Autumn Programme 2019

2nd October

Professor Ken Gemes (Birkbeck, University of London) will talk on Nietzsche, Trump and Brexit.

  • Man is the animal that seeks meaning, possibly even more than happiness.
  • Narratives, stories, are the primary vehicles of meaning.
  • Religious narratives no longer grip many of us, and liberal democrat narratives no longer serve to ground meaning, merely offering the prospect of better economic conditions.
  • Furthermore, liberal democratic societies are now seen as failing even in their promise to deliver material benefits (economic well being/consumer happiness).

The failure to provide meaning conferring narratives coupled with economic malaise paves the way, as it did in the 30s, for radical populist, nationalist narratives that promise both meaning and material benefits

Ken Gemes was a professor at Yale University for 11 years before moving to Birkbeck College, University of London in 2000, where he continues to teach.  He has published articles on logic, philosophy of science, Nietzsche, and other topics in journals such as the Journal of Philosophical LogicPhilosophy of Science,  SyntheseErkenntnisNousPhilosophical an Phenomenological Research, and The Journal of Philosophy. His work has covered a wide range of philosophical issues, from technical concerns of logical content to Nietzsche’s account of philosophy as the ‘last manifestation of the ascetic ideal’.

16th October

Dr William Large (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Atheism one last time.

This talk offers a broad historical analysis of atheism and a new conceptual definition. It describes three kinds of atheism: atheism of being, atheism of the idea, and atheism of the word. The first is an atheism of a metaphysical order and science; the second an atheism of morality; and the third an atheism of the community and the word. Each atheism comes in an historical sequence but are conceptually distinct. In terms of the traditional divisions of philosophy, the first atheism is ontology, the second is ethical, and the third is aesthetic and political. This historical sequence is not a necessary one, but contingent, and because each atheism is conceptually distinct, they can emerge at any time. Cutting across this horizontal historical series of atheism, is a vertical distinction between essence and existence. Theism responds to atheism through the passion of religion which sets the next form in motion. When, philosophy says, ‘God is being’, religion responds, ‘God is a hidden’. If philosophy replies, ‘God is an idea’, then religion responds again, ‘faith is the passion of a life’. Only in the last form is the dialogue between philosophy and religion reversed. Religion says, ‘faith is the word’, but philosophy responds, ‘the word is spoken by no-one’. The last atheism has a political consequence. What binds a community without a word?

William Large is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham. He is the author of Maurice Blanchot [co-authored] (Routledge, 2001) Ethics and the Ambiguity of Writing: Emmanuel Levinas and Maurice Blanchot, (Clinamen, 2005), Heidegger’s Being and Time (Edinburgh University Press, 2007), Levinas ’Totality and Infinity: A Reader’s Guide (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), and numerous articles in continental philosophy. He was president of the British Society of Phenomenology from 2010-14.

30th October

Dr Niall Keane (Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick) will talk on Philosophy and the Eclipse of Plurality.

13th November

Dr Sarah Nixon (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on ‘I just to give something back.’ Peer work and Desistance in Prisoners, Probationers and Former Probationers.

27th November

Extinction Rebellion

11th December

Dr Martin Randall (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on ‘Skip this Ad in 3 Secs.’ Inching towards a Philosophy of Advertising.

Summer Programme 2019

8th May

Professor Ken Gemes (Birkbeck, University of London) will talk on Nietzsche, Trump and Brexit.

  • Man is the animal that seeks meaning, possibly even more than happiness.
  • Narratives, stories, are the primary vehicles of meaning.
  • Religious narratives no longer grip many of us, and liberal democrat narratives no longer serve to ground meaning, merely offering the prospect of better economic conditions.
  • Furthermore, liberal democratic societies are now seen as failing even in their promise to deliver material benefits (economic well being/consumer happiness).

The failure to provide meaning conferring narratives coupled with economic malaise paves the way, as it did in the 30s, for radical populist, nationalist narratives that promise both meaning and material benefits

Ken Gemes was a professor at Yale University for 11 years before moving to Birkbeck College, University of London in 2000, where he continues to teach.  He has published articles on logic, philosophy of science, Nietzsche, and other topics in journals such as the Journal of Philosophical Logic, Philosophy of ScienceSynthese, Erkenntnis, Nous, Philosophical an Phenomenological Research, and The Journal of Philosophy. His work has covered a wide range of philosophical issues, from technical concerns of logical content to Nietzsche’s account of philosophy as the ‘last manifestation of the ascetic ideal’.

