2022 11 October Piers Benn, "Is concern about freedom of expression based on a right-wing fantasy?"

 Join us to hear our second talk on freedom of expression, with Piers Benn

This Tuesday 11 October 2022, 7:30pm at the OSO 

 Supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy


 Register Now to attend in person

 Thanks to all of you who attended our talk last week with Professor Arif Ahmed. He kicked off our season with a thought-provoking and challenging presentation on freedom of speech. I'm pleased to say that along with a record audience (more than 60 in person) we were joined by Piers Benn, who will be picking up the theme in our next talk:


Is concern about freedom of expression based on a right-wing fantasy?

In this talk Piers will attempt to do two things. First, he will argue for the importance of free enquiry and free expression within a framework that owes much to J. S. Mill, while considering some genuine difficulties with the ‘Galileo Defence’ of Mill’s conclusions and the often-made claim that much speech is harmful even by Mill’s lights, especially when exercised by the privileged. Second, he will argue against the claim that the limitations on free speech, especially in universities, is a right-wing fantasy. He will concede that boycotts of speakers and angry attacks on opinions are sometimes misrepresented as attacks on freedom of expression but argue that there is nevertheless a fairly serious problem. He proposes a Socratic approach to argument, and the encouragement of opinions diversity in institutions, as part of the solution to this. 

 Register Now to attend in person


 Ongoing online challenges

Thanks again to those of you who attempted to join us online during the last talk. I'm afraid that our technical challenges seem to have continued, with poor quality audio and video. Robin and I are working to salvage a recording, which we hope to share if it's watchable. The sound is excellent at the venue, but this does not seem to translate via the microphones, mixing desk and laptop into Zoom, despite many hours of effort with the OSO technician, various cables, mixers and drivers. We'll give it another go next time with a simplified system to see if we can at least generate a high quality recording, but as we're now up to around 90% attending in person, we are mindful of the risk of neglecting our in-person audience to fiddle endlessly with the mixing desk.

There is no need to register if you'd like to (attempt to) attend the talks online. The link is always the same, and is:

1) Available in the calendar in the right hand side of this website, 

2) Included here for reference: join us on Zoom

You can also view past recordings on our YouTube channel.

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

Many thanks to Professor Arif Ahmed, for a fantastic talk to kick off our opening season. 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. 


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.

We hope to have a recording available, though have some technical challenges as ever.


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.