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Members' Day, 3 September 2011

PHILOSOPHY: WHAT'S THE POINT?

Links in the below time-table activate MP3 audio recordings of the corresponding talks.

1.30 pm Registration
1.45 pm Chris Farmer: Introduction
2.00 pm Robert Stone: Socrates the activist: how academic philosophy can make a difference
2.45 pm Ann Long: Five Questions and an Answer
3.30 pm Tea/Coffee
4.00 pm Peter Gibson: How to Make Analytic Philosophy Worth Doing
4.45 pm Peter Ells: A Defence of Speculative Metaphysics
5.30 pm Panel discussion
6.30 pm Bar
7.00 pm Dinner
8.00 pm Open discussion
9.00 pm Course disperses
Bar open till 10:30 pm


The Talks in chronological order.

Robert Stone: Socrates the activist: how academic philosophy can make a difference
Socrates was interested in the same kind of academic questions that English-speaking philosophers discuss today, in particular the status of moral concepts and the foundations of knowledge; but – unlike most modern academic – he argued about them on the streets and in the dining-rooms of Athens, and made people realise they mattered. How did he do this, what effect did it have, was it worthwhile?
Audio recording (MP3 format)
Handout (PDF format)
Talk text (PDF format)

Ann Long: Five Questions and an Answer
I will first ask, and briefly discuss, four of the questions: does the history of philosophy help us to think about its point? what role does philosophy have in an intellectual culture? can a brief examination of just one of its perennial puzzles offer us a clue as to its purpose? can it offer us knowledge? And then, armed with some ideas developed in that discussion, I will ask – and this time attempt to answer! – the fifth question: what then is the point of philosophy?
Audio recording (MP3 format)
Handout (PDF format)
Talk text (PDF format)

Peter Gibson: How to Make Analytic Philosophy Worth Doing
It will be claimed that philosophy has always aimed at wisdom through analysis, with Aristotle as the role model. Contemporary analysis has explored logic and semantics as tools for the job, and run into scepticism about the whole enterprise. It is suggested that the error has been to focus on what our sentences say, instead of on what we want to say. If we are still allowed to think directly about the world, then analysis becomes once again our best (and only) hope for achieving wisdom.
Audio recording (MP3 format)
Handout (PDF format)
Talk text (PDF format)

Peter Ells: A Defence of Speculative Metaphysics
Many thinkers nowadays reject metaphysics, believing that science is the only source of reliable knowledge. I will show, however, that this attitude is a metaphysical position in itself – and moreover one that may very well be wrong. How can metaphysical systems be evaluated against one another when they are non-empirical? I will argue that this can be done in terms of factors such as scope of explanatory power, consistency with science, clarity, plausibility, minimal number of brute facts assumed, and so on. The system of George Berkeley will be used as an example.
Audio recording (MP3 format)
Handout (PDF format)
Slides (PowerPoint format)
Talk text (PDF format)


The Speakers

  1. Bob Stone graduated in Classics in 1970, having specialised in Greek philosophy, and then spent three years researching into Pythagoreanism, and also becoming hooked on modern philosophy. His thinking was rudely interrupted by 35 years as a schoolteacher. Now that he's retired he's been rediscovering philosophy with a vengeance.
  2. Ann Long gained a BSc in Economics (1959), and a BSc in Psychology (1972). She spent most of her working life teaching psychology in both further and higher education. She has written two books: Equality (1988: samizdat distribution) and Making God: a New Materialist Theory of the Person (2007: Imprint Academic). She is now working on a third.
  3. Peter Gibson graduated in English in 1968, and gradually turned himself into a philosophy teacher, via the Open University, the London Institute of Education, and Rewley House. He taught Philosophy to sixth formers for 24 years, and is now doing a research degree in metaphysics at Birkbeck. He is building a catalogue of philosophical ideas at http://www.philosophyideas.com.
  4. Peter Ellshas had a long-standing interest in the philosophy of mind and the question of free will. He obtained an MA in philosophy at the University of Reading in 2009. His book Panpsychism, the Philosophy of the Sensuous Cosmoswas published by O-Books in August 2011 [http://www.o-books.com/book/detail/1341/Panpsychism]


Suggested websites and reading:

Jose Luis Bermudez Philosophy of Psychology: a Contemporary Introduction (2005)
Plato Apologia, Crito, Euthyphro, Laches, Republic Books 1 and 2
Tim Williamson The Philosophy of Philosophy
Deleuze / Guattari What is Philosophy?
Bertrand Russell Problems of Philosophy Ch.15
George Berkeley Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues
van Inwagen http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/metaphysics/

 
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