22nd May

Cate Cody will talk on Almost Zero Waste and how to Achieve it.

Cate gives a passionate and inspiring talk about her own environmentally conscious lifestyle which includes sending less than a wheelie bin to landfill in two years.  Come and find out how Cate Cody (life-long environmentalist, ace waste-reducer and writer of the ‘Eco Cody’ blog) does it. A light-hearted presentation, with plenty of tips and encouragement if you are interested in achieving something similar.

Cate Cody has lived in the Tewkesbury borough for 25 years. She has many years of experience in the environmental sector and is an expert in recycling and waste reduction, she also writes a Green Blog and is a regular public speaker. As well as being a passionate environmentalist, Cate is also a jazz singer and bandleader and her hobbies include walking and cycling, Lindy Hop dancing and organic gardening. Cate is also the first Green to be elected onto Tewkesbury Borough Council

5th June

Dr Kasia Narkowicz (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Fragile Citizens: Muslim and European Values

The talk will focus on Europe and European values in relation to Muslims and Islam. It will discuss how Muslims and Islam fit into Europe, and what the consequences for them are when they are narrated outside of it? The talk will draw on research around citizenship and exclusion in Poland and the UK.

Dr Kasia Narkowicz is Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at the University of Gloucestershire. Before that she was post-doctoral researcher at the University of York and at Sodertorn University in Sweden. She holds a PhD from the University of Sheffield. Kasia has published on Islamophobia and racism in both the Polish and British contexts. Kasia tweets at @kasianarkowicz

All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, at 5:30 p.m. The dates in May will be in room HC202a&b, and in June in room HC203.  There is an entrance fee of £3

Spring Programme 2019

January 30th

Dr William Large (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Atheism of the Word.

Kant marks a fundamental break in the history of philosophy of religion and the concept of God. God is no longer interpreted as a being necessary to understand the existence of a rational universe, but as an idea that makes sense of our morality. Cohen supplements this idea with the concept of personality, which he argues is the unique contribution of Judaism. For Rosenzweig and Levinas, the monotheistic God is neither a being nor an idea, but the living reality of speech. What would the atheism be that responds to this theism? Linguistics makes a distinction between direct, indirect, and free indirect speech. In the latter form, the origin of speech is not a subject, but narrated language. It is this difference between direct and indirect speech that is missing in Rosenzweig and Levinas’s description of God. It would mean that God is produced by language rather than the subject of language. What menaces the reality of God is not whether God exists, or is intelligible, but the externality of language without a subject.

William Large teaches philosophy at the University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham. He is the author four books, Maurice Blanchot [co-authored] (Routledge, 2001) Ethics and the Ambiguity of Writing: Emmanuel Levinas and Maurice Blanchot, ( Clinamen, 2005), Heidegger’s Being and Time (Edinburgh University Press, 2007), and Levinas ’Totality and Infinity: A Reader’s Guide (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015]. His articles have appeared in The Journal of the British Society of Phenomenology, Theology & Sexuality, Textual Practice, Literature and Philosophy, The Journal of Nietzsche Studies, Angelaki, Journal of Cultural Research, The Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory and Religions . He was also special editor of the Parallax issue on Maurice Blanchot. He was elected by the trustees as a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2009 for his contribution to philosophy in the UK and in particular the RAE. From 2010-2104, he was also elected President of the British Society of Phenomenology

February 13th

Professor Paul Innes (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Misogyny Sells: Shakespeare’s Problem Plays.

Less well-known plays by Shakespeare, such as Much Ado About Nothing, Troilus and Cressida, Measure For Measure and All’s Well That Ends Well have become known as ‘problem plays’. The reason for this seems to be their mixed nature: events that take place are often deeply unpleasant in tone, while formally there is no standard tragic ending. This means that they do not fit easily into categories such as comedy or tragedy; instead, they contain elements of both, and they are not the only Shakespeare plays that mix genres. This talk will discuss the ways that women are treated in this kind of drama, pointing towards the ethical dimension of the gendered social worlds created on stage.

Paul Innes is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Gloucestershire.  He is author of five books, including Shakespeare and the English Renaissance Sonnet (1997) and Shakespeare’s Roman Plays (2015), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.

