use of the metaphors which we employ in everyday language and which enable us to construct narratives and thereby create the reality in which we live our lives.

20 May



John Clarke on "Is the Enlightenment Project dead?"

The philosophy of the eighteenth century Enlightenment shaped the basic principles of the Western ideology - belief in reason, material progress, universal human rights, democracy, freedom, toleration, etc. In recent years there has been a wide-ranging debate about whether this worldview has failed and is now coming to the end of its life. The talk outlines the philosophy underlying the 'Enlightenment project', and discuss whether its principles are still alive and relevant today.

17 June



Bob Clarke on "Occam's Razor: principles of parsimony in philosophy and science"

Thinkers from the time of Aristotle have adopted Principles of Parsimony, such as 'Occam's Razor', to remind them that their theories should be sparing in the number and complexity of the concepts they use. After a brief survey of these principles the talk offers an equally brief historical overview of their use, and will show that, though these principles have proved tremendously important in the development of science, they can mislead and they can stand in opposition to one another.

15 July



Peter Gandy and John Clarke on "Is nothing sacred any more?"

A debate on the question whether ideas such as the 'sacred' have any place in today's secular society, or should be discarded like outdated fashions or dangerous metaphysics.

16 September



Richard Ryder on  Painism: a New Ethic

A proposal for a modern ethical theory that avoids the pitfalls of Utilitarianism and Rights theory, and which could provide a better moral basis for our lives and politics rather than just muddling along morally speaking.

21 October



Steve Smith on Melancholy and Happiness

Exploration of the relationship between melancholy and happiness showing how melancholy can enhance happiness by contributing to 'authentic happiness', 'informed desires', and 'living in the moment', which are all important features of happiness properly understood, and as explored in contemporary philosophical literature.

18 November 2015



Jim Cross on Law and the founding of nations: the arguments of Edmund Burke and Tom Paine around the American and French Revolutions

When the Americans declared their independence on July 4th 1776, the Ancien Régime in France was only thirteen years from its overthrow. In both revolutions, Burke and Paine were heavily involved, and both developed their thought in the light of the unfolding political events.

16 December



John Clarke on Schopenhauer on Life, Art and Music

Though usually seen as a rather gloomy pessimist, Arthur Schopenhauer had some very cheerful and interesting things to say about art, and especially about music which he described as "the answer to the mystery of life, and the most profound of all the arts", and he had a big influence on Wagner and Nietzsche, as well as on many other modern artists and writers.  

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Updated 10 December 2017

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