New season on freedom and identity: Arif Ahmed on Freedom of Speech, 13 September

We're kicking off a new season of talks on "Freedom and Identity" with Arif Ahmed on Freedom of Speech.

Freedom of Speech - Arif Ahmed

Tue, 13 September, 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy. 

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Freedom of speech is perhaps the most basic liberal value, so it's disturbing to hear widespread claims that it is now under threat in liberal democracies like the US and the UK. In this talk I'll state my own view about what freedom of speech is and why it matters, and I'll assess to what extent these threats to it are (a) real and (b) resistible. 


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Arif Ahmed is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College. His philosophical outlook is individualistic, atheistic, empiricist and liberal (in the old-fashioned sense) and his work applies this approach to questions in metaphysics, the theory of rational choice and philosophy of religion. He has campaigned for many years in defence of free speech and academic freedom and in recognition of this work he was awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2021 and the Trustees' Award by Index on Censorship.


Technology and Psychiatry with Dr Yasemin J. Erden Tuesday 14 June 2022

Supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy

Thank you very much to all those who attended our final talk in the 2021-22 season will be given online by Yasemin J Erden on the theme of technology and psychiatry. The talk contained unpublished material so I'm afraid we were not able to record it.

"Close encounters of the mechanical kind: when clever machines meet problematic theories"

Dr Yasemin J. Erden, Assistant Professor, University of Twente



10 May 2022 - Dr Reuben Binns on Artificial intelligence and justice

Dr Reuben Binns gave a thoughtful and stimulating lecture on Artificial Intelligence and Justice on 10th May 2022. He discussed various dimensions of justice and how they could be modeled, and explored some of the challenges and limitations of automating these conceptions. He closed by discussing how philosophers could play an important role in examining, and making choices between, different types of justice.

You can read more about Reuben at the University of Oxford's page.

Reuben Binns is an Associate Professor of Human Centred Computing, working between computer science, law, and philosophy, focusing on data protection, machine learning, and the regulation of and by technology. Between 2018-2020, he was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in AI at the Information Commissioner's Office, addressing AI / ML and data protection. He joined the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford as a postdoctoral researcher in 2015. He received his Ph.D. in Web Science from The University of Southampton in 2015.

Supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

Watch: Ray Tallis on Freedom: an impossible reality (April 2022)

The question of free will has preoccupied philosophers for millennia. In recent years the debate has been reinvigorated by the findings of neuroscience and, for some, the notion that we have free will has finally been laid to rest. Not so, says Raymond Tallis. In his quest to reconcile our practical belief in our own agency with our theoretical doubts, Tallis will advance powerful arguments for the reality of freedom. He will challenge the idea that we are imprisoned by laws of nature that wire us into a causally closed world. He will aim to shows that our capacity to discover and exploit these laws is central to understanding the nature of voluntary action and to reconciling free will with our status as material beings.

We had a fantastic talk and discussion with Ray over Zoom, in which he explained his theory of free will very clearly, and engaged with energy and imagination in the discussion afterwards. You can watch our recording and the discussion now:

You can get 25% off Ray's book by using the code AGENDA25 on the publisher's website.

Raymond Tallis trained in medicine at Oxford University and at St Thomas’ Hospital London before becoming Professor of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Manchester. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences for his research in clinical neuroscience and he has played a key role in developing guidelines for the care of stroke patients in the UK. From 2011–14 he was Chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying. He retired from medicine in 2006 to become a full-time writer. His books have ranged across many subjects – from philosophical anthropology to literary and cultural criticism – but all are characterised by a fascination for the infinite complexity of human lives and the human condition. The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine lists him as one of the world’s leading polymaths.


Tuesday 8 March 2022: Where should epistemology start? - Professor Timothy Williamson (in person!)

We were delighted that Timothy Williamson, Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford since 2000, joined us in person for our next talk on 8th March, 7:15 for a 7:30 start. This provided a great opportunity for members to meet with, and question, one of the country's leading philosophers.

Professor Williamson addressed the fundamental question of epistemology: how can we know things? He talked about why Descartes' "Cogito ergo sum" is a bad starting-point and why the kinds of knowledge humans share with other animals is a better one.

Unfortunately, due to disagreements between Zoom and our mixing desk, the sound recording was not of adequate quality to share. Apologies to those who missed out.

Supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy.

Timothy Williamson has been the Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford since 2000. He was born in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1955. After an undergraduate degree in mathematics and philosophy and a doctorate in philosophy, both at Oxford, he was a lecturer in philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, a fellow and tutor at University College Oxford, and Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh. He has been a visiting professor at MIT and Princeton, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University and the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), a visiting scholar at the centre for advanced study in Oslo, a Nelson distinguished professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a Townsend Visitor at Berkeley and Tang Chun-I visiting professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.