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OUDCE Philosophy Weekends at Rewley House

Future Events Programme

Phlsoc members are entitled to a 10% discount on weekend courses listed below
(not applicable to the unaccredited lecture series).

May 16-17: Meaning in Life
Regrettably, this event too has been cancelled.
May 30: Truth in a Post-Truth World
Julia Weckend & Doug Bamford
We are said to have entered a post-truth age. But what is truth anyway? And what exactly has changed? The current problem does not seem to be that of aiming at truth and missing the mark, but a lack of interest in getting it right. Is this sort of ‘post-truth thinking’ the new normal? In 1986 the American philosopher Harry Frankfurt famously distinguished between the liar and the bullsh*tter by remarking that one (the liar) is still guided by the authority of the truth whilst the other (the bullsh*tter) defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. Careless deception therefore is more subversive than a carefully crafted lie. Self-interest and the trading of fake news may be as old as humanity itself, but what in pre-multimedia days had often stayed within the village boundaries now has a chance to be spread like an epidemic with large scale popular traction. Why are careful analysis and expert opinion so often the subject of distrust or even disdain while outlandish claims are readily embraced by a spellbound audience? What contributes to the rise of misinformation and how can we remedy the situation? In this day school two philosophers will guide you through the history of the concept of truth and what it might mean. We then consider how and why it has come under pressure in recent years and how we should respond.
19 September (Day School): Moral Dilemmas
Amna Whiston (Ewert House, Lecture Room 9)
Details TBA
October 12 - 16 November, 14:00 - 15:30: The Nature of Truth (unaccredited lecture series)
Julia Weckend
Truth is a complex and often misunderstood concept. On the one hand we all seem to have clear ideas that truth is worth pursuing and what we mean by telling the truth. On the other hand, no analysis of truth has ever been able to provide a definitive answer in the form of ‘truth is X’ which would survive unscathed. Philosophers in the past have committed to answers such as truth is ‘correspondence with facts’, or ‘system coherence’, or truth is ‘practical utility’ or ‘consensus of opinion’. Only all turned out to be defective in one way or another and in the absence of a compelling solution, we find that regularly an air of relativistic disillusionment and an attitude of ‘my truth and ‘your truth’ steps in its place. Not all that surprisingly then, the problem with truth does not seem to be that of trying to get things right and missing the mark, but a periodic decline in concern for truth and a suspicious attitude towards expert opinion. Is post-truth the new normal and is there a way back to objectivity? Can we rescue truth in an era of big data, social media and outlandish conspiracy confusions? Come and find out how we got to where we are now and take part in this debate. Coffee and tea will be served after every lecture so participants will have a chance to discuss the issues presented.
October 17 (Day School): Might Ignorance Be Bliss?
Bernard Salow and Kevin Dorst (Lecture Theatre)
Might our judgements – or what we take to be evidence – be systematically biased or irrational? To what extent are we able to transcend our current perspectives? How do we handle the potential conflict between past and future ‘versions’ of ourselves? And how do we resolve the conflicts between the demands of the evidence, the search for truth, and the moral and practical constraints we are subject to? This course will introduce you to philosophical tools for thinking about how to manage and respond to evidence. On the one hand, evidence is usually valuable: the more we know, the better our decisions tend to be. On the other hand, sometimes knowing more makes us worse off – for example, when the evidence we gather is misleading, or we interpret it in a biased way. We will explore how to reason about these trade-offs in a precise way, to determine when (and why) it does (and doesn’t) make sense to continue gathering evidence before making a decision.
24 October (Day School): The Stoics
Peter Wyss (Ewert House, Lecture Room 10)
Details TBA
November 21-22: Hannah Arendt
Jonathan Leader and Russell Bentley (Lecture Theatre)
Arendt twice escaped from the clutches of the Nazis. Her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil caused a firestorm whose heat can still be felt today. Arendt herself says that what she claims “may shock good people and be misused by bad ones”. She believed that engaging in politics is a presentation of oneself in the public sphere, a ‘showing of oneself and a reciprocal seeing of others’. During this weekend we shall consider the philosophy of Hannah Arendt and what her civic courage reveals about her. We will consider whether her challenge should be rediscovered and taken up in light of the disturbing distortions and manipulations characterising contemporary civic discourse, and we will ask whether Arendtian norms of civic behaviour have a chance, or even a place, in contemporary populist-driven politics. There will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions of the speakers.