February 27th

David Garnett (Gloucestershire Philosophical Society) will talk on Understanding Anxiety.

The quality of our mental health and the effect of anxiety upon our daily lives can be just something that we take for granted. However, when anxiety starts to control our lives and biases our actions, lives can start to disintegrate and we can become unrecognisable to our friends and family. To support individuals who are suffering with anxiety, I have been liaising with the Independence Trust to create a course with the aim of helping and assisting individuals with anxiety problems. The course is designed to provide help on an individual basis by creating a personalised template to assist with existing and futuristic anxieties. I intend to argue the ideology and research behind the construction of the course, while examining how we construct our knowledge and understanding of ourselves and the world we inhabit. The main aim of the course is to provide an insight into the practicality of combating the unhelpful effects of anxiety.

David Garnett has been an attendee of the Gloucestershire Philosophical Society over the last seven years. During this time he has completed a degree in psychology at the University of Gloucestershire. He is now working with the Independence Trust to develop and run courses to help and support individuals with mental health issues

March 13th

Dr Mark Sinclair (University of Roehampton) will talk on Being Inclined.

We commonly talk of being inclined to do something (‘I’m inclined to think …’), or, using the nominal rather than adjectival form, of having an inclination to do that thing (‘my first inclination was to …’). We speak of natural tendencies or inclinations (the OED treats ‘inclination’ and ‘tendency’ as synonyms) as well as of acquired tendencies or inclinations as habits. But such talk is as opaque as it is familiar. What is an inclination exactly? What is it to be inclined? It is difficult to understand inclinations as providing reasons for an action, for when I act by inclination my action is not a function of reflective thought. That said, it is, arguably, not much more feasible to interpret inclinations as causing my action in a mechanical sense, for when I act by inclination it is still I who act. Is there, then, a sense in which inclinations, as the late Paul Hoffman asked in his 2011 ‘Reasons, Causes, Inclinations’, are irreducible to both intellectual ‘reasons’ and physical, mechanical ‘causes’ in action? In this talk, on the basis of the work of Felix Ravaisson, the most influential philosopher in late nineteenth-century France, I argue that there is. In his 1838 Of Habit, Ravaisson claims that in habit there is a form of tendency and inclination that is continuous with but irreducible to voluntary deliberation, and in this talk, I assess his thesis in the light of the contemporary metaphysics of powers, wherein ideas of tendency and inclination have recently come to prominence.

Mark Sinclair is Reader in Philosophy at the University of Roehampton and Associate Editor at the British Journal for the History of Philosophy. He is the author of Being Inclined: Felix Ravaisson’s Philosophy of Habit (OUP, 2018), Bergson (Routledge, 2018) and co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Modern French Philosophy

March 27th

Professor Viv Burr (University of Huddersfield) will talk on Being Critical, Being Constructivist, and why it Matters

We live in an era characterised by the search for detailed truths about people. The 20th and (so far) 21st centuries have witnessed the emergence of numerous claims from psychologists and other scientists about the nature and origins of diverse phenomena such as intelligence, mental illness, dyslexia, sexual orientation, gender identity, addictions and personality characteristics.  Drawing on examples from my own current research, I will illustrate why we should adopt a ‘radical scepticism’ toward all truth claims, and search not for truths but for ‘alternative constructions’. I will argue that the moral relativism that appears to derive from a constructivist stance, far from being a weakness, as argued by some critics, is actually a necessary safeguard against the dangers of ‘certainty’

Viv Burr is Professor of Critical Psychology at the University of Huddersfield. She is known internationally for her book Social Constructionism, has also published widely in the fields of Personal Construct Psychology and Gender and is Co-Editor of Personal Construct Theory and Practice. Her research interests focus on the application of innovative qualitative methods to real-world issues. Her recent work includes an exploration of the experiences of and challenges faced by working elder carers, cross-cultural perceptions and inter-generational perceptions, and the psychological meaning of the natural world.

April 10th

Dr Charlotte Alderwick (University of the West of England) will talk on
Why Value Nature?

Event has been cancelled

It’s clear that as humans we have a variety of impacts on the world around us – some positive, some negative – and that we have the ability to radically change and even destroy some parts of our environment.  And we generally think that some of the things that we do, or could do, to the natural world are bad; for example if a species is made extinct because of our activities.  But why is this?  Is it bad for us to treat nature in certain ways because it means that the world is a worse place for humans?  Or is there something about nature that means it is valuable in its own right?  In this talk I discuss two different philosophical views of the value of nature, and explore the implications of these views for the ways that we should live and interact with the world around us.

