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Tintern Philosophy Circle ~ Philosophy for All

Meetings in 2021










19 January  

Bob Clarke on Historical Reflections on the 'Two Cultures' Controversy (1959-1962)

In May 1959, the scientist and novelist C. P. Snow delivered at lecture in Cambridge, entitled 'The Two Cultures' -ostensibly they were the Sciences and the Humanities. He argued for a great expansion of scientific education in Britain, but he also deplored the lack of mutual understanding between the two cultures. In February 1962 the Cambridge literary scholar F. R. Leavis responded to Snow via another Cambridge lecture in which he attacked Snow ferociously in terms that most commentators found shocking. As both lectures were published, the controversy became very well-known across the English-speaking world. Through this talk we will attempt to understand the controversy within a broader historical context, delving back as far as 1798. We will see that 'Science vs The Humanities' is not the only Cultural Polarity that is being addressed in this debate. In  our discussion we can reflect on how the individual issues that separately exercised Snow and Leavis retain their relevance today. Notes


16 February

Vanessa Dodd on Iris Murdoch - A very British philosopher

Novelist, essayist and moral philosopher, Iris Murdoch is often remembered for her decline into Alzheimer's depicted in the 2001 film Iris.  In this talk I hope to recover some of her standing as a moral philosopher and philosopher of art by exploring the key philosophies which dominate her thinking including Platonism, on which she builds her moral philosophy, and Existentialism, which she rejects as a worldview, damning it 'an unfit philosophy for the 20th century', despite her being instrumental in bringing it to Britain. I will argue that Murdoch, who taught philosophy at Oxford, was a 'very British philosopher', who forged a middle way between the British Empiricist tradition and the story-rich Continental philosophy, with  special reference to her award winning novel The Sea, the Sea (1978) which platforms her philosophical ideas in story form. Lecture Notes


16 March

John Clarke 'Extinction: The Next Big Issue

The possibility of the extinction of the human species has been around since at least the early 19th century when Tomas Malthus published his Essay on the Principle of Population, and later in Darwin's Origin of Species which broadened this out by considering the elimination over time of species of all kinds to be an inevitable consequence of the principle of natural selection. Scientists have identified five mass extinctions of animal species, and some speculate we are now in a sixth, believed to be largely the consequence of human activity. This activity, which has implications for the biosphere as a whole, involves climate change arising from increasing levels of greenhouse gases from the use of fossil fuels, human population growth, deforestation and overuse of land for agricultural production.  Some predict the likelihood of an environmental catastrophe leading to the extinction of the human species within the next hundred years. This is now a subject of wide-ranging debate. The talk comprises some thoughts on this debate from the perspective of philosophy and the history of ideas.


20 April

Prof. Simon Cottle on Massacre of the Innocents

he possibility of the extinction of the human species has been around since at least the early 19th century when Tomas Malthus published his Essay on the Principle of Population, and later in Darwin's Origin of Species which broadened this out by considering the elimination over time of species of all kinds to be an inevitable consequence of the principle of natural selection. Scientists have identified five mass extinctions of animal species, and some speculate we are now in a sixth, believed to be largely the consequence of human activity. This activity, which has implications for the biosphere as a whole, involves climate change arising from increasing levels of greenhouse gases from the use of fossil fuels, human population growth, deforestation and overuse of land for agricultural production.  Some predict the likelihood of an environmental catastrophe leading to the extinction of the human species within the next hundred years. This is now a subject of wide-ranging debate. The talk comprises some thoughts on this debate from the perspective of philosophy and the history of ideas.

Joining instructions will be circulated to circle members before the meeting. People wishing to join the circle may submit their request using the contact form


18 May

Herbie Girardet The Forest as Teacher

The Wye Valley is an area unusually rich in forest cover, teaching us about the circle of life as it unfolds year after year. This stands in sharp contrast to our linear economic arrangements, which ignore our environmental impacts, and play havoc with life on earth as never before. It is time to reframe economic theory and practice, assuring a compatible, regenerative relationship between people and planet. My illustrated talk draws on my work with the Club of Rome, on 45 years of interaction with local forests, and on making documentaries in the Amazon



15 June

Ken Binmore on The origins and development of Utilitarianism

Utilitarians think we should seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Who were the pioneer utilitarians? What kind of lives did they live? How did their doctrine develop? What does modern utilitarianism look like? This talk focuses on the beginnings of utilitarianism. The plan is to say a little about all of the pioneers up to and including the delightfully eccentric Jeremy Bentham. On the way, we will encounter Claude Helvetius, whose book was burned in the Paris street by the public hangman, and William Godwin, whose wife was the feminist icon Mary Wollstonecraft, and whose daughter eloped with the poet Shelley before writing Frankenstein


20 July

Keith Ray on Freedom to choose

Keith writes: I am calling the talk 'The Freedom to Choose' which has been taken from Viktor Frankl's book 'Man's Search for Meaning'.  A Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry in Vienna, Frankl survived 3+ years in various Nazi death camps during WW2. I will be sharing some reflections on how Frankl's wisdom not only inspired me in my lifetime but in my view offers hope for those currently experiencing human suffering with their mental well-being which the covid pandemic is being held responsible for. I am hoping that the discussion afterwards will centre on the mental well-being aspects and how future generations of young people can be supported. In my view Frankl's book is one of the most important ever written.



21 September 2015




19 October




16 November



21 December 2021