January 09-10: Identifying Future-Proof Science
Peter Vickers and Philip Goff (Lecture Theatre)
Is science getting at the truth? Sceptics claim that, given all the ‘scientific revolutions’ in the history of science, we should expect further major changes in scientific thinking in the future. They ask: given the history of science, wouldn’t it be naïve to think that many/most current scientific theories reveal ‘the truth’, and will never be discarded in favour of other theories? After all, previous scientists thought so, and they were wrong. Philosophers of science have resisted this line of thought by identifying important differences between past science and current science, including differences in the size of the scientific community, and the quantity and quality of the evidence involved. However, very big U-turns in science have been quite recent, including attitudes towards continental drift in the 1960s, and the dramatic revelation, in 1998, that the universe’s expansion is accelerating. It seems reasonable to suppose that very big U-turns will continue, especially when we dare to look 500 years ahead. It is even possible that a revolution going right to the core of the scientific method is required in order to tackle consciousness. Thus we must ask the question: Is it possible to identify any future-proof science?
February 13-14: Why Have People Stopped Believing in God?
Mark Edwards and Marianne Talbot (Tawney Room)
Critical trends in biblical criticism and the ascendancy of the scientific method have played a part in weakening belief in God. But this weekend the two speakers will consider whether people have stopped believing in God because of a changed attitude to nature which might result from (a) the fact that technology has increased our power over nature and (b) a belief that our universe is only one amongst many most of which would not have produced us. The former has put a new complexion on the problem of evil: if even we can conquer disease, restrain wild beasts and mitigate the effects of earthquakes, why doesn't God do the same? The latter has been suggested to answer the idea that God must have created us by fine-tuning our universe. As the sense of our power over nature and our willingness to believe in chance grew, humanity has become its own God. Nowadays what remains unconquered (even death, according to some) is no longer the special province of religion but the future terrain of medicine, engineering or economics.
20 February (Day School): John Rawls
Doug Bamford (Ewert House)
Details TBA
March 06 (Day School): Descartes
Peter Wyss (Sadler Room)
Details TBA
13 March (Day School): Free Will
Dan Dennis (Ewert House, Lecture Room 9)
Details TBA
April 17-18: Thinking About Offence
Brian Klug and Salman Sayyid (Lecture Theatre)
People take offence for a variety of reasons. Often it is in the context of disagreement over politics, religion, or the practices found in different cultures. But what do we mean by ‘offence’? The same word is used to cover a multitude of different kinds of cases, ranging from mild breaches of good manners to major assaults on someone’s identity. Do these differences affect the question of whether there is a ‘right to offend’? Or, conversely, whether there is a ‘right not to be offended’? Does freedom of expression mean that ‘anything goes’? Is there, in certain circumstances, a duty to speak out – and thereby cause offence? If so, are there, in such circumstances, no limits to legitimate speech? These are among the questions that will be raised and examined on this short course. Lectures will explore these questions both in the abstract and via selected case studies, from Socrates in Plato’s dialogues to Voltaire in the Enlightenment to controversies today over antisemitism, Islamophobia and other subjects. The aim of the course is to facilitate the ability to think both clearly and independently about the concept of offence and the thorny questions to which it gives rise.
24 April (Day School): The Neglected Mill
Andrew Dalkin (Ewert House, Lecture Room 10)
Details TBA
May 15 (Day School): Having Fun with Logic
Marianne Talbot (Sadler Room)
Human beings are rational. Arguably it is our rationality that distinguishes us from non-human animals. Certainly it has enabled us to get to the moon, build sky-scrapers and ocean liners and make smallpox and polio largely diseases of the past. Logicians study reasoning. Specifically they study the arguments that encapsulate our processes of reasoning. Logic has been studied since before Aristotle, but progress is still being made today, especially with inductive logic. However, the study of logic has thrown up various puzzles and paradoxes. It can be huge fun to try to wrap your mind around these puzzles and that is what we shall be doing today. No previous understanding of logic will be assumed but you will not be able to get away without thinking for yourself and it is entirely to be expected that you will find yourself jumping through mental hoops!
29-30 May: Meaning of life
Susan Wolf and Brad Hooker (Sadler Room)
Is meaning important for a good human life? If so how does it relate to other perceived goods such as happiness, morality? When exactly is a life meaningful? Susan Wolf believes that a meaningful life involves active engagement in projects of worth. But what is a ‘project of worth’? Are there objective, or only subjective, measures of worth? How actively must one be engaged in such projects?
29 May (Day School): The Philosophy of Art
Julia Weckend (Ewert House, Lecture Room 10)
Details TBA