Search This Blog


Next talk: Kant, free will and moral responsibility - Andrew Ward (11 May 2021)

Register now

Supported by the Royal Institute of Philosophy
Tuesday 11 May 2021 at 7:30pm (online)

Can we be held responsible for our actions if they couldn't have been otherwise? Kant seeks to defend moral freedom - the freedom required for moral responsibility to make sense - while insisting that it must be possible to accept determinism: that every event is caused to occur by preceding events and factors. Andrew will explore Kant's attempted solution, and consider why it has been treated so uncharitably by other philosophers.

Andrew undertook his BA at Exeter before coming to York as a lecturer and then an honorary life fellow of the Department of Philosophy. His research interests are in Hume and Kant, personal identity, and aesthetics. Before then, he lived in East Sheen for 24 years!


Truth in the Biomedical Sciences - Andreas Bikfalvi (April 2021)

View the video online

The notion of truth has been debated extensively by philosophers and scientists alike for centuries. Relativist and absolutist/objectivist philosophies have a complete different understanding of the value attached to this notion. In this presentation, I will discuss a number of issues related to the notion of truth in the biomedical sciences. I will first lay out different meanings and forms of truth and then discuss how this relates to the notion of causality. I will then describe how the biomedical science produces "truth" and lay down the different ways to achieve this (induction, causal inference, falsification, Baysian approach, etc..).  

I will then illustrate this by citing examples from the medical history and present-day biomedical research related to infectious disease, vascular biology and cancer research. I will then show that a strong relativist epistemology is incompatible with the way biomedical science obtains knowledge. Thus, in my view, a realistic notion of truth is central to achieve a sound understanding of physiology and pathology, and for the development of therapies grounded in a correct knowledge of disease. 


How Should One Live? Ancient tragedy and modern philosophy - Prof Sue Mendus (March 2021)

View the video online

"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.

Julian Baggini is a British philosopher, journalist and the author of over 20 books about philosophy written for a general audience. He is co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine and has written for numerous international newspapers and magazines.

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.