Charlotte Alderwick is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of the West of England, Bristol.  Her research applies work in the history of philosophy to contemporary debates, and she is especially interested in human freedom and agency, the concept of nature, and our relationship to the natural world.

All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, at 7 p.m in room HC202a&b.  £3

Autumn Programme 2018

Wednesday 26th September

Chloe Mullet (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on a question of refinement: towards exposing the means and methods of musical creativity

As a musician and music educator for the past twenty years, I became fascinated with how music I created could be, in one moment, ‘fantastic’ – and ‘absolutely awful’, just a short time later. The PhD I am engaged in takes elements of questions implied by this familiar problem, to explore musical processes, by applying Gibson’s theory of affordances (1977) to a series of reflexive case studies. The research reflects the range of my musical interests, and encompasses solo projects, including collaboration/arrangement for John McGrath with the Immix ensemble, multimedia music and dance with Sarah Black and Gemma Breed, structured improvisation as part of a.P.A.t.T., and arrangement for Liverpool’s New Romantic pop-rock group, China Crisis.

This paper takes a closer look at contrasting examples of my practice, in which possibilities are proliferated, accepted and rejected, to propose/expose the interrelatedness of different forms of agency, that ultimately impact the experienced meaning of the music made.  The findings are framed by a series of broad themes that unify the research, namely ‘person’, ‘project’, ‘people’, ‘place’, ‘tools’, and ‘process’, which enable the application of Gibson’s theory of affordance in a range of time-scales and contexts, for the purposes of comparison.

Part of the ambition of this research is that it benefit others, including creative practitioners, so the feedback of the Society will be of great interest.

Chloë Mullett is a Senior Lecturer in Popular Music at The University of Gloucestershire; her PhD research has been generously supported by Manchester Metropolitan University.

Wednesday 10th October

James Woodard (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Rebooting the Human Race: Philosophy of Religion and Extra-Terrestrial Human Society

At 2018, the time of writing, there is every reason to know with certainty that the colonisation by humans of a planetary body is both a technological feasibility and a human objective. Although for lack of resources and engineering time this project is out of our present reach by some decades, theoretical and practical advances in rocketry and very many other sciences are in place for what can viewed as the next ‘great leap forward’ for Homo Sapiens. The object of the evening’s discussion is to examine the religious, philosophical and ethical implications and impositions upon the people of a future extra-terrestrial colonised earthling society. These people will be obliged to function under the new set of societal demands of hostile environment, small gene pool, lack of resources and the profound ecological considerations of an artificial biosphere. This human progression may be viewed as a fresh start or a ‘re-boot’.

James Woodard was previously theatre Master Carpenter, Lighting Designer, Production Manager and a tutor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. His interest in philosophy was sparked by Russell, R.D. Laing and Eratosthenes. James is presently an undergraduate Religion, Philosophy and Ethics at the University of Gloucestershire.

Wednesday 24th October

Dr Charlotte Alderwick (University of the West of England) will talk on Why Value Nature?

Unfortunately this talk as had to be cancelled due to the illness of the speaker.

It’s clear that as humans we have a variety of impacts on the world around us – some positive, some negative – and that we have the ability to radically change and even destroy some parts of our environment.  And we generally think that some of the things that we do, or could do, to the natural world are bad; for example if a species is made extinct because of our activities.  But why is this?  Is it bad for us to treat nature in certain ways because it means that the world is a worse place for humans?  Or is there something about nature that means it is valuable in its own right?  In this talk I discuss two different philosophical views of the value of nature, and explore the implications of these views for the ways that we should live and interact with the world around us.

Charlotte Alderwick is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of the West of England, Bristol.  Her research applies work in the history of philosophy to contemporary debates, and she is especially interested in human freedom and agency, the concept of nature, and our relationship to the natural world.

