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Tintern Philosophy Circle ~ Philosophy for All

Meetings in 2019

21 January

John Clarke on Why does the universe go through all the bother of existing?" (Stephen Hawking)

How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? What is the nature of reality? Where does all this come from? Did the universe need a creator?" As a tribute to his achievements as a human being and a scientist, these and related questions raised by Stephen Hawking in his book The Grand Design will be the starting point of our discussion this month

19 February

John Clarke on Confucianism: a timeless philosophy of universal harmony, or a narrow justification for authoritarian politics"

For two thousand years Confucianism was the official philosophy of China, vilified after the overthrow of the imperial dynasty in 1911 and during the Maoist Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, revived in China in recent years, and admired by current Chinese leader Xi Jinping.  The talk will outline Confucian philosophy and examine its impact past and present. John has lectured on and written several books about Eastern philosophical traditions and their relationship with Western thought.

19 March

Bob Clarke Core Imagination

An examination of the proposition, formulated by Immanuel Kant and others, that our imagination is central to our very way of being in the world. How does this proposition fare when seen from the perspectives of contemporary neurological and cognitive sciences? It may be that the 'creative imagination', which is so important for the arts and sciences, arises from an 'overflowing' of our Core Imagination, which is essential for us to be able to make any sense of the world at all!

16 April

Steve Eddy Shakespeare the Philosopher

Shakespeare was of course a dramatic and poetic genius, but he was also a thinker. His works suggest that he read Aristotle, Plato and Montaigne, among other philosophers. He was never didactic, but his plays explore such themes as:

  • epistemology - what can we know, and how do we know it?
  • individual identity - who, or what, are we?
  • teleology - does life have any purpose?
  • time and fate - are events predestined?
  • ontology - can something come from nothing?

This talk will look at these themes in a number of plays, including Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear and The Tempest.

21 May

Dr Ken Binmore on Epicurus

Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who taught in Athens long before the time of Christ. His ideas were the default philosophical position in the ancient world for several hundred years after his death. Epicurus himself was an ancient folk hero. But his  ascetic philosophy was cynically misrepresented by the early Christian church as what we nowadays still call  'epicureanism'. His many books were systematically destroyed and little now survives. How come he was so shabbily treated? What was his real philosophy? Is it possible that it can bring the same comfort to us as it brought to those who idolised Epicurus in ancient times?

18 June

John Clarke on Friedrich Nietzsche: the uses and abuses of philosophy

Nietzsche has been one of the most influential figures in twentieth century thought. The talk will investigate the 'uses and abuses' of his ideas in fields as seemingly wide apart as nazism, existentialism, psychoanalysis, postmodernism, and the  recent Alt-right movement in the USA. The talk will ask what this prolixity says about his way of doing philosophy.

16 July No meeting

20 August No meeting

17 September Descartes' Philosophy

John Clarke on Descartes: demon of doubt, dreamer of certainty

René Descartes (1596-1650), often seen as the founder of modern philosophy, famously doubted everything he had ever learned, until he realized that he could not doubt his own doubting. On this fragile foundation he set out to construct a new universal system of knowledge, which, while for long highly influential, has itself inevitably become subject to doubt.

Descartes' demon? In order to illuminate his 'doubts' he invented a thought experiment in which he imagined that there was 'some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning who has employed all his energies in order to deceive me. I shall imagine that the sky, the air, the earth, colours, shapes, sounds, and all external things are merely the delusions of dreams with which he has decided to ensnare my judgement.' (Meditations). Can this philosophical Houdini escape these snares? Can we?

15 October

Steve Smith The politics of well-being and conflicting political values

Steve argues that when focusing on well-being enhancement across a population as a legitimate social value and policy goal, a three-pronged conflict occurs concerning the promotion of the value of fairness. That is, between (1) those policies which promote the maximisation of well-being for the population overall, broadly reflecting utilitarian fairness; (2) those policies which promote more well-being for certain disadvantaged groups when compared with more advantaged groups, broadly reflecting egalitarian fairness; and (3) those policies which promote the prioritisation of increased well-being for disadvantaged groups but without comparing this increased level with more advantaged groups, broadly reflecting prioritarian fairness.  

19 November

Dr Vanessa Dodd The Philosophy of Gender Prejudice

This discussion arises out of our observations that the male members of our philosophy group tend to dominate, whilst female members, although interested in philosophy, are reticent in taking part in debate. My research has shown that this difference might be the result of a prejudice which is deeply rooted in Philosophy itself, traceable back to the Greeks, accelerated through the early Church and manifest in the writings of key philosophers. The talk explores whether the 'Mars/Venus' dichotomy is mythic (culturally indoctrinated) or innate (as propounded by evolutionary psychologists) or now successfully erased by postmodern  thinkers.  

17 December 2019

John Clarke Silent night: whatever happened to the holy, not to mention the sacred and the spiritual?

Do we need a spiritual dimension in our world-view, or should we just let it go the way of Xmas? The talk will help the discussion along by drawing on the views of some philosophers on the role of the spiritual in our increasingly secular and materialist world.

The session will end at 9.00 pm with complimentary mulled wine and Sally's famous mince pies.

John and Vanessa wish you a happy Christmas, or Xmas, or Yuletide, or Winterval - whatever is your taste in world-views.