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How Should One Live? Ancient tragedy and modern philosophy - Prof Sue Mendus

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9th March 7:30pm-8:40pm

In his 1985 book, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Bernard Williams claims that the

central question of moral philosophy is ‘How Should One Live?’. If that is indeed the central

question, then where should we look for an answer? Many modern philosophers deny that

‘the ancients’ especially the ancient Greek poets and tragedians – can give us much help: our

lives are so different from theirs that they cannot illuminate our predicament. Or so it is said.

In this talk, I will dispute that claim and try to show how ancient tragedy can inform modern philosophy.

Dr Julian Baggini - Was Jesus a great moral philosopher? (Feb 2021)

Supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy
Tuesday 9 February 2021 at 7:30pm

"Even if we don't believe that Jesus was the son of God, we tend to think he was a great moral teacher. But was he? And how closely do idealised values such as our love of the family, helping the needy, and the importance of kindness, match Jesus's original tenets? Drawing on his new book, Julian challenges our assumptions about Christian values - and about Jesus - by focusing on Jesus's teachings in the Gospels, stripping away the religious elements such as the accounts of miracles or the resurrection of Christ,  and asking how we should understand Jesus's attitude to the renunciation of the self, to politics, or to sexuality, as expressed in Jesus's often elusive words."

Here's a link to buy Julian's book, which supports both Julian and independent bookshops.

Prof Sophie-Grace Chappell: Epiphanies in experience and in ethics (Dec 2020)

An epiphany is an overwhelming existentially significant manifestation of value in experience, often sudden and surprising, which feeds the psyche, which feels like it “comes from outside”—it is something given, relative to which I am a passive perceiver—which teaches us something new, which “takes us out of ourselves”, and to which there is a natural and correct response. (At least one; possibly more.) Often the correct response is love, often it is pity, or again creativity. It might also be anger or reverence or awe or a hunger to put things right—a hunger for justice; or many other things. It may be something that leads directly to action or new knowledge, but it may also be something that prompts further contemplation or reflection; or other responses again.

Epiphanies are central to ethical experience, but not to ethical theory. I address this mismatch, and show how what needs to change to fix the mismatch is not experience—but theory.


Prof Fiona Ellis: True Naturalism, Goodness and God (Jan 2021)

Thank you to everyone who attended Fiona's recent talk, and for some excellent questions.

You can view the recording here and the handout here. Please do subscribe to our channel so you can easily find future talks.

Prof Ellis defended a form of naturalism which has much in common with Iris Murdoch’s ‘true naturalism’, but argued that it can accommodate God. She considered what it could mean for naturalism to be theistic in this sense, and respond to the charge that it leaves no room for the transcendent.

Fiona is happy to receive questions about her talk - her email address is included in the handout.


Russell's Ethical Journey' by Robin Strachan

This lecture, given on-line to Barnes Philosophy Club (sponsored by the Royal Society of Philosophy), in London, April 2020 is the first of 2 Parts. This talk, simply put, has been constructed to promote a 'System' by the author which brings together Psychology (Attitude Analysis, Numbers and Psycho-metrics) with Philosophy (Words, Linguistic Analysis and Meta-Ethics). Previously the author has talked on the subject of Russell's major contribution to Analytic Philosophy and his association with Psychology when the 'System' was first presented to an audience in London in May 2017 . 

      This second lecture uses Bertrand Russell as an example of how and why a Philosopher can and does change his or her Ethical Position over time, seemingly as a result of a combination of effects relating to life events and the influence of other Philosophers. By using a combination of Philosophical and Psychological ideas it seems possible to create a Psychometric-Philosophical Paradigm (PPP System) which enables 2-dimensional (X - Levels of Aggression , Y - Levels of Self-Esteem) mapping of different Ethical positions, with Russell being seen to move around such a mathematical 'Grid' ( sc. Moodgrid / as inspired by Eyesenck's Personality Diagram ) to significant degrees). 5 such Main Ethical Positions are so described and analysed. Such mapping appears to be a potentially useful method to improve comparability and commensurability of Ethical Norms. Also, the 'Grid' facilitates identification and analysis of a number of logically created Dimensions running across the Grid, which hopefully assists in the understanding of the multitudes of Dichotomies and Dialectics within the realms of Philosophy, to be discussed in more detail in Part 2. 
      Part 2 deals with how such differing Ethical positions might drive Higher Order thought and significantly affect Philosophical, Social and Political Positions. The third dimension (Insight-Ignorance (Z)) of the PPP is described which facilitates construction of cubic space within which to locate and quantify more complex sets of ideas and permit analysis and grouping of individual Philosopher's Positions at any given 'time'. The 4th Dimension, as with any Cartesian System. being time. 

     As such, the whole 'PPP System' is an attempt, as also inspired by Russell and Wittgenstein, to uncloak any disguise in the language of higher level argument, Such language is usually designed to effect social control and promote sometimes highly suspect and distorted political agendas, not necessarily therefore truthfully represented in that language. Finally, some quotes from Russell himself, extracted from context within the talk ..... “Emotions drive the Attitudes which distort our Ethical Norms “ “In all Ethical Questions are Feelings” “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so ‘certain’ of themselves and wiser people so full of doubts…” "Not to be absolutely certain … is one of the essential things in exhibiting rationality or reason" "Ethical metaphysics is fundamentally an attempt, however disguised to give legislative force to our own wishes…." Robin K Strachan London, U.K. April 2020