|Chair: Dr Barbie Underwood|
|Speaker: John Madeley|
|Picture: Phillip Medhurst|
|Paul Fletcher: Speaker|
|Dr Barbie Underwood: Chair|
Speaker: Nick Aldridge
It is smashing to have one of our own giving a talk and I thank Nick for all his thoughts and hard work in preparing a hot topic of online social networks, including Facebook, which have a role in spreading information and (mis)information.
Nick examined Foucault’s notion of heterotopia: a kind of artificial utopia that reflects and distorts the “real” world and asking what what are the consequences for our world. I liked the angle which asked to what extent is human nature, rather than technology, to blame for our troubles and concerns.
But, thank you, to you the audience, who contributed very well, where, as well as asking pertinent questions, encouraging discussion, and adding some amusement - although I'm not going to recount certain online jests !
Online social networks have come in for much recent criticism over their use of data, their role in spreading (mis)information and unsavoury content, and their supposed ill effects on our mental health. In this talk Nick will examine the nature and purpose of a social network, drawing on Foucault’s notion of heterotopia: a kind of artificial utopia that reflects and distorts the “real” world, while illuminating the artificiality of our own social constructs. But how do social networks reflect and distort our world, and what are the consequences? To what extent is human nature, rather than technology, to blame for our troubles and concerns? Nick will discuss these questions, drawing on an essay by Robin Rymarczuk in Philosophy Now, the thoughts of ethicists who have emerged from the major technology companies, and his own experience.
How, in a democracy, should we understand politicians who do what is morally wrong? Machiavelli famously (or notoriously) insisted that politics demands dirty hands and that those who refuse to get their hands dirty will inevitably fail in political life: ‘the prince’ he said, ‘must learn how not to be good’. But Machiavelli was not writing in or for a democracy, and it is sometimes argued that in a democratic society there can be no defence of political dirty hands. In 16th century Italy the prince could justify his wrongdoing, but in 21st century Britain, the Member of Parliament cannot. Is this true?
ready to take part - this was a slightly different talk in that it was interactive discussing the notion of Weakness of Will leading to discussing Freewill and Determinism
Some thinking going on !There seems to be more involved than just will power in our eating that extra chocolate or handful of crisps or nuts. Questions arise such as: 'Is our will free to choose or refrain?' or 'is our free will an illusion anyway?' Although aspects of the question were initially discussed by the ancient Greeks, more recently philosophy, psychology, neuroscience have picked up the mantle to go deeper into the question of our choices.
In a world where contemporary art is bought and sold for millions, it is more difficult than ever to tell the difference between good art and expensive art, but it is possible if we understand the concept of value. In this talk, I will argue that art is valuable as both culture and economics, but these are radically different things and the art market constantly attempts to blur the boundaries. Through a heady mixture of art market news, art criticism and philosophy, I will show that, despite all the money and headlines, art will always survive the ravages of capitalism. High auction prices, billionaire collectors, celebrity endorsements and artists’ publicity stunts only serve to create the myth that the value of art is monetary, but the true value lies in the way that art enriches human existence. '
“One of the interesting things about contemporary politics and social thought is that imagining better ways to live through the invention of utopias seems to have nearly disappeared. Social transformation guided by images of an ideal, well-ordered community or city is out of fashion. By way of contrast, we are overwhelmed by invitations to improve ourselves through diet, exercise, cognitive therapies, education and technology. Apps, fitbits, “smart” devices surround us, and we are encouraged to see this as a good thing, more “evidence-based” and more effective. Contemporary social critics try to push back and question this image of permanent, continuous self-improvement, but seemingly to little effect. I would like us to reflect on the disappearance of Utopia and the dominion of personalised technologies, and think of them as counterparts. Instead of making ideal societies for humans to live in, we are creating idealised humans to live in society. Either way we hold one variable constant and transform the other in the name of achieving the Good and the Just. In this talk I will explore these ideas, and concentrate on ideas of improving human beings through medical technologies, but we can range more widely in discussion.”
Dr Barbara Underwood, Chair
Dr Piers Benn
Debates about the existence of God are familiar in philosophy. But the question of whether it is a good thing that God exists (or would be a good thing if he did) is much less discussed. Perhaps this is because, to many people, it seems crazy to deny that it would be a superlatively good thing if the cosmos were ruled by ultimate love and justice, that goodness will ultimately prevail and the 'every tear shall be wiped away'. Atheists are sometimes accused of not wanting God to exist, because they do not want to surrender to the sovereignty of God or face judgement for their sins. I want to defend (some) atheists of the charge of not wanting God to exist. However, there is a serious question of whether - at least from the standpoint of atheism or agnosticism - it would be an entirely good thing, or a good thing all things considered, if God existed. This becomes especially apparent when we consider particular religions traditions, and wonder whether the conception of God that they advocate is a conception of a supremely good Being. For believers, the question is obviously settled. However, non-believers lack a decisive a priori reason to think it settled.
[Piers Benn is a Visiting Lecturer in Philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London and an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University London Centre].