Wednesday 8th February
The Question Concerning the Climate Crisis
Dr David Hall (University of Bristol & University of Gloucestershire)
For over 50 years scientists and campaigners have argued that we should listen to scientists on global warming. Yet despite decades of IPCC reports and international conferences and agreements, global greenhouse gases levels continue to rise, as do temperatures and sea levels. This is because our increasing prosperity and longer lives have largely been driven by burning coal and gas, so there is no simple fix. This means that the big question of the climate crisis, whether we can save ourselves and the planet, is not a straightforward scientific question. It is conventional to argue that we cannot solve the problem because of human nature, that we put ourselves ahead of other people and of future generations. The only alternative to disaster is an increasingly authoritarian international order, which enforces environmental targets to stop climate change.
I believe that we need a different approach. Martin Heidegger put forward an approach to understanding the development of our modern world, arguing that we are driven by what he termed the “essence of technology” to turn everything, including ourselves, into resources. From this perspective, the central problem is a human crisis, and the environmental crisis is inextricably linked. Only changing our way of being can answer this question, so that we can use the most powerful technology at our disposal to save the planet while freeing ourselves from being merely human resources, to be used and disposed at the whim of capital. I will argue that this is not utopian, but is both possible and necessary, showing how a vision of the future through art can show that there is an alternative to crudely rationalistic approaches.
David Hall joined the Green party in his teens, before his politics ripened. A PhD in theoretical physics led to a 30 year career in the NHS, where he advises on the medical use of radioactive materials across Bristol and Somerset. A certificate in moral philosophy in Newcastle is now being followed, 25 years later, by an MA by research in philosophy at the University of Gloucestershire, applying the thinking of the leading 20th century German philosopher Martin Heidegger to the Climate Crisis
Monday 20th February
Karl Polanyi and the Sacred
Dr Ben Trubody (University of Gloucestershire)
Karl Polanyi is arguably one of the 20th century’s most prophetic critics of capitalism. Whilst his magnum opus The Great Transformation is a prescient analysis of what can happen when the market economy is ‘freed’, disembedded from the limits of social-relations and treated as its own special independent reality. The same story can be told in terms of what happens when we no longer regard social-relations as ‘sacred’. That humans are on a course for self-annihilation because we hold some things more important than well-being, nature and life.
Dr. Ben Trubody is a lecturer at the University of Gloucestershire and tutor for the WEA.
Wednesday 17th May
The existential predicament of anticipating transitions at older age
Jessie Stanier (University of the West of England)
As an integral aspect of lived experience, anticipation is a mode of temporal orientation of crucial interest to philosophers and especially to phenomenologists. Anticipation can be understood as a mode of active expectation; it is a given set of norms that presents possibilities which bear on the present, calling for some response. The demographic of older people is predicted to increase substantially over the coming years, and this increase is often discursively anticipated as a problem to be solved or, in more hyperbolic cases, as an impending catastrophe. In a neoliberal context, such anticipations can perhaps be understood in relation to speculation, risk perception, and policy.
Like many other public health issues, this demographic shift is widely addressed in an anticipatory mode by neoliberal interventions which aim at encouraging older people to live more healthily as individuals—particularly in anticipation of key moments of transition in later life. In this talk, I explore how phenomenological analysis of anticipation might serve to support existing critiques of top-down public health interventions. In the first half, I explore just how difficult it can be—or indeed impossible—to know in advance what the best approach to healthy ageing is, especially given that public health interventions aimed at improving transitions at older ages tend to advocate individual responsibility. In the second half, I explore phenomenologically how intersubjective norms pertaining to social imaginaries play an important role in structuring anticipations in personal experiences of ageing. I argue that social imaginaries can be understood as sites of potential transformation in experiences of anticipation at older age.
Jessie Stanier is a Lecturer in Philosophy at UWE Bristol. She is also a PhD student (nearing completion) at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health at the University of Exeter. The PhD project draws together Jessie’s theoretical interest in critical phenomenology with her ethical and methodological interests in working together with participants on qualitative research. Jessie is Chair of the International Symposium for the BSP and she set the conference themes on ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ in 2020 and 2022. She completed her MA in Philosophy at KU Leuven, Belgium, in 2018. She is also a keen climber.
Wednesday 3rd May
Execs, Lies, and Videotape: How We Pay for the Misdeeds of Modern Media
Matthew Alford (University of Bath)
Matthew Alford is a writer of memoir and non-fiction, whose output is typically rooted in his application of Noam Chomsky’s Propaganda Model to contemporary Hollywood.
In postdoctoral work, Matthew focused on examining related conspiracy theories – on the alleged assassination of a maverick screenwriter and on the role of the military-industrial complex in the entertainment industry – which entailed archival and interview-gathering trips to Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Meanwhile, he developed his creative outputs and consequently co-produced and presented two feature-length documentaries based on his research, The Writer with No Hands (2014) and Theaters of War (2022).
In 2023, Matthew spoke about Julian Assange’s legal case for the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights at the United Nations in Geneva.