Wednesday 7th November

Dr Stephen Law (Royal Institute of Philosophy) will talk on Four Wittgensteinian Defences of Religious Belief and Why They All Fail

Religious belief is criticised from various directions. Many – like Richard Dawkins – believe that much of what the religious believe can be shown to be unjustified or false. In response, some religious believers go ‘Wittgensteinian’ – insisting that the critics have an unsophisticated grasp of and have misunderstood what religious people mean when they say ‘God exists’, ‘Jesus rose from the dead’, and so on. The critics’ criticisms consequently miss their target. I tease out various versions of this style of immunising strategy, looking at examples from Karen Armstrong, John Cottingham, Denys Turner, Giles Fraser, and others. I conclude that none of the versions examined succeed. All fail either because they are implausible as accounts of what the religious believe, and/or because they fail to deliver the required immunity.

Stephen Law is an English philosopher and was reader in philosophy at worked at Heythrop College, University of London until its closure in June 2018. He also edits the philosophical journal Think, which is sponsored by the Royal Institute of Philosophy and published by the Cambridge University Press. He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts and Commerce, and in 2008 became the provost of the Centre for Inquiry UK.

Wednesday 21st November

Professor Constantine Sandis (University of Hertfordshire) will talk on Understanding Oneself and Others

How can we come to better understand someone? I argue against the popular conception of understanding as a matter of accessing information that is in some sense stored within the mind of the person or other creature in question. In so doing, I reject both empathetic and rationalistic models of how such knowledge is obtained and subsequently applied to explain behaviour. Instead of beginning with such a general theory of ‘mind-reading’, I consider a range of cases pertaining to other species, distant and/or past cultures, one’s own loved ones and, indeed, oneself. I conclude that these collectively demonstrate that while one cannot specify necessary and sufficient conditions for understanding across all such scenarios, the degree to which we gain understanding is positively correlated with that to which we share practices and related behaviour.

Constantine Sandis is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, Secretary of the British Wittgenstein Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is the author of The Things We Do and Why We Do Them (2012) and Character and Causation: Hume’s Philosophy of Action (2018), and editor or co-editor of numerous books including Hegel on Action (2010), Human Nature (2012), and Cultural Heritage Ethics (2015). He is currently writing a book on the topic of this talk for Yale University Press.

Wednesday 5th December

Professor Nathan Widder (Royal Holloway, University of London) will talk on The Time-Politics Assemblage

Recent political philosophy, and particularly those strands that have been influenced and inspired by French post-structuralist thought, has increasingly explored ontological questions about time and temporality as a way to understand complex processes of political and social change.  This has built upon a previous focus by scholars on questions of difference in relation to identity that often brought with it a deconstruction and seemingly a complete dissolution of the human subject, but through this turn to time many have found a way to build new positive conceptions of what the human self or subject can be.  My paper will explore these issues of time and difference in relation to a politics and a micropolitics of the self.  It will look particularly at the temporality and the sense of an event, and how the self relates to the clash of forceful differences that an event entails.

Nathan Widder is a Professor of Political Theory at Royal Holloway, University of London.  He is author of three books, Genealogies of Difference (2002), Reflections on Time and Politics (2008), and Political Theory after Deleuze (2012), as well as numerous articles exploring thinkers and issues in ancient, medieval, and contemporary philosophy.  He is currently working on an extensive study of the role played by the concept of sense in the work of 20th Century French philosopher Gilles Deleuze.

All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, at 7 p.m in room HC203.  £2 students/unwaged £3 waged.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY PROGRAMME. SUMMER TERM

WEDNESDAY 11 APRIL

Dr Richard Elliott (Newcastle University) will talk on From Sound Objects to Song Objects: Rethinking Sonic Materiality and Metaphor?

Recent years have witnessed an intense interest in the roles played by objects in the world, with many approaches recognising the vital interdependence of human and non-human actors. My current research aims to establish the importance of music (and sound more broadly) in this new terrain of scholarship by analysing how songs represent objects, how songs themselves become meaningful objects and how songs rely on a wide range of ever-changing objects to assure their survival. Using the connecting thread of materiality, I propose an approach to musical analysis that both connects with recent object-centred scholarship and overcomes existing musicological distinctions between music as thing and music as process.

This paper presents an analysis of the ‘song object’, a concept crucial to my research and which has connections to earlier theories of lyric substance as well as to Pierre Schaeffer’s objet sonore (sound object). What constitutes the song object? What kind of object is it? How do songs themselves comment on their construction, their parts, their physicality? I argue that songs are a particular kind of technology for ordering information and that they deploy particular technologies of object orientation in ways distinct from, but comparable to, those of paintings, sculptures, poems and books. Part of my analysis therefore consists of exploring material descriptors and metaphors connected to song, incorporating the artificial (hooks, bridges, etc.) and the natural (cells, viruses, weather systems). I’m interested in what these terms – and their application to song objects – can tell us about the materiality of sound.

