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Tintern Philosophy Circle ~ Philosophy for All

Meetings in 2018

16 January 2018

John Clarke on Karl Marx, Alive or Dead? A Philosophical Investigation

This talk will focus, not on the later Marx of Das Kapital, but on the early philosophical writings of Marx, influenced by Kant, Romanticism and Hegelian Idealism, and with close support from his wife Jenny and his friend Friedrich Engels. 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 the early Marx to our own time where the question of our humanity and its future is once again a spectre haunting us.

20 February 2018

Dr Vanessa Dodd on The theatre of the mind

Despite the burgeoning interest in consciousness studies across several disciplines, the overall picture, dominated by scientifically orientated approaches, is largely sceptical as to whether we can really know what another human consciousness is like, whether subjective, private experience can be captured objectively, and whether one person's conscious experience can make itself known to another. In her talk Vanessa will build on the theatre-as-mind analogy (originally suggested by David Hume), as well as on insights from psychological introspection, to raise questions about whether and how we can have access to the minds of other persons.

20 March 2018

Rev Dr John Dearnley The Impact of Nineteenth Century Philosophy on the Twentieth

John's talk arises out of his interest in the impact of philosophy on historical events in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially the contrasts between philosophy in Britain and Germany. His Ph.D was in relationships between Church and State in eighteenth century England which included a study of 17th & 18th century philosophy. see Lecture Notes

17 April 2018

John Clarke on  The Meaning of Mysticism : Deep Insight or Irrational Nonsense?

Recent interest in altered states of consciousness, drug-induced ecstasy, and near-death experiences has helped to revive interest in the ancient and widespread phenomenon of mystical experience. The talk will raise issues concerning this phenomenon in the light of modern approaches in philosophy, psychology and science.  

15 May 2018

John Clarke on An Exploration of the many meanings of the moon: in myth, astrology, fantasy, science and space travel

Along with other Tintern groups we were asked if we would make a contribution to the River Festival organised by the committee of the AONB, especially in relation to the Museum of the Moon Art Installation that is being mounted in the Abbey for a week. More detail of that artwork here . So I have devised an illustrated presentation which will seek to match the artwork in the Abbey with an exploration of the ways in which throughout the ages and in many different cultural traditions the Moon has been transformed under the human gaze. This raises many philosophical questions about our relationship to the natural world.

19 June 2018

Bob Clarke on Philosophy and History - Coining, Context, Contingency

Bob asked: What is the most fruitful way for philosophy and history to interact?. He will explore a number of issues, such as: Does human nature change with time and are these changes reflected in our coining of new philosophical terms? To what extent is it important to place philosophers into their own historical and social context? How should our recognition of accidental contingencies in human affairs be reflected in our philosophy? And he will examine concepts like the Zeitgeist,  Historicism in Philosophy and the very contingency of the human species. see notes

17 July 2018

Judith Stares on Does illness have a meaning?

Health raises a number of interesting philosophical questions connected with function, explanation, causation, the nature of evidence, the mind/body relation, realism versus anti-realism, holism versus reductionism, rationalism versus empiricism, theories of well-being and ethics. Evidence demonstrates that ill-health can have a purpose, and sometimes symptoms can be easier to manage than the existential problems they mask. Is it possible that in our search for 'wellness' we are approaching the subject in entirely the wrong way?  This talk will give examples of illness or disease in our own and other cultures, raising particular questions concerning the mind/body relationship.   It will suggest that perhaps a new vocabulary is needed to describe disease and its effects. see notes

18 September 2018

John Clarke on Why war? a philosophical perspective

War often seems an absurd and irrational activity, and some believe that it is fading into history. Yet nearly a century since the armistice which ended the First World War - supposedly 'a war to end all wars' - we are still bombarded with daily news about the violence of war between peoples, between ethnic communities, between individuals. Some have argued that warlike activity is in our biological nature, and Hobbes famously characterised the state of nature as one of 'the war of all against all'. The talk explores an alternative view, namely that war is related more to our beliefs and our worldviews, to the underlying values and assumptions which guide us in our individual, social and political lives. These worldviews vary over time and from one culture to another, and are the stuff of philosophical speculation

16 October

Prof Robin Attfield Biocentrism, Climate Change and the Spatial and Temporal Scope of Ethics

Cicero: As we feel it wicked and inhuman for men to declare that they care not if when they themselves are dead the universal conflagration ensues, it is undoubtedly true that we are bound to study the interest of posterity also for its own sake'. (De Finibus 3: 64)

  • INTRODUCTION (The expanding scope of ethics, and the intuitive case gainst collective human egoism)
  • THE SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL SCOPE OF ETHICS (Reflections on Hans Jonas: Europa, Enceladus and the foreseeable impacts of current action and inaction)
  • ANTHROPOCENTRIC DEFENCES (Defences of a humans-only approach, and why we should resist them.)
  • ASTROBIOLOGY AND PLANETARY THOUGHT-EXPERIMENTS (These help clarify the case against anthropocentrism.)
  • BIOCENTRISM AND ECOCENTRISM (Two forms of more-or-less acceptable ethical stances; which is preferable?)
  • MORAL MOTIVATION (The resources of biocentrism for motivating action on the part of its adherents, not least through education.)

20 November

Dr Vanessa Dodd  on The Philosophy of T.S. Eliot, Sceptic and Mystic

Leading 20th century poet T.S. Eliot, famous for The Wasteland which condemned the spiritual bankruptcy of Europe following WWI, in his early years actually pursued a career in philosophy and at Harvard University he undertook PhD research into the thinking of F.H. Bradley, a British proponent of philosophical idealism. The talk will explore the unlikely connections between these two aspects of his life's work.

18 December 2018

John Clark Why give a damn? Philosophy of Philanthropy

An exploration of why people give money and support to help others and causes without material benefit to themselves.  How have philosophers illuminated the subject from Plato and Aeschylus, to early religious philosophers, to George Herbert Mead, Adam Smith and contemporary thinkers?  Is it just Western civilisations that support charities, or do other cultures too? How recent is the phenomenon? Indeed is it restricted to humans? And is it as "selfless" as it is often assumed to be?