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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).

October 07 - November 11, 14:00 - 15:30: Reason and Emotion (unaccredited lecture series)
Julia Weckend (Lecture Theatre)
Emotions bear complex relationships to rationality. On one hand they are seen as arational or irrational, on the other they make our actions intelligible and arguably lift us above the purely mechanistic behaviours of machines. Much like human sensory perception, emotions perform an essential function: they inform us about the world. That said, Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma can be applied to emotions: we can pose the question why is something feared or loved? Is it because it is fear- or love-inspiring in itself? This is the objectivist’s outlook on emotion. In contrast, a subjectivist stance would be that something is fear- or love-inspiring because we fear or love it. In this case, the objects and qualities we find in the world are mere projections of our own attitudes. This course is an exploration into the possibility, extent and nature of the objectivity of emotions, and their contribution to rationality. We shall cast a light on historical perspectives on reason and emotion and compare these with more recent philosophical findings in this vibrant area of contemporary research.
October 19-20: God, Meaning and Objectivity
John Cottingham and Lloyd Strickland (Lecture Theatre)
In the early modern period it was widely assumed that a God-centred worldview was indispensable for making sense of the notions of objective truth and goodness, and that such objectivity provided a framework within which human beings could make sense of their lives. In today’s increasingly secular, atheistic and naturalistic outlook, do the notions of objective truth and value have to be given up?
November 23: A Romp through Philosophy for the Complete Beginner
Marianne Talbot (Lecture Theatre)
The first philosophers, working before the 5th century BC, looked for natural rather than supernatural explanations. Eschewing appeal to God they asked questions such as ‘what is existence?’, ‘what is truth?’, ‘what is justice?, ‘how should we live our lives’? Modern day philosophers still ask such questions, although the modern debate would seem very strange to one of the ancient philosophers. Philosophers conduct experiments, but these are thought experiments, constrained not by the laws of nature but the laws of logic. During these lectures we shall be looking at the history of philosophy, at the methodology used by modern day philosophers and at why philosophy is still needed in the context of the success of science. No prior experience of philosophy will be assumed.

January 11-12: Existentialism
Jonathan Webber and Kate KirkPatrick (Lecture Theatre)
According to Sartre that ‘existence precedes essence’ is the first principle’ of Existentialism. There is no ‘human nature’ determined by God or nature, there is no objective set of rules that we must follow to decide what to do. Instead we become what we are by our own choices. In his new book Rethinking Existentialism, Jonathan Webber offers an interpretation of existentialism as the ethical theory that human freedom is the foundation of all other values.
February 15-16: The Golden Age of Buddhism
Jan Westerhoff and Nilanjan Das (Tawney Room)
During this weekend we will be dealing with two central topics in the development of Buddhist thought. These correspond to two sections of Jan Westerhoff’s "The Golden Age of Indian Buddhist Philosophy" (OUP 2018). One is the question whether there is a soul or substantial self. The other is the question whether there are any external objects. The schools of Nyāya and Mīmāṃsā defended the existence of both a substantial self and of an external world, whereas the former was denied by the Abhidharma Buddhists, and both were denied by Yogācāra, a later school of Buddhism. Philosophers from the non-Buddhist classical Indian tradition unsurprisingly did not agree with the Buddhist conclusions.
March 07-08: An Introduction to Philosophy of Mathematics
Alex Paseau and Florian Steinberger (Tawney Room)
The philosophy of mathematics asks how mathematics fits in to our overall picture of the world. Mathematics is a big part of that picture, especially since it is applied so fruitfully in the sciences – not just the physical sciences but the social and cognitive sciences as well. But it’s also puzzling in a way that these sciences are not. Unlike them, it doesn’t seem to be about the physical world, at least not directly; we don’t perform experiments in mathematics in the way we do in physics or chemistry. But yet – unlike fiction say – it doesn’t seem to be made up either. We are constrained in mathematics. So what is mathematics about? And how do we know it? What is the special role of proof in mathematics, and why do mathematicians insist on it? What is nature of the logical constraints on mathematical reasoning? Is there but one correct logic? Or might there be several?
April 04-05: Human Nature: Does Evolutionary Explanation Have Limits?
Anthony O’Hear and Friedel Weinert (Tawney Room)
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection might reasonably be considered one of the most successful theories of all times. But how should we understand it? Are there in fact two theories rather than one (linear and branching evolution)? Can the theory be used both to explain and to predict? What, furthermore, are the implications of Darwin’s theory for some of the problems that we consider in philosophy? Can Darwin’s theory account for human nature, for example, or is there something about human beings that requires supplementary explanation? Can Darwin’s theory be appealed to in explanation of the emergence, for example, of the human mind? Might Darwin’s theory be applied to our political, social and economic behaviour? Or might it, in such an application, be thought to defeat itself as Marxianism and Freudianism do? During this weekend we will hear two philosophers discuss what the Theory of Natural Selection can, and can’t explain.
May 16-17: Meaning in 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?
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.
October 12 - 17 November, 14:00 - 15:30: (unaccredited lecture series)
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October 17-18:
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November 21-22:
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January 09-10:
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February 13-14:
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March 06-07:
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April 17-18:
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May 15-16:
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