Dr Richard Elliott is Senior Lecturer in Music at Newcastle University (UK). His current research focuses on issues of time, age and space in popular music as well as the relationship between music and materiality. He is the author of the books Fado and the Place of Longing (2010), Nina Simone (2013), The Late Voice (2015) and The Sound of Nonsense (2018), as well as articles exploring consciousness, memory, nostalgia, place and space, affect, technology and the relationship between popular music and literature.

WEDNESDAY 25 APRIL

Jessica Munns and Penny Richards will talk on Staging History: William Shakespeare, John Banks and Henry VIII: Sex, Gender and Spectacle.

This paper will discuss two plays, roughly sixty years apart, that dramatise the marriage of  Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in very different ways. We shall suggest that what can be seen in the different ways the “story” is staged is an epistemological shift with regard to the idea of what constitutes history, as well as a reconfiguration of gender that in itself rewrites history in what is, of course, an endless process of revision and erasure in the work of memory and forgetting.

Jessica Munns and Penny Richards have written and edited many books together, as well as currently editing the journal Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research. They have both given papers to the Gloucestershire Philosophical Society before.

 

WEDNESDAY 9 MAY

Dr Martin Wood (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Jalaram Kathā: Exceeding the Capacity of Modern Historiography

Over a period of three evenings in January this year some fifteen hundred devotees of the Gujarati Hindu saint Jalaram Bapa gathered in a community function hall in north west London to partake in a katha or re-telling of the narrative of the life of saint and his wife Virbai Ma.

The key episodes in the narrative that underpin the traditions ethical and philosophical position such as the saint’s his previous lives and the miracles that he performed were narrated by the community’s priest and re-enacted throughout by a number of devotees. Furthermore, whilst the event focused solely upon the above themes at the same time a highly venerated and ritually installed copy of the Ramayana was placed in the centre of the stage which had to all intents and purposes been transformed in to a shrine.

This paper hopes to unpack the role of the katha in the community and the importance of the telling and retelling of the Jalaram narrative and consider the role of the Ramayana in its material form during the katha ritual. I also hope to illustrate how the performance of Katha opens the way for a much deeper religious experience as allows for the reality of transcendent presence and exceeds what we in the west might consider the capacity of modern historiography.

 

WEDNESDAY 23 MAY

Dr Erin Peters (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Trauma and the English Civil War

‘The Great Civil War of 1642-46 was arguably the most traumatic experience that the English, Welsh and Cornish people had ever had…In many ways the nation never recovered from it’ (Ronald Hutton, 2004). While the actual scars left by this momentous conflict in British history have been subject to intensive scholarly investigation, my talk will investigate the public expressions of the traumatic effect of the Wars and will explore how the trauma caused by the violence and rupture of the Civil Wars eventually found expression in popular print sources. What my analysis of these sources will demonstrate is that commentators on the mid-seventeenth century conflict did acknowledged the presence of war trauma and that they showed an awareness of the therapeutic results of attempting to narrate cultural and individual trauma. I will demonstrate that alongside the official and authorised interpretation of disability as a physical impairment, a popular understanding of the disabling and disfiguring nature of psychological damage developed.

Erin Peters is a Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Gloucestershire, with specialist interests in seventeenth-century Britain. Combining historical research with an interdisciplinary background in Memory Studies, Erin studies early modern print culture, the history of trauma and nostalgia, and early modern forms of memory and post-conflict cultures. Recently, she is the author of Commemoration and Oblivion in Restoration Print Culture, 1658-1667 (Palgrave, 2017), and ‘“The deep staines these Wars will leave behind”: psychological wounds and curative methods in the English Civil War’ (Manchester UP, 2018).  Currently, Erin is co-editing a collection of essays entitled Early Modern Trauma (forthcoming, Nebraska UP, 2019).

WEDNESDAY 6 June

John Ricketts (Gloucestershire Humanists) will talk on Stephen Pinker’s Enlightenment Now

In what might be thought of as an extension of his “The Better Angels of Our Nature” he goes on from the question  “Are we less violent than we were?” to the broader “Is the world a better place than it was?”

For both questions the answer is “YES”

The strength of Pinker’s argument is that he backs up generalisations with facts (lots of them).

John will aim to present a random, maybe eccentric, selection from Pinker’s studies.

John Ricketts started his professional career (teaching biology in state secondary schools) in the early 1960s. This was also a time when he moved away from his C of E roots, and began to explore what a godless life might be like. For the past couple of decades he has been actively involved with Gloucestershire Humanists.

All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, at 7 p.m in room HC202AandB.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY PROGRAMME. SPRING TERM

WEDNESDAY 17th JANUARY

William Large (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Is the Universe Moral?

I would like to discuss whether the moral indifference of the universe to the existence of human species undermines ethics per se. Freud, in the Introductory Lectures to Psychoanalysis, talks of there being 3 blows to humanity’s pride: we are not at the centre of universe; humans are no different from other animals; we do not even control our conscious lives. But if our lives are essentially meaningless, what would be the point of being ethical, since it makes no difference to the universe whether we are or not? I would like to contrast this nihilism, if that is what it is, with Kant’s concept of the ‘highest Good’. For Kant, if we cannot conceive of the universe as moral from an ethical perspective, then we would fall into moral despair? Are we still convinced by Kant’s argument, and if not, have we fallen into despair?

WEDNESDAY 31st JANUARY

Paul Bridges (Gloucestershire Philosophical Society) will talk on Democracy: Is it under Threat? Did we ever have it?

In blacker, more pessimistic moods it would be easy to conclude that democracy in many parts of the West is more fragile than it has been for over 70 years.  The murder of Jo Cox, ’fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, the Daily Mail’s ‘Enemies of the People’ headline, the undermining of ‘experts’, Trump’s sacking of James Comey, plus the resurgence of ‘strongman’ leaders such as Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Duterte and Xi may be signalling a reversal of the worldwide trend towards liberalisation and democracy.  But do these events really indicate a threat to democracy?  Or did we ever really have democracy in the first place?  In this participative discussion we will explore what constitutes a healthy, functioning democracy.  Then perhaps we can start to answer the question posed and more importantly figure out what, if anything, we can do about it.

 

WEDNESDAY 14th FEBRUARY

Alan Ford (Gloucestershire Philosophical Society) will talk on Tales of Despair and Integrity: Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky et al.?

A description of some key features of Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death will provide parameters for our exploration of the nature of despair: its universality, (as Kierkegaard sees it) its relation to self-deception, its lower and higher forms. Examples from Dostoevsky and Tolstoy (perhaps others) will provide flesh and blood examples of despair and integrity in action. I hope to show how the structure of despair follows that of those fundamental binaries, subject/object, mind/body, freedom/necessity, freedom/determinism etc. We shall find how these make thought possible and hence despair and self-deception. It will be shown how these binaries should relate, and that they are not, as is often assumed, necessarily unrelated oppositions. This might then cast light on the nature of personal integrity.

 

WEDNESDAY 28th FEBRUARY

Tom Bradshaw (University of Gloucestershire) will talk on Sports Journalism and Moral Philosophy – Why the Sports Media needs to think more.

Sports journalism has been disparagingly referred to as the “toy department” of the newsroom, with reporters often characterised as being too close to the teams and individuals they are covering, but Tom will consider the increasing importance of high-calibre sports journalism that is informed by a strong ethical awareness. The types of practical reasoning used by sports journalists during the course of their professional practice will be explored. A distinction between a duty-based Kantian approach to sports newsgathering and a more professionally pragmatic, consequentialist approach will be explored. Issues of self-censorship in sports journalism – and journalism more generally – will also be discussed. Tom will bring his 17 years of experience as an award-winning journalist to bear in the course of his analysis.

 

WEDNESDAY 14th MARCH

Peter Osborn (Gloucestershire Philosophical Society) will talk on The Tyranny of Religion

Globally and historically, mankind has had an urgent and persistent need to believe and worship God or Gods. Wherever and whenever you look this need is prevalent. However, in parallel with this need is a more sinister one: the need to dominate, bully and coerce. When these needs combine, a potent force emerges: organised religion! In Greco-Roman times polytheism was accepted and, in general, tolerated. However, when the Emperor Constantine came to power, monotheism in the form of Christianity became the only religion allowed. From then on the persecution, by Christians, of other beliefs began. My talk traces the history of this tyranny, and its consequences.

 

All sessions will be held at the Francis Close Campus of the University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, at 7 p.m in room HC202AandB.